I think that food tours are hands down, one of the best ways to get to know a new city. Learning what the local people eat, and why is a perfect window into so many aspects of not just a places culture, but their geography, politics and more. Plus you know, food.
All of this to say, when I met Lauren Aloise at the Women in Travel Summit and she invited me to try her new Barcelona food tour, I nearly tripped over myself shouting yes, yes yes please! I didn’t have much luck cracking Barcelona the first time around and I hoped a food tour would give me more insight into the city.
It did. For over 4 hours, the lovely Renee lead us through the chill, local neighborhood of Gracia to 8 different bars, restaurants and bakeries. It was fascinating: we didn’t eat paella, or learn why tapas were invented or any of the other standard things that you can read in literally any guidebook. Instead, we went deeper, and discovered some interesting things about Barcelona and Catalonian food that you can’t find elsewhere.
A small sample of what I learned:
Cava Has No Pretension
Our tour started at 10 am prompt with a trip to a small local bar where we were served a perfect pork sausage sandwich and a bubbling glass of cava. Yes, at 10 AM. You see unlike its relative champagne, cava, Renee explained, has no pretension whasoever. You can order a cava anytime of day, with a meal, or by itself. You can order the cheapest cava on the menu and drink it with breakfast and nobody will bat an eyelash. Cava is an anytime drink.
And that’s why I love it.
Markets are a Superior Way to Shop
We then moved on to visiting Gracia’s main market where locals shop for everything from meat to produce to olives (What? You don’t have an olive guy?). It’s an old way of life, but such a smart one, for people who really enjoy quality food.
I mean really think about it. Why would you trust the same person who sells you meat to sell you cheese? Or produce? In a market you have a dozen different people who are all absolute experts at what the do. The cheesemonger is an expert in cheese, the fruit seller practically has a phd in oranges. If you want the best of the best, a market is far superior to a modern supermarket.
Syrian Sweets are Where it’s At
Many are familiar with turkish pastries, but have you ever been to a Syrian bakery? It is an unimaginable delight. The sweets aren’t quite as tooth achingly sweet but they are just as delicious.
At this stop on the tour we were allowed to pick literally any sweet on offer for ourselves. It was a torturous choice. Baklava, and other filo stuffed pastries filled the counters. Almond? Pistachio? Chocolate?
Spicy Spanish Food Does Exist
I’m not sure why the Spanish aren’t big on spice, but I’d never encountered a dish that made me think twice spicewise, until I met the bomba. A bomba is a tapa endemic to Barcelona. It’s a large ball of mashed potatos and meat, breaded, fried and then covered in a delightfully spicy tomato sauce. Pair it with a refreshing local beer and you’ve got the perfect snack.
There is so much more to Barcelona than La Rambla
Walking down the famous Rambla, you will be confronted with tons of touristy sidewalk restaurants promising paella or tapas. Yes, you can duck into La Boqueria market for a better selection, but to truly experience the local food of Barcelona you need to walk as far away as possible from this part of the city. It’s the neighborhoods of Barcelona where you can really see the traditional food culture, and it goes way deeper than seafood paella.
Should you take a Devour Barcelona Tour?
If you’re interested in diving a bit deeper into the food culture of Barcelona, Devour Barcelona is a terrific option. It costs 65 euros (steep, but not the most expensive food tour out there by far) and over a dozen hearty tastings. Show up hungry and don’t make lunch plans because you will leave quite full.
Incidentally, Devour also offers tours in Madrid, Seville and Malaga. I’m already penciling it in for next time I can get back to lovely Spain.
Disclosure: My tour was provided compliments of Devour Barcelona. All opinions are my own.