Barcelona is one of the most popular cruise ports in the Mediterranean, and if your voyage begins or ends there, you’ll want to book a few nights pre- or post-cruise to explore the city on your own. Frankly, you could focus every tour on the cuisine that’s unique to Barcelona and still not sample all of the unusual dishes, but there’s no reason that you shouldn’t try. The wonderful thing about food in Barcelona is that it’s often served as tapas, or small plates, so you truly can try a little bit of everything as you dine your way across the city.
Look for these top 10 yummy foods and beverages the next time your cruise ship calls on Barcelona.
If you enjoy the salty taste of dry-cured ham, you owe it to yourself to try both serrano and Iberian hams while in Barcelona. Both are almost always served as thinly sliced pieces of meat, but you will also find diced ham in certain tapas dishes and entrees. Serrano is made from the meat of Landrace white pigs, while Iberian ham must be made from the meat of black Iberian pigs. Most restaurants throughout Spain will have a pig leg (dry and cured) right on the bar or close by and slice the ham straight from that.
Where to Find It: Jamonarium (Paseo Sant Joan 181, 08037, Gràcia)
Nearby Landmarks: Located in the neighborhood of Gràcia, about five blocks from Sagrada Familia church
One of the most popular cheeses in Spain is Manchego, made from sheep’s milk in the La Mancha region. It’s a firm white cheese with a buttery, nutty flavor that can be easily sliced and eaten alone or with bread and jamon, or as an ingredient in a variety of tapas. Don’t consume the rind; the pattern on it may be pretty, but it’s not edible.
Where to Find It: Formatgeria La Seu (Carrer Dagueria 16, 08002)
Nearby Landmarks: In the Gothic Quarter, just a block from the Barcelona Cathedral
Pa amb tomàquet — or Catalan tomato bread — is a deliciously light snack that’s often eaten at breakfast or with tapas. This simple dish starts with thinly sliced toasted bread. Raw garlic is then rubbed across the face of the bread before a tomato is cut and rubbed across the toast. Once some color and flavor is imparted, it is seasoned with salt and drizzled with top-quality Spanish olive oil.
Where to Find It: Tapas 24 (Carrer de la Diputació, 269, 08007)
Nearby Landmarks: Passeig de Gràcia subway station is one block away
At first glance, you may think you’re about to tuck into an amazing dish of paella. After all, you see some monkfish, shrimp and mussels piled high in a large, flat skillet. But take a closer look and you’ll see that the rice, which typifies paella, is missing. Instead, thin, hollow noodles have taken its place and the entire dish is seasoned with lemon. That means the dish in front of you is actually fideua, which you can order at restaurants throughout Barcelona. It was originally developed in Valencia.
Where to Find It: Merendero de la Mari (Plaça Pau Vila 1, Port Vell, 08039)
Nearby Landmarks: At the marina in Barceloneta near the Museu d’Història de Catalunya
Paella is a dish that’s eaten the world over, but it has its roots in Valencia, Spain. It is similar to fideua, but it’s made with rice instead of noodles. Seafood, from pieces of rockfish to mussels to shrimp, is also commonly added, as are chicken thighs or rabbit meat and sausage. Saffron and rosemary are major flavors found in paella.
Where to Find It: BCN Food Tours will take you on a two-hour paella tour of the Barceloneta district, including one stop where you’ll sample four different paellas. If you are short on time, you can find delicious paella at La Fonda.
Nearby Landmarks: The heart of the Barceloneta district
While every wine bar and restaurant will serve rioja (a wine produced in La Rioja, Spain) from Spain’s northern region, stick to a Catalan wine when in Barcelona if you want to try a wine from the region. Look for Priorat from the Tarragona province, but if that’s a little too steep for your pockets, go for a cava (sparkling wine by Freixenet) or reds from the Penedès wine region instead. House wines are usually a safe bet in Barcelona - you can get a glass of tasty wine without breaking the bank.
Where to Find It: Zona d’Ombra (Sant Domènec del call, 12, 08002)
Nearby Landmarks: In the Gothic Quarter, two blocks from the Barcelona Cathedral
You can’t visit Barcelona without sipping at least one glass of sangria. Order it at lunch or stop by a bar for a break during your walking tour. This red-wine punch is mixed with sliced oranges, lemons, sugar and seltzer. It’s deliciously refreshing.
Where to Find It: Arcano Bar-Restaurant (Mercaders 10 - 08003 La Ribera-Born)
Nearby Landmarks: In the Santa Caterina neighborhood, near the Santa Caterina Market
While you’d be hard-pressed to find an American order vermouth as an aperitif, it’s a drink of choice throughout Spain and in Barcelona. It’s often served with a splash of soda water and either a slice of orange or a green olive. It’s the appropriate drink to order in the afternoon to accompany tapas (light snacks). Vermouth itself is made from a mixture of botanicals (fruit, spices and herbs), white wine and caramelized sugar. Look for vermouth made in the Catalonian town of Reus.
Where to Find It: Bar Mingus (C/Ataulf, 08002)
Nearby Landmarks: In the heart of the Gothic Quarter
All Spanish beers will feel similar to the lighter beers you’re used to in the United States. Try the region’s most popular brand, San Miguel cerveza. Barcelona is also experiencing a craft beer movement, so be sure to sample some of the microbrews currently available.
Where to Find It: To sample Spanish craft beers, head to La Cerveteca (Gignàs, 25 - 08002)
Nearby Landmarks: In the Gothic Quarter, near Plaça d’Antonio Lopez
These deep-fried pastries are a bit like sugarcoated doughnuts but cylindrical and filled with crema catalana, a custard-like filling that’s flavored with lemon peel and cinnamon. They’re eaten at breakfast or as a sweet snack.
Where to Find It: Look for them in any of Barcelona’s pastry shops, or try them at Bar Pinotxo (Rambla, 91. Mercat de la Boqueria, 08002)
Nearby Landmarks: Located in the Boqueria Market on the main drag of La Rambla