Since you are considering Barcelona for your next city break, here are the delicacies you simply must try before leaving this wonderful metropolis!
Here is the list:
Let’s start with the basics: no trip to Spain can ever be considered genuine without trying the famous paella!
An Iberian emblem, this iconic rice and seafood dish was first discovered in Valencia (made initially from beans and meat), but Barcelona has evolved into one of the few places in Spain that have managed to boost its flavors to such delicious extremes.
Ah, do not forget! Make sure you try it for lunch, not dinner unless your stomach has the digestive powers of a nuclear reactor!
The Best Place to Try it: a Catalonian home! They will serve you with the paella edition in Barcelona, for its preparing this elegant dish requires skill and plenty of time and could prove difficult to find fresh in a restaurant.
Still, homemade paella is the dishes best edition – if you are fine with a simply great one, there are plenty of restaurants in Barcelona to indulge you.
2. La Bomba
Inspired by the catastrophic days of the Civil War and the handmade grenades used back against Franco’s Fascists, “La Bomba” (The Bomb) has become one of Barcelona’s most iconic dishes.
La Bomba can easily fit within the vast “tapas” category (about which we will speak later), since it is basically a tennis ball-sized potato croquette served either with a white garlic allioli sauce (referring to the fuse that was lighted before hurling the grenades), or with a rich and fiery red sauce – apparently symbolising the grenade’s explosive and bloody aftermath.
This dish demands your respect, not only for its exquisite taste but also for being a part of Catalan history you can actually eat.
Best Place to Try it: well, there are hundreds of places offering “La Bomba” at its best, but our favorite is La Cova Fumada, a well-hidden in the central area of Barceloneta.
For those of you who have no background knowledge of Spanish and Catalan cuisine whatsoever, tapas is a vast range of appetizers, which are roughly divided into two categories, cold and hot and can be accompanied with
- vegetables and much much more, and are usually served with dips and spicy sauces.
The list of possible combinations is simply inexhaustible, covering any type of ingredient, local or not. Spices and strong-flavored vegetables, like garlic, chilies, paprika, cumin, salt, pepper, saffron are used in abundance, but it is olive oil that usually dominates the vast majority of tapas in Barcelona.
Best Place to Try it: being such a diverse dish, with innumerable combinations, it would be better to find the best combination of ingredients rather than the best “place” for your tapas.
4. Calçots & Romesco Sauce
Calçot is a Catalonian green onion with a very distinctive flavor, harvested at the end of winter.
When the harvest is almost over, locals hold wild street barbecues all over the city, serving it with an array of well grilled red and white meat, while a traditional romesco sauce with hazelnuts, almonds, and red peppers is added for extra tension and taste. Should your last minute city break is scheduled for winter, you will certainly fell in love with this tradition.
Best Place to Try it: well, just walk around the city and won’t find it hard to pick your favorite spot!
Esqueixada is Catalonia’s iconic sea salad. It’s a delicious blend of salted cod, tomatoes, romesco sauce, onions, and black olives. Esqueixada is the very definition of freshness and can only be properly enjoyed with a glass or two of local wine.
Best Place to Try it: our favorite spot is the legendary wine bar – restaurant La Vinateria del Call.
6. Pa amb Tomàquet
Simplicity often tastes better – and that is what “Pa amb Tomàquet” is all about: a slice of traditional bread, rubbed with garlic, moistened with tomato juice and seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Best Place to Try it: it is such a simple recipe that you can find everywhere. Better tell the best way to try it: with salty cheese and slices of grilled red meat!
Escalivada is another very simple yet imaginative dish: grilled eggplant and red peppers on toasted bread dipped in olive oil and seasoned with garlic, salt, and anchovies. The secret lies in the olive oil – it has to be of exceptional quality to bring out the flavors of the other ingredients.
Best Place to Try it: our personal favorite? Try Sésamo in Sant Antoni.
Spain is very close in dethroning France as Europe’s cheese finest, and Barcelona has helped a lot in this direction, with mató, Catalonia’s most popular soft cheese. Made from goat milk and featuring a rather subtle sweet flavor, mató is easily spread on bread, toast or anything you might choose as a base!
Best Place to Try it: while Formatgeria La Seu is deemed Barcelona’s best cheese hotspot, we recommend to go outside the city and get some directly from a local goatherd. Of course, ask for some references from locals you trust.
9. Crema Catalana
Made with a creamy vanilla custard which is then blow torched to form a glassy crust, Crema Catalana is a close relative of the French “creme brûlée” – but please never say that to Catalans, for it implies they stole the recipe, something they accuse the French of!
Best Place to Try it: our favorite is Pastisseria Escribà, accompanied with their delicious waffle!
10. Cervecería Catalana
This is the Catalan version of a cannelloni and, like paella, the best place to try it is a traditional Catalonian household. Stuffed with mashed chicken (which can be marinated with olive oil and local herbs and spices), it is soaked with béchamel sauce and carefully concealed under melted cheese.
11. Sangria de Cava
Chilled and fruity Sangria de Cava is Barcelona’s most iconic alcoholic beverage and has become a liquid epitome what it a refreshing drink means. Mostly known as a summer drink, this red wine is the best friend of tapas, as well as most of the dished mentioned in our list.
First of all, Sangria de Cava isn’t just another name of the usual, “mainstream” sangria.
This sparkling, bubbly of the Spanish Sangria is a reinvigorating blend cava brut, fresh orange and lemon juice, orange liqueur (such as Cointreau or Grand Mariner), some fruits for garnish (usual choices include oranges, apples, strawberries, peach, kiwi and much more – my personal favorite is peach and strawberries, provided they are fresh and seasoned), plenty of ice and some sugar. It is simply impossible to describe the taste and demands gargantuan effort to form a mental picture of how delicious it is, especially during a hot summer day.
Best Place to Try it: wherever, but if you love to try the best, find a bar that is willing to prepare it for you right before your drink it, and choose yourself the fruits for garnish.
A Few Honorable Mentions…
There are so many great things to taste in this city of dreams and culture, that could barely fit within the pages of a volume, much less of a petty article like this. All the above are the tastes and dishes you just MUST try before leaving Barcelona, but several other local delicacies can somehow fit into your last minute break to Catalonia’s capital.
- Alioli: garlic and oil sauce to be used with meat.
- Amanida Catalana: a very popular traditional salad with cold meat.
- Botifarra: sausage flavored with cinnamon and fennel.
- Botifarra amb mongetes: grilled sausages and fried beans served with a special garlic sauce.
- Cafe con leche: double espresso with plenty of milk, served in a large cup.
- Cortado: a type of espresso with milk.
- Croquettes Casolanes: homemade croquettes.
- Escudella: stew made from meat, vegetables, pepper and cinnamon.
- Fideuà: a special kind of paella.
- Fricando: a superb meat and vegetable stew.
- Gaspatxo: cold vegetable soup.
- Mandonguilles: Catalonian meatballs.
- Xai a la Brasa: a dish of roasted lamb.