One of my absolute favorite things to do when I’m visiting a new place is to take a food tour. If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, that will come as no surprise! Just the other day I was with my best friend and we were sharing our recent trip to Barcelona with friends and she said “We tend to plan our trips around food.” Not only is this 100% true but it basically reminded me of why we are such great friends 😉
Yes, visiting museums and monuments is fun and they are always on my list but there’s no better way to dive into a new culture and see the sights through a local’s perspective than with a food tour. Last summer when I was visiting Spain’s capital, I took a brilliant tour with Madrid Food Tours (or Devour Spain now!) and was so excited to hear they’ve started a tour in Barcelona. Based on my previous experience, I knew I could expect three things: a small group, incredible value (9 stops!) and of course, great food.
There are so many touristy, but beautiful, neighborhoods to visit in Barcelona. However, our tour focused only on the Gràcia neighborhood, which is a bit off the beaten path and filled with locals boasting a strong sense of identity who proudly say that they’re from Gràcia, not Barcelona. Back in the 1600’s, Gràcia was simply a village on the outskirts of Barcelona and wasn’t actually a part of the city until 1897.
As I mentioned before, we went to nine stops and had about a dozen different tastings on this four hour tour. Every stop was interesting (and delicious) so I won’t leave anything out, but I’ll simply give you a quick overview of each place because I’m sure you don’t have 3+ hours to sit around and read this blog post 😉 Let’s get started!
#1 Can Tosca – Restaurant and local hangout established in 1961!
There’s no better way to start a food tour off than with cava (similar to champagne but tastier, shhh!) at 10:30 in the morning. Only in España! But the star of the show was the grilled botifarra sausage sandwich on the best bread I’ve possibly ever had. Sorry, France. My best friend, Nicole, whom I mentioned earlier came with me on this tour. She’s vegetarian which can sometimes be a challenge in Spain but Devour Barcelona was happy to accommodate. She had a green garlic Spanish omelette sandwich. Both options were simple, delicious, filling, and the perfect way to start our tour!
#2-3 Mercat de l’Abaceria Central – Olive skewers at Conserves Glòria and a cheese tasting at La Trobada del Gourmet
Unlike the famous La Boqueria in Barcelona, you’ll hardly find any tourists in l’Abaceria Central Market where our next two tastings were. The food is fresh and the prices are just right, not to mention that every person running their stall is an expert in what they sell.
We learned that there are 260 kinds of olives in Spain and our tasting included an olive, sundried tomato, and salt cod skewer from a stall which has been a staple in the market for over 30 years. Nicole’s veggie option included artichoke instead of cod. The cod didn’t taste fishy at all and I really enjoyed the combination of those three flavors. After, we headed on over to sample three types of Spanish and Catalan cheese, one of them being a Manchego cheese from La Mancha that’s been voted the best cheese in the world for the last two years!
#4 Oli Sal – Extra Virgin Olive Oil Shop
A good food tour doesn’t overload you with too much food in the beginning. It’s important to pace yourself! Thankfully, our next stop included an olive oil tasting at the only extra virgin olive oil shop in Gràcia.
Here we learned that Spain produces over 45% of the world’s olive oil which blew my mind. I really enjoyed the first one we tried (on the far left in the picture) which is an organic Catalan extra virgin olive oil that was very light with a buttery texture. I couldn’t help but purchase a bottle to take home with me which was only 7 euros – so much cheaper than here in the U.S.
#5 l’Anxoveta – Tapas restaurant that reopened 2 years ago
You can’t go on a food tour in Spain without trying some tapas which are basically “small plates” that allow you to enjoy a variety of foods in one sitting. Tomato bread or pa amb tomàquet in Catalan (OR pan con tomate in Spanish) is something you’ll find throughout the country and we got to make our own! You simply use hanging tomatoes that you cut in half and grind over the bread so it absorbs the juices. You can also choose to rub a little garlic on the bread and add salt then olive oil.
We also tried a “bomba” which is a potato and ground beef croquette, similar to a meatball, topped with brava sauce and alioli. This was my absolute favorite. Nicole’s vegetarian option was “patatas bravas” which is lightly fried potatoes served with the same sauce and alioli (aioli for Americans). Her portion was pretty big so I happily got to try some! Spanish food is rarely spicy but the brava sauce definitely added a nice kick. We also got to choose a glass of wine or beer to go with our food. All alcohol is included in the price of the tour – something you don’t tend to find in American food tours!
#6 Pastisseria Principe – A Syrian pastry shop
Gràcia really celebrates their immigrants, which is why this stop is included on our Spanish food tour. This Syrian pastry shop is owned by a man who came on holiday to Barcelona many years ago and never left! He’s recognized by the city council as one of the most influential immigrants and it’s easy to see why. Here they make about 2,000 pastries a day by hand and they sell to over 200 restaurants in Barcelona as well.
If you ask him to pick a favorite, he absolutely cannot and explains that they are all his children! We got to choose one pastry and let me tell you, it was not an easy decision. I can’t even remember exactly what I chose but it involved chocolate, cream, hazelnuts and almonds. It was a winning combination, and just happened to look like a little bird nest! Nicole chose something a bit more savory with a ricotta cheese filling. We left with a sampler of over a dozen mini pastries and my only regret was not buying more to bring back home!
While on our way to the next stop, we passed by a very quirky, Gingerbread-esque house that just happened to be Antoni Gaudí’s first commission in 1883. Back in the late 1800’s, this home was in the countryside surrounded by flowers which is hard to imagine now! It was a family home until recently but will open as a museum to the public next year. Another reason to go back to Barcelona 🙂
#7 Bodega Ca’l Pep – Neighborhood bodega
I’d describe this bodega as a quirky, old living room which isn’t too far off since the original owner used to sleep upstairs! We got to sample a local Perruchi red vermouth with fuet – dried, pork sausage and pickled anchovies. It’s typical to have vermouth before lunch or before dinner and you often pair it with pickled foods. Nicole had a pickled eggplant for her vegetarian option. You can’t go to Spain without tasting Vermouth and this particular kind tastes very similar to coca cola, which sounds a bit strange but it’s definitely worth trying at least once!
#8 La Botigueta del Bon Menjar – Smallest kitchen in Barcelona serving homemade Catalan food
And when I say small, I mean it. With only four seats, this little shop is ideal for takeaway meals and is a great alternative to typical fast food chains. They are known for their cooked beans which we tried in a dish with homemade meatballs in a bean and pea gravy. This is what I imagine Spanish comfort food to taste like! I absolutely loved it. For a vegetarian option, Nicole had the same dish but with spinach instead of meatballs. We also had a small sampler of roasted vegetables in a nutty, rich sauce with almonds and hazelnuts. This was one of my favorite stops in terms of the incredible quality and value of food. Seeing as I hate to cook, if I lived in Barcelona, you’d see me here at least once a week for lunch!
#9 Patisseria Ideal – Pastry shop started in 1919
Family-owned pastry shops like these are, sadly, a dying breed in Barcelona. It’s run by three brothers and their mother who lives upstairs and makes everything by hand. It seems only right to end our tour on a sweet note with a mini cremat and our choice of coffee or tea. This pastry is topped with creme de Catalan, which is similar to creme brûlée but a bit lighter and more refreshing, made sometimes with lemon or cinnamon. In other words, it’s a little bite of heaven.
Our tour with Devour Barcelona went beyond eating food. For a few hours, we got to immerse ourselves in the fascinating Catalan culture and history of Gràcia, a neighborhood I probably would’ve skipped in favor of a more well known area. Other than our group, I didn’t spot one tourist the whole time we were there which can be nice but I also think it’s a shame. If you’re a foodie, Gràcia definitely should not be overlooked when visiting Barcelona.
I’d highly recommend taking this tour at the beginning of your trip so you know where all the good places are to eat for the remainder of your visit! Devour Barcelona also gives you a mini guide to the city in terms of food, and not just in the Gràcia neighborhood, which I found extremely helpful.
Have you ever been on a food tour before? What was your experience like? I’d love to know in the comments below. Also, if you’re heading to Barcelona soon, feel free to read my guide to 48 hours in Barcelona.
*Note: I did receive two complimentary tickets for my Devour Barcelona Food Tour. Opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed and support!