It’s 12 noon on yet another sunny day in the capital of Catalonia, Spain, and I’m dribbling just thinking about my upcoming food tour in Barcelona. I’m stood in one of the many placas in the Gothic Quarter of the city, surrounded by narrow alleyways just begging to be explored.
What am I looking for? “A guide with an orange umbrella and a big smile,” or so the instructions say. I spotted him straight away. Our guide for the day was Andres, Barcelona-born and bred and a chef. We were off to a good start; he was bound to know his stuff and know his stuff he did!
NB: I received a complimentary ticket to experience the Barcelona Secret Food Tour but I paid for a second ticket and would definitely pay again. All views and opinions are my own and I would never recommend something I don’t personally use or believe in.
Most of the places on the food tour won’t be named since the whole point of the tour is that you are taken to secret spots known and loved by locals.
This post contains affiliate links, from which I make a small commission that helps keep the blog running. All products/services are things that I regularly use myself.
First stop – Small but sweet
We begin the tour at one of the oldest bakeries in the city, (opened in 1849) marked by a plaque on the pavement just outside. It looks old. Dark timber frames the glass that houses the sweet treats, beckoning you to come inside and taste for yourself.
I wasn’t expecting to start the tour with something sweet, but it was a welcome surprise. Andres explained the history of the “coca” (sweet flatbread) we were about to devour: Catalans celebrate the Summer Solstice on June 23th at the Festival of Sant Joan and have a huge feast of the “coca” pastry, cava and other no-doubt delicious food.
The pastry was mega sweet, with sugared fruit baked on top. Not my usual pick for something sweet but enjoyable nonetheless, especially now that I know the story behind it.
Second stop – A market for the locals
Now, it can’t be a food tour in Barcelona without a stop at a food market. Most people visit Mercado de La Boqueria on the tourist trap that is Las Rambla. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a must-do if it’s your first visit to the Spanish city but if you’re looking for something a little more local, let Secret Food Tours show you the way.
We visited a nearby market where locals will grab their meat and cheese or chefs will grab last-minute ingredients ready for their dinner service. Here, Andres taught us everything there is to know about the famous Spanish jamón (ham) and Catalonian cooking styles.
For example, did you know Catalonians use the whole of the pig when cooking? I mean everything. Head, trotters, ears and tail. In fact, stewed trotters is a traditional dish! I’m not so sure about trying that one if I’m honest.
Andres also taught us the difference between the two types of ham you can buy. Jamón is made from the leg and shoulder of two breeds of pig – the white pig and the Ibérico pig, hence why it’s called jamón ibérico.
One of my favourite things about this food tour was actually learning about what I was eating. From research into other tours, not many seem to go into much detail about the ingredients and ways of cooking. It’s all part of the experience, surely?
As well as tasting different types of ham, we also tasted a few different types of cheese made mostly from goat’s milk. I’m not a huge fan of cheese but even I didn’t mind this part!
Third stop – Prepared to be roasted
From the bakery, we walked through my favourite part of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter. Why is it my favourite part? Because the narrow lanes have so much medieval history and are filled with hidden gin, cocktail and tapas bars.
I wasn’t expecting to learn so much about the history of the city on a food tour but it’s what made it that much more enjoyable for me. I love history so I was fascinated to learn things that you don’t normally read in the guide books or online. For example, each alleyway in the Gothic Quarter, which used to be a Roman village, is named after the businesses it used to house.
We also learned about the meaning behind the plaques and gargoyles that adorn several corners – they were used to denote one-way streets in a time of horse and carts and to subtly advertise brothels for those looking for a lady of the night.
Andres has so much knowledge it was hard to keep up but he was happy to answer any questions we had throughout the tour.
After strolling through the lanes, he led us to a small nut-roasting store. I’m not kidding when I tell you I’ve never been so excited to walk into a nut store before. As soon as I began walking up to the shop, which was built in 1851, the smell was insane. Such rich, smokey aromas were permeating the air, I just wanted to stand and sniff it all in. And sniff I did.
I traced the smell to a wood-fired oven 167 years old in which hazelnuts were roasting away nicely sat at the back of the shop nestled in-between the exposed brick.
As well as incredible nuts, the shop also sells chocolate and dried fruits and products containing all three. Heaven!
Fourth stop – Tapas party
We had to wait a little while to get into the tapas joint Andres took us to but I didn’t mind at all. It was full to the brim with what I’m going to assume were locals, chowing down on perfectly cooked cod, potatoes and bread on their lunch breaks. This was exactly how I have always pictured Barcelona. It was noisy with Spanish
The tapas place was absolutely tiny but we managed to squeeze in around a small table at the back. It is has been family-owned since it opened way back when and still uses the grandmother’s recipes. I’m just gonna say this: I want her to be my grandmother.
The food was unbelievable and like nothing I’ve ever had before. This was my third visit to Barcelona so I have had traditional tapas before, but not like this and that’s why the ‘secret’ part of Secret Food Tours works so well for true foodies.
I actually don’t consider myself a true foodie, but I sure felt like one on the tour. Every little thing I tried I fell in love with. The cod stew, the traditional tomato-rubbed bread, the Spanish omelette and the best thing known to man, ham and cheese croquettas.
We washed it all down with locally-made cava, the Spanish equivalent to prosecco, and we were away again on to the last stop.
Fifth stop – Paella party
It’s not a food tour in Barcelona without a little paella party! Andres took us to his favourite place in town and trust me, there are a lot of them.
It was the perfect way to end the tour. Our group opted for the chicken paella rather than seafood due to a few intolerances and washed it all down with jugs of sangria. Happy Rach!
We got to know our group and our tour guide a little bit more as we were in an intimate setting, away from the hustle and bustle. Personally, I liked this much more. We’d had plenty of time amongst the locals and a few tourists who had managed to seek out the secret stops.
Andres finished off the tour with some super expensive chocolate covered hazelnuts he bought from the nut store at the beginning of the tour and a VERY strong liqueur. I think he had 6 very happy tourists with full stomachs and plenty of memories.
Since I can’t tell you the names of the places visited on the tour with Secret Food Tours in Barcelona, here are a few other recommended visits that Andres shared with me:
For Wine and Cocktails:
El diset (wine bar)
Monocrom (wine bar)
Boadas (the oldest cocktail bar in Barcelona)
Bodega 1900 (run by Albert Adrià, one of the most popular chefs in Barcelona)
For Paella and Seafood:
La Mar Salada (Seafood + a terrace. Try the noodle paella!)
7 portes (traditional and iconic restaurant for Paella and other traditional Catalan dishes)
Granja Viader (one of the oldest cafés in Barcelona)
Bardeni (a meat bar near La Sagrada Familia with great churros!)
If you’re a foodie, don’t waste your precious eating time on the tourist tapas joints and crowded markets. Get a food tour in Barcelona with Secret Food Tours.
Have you tried one?