Barcelona is a vibrant city — a melting pot of cultures, brilliantly celebrated through its local cuisine. If the Catalan capital happens to be the departure port for your cruise around Europe, plan to give yourself some time to explore this ancient city.
You’ll easily work up an appetite while walking the winding streets in the Gothic Quarter, strolling up and down Las Ramblas and admiring the beautiful architecture.
Sample the delicious Catalan cuisine and taste the rich flavors of Barcelona. With nods to the Romans, Arabs and contemporary immigrants, Barcelona’s food culture highlights the ingredients and cooking methods that have helped make local chefs some of the best known in the world.
We’ve put together this list for our guests, as a way to introduce you to 15 different foods you should try before you cruise from Barcelona. It’s one of the best ways to prepare for your European Carnival cruise.
Save the gambling for the casino because bombas are a safe bet for a snack. These bite-sized potato balls have a crispy breaded exterior that contrasts with the soft mashed potatoes inside. Seasoned ground meat is an added surprise. Dip them in velvety aioli and spicy salsa brava for additional layers of flavor.
Throughout Spain, you’ll find endless variations of classic paella. Fideuà has the same flavors of seafood, meat and saffron cooked on a wide, shallow pan. Instead of rice, though, the dish features noodles cooked in just enough liquid to leave them slightly crispy. If you love paella, you must try this dish!
Each year from January to March, Barcelonans line up for one of the region’s most popular snacks, Calçots. Cooked in ashes over an open fire, calçots have a distinctive flavor that’s somewhere between a leek and a green onion. Look for street vendors selling the seasonal treat, and be sure to grab a side of romesco sauce for dipping.
Meat and seafood are prominent ingredients in Catalan cuisine, but escalivada gives vegetarians an option. A combination of fire-grilled vegetables, escalivada typically contains eggplant, onions and peppers seasoned with olive oil and salt. In fact, escalivar means to cook in ashes. You may find this delicious dish served with toasted bread, anchovies or tuna.
Escudella is more than a soup; it’s a two-course meal made from a clear broth, vegetables, pasta and giant ball of meat. Start eating the broth and pasta for the first course. Then slice the meatball (a combination of seasoned ground beef) and eat it with vegetables for the second course.
6. Jamón Ibérico
Ham has been an integral part of Spanish cuisine for centuries, but the most prized version is jamón ibérico. For a special treat, look for jamón ibérico 100% bellota that comes from pigs that exclusively graze on acorns. If you prefer a more budget-friendly ham, you can’t go wrong with traditional jamón ibérico.
7. Esqueixada de Bacalao
Bacalao — salted cod — is a common ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine and the star of this Catalan salad that makes the list of things to eat in Barcelona. Here it’s shredded and topped with fresh tomatoes, onions, black olives and vinaigrette. Pair it with a glass of white wine for a light lunch or dinner.
8. Mel i Mató
Simplicity is a theme in Catalan cuisine, and this dessert is no exception. The base of mel i mató is a soft, unsalted goat’s cheese that is similar to the taste and texture of ricotta. It’s topped with local honey and walnuts, resulting in a classic treat reminiscent of cheesecake.
It looks like a classic dish from Italy, but canelóns are the Catalan adaptation of cannelloni. Unlike its Italian cousin, this pasta dish features well-cooked pasta filled with roast meat or vegetables covered in béchamel sauce and grated cheese. It’s a rich and gooey comfort food that translates into any language.
10. Mongetes amb Botifarra
The key ingredient in this dish is botifarra, a Catalan sausage made from pork and special blend of spices that dates back to the Romans. Most cooks prepare the sausage separately from the white beans and stir them together just before serving. This lets the beans absorb the fat from the sausage without letting the flavor take over.
11. Pa amb Tomàquet
Bread topped with tomato is a Catalan staple that you can find throughout the city. This simple dish starts with a slice of toasted bread. It’s then topped with garlic and fresh tomato rubbed into the surface and then sprinkled with salt and olive oil. Eat it alone as a snack or use the tasty bread to sop up the sauce in an entrée.
12. Patatas Bravas
Traditional Spanish food is not spicy, and this classic tapa is no exception even though its name literally translates to “spicy potatoes.” The spice comes from the paprika-based tomato sauce that blends sweet and hot paprika to give the dish a smokey kick. It’s the perfect topping for crispy, fried potato chunks.
13. Suquet de Peix
Originally developed by local fishermen to use up the leftovers of the day’s catch, this fish stew is now Catalan’s go-to comfort food. The type of fish or seafood used in the stew can vary depending on what’s available, but the stew’s base remains consistent.
It’s a hearty combination of potatoes, garlic and tomatoes seasoned with saffron.
14. Tortilla de Patata
The Spanish omelette is arguably the closest thing Spain has to a national dish. Although the ingredients are simple — eggs, potatoes and olive oil, no two tortillas taste exactly the same.
If you’re trying tortilla de patata for the first time, look for a purist version that sticks to the original recipe before trying one flavored with onions or other vegetables.
15. Crema Catalana
France might have crème brûlée, but Catalonia has the iconic crema catalana. The rich custard base is flavored with cinnamon and a hint of orange before being poured into a ceramic ramekin. It’s then topped with a layer of caramelized sugar. Crack it with the spoon, and then dive into the creamy goodness for the perfect ending to your Catalan dinner.
Barcelona is the perfect spot for shoppers, foodies, and history buffs! If you have time to spare before or after your cruise from Barcelona, take yourself on a food tour of the city. In fact, there are so many things to do in Barcelona, travelers should take a couple of extra days to get to know the city.
It’s the perfect start and finish to a memorable European Carnival cruise vacation.