Barcelona

Know Your Onions: The Ultimate Guide to Tapas in Barcelona

Barcelona, Spain
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Are you planning a trip to the extraordinary, colorful, seaside city? In addition to the famous sightseeing spots like Park Güell or the Sagrada Familia, there’s is so much more to discover.

Like the food.

If you love food as much as I do, this article will introduce you to the delicious world of tapas and the wonderful places that offer them in Barcelona. 

What is Tapas?

According to this wikipedia article, “tapas” (which means “cover” or “lid” in Spanish) is defined as a small appetizer served with a glass of Spanish beer or wine.  This short and rather emotionless description, however, doesn’t seem very appropriate to me.

Tapas is so much more than that.

First of all, it’s the wide variety of dishes which makes tapas so special – you have warm tapas and cold tapas, vegetarian tapas and tapas with meat or chicken. Not to forget, of course, tapas made with fish and seafood. And, since the portions are so small you can try them all!

Secondly, eating tapas is a very special way of sharing your meal with friends. Nothing could be more cozy than hanging out in a tapas bar, taking a sample from every plate, comparing the dishes, and arguing who made the best choice. This camaraderie is called to mind just as much as the food when speaking of tapas.

Tapas isn’t typical food for the Catalan region, but that doesn’t mean it’s not served up with love and skill.

Must-try tapas

There’s a huge variety of dishes to name when one thinks of tapas. The problem with naming them all is that every region has their own variety, style, and even names for their tapas.  In this article I have only chosen the most delicious (in my opinion) tapas from Barcelona to highlight.

Croquetas

Croquettes filled with salsa bechamel and either chicken, spinach or fish. A bit oily but sooo good!

Croquetas Catalanas

Croquetas Catalanas
Photo Credit by su-lin

Pa amb tomaquet (bread with tomato)

A slice of bread with mashed tomatoes, oil, pepper and salt. Easy to eat – and to prepare.

Spanish Food Pan amb tomaquet

Pan amb tomaquet. Photo by Lablascovegmenu.

Anchoas

For the fish-fans among us.

Anchoas fish tapas Barcelona

Anchoas
Photo Credit by su-lin

Patatas bravas

Sort of fried potatoes that are normally served with two different types of salsa (a kind of spicy tomato salsa and garlic mayonnaise). Originally from Madrid and not to be missed out on.

Patatas Bravas

Patatas bravas. Photo by cyclonebill.

Pimientos de Padrón

Small green peppers, fried in oil and salt. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to love these little guys. (Edit – from Galicia)

Pimientos de Padrón Barcelona

Pimientos de Padrón with See Fruits
Photo Credit by kattebelletje

Jamon Serrano

Spanish ham or “pernil salat” in Catalan. You can eat it with white bread or without. Unmissable.

Jamon Serrano Spanish Food

Jamon Serrano. Photo by Katie Bordner

Where to find this deliciousness 

Shhh.. no se lo digas a nadie!

(Don’t tell anybody) because this is secret information from my personal experience living in Barcelona. This tiny restaurant near the Plaza del Sol in the area of “Gracia” offers typical food a la Barcelonesa. Although the menu is written in Catalan you will easily find something you like, because there’s not much that you won’t!

When in doubt, ask the opinion of the friendly camareros who love to welcome you into their artistic surrounding. Next to the typical Barcelona tapas you can find some vegetarian and arabic-style specialties. Be sure not to miss the delicious desert! Their homemade chocolate brownies with a melted center are to die for.

(Carrer de Torrijos 53, La Villa de Gracia, Barcelona)

Cerveceria Catalana

This place belongs on the list of must-visit places for tapas in Barcelona. Be sure to come with some extra time to spare as there’s often a wait to get a table. But it’s worth it!

I recommend waiting at the bar with a glass of the fantastic and affordable wine they offer. Although this tapas bar is found directly on one of the most touristic streets in Barcelona, you will not only see tourists but also groups of locals or couples enjoying the cozy and rather fancy atmosphere. On the menu you will find all types of typical tapas but the “Pimientos de padrón” are highly recommended!

(Carrer de Mallorca/Las Ramblas, Eixample, Barcelona)

Cerveceria Catalana Restaurant Barcelona

Cerveceria Catalana
Photo Credit by Kozyndan

O’Toxo tres hermanos

You will find this tapas bar in the district of “Raval”, which was once considered to be one of Barcelona’s “no-go” neighborhoods. Nowadays however, Raval is famous for hip bars and lively music venues.

Externally, this tapas bar is neither hip nor special, but a view inside reveals something more. With loads of appetizers displayed at the bar, jamon serrano hanging from the ceiling and a variety of cool cerveza on tap, this bar attracts all manner of clientele. The food is especially delightful and won’t break your budget. My recommendation here: anchoas and a cool Estrella Damm!

(Carrer del Carme 59, El Raval, Barcelona)

Quimet & Quimet

An institution in Barcelona, even if it is a little touristy. Don’t miss it.

(Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25)

La Bombeta

Be sure to check out the bombas in this truly authentic tapas haunt. This is regarded as one of the best tapas bars in the city, and comes highly recommended by those fine folk over at Reddit.

(Calle de la Maquinista, 3)

Tapas to go

In the throes of winter it can be hard to imagine, but the sun did exist once, and there’s no better place to enjoy it than Barcelona. Enjoy Barcelona’s beaches and sunny parks and prepare your own tapas to go. Here is a list with the best food markets to buy the most selective ingredients:

La Boqueria – Mercat de Sant Josep

This food market is open everyday from 9:30 to 5:00, and offers a variety of fruits, vegetables, fish, cheese, honey, spices, oil and  - of course – jamón. You will probably not find fresher food than this! Locals as well as tourists visit this place to try, buy and eat. You probably won’t know where to start, so take your time, sample everything, compare prices and take your goodies to go!

(Plaza de la Boqueria, Ramblas, El Raval, Barcelona)

La Boqueria Market Barcelona

Jamón at La Boqueria Market
Photo Credit by Vikingo’s Pub

La Boqueria Market Barcelona

Fruits at La Boqueria Market
Photo Credit by Cecil lee

Mercat de Sant Antoni

You’ll find this market to be a bit quieter, but still in a central location of the Raval area. Fish, meat, fruits, vegetables are all on offer in this big steel hall, alongside more pedestrian items such as clothes and home-goods. The prices are often more competitive than in la Boqueria and the place is less crowded.

(Carrer Compte d’Urgell 1, El Raval, Barcelona)

Mercat de Santa Caterina

From the outside this market is one of the most interesting.  Its roof, renovated in 2005, is eye-catching, swooping, and colorful. But also the inside is just as impressive. Prices are way more competitive than in la Boqueria, and you’ll still find a huge selection of fruits vegetables, fish, seafood, jamon and more.

(Avinguda de Francesc Cambo 16, Ciutat Vella, Barcelona)

http://www.frommers.com/destinations/barcelona/restaurants/227812

Is your appetite well and truely whetted, or do you want to take a look at more delicious food? Check out 7 Italian Dishes You Wish You Were Eating Right Now.

Comments

  1. Great advice and great photos. I’d love some Anchoas (and some beach weather right along with it)!

  2. Miquel Capdevila says:

    Hope this comment doesn’t come off as rude or offensive, but there are quite a few wrong points about your post:

    “In this article I have only chosen the most important Catalan tapas from Barcelona to highlight.”
    None of these dishes are Catalan, except for “Pa amb tomàquet”, which isn’t a tapa either.

    “Originally from Costa Brava and not to be missed out on.” (patatas bravas)
    In fact, patatas bravas are from Madrid (see https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patatas_bravas#Historia). “Brava” just means “fierce”, Costa Brava gets its name from the fierce sea waves that hits the coast and the patatas bravas get it from the slightly spicy sauce, but both are completely unrelated from each other.

    “Pimientos de Padrón”
    They are from Padrón (in Galicia), not from Catalonia.

    “Spanish ham or “gammon” in Catalan”
    Ham in Catalan is “pernil”, and jamón serrano is “pernil salat” (salty ham). I don’t even know what “gammon” is.

    In general, tapas are not typical from Barcelona or Catalonia, tourists wouldn’t stop asking for them and so restaurants added them to their menus to cash in. If you really want to have tapas, don’t go to Barcelona or Catalonia, but to Andalusia or Extremadura. Barcelona is a wonderful city, with lots of things to enjoy, but sadly tapas isn’t one of them. If you find a tapas-oriented restaurant in Barcelona (e.g. Taller de tapas), it’s definitely a tourist trap.

    • Thanks for your insights, Miquel. I’ve updated the piece with your edits so I hope it’s to your liking now!

      It can be difficult, as a tourist, to tell the difference between what’s authentic and what’s not so it’s great to have people like you around to give us the heads up!

      Thanks for the comment.

  3. Such good advice, tapas is internationally loved. I had chorizo braised in cider at a tapas bar and it was heaven.

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