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Eat local guide: Tapas tour of Barcelona

When it comes to Barcelona, there’s much to admire: vast mediterranean beaches, rule-breaking architecture, a culture rich in history, and plazas full of music and performances late into the evening.

But if you fancy yourself a world-travelling gourmand or a wine aficionado, you know there’s one thing Barcelona does better than nearly anywhere else in the world: tapas, tapas, tapas.

Derived from the Spanish word for “cover,” tapas are small plates of food designed to be paired with drinks. In their early days, they were served exclusively for the purpose of covering one’s cocktail to keep bugs out; now, you’ll find tapas on the menu anywhere you find wine in Barcelona. They’re ideal for sharing, and because they’re more similar in size to hors d’oeuvres than actual meals, you can enjoy several different tapas over the course of a leisurely dinner. In Spain, it’s common to move from tapas bar to tapas bar, sampling a different taste at each location – paired, of course, with a Spanish wine or aperitif.

When visiting Barcelona, it can be hard to know where to go for the best tapas. A yelp search of “Tapas bars in Barcelona” results in 2,297 options, and even restaurants that don’t identify as “tapas bars” still unfailingly have small tapas menus. On top of that, the variety of tapas are endless, ranging from classic patatas bravas to very high-end cured Iberian hams and cheeses.

Below, you’ll find recommendations of the best places in Barcelona to experience the tapas culture on your own. Alternatively, throughout the city, you’ll find various options for tapas and food tasting tours, many of which combine local knowledge with a history of Barcelona’s food culture.

For a high-end tour – in fact, a tour inspired several of the destinations below – consider booking one of these tapas tours. We recommend the small and private tours with Wanderbeak Tours, a luxury guide service focused solely on Barcelona’s gastronomic delights. Their tours range from walking history-food tours to summer sailing charters to a Gourmet Gaudi tour, focusing exclusively on Barcelona’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Small groups are standard, but if you opt for a private tour, you can customise your destinations.

So, if you’re ready to pica pica (or pick at food, bird-style) like a true Catalonian, put these classic Barcelona locations on your must-visit list.

Begin your tour the traditional way…
with boquerones and vermouth at Osties Pedrin, El Prat

On the Wanderbeak Savor Spain tour that inspired this piece, we started here with boquerones, vermouth, and a history lesson about Barcelona’s tapas culture. Traditionally, after church on Sundays, Catalonian people would get together and drink spiced Vermouth (a Spanish specialty) and enjoy oiled anchovies, a staple of Catalonian cuisine. We suggest trying boquerones even if anchovies aren’t normally your taste of choice; the mild flavour of the fish and fresh olive oils give it an entirely new flavour profile than most Europe-based foodies may be used to. The same goes for vermouth – more than 100 variations of Vermouth are made throughout Spain, creating a variety of tastes with subtle changes. Vermouth is a Spanish ritual, so don’t miss out on finding one you enjoy.

Then get a taste of La Ramblas…
at Llop, just steps from Barcelona’s main street

Las Ramblas is a place like no other. With street performers, chocolate shops, live music, and plenty to see any time of day, it’s a must-visit spot at least once while in Barcelona. Though there are no shortage of restaurants along Las Ramblas, we recommend heading a few blocks off of the main street to find a higher end, more local experience. We like Llop, with it’s modern, trendsetter vibe. Brick walls and artsy lighting define this place, which often has the day’s fresh ingredients on display. Dishes here are not just tasty, but lovely, too. This place is also great for vegetarians, with a handful of meat-free selections. On a recent visit, we loved the fresh burrata, rocket and watermelon salad, as well as the frittata con alcachofa – frittata with artichoke. Unlike in the U.K. and U.S., frittatas in Spain are seen as less of a morning-only food and are a staple of most all-day tapas menus. Llop also hosts avant-garde art and installation projects, so check the events calendar online before you go.

Next, channel your inner Picasso…
at his favourite bar, el Quatro Gats

A traditional cortado at el Quatro Gats. This bar and coffee shop is rich in history, serving as meeting of the minds for creative trailblazers like architect Antoni Gaudi and musician Lluis Millet, among others. Based on the famous Chat Noir in Paris, the bar has been in operation in the Gothic Quarter since 1897 – you’ll find it on many lists of Barcelona’s most historic bars. Perhaps most importantly, this bar was the first place where a young artist named Pablo Picasso began showing his works at the turn of the century, and hosted his first ever exhibition. This is a great place for an afternoon cortado, a blend of equal parts espresso and steamed milk. Though the tapas here aren’t cheap, they’re well worth the splurge, especially the 26€ jamon de bellota D.O. Guijuelo (certified free-range Iberian ham) and the 17€ chilled tentáculo de pulpo, or octopus with red sauce.

Keep in mind that the dining room in which Picasso first exhibited is closed to all except evening diners (though tour guides may be able to provide access, as our Wanderbeak guide did). This bar is well known in Barcelona – expect a mix of locals and tourists at any given time.

Or, make it easy on yourself…
with a tapas tasting menu at Lonjas de Tapas

Padrón peppers, patatas bravas and more. Photo courtesy Lonjas de Tapas

If you prefer to make tapas tasting more about the food and less about working your way across the city, you’ll love the tapas tasting menu at the popular Lonjas de Tapas, near Barcelona’s central Placa Catalunya. The two person menu at €44 offers tastes of some of Spain’s most famous bites, including patatas bravas. Though you’ll find them on the menu nearly everywhere in the city, we recommend you try them here, where the chefs don’t shy away from adding the spices and flavours that give them their “bravas” moniker – bravas is Spanish for “brave,” as only the bravest dare eat something so spicy.

Other fantastic options on the set menu include blistered peppers from the Spanish region of Padrón (warning: despite their uniform look, it’s impossible to predict which will be spicy) and the sophisticated ventresca de tonyina, or tuna belly with olive oil. The restaurant recommends several pairing options; we suggest the sangria cava and red wine pairing for the most authentically Catalonian experience.

Then indulge in a classic Barcelona evening experience…
with wine and cheese pairings at Recasens

Photo Credit: TripAdvisor

This inviting bar, restaurant and shop is one of the cosiest in the city, with the entryway leading guests through an impressive charcuterie and queseria. With an impressive wine menu and a wide variety of cheese plates categorised by different regions in Europe, it’s no wonder there can often be a wait for a table. However, it’s worth it if you want to experience a classic Catalonian wine and cheese pairing. Another reason to love this place? It’s removed from downtown, perfect if you find yourself a bit overwhelmed by Las Ramblas. Here, you’re more likely to be surrounded by locals than tourists. We recommend the fusta de formatges del nord d’Espanya, a plate featuring a generous selection of cheeses from northern Spain. It includes hard cheeses like the delicious idiazábal, a nutty, smokey goat cheese famous throughout the country.

Plan to relax here for a few hours – it’s a place you can while away some time, the cheese and charcuterie plates are generously sized, and their wine menu is one of the most extensive in the area.

And don’t forget dessert
at a speciality tapas bar where dessert is the main course.

Dessert is an essential part of the Barcelona food scene – having lunch without dessert is a faux-pas, and it’s always included in menus del dia, or fixed menus of the day. So there’s no reason to leave this essential dish off your Barcelona tapas tour, either. For a robust experience, make your reservations early for the set menu at Essence at Espaisucre, limited to 12 guests. Here, dessert is the focus.

Photo Credit: Essence at Espaisucre

Photo Credit: Essence at Espaisucre

Your experience will start with three salty and savoury tapas to prime your palette; then, it’s on to eight – yes, eight! – sweet and sugary dessert tapas, like chocolate cake with bacon-infused ice cream, or peanut curry cookies. While the options may not be traditional Barcelonian fair, they do source seasonal and local ingredients from nearby farms and artisans. These chefs are fans of unusual pairings and unusual ingredients, so expect to be surprised.

At €77 per person with wine pairing, it’s certainly a luxury experience – and one that shouldn’t be missed on your next Barcelona weekend.

And if you’re still craving a traditional dessert afterwards, swing by nearby La Xocolateria by famed chef Oriol Balaguer to pick up a package of churros, a staple of Spanish celebrations.

Finally, for a Michelin-starred tapas experience
try tapas before enjoying dinner at one of Barcelona’s best.

Treat yourself to the Michelin-starred Cinc Sentits, where all tasting menus begin with a selection of thoughtfully prepared tapas du jour. The menu is always rotating to reflect the best-quality ingredients from artisans across Catalonia. If you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to almejas con salsa verde – freshly shucked baby clams with green sauce – or perhaps their version of the classic pan con tomate, topped with Iberian ham de bellota. Reservations are a must for this intimate fixed-menu restaurant. As Barcelonians traditionally have a larger meal at midday and smaller evening meal, Cinc Sentits serves the same menu at lunch and dinner.

While Barcelona is certainly full of restaurants, you’ll find this selection offers some of the most representative tastes of Catalonian cuisine. Help out other travellers, and suggest more places in Barcelona you like in the comments!

Top tip: Sailing tapas cruises are always a wonderful option during the summer.

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