Ash
Written by Ash

What to Eat in Barcelona: 12 Local Dishes + Where to Go

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catalan food traditions and where to eat them in barcelona

Eating well can make a good vacation great, it’s just too bad tourists come to Spain blind and can’t make a decision with a menu in front of them.

That’s why you’re here, and since you want to know what to eat in Barcelona I’m gonna help you separate the savory from the stale and give you the restaurants to do it at.

Let’s take a trip through the city discovering Barcelona’s traditional dishes.

What to Eat in Barcelona

Catalonia’s rich culinary ancestry is felt in everything from simple home cooking all the way up to the city’s current list of 23 Michelin-starred restaurants. In total over 60 restaurants have received the distinction, making Barcelona a culinary capital of Europe.

What we’re worried about here though is typical Catalan food.

As always remember that I have no backroom deals with any of these restaurants – if they’re mentioned here it’s because I’ve tried them myself or heard from knowledgeable local friends in the city.

Original Tapas from Barcelona

La Bomba

Among the legends going around about the origins of this typical Barcelona tapas dish, arguably the city’s most famous, is that it was invented centuries ago in the Barceloneta beach neighbourhood.

What we’re talking about here are mashed potato balls stuffed with ground pork, covered in bread crumbs, and fried off much like a donut. They’re similar to the French croquettes only bigger and with more punch.

What takes this delicious dish to the next level are the two sauces put on top: salsa brava (spicy, with onion and paprika) and aioli (creamy, with garlic and lemon).

It’s when the sauces mix with the potato crunch that it goes off in your mouth like the name: a bomb!

Where to eat bombas: naturally, Barceloneta! The Cova Fumada (Carrer del Baluart 56metro Barceloneta) is a must for these treats. The legendary proprietor of one of the city’s great tapas restaurants claims his mother invented the bomba more than 60 years ago.

True or not, these are the best in the city and they only cost about €2.00 each.

Alternative: the name La Bombeta (Carrer de la Maquinista 3, metro Barceloneta) says it all, and this restaurant has so much history in the city they’re not exactly sure who founded it and when. What we do know is on a good day they serve over 1000 bombas.

Esqueixada de Bacalao

Just walk into one of Barcelona’s markets and you’ll notice the city’s love of bacalao: salted and dried cod that’s rehydrated to create any variety of dishes from salads to mains.

With Esqueixada de Bacalao we’re referring to a salad with shredded salted cod at its base. Then they throw in fresh tomatoes, onion, and black olives with a light vinaigrette. Some versions even have green pepper.

Usually you’ll find trays of it at the bar, and it’s a great light option to balance out the heavier fried dishes in Catalan cuisine. It pairs well with a glass of chilled house white.

Where to eat Esqueixada de BacalaoPolleria Fontana (Carrer de Sant Lluis 9, metro Joanic) are famous for their informal and welcoming tapas setting, and it’s right in the middle of the charming Gracia neighbourhood. They also do an amazing chicken croquettes and patatas bravas.

Alternative: still with Gracia there’s Cal Boter (Carrer de Tordera 62, metro Joanic), a fantastic Barcelona Catalan restaurant that’s got some of the best cold appetizers in the city.

If you’re more thirsty than hungry and looking for one of Barcelona’s best bars and a local square to soak it all in then head to Vermut i a la Gabia (Plaça d’Osca 7, metro Plaça de Sants): vintage looks and quality tapas combine with a great homemade vermouth.

Pa Amb Tomaquet

Of all the food to try in Barcelona this is my number one, though the English translation of ‘bread with tomato‘ doesn’t do this super simple dish justice.

The most sought after dish in Catalonia is like most good Mediterranean foods as it’s about simplicity and freshness. The dish starts by rubbing raw garlic on freshly grilled bread: either pan de pages (hearty and rustic) or pan de coca (crispy, hard wheat).

Then they’ll rub a super ripe tomato (tomàquet de penjar) on top and add extra virgin olive oil.

If Catalan cuisine had an equivalent to naan bread this would be it. It’s used to sop up oils and sauces or accompany Spain’s best cured meats and cheeses.

Don’t go for tapas without ordering one piece per person.

Where to eat pa amb tomaquet: the small neighbourhood bar Bodega Can Ros (Carrer de Roger de Flor 303, metro Joanic) makes one of the best pan con tomate in Barcelona.

AlternativesRecasens (Rambla del Poblenou 102, metro Llacuna) is an elegant, will-lit tapas bar that makes a great version with a solid meat and cheese platter to boot.

Cal Pep (Plaça de les Olles 8, metro Barceloneta): this slightly expensive bar has the quality to match so grab a seat at the bars and rub elbows with businessmen, travelers, and bohemian locals. Well worth the money.

Jamon Iberico

Spain’s famous cured ham comes from two pig breeds: serrano and iberica (also called pata negra).

The name bellota can be added to the name which means the pigs have been raised on a diet of acorns, the percentage of their diet which is explained in the number before the name.

You’ll be able to sample some amazing ham from pigs raised exclusively on grazing acorns, the ideal of which would be a jamón ibérico 100% bellota. That said, any of the cured ham found in Barcelona is an integral part of a meal here.

I’ve talked about La Boqueria market in other articles, but for less crowds and equal quality I like getting my jamon at Santa Caterina market – this tip I learned from the Tastes & Traditions of Barcelona Food Tour, a great way to get the full Barcelona food monty in one shot.

Where to eat Jamon IbericoThe simplest way to try it is probably at Enrique Tomas on Carrer Marina 261. It’s right near the famous Sagrada Familia basilica. Here you’ll find all the types of ham you can imagine and even get a vacuum-packed ham souvenir to take home.

If you spend 10 euros or more and mention you’re friends of Barcelonahacks they’ll give you a free coffee!

Alternative: Jamon Jamon (Carrer d’Europa 23, metro Maria Cristina). If there’s truth in a name look no further than this specialty store that’s found in either the Sants neighbourhood or Les Corts, right near the famous Camp Nou Stadium.

Taverna El Glop (Carrer de Sant Lluis 24, metro Joanic): this historic tavern in Gracia has been loved by locals for over 40 years and is just a 10 minute walk from one of Gaudi’s masterpieces: Casa Vicens.

Escalivada

The word escalivada comes from the Catalan verb ‘escalivar’ which means ‘to cook wish ashes’.

With this dish as well simplicity reigns: escalivada is a mix of fire-grilled veggies: eggplant, peppers, and onions and seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper. A great vegetarian option for travelers.

It’s not unheard of to get an escalivada with toasted bread or even anchovies.

Where to eat escalivadaBar Casi (Carrer Massens 74, metro Joanic) doesn’t look worth a second look until you see flocks of vocal locals chowing down. You won’t find a better quality-price ratio for a place with home cooked food. A great place to visit before or after Park Guell.

Alternative: La Flauta (Carrer d’Aribau 23, metro Universitat) serves authentic and filling tapas with an amazing goat cheese version of escalivada that itself is worth the visit. If you’re visiting Casa Batllo this is a great option.

Typical Main Dishes

Calçots

It sounds strange chowing down on bunches of enormous green onions, but these vegetables hailing from the Catalonian region of Valls are so rooted in Catalan culture (and their spring BBQs called calçotadas) that not liking them is seen as a national affront.

What makes them great is a tangy sauce called romesco blended and cooked with tomato, red pepper, garlic, breadcrumbs, and toasted almonds.

You’ll typically see them barbecued to a near crisp on the outside, all the while maintaining a soft centre, and then served in old newspaper or even a roof shingle. It’s impossible not to get messy eating this so make good use of your bibs.

There’s also a technique. Make sure you lean your head back, raise the calcot well above your head, and try to tip as much as possible in your mouth at once. Sounds crazy? Don’t ask questions, just copy the Catalans next to you.

Eat as many as you can: my record is a paltry 18.

It’s the food to eat in Barcelona from December through March.

Where to eat calçots: Restaurant Carmen (Carrer de Valladolid 44, metro Plaça de Sants). This no-nonsense restaurant prepares all the classic Barcelona dishes to perfection. For €30.90 you’ll get calçots, a whole ton of meat, wine, and dessert.

Alternatives: Nou Can Martí (Passatge de la Font del Mont 4, trains S1 and S2 Peu de la Funicolar stop; then a 20 minute walk). It’s not easy to get there but once you’ve arrived you’ll get a rural/rustic type spot above the city with classic great BBQ options. Great in groups.

Can Xurrades (Carrer de Casanova 212, metro Hospital Clinic). A great restaurant for meat eaters that’s a must stop on the Barcelona calçots circuit: they’re delivered directly from a garden in Valls.

Fideua

The fideuá noodle is a local alternative to paella that’s as Catalan as it gets.

The recipe and cooking method is essentially the same only instead of rice they put in a type of macaroni (‘fideos’) and they’re almost always accompanied by a lemony aioli sauce.

There are different types of this dish with the most popular being with calamari and prawns, chicken, rabbit, or a type of surf and turf version called mar i muntanya.

Where to eat fideuá: Restaurante Canet (Carrer Canet 38metro Sarria) is a quaint family restaurant found in a  quiet corner of the Sarriá neighbourhood and it serves one of the best fideuá in Barcelona.

Alternatives: La Mar Salada (Passeig de Joan de Borbó 58-59, metro Barceloneta). This fish restaurant is the place to be if you want the seafood version of Catalonia’s favourite noodle dish: just be prepared to pay a bit.

Xiringuito Escribá (Av.del Litoral 62, metro Ciutadella-Vila Olímpica). If you’re looking to dine by the sea with some classic Mediterranean atmosphere this is your spot for year-round food fun. The surf and turf is heavenly.

paella tasting menu discount bodega joan barcelona

Botifarra Amb Mongetes

Another filling Catalan dish for those looking for sustenanceMongetes (white beans) are slow cooked in one pan while the butifarra (a large Catalan pork sausage with spices) is cooked in another.

Then they’re mixed at the last moment so the beans absorb all the fatty goodness.

Again, it’s not the best dish to get on a hot August day but you’ll be happy you got it if you’re visiting over the December holiday period.

Where to eat botifarra amb mongetes: Restaurant Romesco (Carrer Sant Pau 28, metro Liceu). This typical Catalan joint with honest pricing serves all the traditional recipes under the sun and is just a stone’s throw from the famous La Rambla.

Alternative: Can Culleretes (Carrer d’en Quintana 5, metro Liceu). The photos on the walls tell the story of the oldest restaurant in Barcelona, which is also the 10th oldest restaurant in all of Spain: no small feat.

Cargols

In Catalonia snails are eaten two ways: a la llauna (in a can) which is cooked with garlic, parsley, peppers, and wine vinegar. The other way is la cargolada, snails cooked directly in their shells with salt and pepper and even a touch of lard.

In both cases the snails are eaten with an aioli and a spicy sauce.

Where to eat cargolsEl Pebrot i el Petit Cargols, (Carrer Alcolea 18, metro Plaza de Sants). Snail lovers rejoice at this location near the train station Sants Estacio with varieties for every taste. And if you’re not into snails the grilled meat plates here keep up.

AlternativeCan Cargolet (Carrer del Comte d’Urgell 17, metro Urgell). Large portions and decent prices reign here and their most delicious, vegan-horrifying plate is snails with rabbit.

Pa i Trago (Carrer del Parlament 41, metro Poble Sec). Even if you get typically spotty Spanish service the food here is impeccable. And the good thing is it’s only about a 15 minute walk from the Magic Fountain show.

Traditional Barcelona Desserts

Crema Catalana

The star of any Catalan dessert list is this type of local crème brûlée.

It’s made with milk, egg yolks, sugar, a bit of lemon and orange zest, and cinnamon. Unlike a crème brûlée however it’s not cooked in a bain-marie, giving its fully torched body some extra crunch. In fact, the Catalan nickname for the dish is una quemada (‘a burnt thing’).

Arguably the most popular food in Barcelona and when it’s freshly made there’s really nothing like it: creamy, sweet, a bit tangy.

Where to eat crema catalana: Cafe Granja Viader  (Carrer Xucla 4-6, metro Liceu). I wrote about this place in my list of Barcelona’s best cafes as it’s the go-to place for sweet stuff in the city. And it’s only 10 minutes walking from the Barcelona Cathedral.

Alternative: Granja Dulcinea (Carrer de Petritxol 2, metro Liceu). Another sweet stop that’s found on Calle Petrixol, a little alley famous for its delicious bakeries and places specializing in churros con chocolate.

Mel i Mato

This simple and refreshing dessert relies on a type of unsalted ricotta-like cheese called mató. It can be molded into a cake slice or just piled into a rustic glob, then it’s drowned in honey and topped with nuts.

If you’re the kind of person who takes cheesecake over chocolate this is your choice.

Where to eat mel i mató: La Sopa Boba (Carrer Bruc 115metro Girona). The version of mató here is more of a mousse crumble than anything, but how does that sound bad? Changing tradition has never been so delicious.

Alternative: Segons Mercat (Carrer de Balboa 16, metro Barceloneta). This little beach neighbourhood establishment may be a bit on the tourist side but the plus here is they source all of their ingredients from the nearby Mercat de la Barceloneta.

El Cercle (Carrer dels Arcs 5, metro Jaume I): these trend-setters had the moxy to fuse Catalan and Japanese! Whether you’re at the bar or out in the stunning garden it’s hard to find such class in the middle of the Gothic Quarter.

Coca

In reality this famous Catalan dessert has two versions: sweet and savory.

Walk into any bakery and you’ll find both versions including special holiday variants (the most famous being for San Joan bonfire night on the 24th of June). What you get here is a type of sugary pastry that can be topped or filled with cream, candied fruit, or icing sugar.

You’ll find them rounded like donuts or the thinner and longer version called coca de cristal.

Where to eat coca: the ones at Forneria Turris (Carrer Gran de Gracia 34, metro Diagonal), one of the most well-known bakeries in the city, include all the favourites including chocolate and orange. While there are many locations I suggest the conveniently situated one to have a snack break after visiting Casa Milá.

Alternative: another classic bakery is l’Escribá (Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 546, metro Urgell), where centuries-old traditions are held dear. If you’re looking for the chocolate coca this is the place. There’s one conveniently on La Rambla.

Eat Up Some More Advice Below

If you still don’t know what to eat in Barcelona I personally think you’re being a bit picky, but if you need any additional advice on Catalan food or anything else about your holiday please…

Message me below.

Happy eats 🙂

19 comments
  • February 21, 2020 at 6:09 am
    Gena
    Thank you for all the work you put into this website! We will be visiting the first week of April and really want to try the calcots at Restaurant Carmen. Do you think they will still be serving them at this time?
    • February 21, 2020 at 1:48 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Thanks so much Gena! Early April is right on the borderline as calcots season is essentially over, though I've heard the official end time is the last weekend of April (this year would be April 5th)... I would send them a message on their website or on social media to make sure. In fact, Mussol for sure has calcotadas running until this time: https://www.mussolrestaurant.com/en/calcotada-barcelona/ Hope this helps! Ash
  • December 2, 2019 at 1:09 am
    Thomas Reed
    Hello, ash. Will be traveling to Barcelona at the end of February. One, how is the weather. And two, what other foods do you recommend. My wife is italian, so something similar. Thank you.
    • December 2, 2019 at 11:45 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Thomas, For this Canadian the weather in February is amazing, but maybe not for you ;) In my article on Barcelona weather I break it down by month and help with what to pack, what to see etc. As for other foods I would say that in general 'ethnic' foods are not as good here as major cities in North America or the UK. That said, there is a massive Italian population here and there are some amazing authentic places. I would go to a place like Spacca Napoli or Sports Bar for southern Italian food or Bar Bacaro for northern stuff. La Vietnamita has some great Vietnamese options and also the best sushi for me is Sushi Ya II. Cheers, Ash
  • September 6, 2019 at 4:38 pm
    Aidan O'Carroll
    Hola Ash, Can you point us to some great Barcelona neighborhoods with great food and a local vibe away from the tourist haunts. Thanks Aidan
    • September 7, 2019 at 1:06 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Aidan, Unfortunately it's almost impossible to avoid tourist areas because the city has become so saturated... but if I had to pick one or two neighbourhoods I would go with Gracia or Poble Nou. I go into more detail about what can be found in my Barcelona neighbourhood article. Cheers, Ash
  • August 7, 2019 at 8:22 pm
    Sylvia
    I'm so glad I found your website. It is very helpful. My husband and I travelling to Spain in October. This will be our first international trip (besides Mexico, which I don't consider international lol). I'm excited and nervous at the same time. We're staying at the Gracia Garden. Would you mind giving me some good places to go for "real" Spanish meals? I have the breakfast one written down but can you give me a few more, for lunch and dinner?
    • August 8, 2019 at 8:49 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Sylvia, I would recommend a few of the restaurants in my Gracia article like Cal Boter or Casa Lopez. I would also check out Sol Soler if you're looking for a seat in a sunny square :) You could also walk down to either El Nacional or Bodega Joan. Cheers, Ash
  • August 4, 2019 at 10:20 am
    Winston
    Thank you for sharing great information on what and where to eat in Barcelona. We will be traveling to Barcelona in a couple of weeks and really looking forward to it. Would you have any good restaurants recommendations around Hotel Arts Barcelona? Thanks
    • August 4, 2019 at 11:33 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hola Winston, Thanks so much for your kind words :) It gets very touristy around that area so I would watch out! I would go to Xiringuito Escriba or La Fonda del Port Olimpic for some great Spanish food. Other than this though I think it's tough to find something of quality given the types of crowds in the area. Cheers, Ash
  • August 2, 2019 at 1:17 pm
    Diana
    Thank you for the great information. I will be travelling Barcelona next week. Do you have any good restaurants recommendation near Cotton House Hotel (Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 670, 08010)? Many thanks in advance.
    • August 3, 2019 at 2:44 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Diana, Good ones around there would include the Ciudad Condal, El Nacional, and Bodega Joan :) Cheers, Ash
      • August 3, 2019 at 3:43 pm
        Diana
        Thank you Ash.
  • July 25, 2019 at 12:40 am
    Shannon
    Hello, Thank you for all of your great information! Could you give me some good places to eat around the Ohla Barcelona hotel that are within walking distance? We are excited to try the local flavors and specialties.
    • July 25, 2019 at 10:42 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Shannon, No problem at all! :) You'll have almost too many choices but I would go with El Nacional, Ciudad Condal, El Xampanyet, and Nou Cellar :) Cheers, Ash
  • April 27, 2019 at 5:33 pm
    Christie
    Thank you for sharing great information on what and where to eat in Barcelona. We will be traveling to Barcelona in a couple of weeks and really looking forward to it. Your articles are great, thank you again
    • April 28, 2019 at 10:14 am
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      You are welcome Christie! Any more help I am here :)
  • June 10, 2018 at 12:55 pm
    Val
    Hello, my mom and I are visiting Barcelona end of June. She's interested in eating some cochinillo. Are there any good restos in Barcelona that serve it? Thanks!
    • June 11, 2018 at 12:47 pm
      ashley
      Team Member
      Ash
      Hi Valerie... I've replied on Facebook but will try here too just in case. I haven't tried it myself but have heard that EL YANTAR DE LA RIBERA is the place to be for this dish :) Let me know how you get on! Ash
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