As I travel the world with my family, I find a food tour is an enjoyable way of really digging in and getting to know a place like a local, not a tourist. During our recent trip to Spain, we were pleased to take a Barcelona food tour tour with Devour Barcelona.
Devour Barcelona offers several food tours – we chose the Gracia Neighborhood tour. Gracia is a quieter, more local area than some parts of Barcelona, near our accommodations for the visit.
Our guide for the day is Raquel, a lifelong Barcelona resident with a deep insight into the community and a friendly disposition. The youngest of our explorers, eight-year-old Bria, takes to her instantly, and they spend much of the tour holding hands.
Barcelona Food Tour in the Gracia Neighborhood
The Gracia tour includes seven locations, crisscrossing the neighborhood over a period of three hours. The organizers pride themselves on supporting small businesses, featuring owner-operators throughout.
Chocolateria La Nena
The first stop is the warm and cozy Chocolateria La Nena for hot chocolate. This bustling, kid-friendly little cafe (la nena means “the girl” in Catalan) is a granja, a place traditionally authorized for the production and distribution of dairy products. Books and board games line the walls, children play with a wooden kitchen and rocking horse. And of course, everyone eats. Every table is full, save the long table in the back reserved for the food tour, and the waitstaff buzzes around.
As soon as we are seated, plates appear. Spanish hot chocolate is thick and rich and creamy, and La Nena tops it with lovely fresh cream and pair it with melindro and churro for dipping.
Melindro, a cake similar to lady finger, is soft and almost meringue-like, and the churro is crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. But the real star here is the chocolate. The thick, bittersweet goodness coats your treats when you dip them, but is thin enough to drink.
La Trobada del Gourmet
Next on the food tour is the Mercat de l’Abaceria Central, a traditional fresh food market opened in 1892. It is clean, bright, and has a great variety. We head straight to La Trobada del Gourmet, a lovely little family-owned shop featuring Spanish and Catalan cheeses, where the purveyor presents us with a tray of cheeses and pairings. We taste three kinds of cheese, including a lovely award-winning manchego, and the hyper-local payoyo cheese. Made from the milk of a goat indigenous to the Sierra de Cadiz, known as the payoya goat, this artisan cheese is organic and delicious.
We walk through the market, taking in the sights and smells of fresh produce, meats, fish, herbs, and more that the many booths offered. Our next stop is focused on a Spanish staple – the olives.
We each receive a clear plastic dish containing half a dozen olives, each of a different variety, some green, some black. While we all knew the manzanilla, the green olives common in the U.S., there were several none of us had seen before. Some were tangy and nutty, others were spicy, salty, or sharp.
From olives to olive oil, we leave the market and make our way down the street to a delightful little glass-front shop called Oli Sal, where olive oils and olive oil products line shelf after shelf. Literally translated to “oil and salt,” they also have a wide selection of salt and vinegar from regions all across Spain.
The shopkeepers are knowledgeable about all of the different varieties and offer not just a tasting, but a mini master class on olive oil.
We learn Spain has 34 protected destinations of origin, meaning you can learn a great deal from the label on a bottle of olive oil about just where it comes from.
You can’t go anywhere in Barcelona without seeing dry-cured pig legs, and this stop offers an opportunity to get to know the different types of jamon (ham) eaten in the region. We taste jamon serrano, jamon iberico de cebo, and jamon iberico de bellota, hams of increasing qualities.
Jamon Serrano is literally the ham of the Sierras, de cebo is from a pig fed some acorns, but not exclusively, and jamon iberico de bellota is a fine ham from free-range pigs that roam oak forests and eat only acorns for a time.
Raquel tells us of the traditions surrounding the ham, including families saving up to buy the best one possible for the Christmas season.
Now it is time for a little vermouth, the typical drink for preparing the appetite, which results in long afternoons drinking and snacking with friends before long lunches or dinners.
Vermouth in Spain is typically a sweet, red drink, infused with caramel and a range of spices, such as cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. (Don’t worry kids, there’s soda for you!)
Along with our drinks, snacks there include sliced fuet, boquerones en vinagre, and potato chips with homemade sauce. Tables are set up on the sidewalk, and we each take a turn peeking into the tiny bodega, a wine shop where people can bring empty bottles and have them filled from barrels of wine. Most Catalan varieties are available for between 1 and 2 euros a liter, and cases are also available.
With our appetites now primed, it is time for our final stop, lunch! Known for its authentic Catalan food, Cal Boter is a popular spot for locals.
The menu includes:
Grilled botifarra sausage
White beans and escalivada
Pan con tomate
Cava and white wine from the porron
Aioli and romesco sauce
In the summertime, the eighth stop on this tour offers an opportunity to taste organic ice cream and fresh horchata, but that shop is closed for our visit, unfortunately. Instead, we have the opportunity to taste the delicious local treat, Crema Catalana, for dessert.
Everything is delicious, and carefully curated to best represent the local traditions in cuisine. The porron is especially fun. A kind of glass pitcher, the porron is used to store and share wine with a group. There is a real trick to using it and trying to figure it out results in a lot of giggling and spilling as it makes its way around the table.
After the Fact
Raquel follows up later in the day with an email to answer questions that had come up during the tour, including tips on where to eat on Christmas day, locations to buy the hot chocolate enjoyed during the tour, and recommendations on where to find the best paella in town.
To book with Devour Tours, head to their website, which also includes recommendations on where to eat in town, and information on food tours in other areas. The tours are adaptable to many food restrictions, so be sure to ask!
WHEN TO VISIT BARCELONA
Summer is the busiest time to visit Barcelona. Many travelers prefer to wait until the shoulder season to visit Barcelona. This season, which falls between the high and low seasons, happens twice a year: April to June and September to October. Weather-wise, this is a wonderful time: days are mild and nights are cool.
If you enjoyed this article about How to Spend 3 Days in Barcelona, you’ll also love Best Barcelona Food Tour: A Sampling of The Gracia Neighborhood.
Traveling To Barcelona Soon? Here are a few tips:
How to get there: Flights to Barcelona start around $410 from airlines such as American Airlines, Delta, United, JetBlue, Frontier, and more. The Barcelona Sants Train Station is the primary train station for national and international arrivals and departure and is situated in the west of the city.
Where to stay: There are many places to stay in Lane County wine country as well as in Eugene. There is a wide range of hotels, from budget to luxury. For a luxury hotel that won’t break the bank, I recommend the Casa Fuster Hotel which is currently the #1 hotel on Tripadvisor. For a mid-level hotel, I suggest the Duquesa Suites Barcelona. Finally, for a budget hotel, try the Olivia Balmes Hotel. You can also check HotelsCombined for the best Barcelona Hotel Rates.
Did you know?
Barcelona is actually a bilingual city. Spanish and Catalan are both official languages and widely spoken.
What to pack: Summer can be terribly hot in the city of Barcelona so packing light clothes is a must. Select a pair of t-shirts, skirts and shorts. You’ll be glad you did! A lightweight dress would also be important, as you could use it either to go out at night or to go to the beach. Don’t forget to get a pair of comfortable sandals and you’ll be ok. Forget about high heels unless you are planning an evening out at an elegant restaurant.
Barcelona Trip Essentials
6 Indispensable Items to Pack for a Barcelona Vacation
- Get the Fodor’s Barcelona: with Highlights of Catalonia (Full-color Travel Guide).
- Bring a good quality mirrorless camera for getting those beautiful Barcelona landscape shots. I use the Sony Alpha a6000 .
- Summers are hot in Barcelona, so make sure to bring Neutrogena Sunscreen, Broad Spectrum Spf 45
- A great cross body travel bag. Cross body bags prevent theft and are much easier to access.
- Don’t forget sunglasses for the beautiful sunny days. A.J. Morgan Unisex Sunglasses are a great choice and very affordable!
- A nice pair of sandals are great item to pack for a Barcelona getaway it’s a casual city, so you won’t have problems wearing your sandals to a nightspot.
Read More About Europe
How to Spend 3 Days in Barcelona
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