If you are planning your first visit to Barcelona, deciding on where to eat can be a challenge. The city is bursting with literally thousands of bars, restaurants and cafes, all potentially offering the best food money can buy. Or not.
The choice is overwhelming, and as a tourist in an unfamiliar city there is a tendency to either follow your Lonely Planet Guide to the letter, probably ensuring a pleasant trip, alongside your fellow panicked tourists who followed exactly the same recommendations. Or the bolder, yet riskier approach, is to wander around aimlessly hoping to stumble on a hidden treasure, which, if successful can reap rich culinary rewards – but is fraught with dangers like ending up paying over the odds for frozen calamares and inedible paella. Somewhere in between these two extremes you will find the happy medium of The Barcelona Taste.
Not a ‘usual’ tour, this isn’t about following around a guide who lectures you for several hours on the history of the Boqueria Market while vigorously waving their umbrella to make sure the 30 tourists trailing behind don’t get lost. Instead, the Barcelona Taste offers intimate tours for 6 people, which showcase the very best of Spanish & Catalan cuisine. More like dining with friends than joining a tour, the food is clearly their focus, and the guide explained each dish with humour and enthusiasm, without shoving it down your throat. They allow time for you to taste each mouthful, and if you show interest, they will happily regale you with more stories and histories of food, Barcelona, and Catalan culture.
We visited four spots in the Gothic Quarter – three of which I had never been into before, so it was an eye opener for even a seasoned ‘local’ like me. I loved everything I tasted – all the food was delicious, and the accompanying drinks equally so. The variety of dishes was also impressive, so even if you weren’t keen on one thing, there was plenty more to choose from.
I won’t spoil the surprise and let on where we went, but suffice to say I was impressed by every stop and ended the tour feeling thoroughly satisfied, and full to the brim of cheese, tapas and heavenly desserts. I drank red wine, vermouth, white wine, and cava – although all in moderation so thankfully avoided a hangover – and it was wonderful to sample all the options available.
I also learned more about the history of Barcelona & its food – although not a historical tour, the snippets of trivia were mostly new to me, and so I imagine thoroughly enlightening for my fellow tour members. The tours are conducted in English, and their key market seems to be primarily Americans, Australians & Canadians, although presumably they will get some of my countryfolk as well.
This isn’t the cheapest food tour you can go on, however the small group size, well-selected venues and delicious food do make it worthwhile; especially for first time visitors to Barcelona who want to sample a the best variety of what the city has to offer. I’d also suggest doing this tour early in your visit, even on the first night, as the guides provide you with personalised recommendations of where else to try during the rest of your stay. They also give you a map with the locations of the places you visited, so you won’t need to wander the streets of the Gotico for hours searching for them!
Overall, highly recommended, and delicious! You can also try the Barcelona Taste tour in Gracia too, although I have yet to try that, if it is anything like the Gothic Quarter tour you’re in for a treat! The tours do book up pretty quickly so plan as early as you can to ensure a place on your preferred date.