Whether it’s your first time traveling to Barcelona or your tenth time on the sunny Spanish coast, there are sure to be several traditional Barcelona dishes you’ve yet to try.
Perhaps you’ve been longing for savory seafood or delicious desserts? No matter what your craving, eating in Barcelona will satisfy it, with more than enough Catalan cuisine and drinks to keep your belly full and your cup running over.
The region along the northeast coast of Spain is famous for its mouthwatering food as well as tantalizing Barcelona drinks to help beat the Mediterranean summer heat.
If you’re visiting Spain’s Golden Coast and want to know exactly the best dishes to try, then this ultimate food guide has you covered with the ten best foods and drinks in Barcelona. Be sure to add this to your Barcelona travel itinerary and get ready to dig in Catalan style!
Click here to discover where to find the best tapas in Barcelona! Also, check out this foodies guide to Costa Brava, located not far from Barcelona or if you'll also be visiting Madrid check out this walking food tour of Madrid or learn where to go for aperitivos in Madrid!
Ten Top Barcelona Foods and Drinks You Have To Try!
Paella is probably one of the most well-known Spanish dishes in the world, and there’s a good reason why its reputation precedes it. If you’ve never had the good fortune of sampling this scrumptious dish, make sure it’s one of the first you check off your list.
Although the original dish hails from Valencia (and is typically made with fried rice mixed with chicken, rabbit, and vegetables), the Catalan have truly made paella their own. Barcelona paella is most often served by fusing rice with saffron and seafood, from calamari to mussels.
A traditional paella must be prepared in a wide, flat frying pan called a sarten, then cooked to tender perfection. The unique blend of spices in this popular Barcelona dish is bound to rock your socks off, so don’t hesitate to grab a bite while it’s piping hot.
Even though most people associate Spain with sangria, cava is actually the most popular drink in Barcelona with locals. You should run across the sweet concoction at some point in your food adventure, so make sure to keep an eye peeled for it.
Wine lovers will feel giddy at the first sip of this sparkling wine, which is drunk year-round as a common alcoholic beverage, and not merely for celebrations.
Most of the vineyards where cava is produced are located in the Penedes region in Catalonia, helping to keep the prices per flute more than reasonable.
Have a glass or maybe two of Barcelona’s signature drink, but don’t be surprised if the bubbles quickly sneak up on you.
Sometimes locally referred to as Crema de Sant Josep, this Barcelona dessert is quite similar to its French rival, crème brûlée. Though the origins of Crema Catalana have long been disputed (the French say they created it, while the Catalan claim the same), the delicacy is definitely worth starting a scandal over.
For foodies with a sweet tooth, this dish should be high on your list of Barcelona foods to try. The traditional dessert is made from a custard consisting of whipped eggs and vanilla, placed into a glass dish, and coated with a layer of caramel. The caramel is then torched into burnt, melty goodness that is sure to keep you begging for another morsel.
Top off your Barcelona food adventure with this special taste of the region.
Esqueixada de Bacallà
Cod is one of the most commonly eaten fish species in the Spanish Iberian peninsula, and the case is no different with this succulent seafood salad. The principal ingredient in Esqueixada de Bacallà is the Bacallà (raw salted cod), which is then shredded into perfectly-thin consistency to function as a topping.
Usually, the cod is served on a bed of chopped tomatoes, onions, red peppers, black olives, romesco sauce, and a healthy dollop of olive oil to form a delightful blend of fresh flavors.
This Barcelona delicacy is the ideal summer food for those desiring to beat the heat while satisfying their taste buds. While there are many variations of seafood in Barcelona, this one is a must-try.
Yet another dish that originated in Valencia before evolving into a traditional Barcelona restaurant staple, Fideuà is a popular seafood dish for pescatarian foodies.
Rather than being made mostly from rice, like the other principal plates on this list, Fideuà consists of fine noodles cooked in a wide frying pan. The noodles are slowly-boiled in shellfish stock alongside squid, prawns, and monkfish for a heady combination.
This veritable seafood platter is one that can’t be missed, so make sure to dive in fork-first to get a real taste of the Catalan sea.
You might start to doubt the authenticity of the Catalan with this next drink, as it also first found its roots in Valencian cuisine. Still, as with many other dishes on this list, the Catalanonians have a way of making regional food their own. Orxata is a refreshing soft drink perfect for keeping cool during Barcelona’s hotter summer months.
This thick, sweet concoction is whipped up from tiger nuts mixed with water and sugar, then served over ice to really cool you down. As the beverage doesn’t contain any dairy or animal products, it’s suitable for all dietary restrictions – from the lactose-intolerant to hard-core vegans.
If you’re lucky, you’ll stumble upon Orxata served alongside another sweet pastry known as Fartons, but the drink is worth trying all on its own.
Are you a seafood lover and a seeker of adventure? Why not try a black rice dish if you’re really feeling bold?
Like paella, Arròs Negre (black rice) is whipped up in a wide frying pan but cooked predominately with squid and squid ink, which gives the popular Barcelona dish its distinct flavor and color.
Expect the dish to be infused with other Mariscos (seafood medley) such as shrimp and accompanied by a side of aioli, a garlic mayonnaise sauce. When thinking about what to eat in Barcelona, keep this on your list.
Just like Happy Hour back home, the locals in Barcelona also have their drinking hour, referred to as “La hora del Vermut,” which really spans from sunset to sunrise.
For the unacquainted, vermouth is an often-colored beverage made from aromatized wine spiced with roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and other botanicals. These spices help render Vermouth simultaneously sweet and bitter yet smooth, making for a lovely evening cocktail.
Although the light aperitivo was once normally drunk only after meals to help with digestion, it has become increasingly popular to drink Vermouth anywhere and at any time. It’s truly one of the signature drinks in Barcelona.
Try a glass at nearly any eatery, or if you happen to come across one of the many Vermouth bars suddenly cropping up all over the city. Either way, you won’t be disappointed after your first sip.
For those yearning to get into the Barcelona tapas scene, Escalivada is a must-try. The delectable dish is often served on bread in tapas bars across the city.
This typically vegetarian-friendly combo is comprised of grilled eggplant and red peppers, though it is very common for the dish to be topped with anchovies (so double-check just to be sure).
As with many dishes in Spanish cuisine, however, special attention should be paid to the freshness and quality of the ingredients. Each combines with the others in a sumptuous blend of tangy flavors that are sure to leave you wanting for more.
Small plates, but big flavors, make escalivada one of the best things to eat in Barcelona.
Mel i Mató
This last entry on the list is certainly one of the most emblematic dishes in Catalan cuisine; this dessert is a local legend.
Its name says it all: “Mel i Mató” directly translates to “honey and cheese,” but don’t let the simplicity of the moniker fool you. This delightful dessert is enough to make your eyes water with joy at the first bite as the soft cheese blends exquisitely with the sweet taste of the honey.
The dish is often topped with sweet quince or walnuts for an added satisfactory crunch sure to leave a smile on your face. This dessert is so popular with the locals that you can expect to find it served at almost every dining establishment, so order a plate for the perfect finishing touch to a Barcelona restaurant meal. What more could your palette need?
The culinary scene in Barcelona is as diverse and eclectic as the beaches along its coast are long and wide. Still, that means there’s something for everyone in Catalan cuisine, regardless of whether you’re a seafood fanatic, a die-hard vegan, or celiac.
From the rich and sweet, such as crema Catalana, to the salty and savory, like salted cod, there’s no shortage of tasty Barcelona foods to try. Take your palette on a wild ride of flavors and prepare to be more than pleasantly amazed.
So eat well, friends – or, as the Spanish say, Buen provecho!
Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, together with his partner moved to sunny Lisbon over 3 years ago.
With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese heritage along the way.
Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for traveling through and exploring both Portugal, Spain, and throughout Europe, through his blog Travel-Boo.