After touring Andorra and loving my first week in mainland Europe for over 5 years, I decided on doing some quirky and unusual things when my backpack and I hit the Catalonian city of Barcelona. Officially and politically I was in Spain of course, but the locals love their Catalonian heritage and hence red and yellow striped Catalonia flags line the streets of this cultured and charming city making you aware of where you are…
As a city, Barcelona pumps out more than it sucks in. That’s Barcelona’s magnetic charm. It reels most people in, and I surprised myself as I loved it too! I normally try to avoid worn and over-visited European cities (still haven’t been to Rome, Madrid, Athens or Munich 😉 ) in favour of the more remote and off the wall spots. But Barcelona surprised me completely to the point where I had an action packed four days in the city!
It was even better when I got in touch with Devour Barcelona Food Tours and booked myself into one of their food tours of the awesome Gracia Neighbourhood. I was pretty excited about this tour, mostly because so far in Barcelona I had gone to all the obvious places – Montjuic, Camp Nou, La Rambla, Gothic, Sagrada Familia etc. The Gracia Neighbourhood Food Tour was my sightseeing highlight from the Barcelona adventure.
It was time to head away from the over touristy streets of downtown Barcelona’s La Rambla and visit the village of Gracia. Gracia is another village, it feels like a different place. The fact remains though, Gracia is in Barcelona – it just sometimes sits shyly and un-noticed. It has been swallowed up by the growth of this unmistakable metropolis yet here in Gracia within its pristine streets you uncover a magical world.
If you are ever in Barcelona and thinking “how can I escape the tourists?” then this is the tour for you. I’ll be writing about the village of Gracia separately, first up let’s concentrate on the food and drink on this tour! The tour began promptly at 10am (we met outside Valentino on Passeig de Gracia – just opposite the metro station “Diagonal” on L3). Our tour guide for the day was the lovely Renee who introduced the tour to us, and we introduced ourselves. On the tour there were 5 of us plus Renee, which was a nice compact group for the day! We are told there would be NINE food stops on the tour and we start our walk to stop number one…I’d had a coffee and a juice but I skipped breakfast so that my stomach was ready for the food tour! Here is an overview of each stop!
1. Casa Pages (10.24 am)
Carrer Llibertat, 19
We first head to Casa Pages (Farmer’s House) on Liberty Street. A family run cosy local restaurant.
After taking our seats we are told this is a Catalonian style “Champagne Breakfast” but of course, here they drink Cava and not champagne!
The sparkling Cava arrives and we raise a toast, before devouring our Botifarra. Botifarra is a sausage sandwich with a side of freshly made alioli (like a yellow mayonnaise). It’s a tasty bite and an alcoholic kick to start the tour in style!
2. Seleccio D’Olives i Conserves Gloria (10.55am)
Mercat de L’Abaceria, Travessera de Gracia 186
Next up we walk down into the market in Gracia. An old school Catalonian indoor food market without the expected crowds of foreigners. We head to a “fish and olive” counter for a tasty treat.
Here we eat a skewer with salted cod and olives. It goes down a treat and we walk on round to another market stall.
3. La Trobada del Gourmet (11.13 am)
Mercat de L’Abaceria, Travessera de Gracia 186
Within the market there is endless variety and to my delight next up is a cheese tasting. There are three types of cheese to try, the third of which is cheese with a fruit slice.
All three cheeses are devourable and Renee gives us a full explanation of where the cheeses are from. Local of course, and cheese you would never think of trying if you were that casual tourist just walking through the market.
4. Oli Sal (11.27 am)
Travessera de Gracia 170
After leaving the market we stumble upon a petit and unique little “Olive Oil Shop” called Oli Sal. We head into the back to get a tasting of three deliciously different olive oils.
We taste them all with bread and are given an interesting explanation about the process of Olive Oil making and also, Renee reveals that Spain is the number one manufacturer of Olive Oil in the world. You thought it was Greece or Italy, you’re mistaken.
In Oli Sal (the brainchild of a local entrepreneur), you can also buy some olive oil products if you wish. A great selection of items here.
5. L’Anxoveta (12:11 pm)
Carrer de Sant Domenec 16
Next up and basically the half way mark is a cute little restaurant called L’Anxoveta. A theme on the food tour is that all these restaurants are either family run, small and cosy, off the beaten track, unusual, unique or in fact, all of the above. The choices of restaurant/eating place are brilliant.
In here, we have a table reserved and will have two treats to sample. First up though, the owner shows us how to make Pa Amb Tomaquet. This is basically a tomato/garlic bread. The idea came about as Catalonians don’t like to waste food, they want to be cheap and they also want to think outside the box. You get hard bread, you rub tomato on it, add some garlic, salt and olive oil and hey presto – delicious bread!
After the bread, we also have a glass of water and are given a “bomb”. In the shape of a sphere, this “Bomba” potato contains meat, potato and a brava sauce. Simply delicious!
6. Pastisseria Principe (12.48 pm)
Carre les Guilleries 10
On a barely noticed corner in Gracia, sits a very prominent pastry shop. This place brings back reminders of when I was backpacking in Palestine and tried Middle Eastern desserts in Ramallah.
For the owner Mustapha emigrated here from Syria, bringing with him his recipes and ideas for what is now one of the best pastry and cake shops in Barcelona. It’s so popular that every morning, from 5.30 am the baker here prepare these pastries for numerous other restaurants and shops all over Barcelona (and further afield).
Here we meet Mustapha and it’s a “choose your own”. I go for the Hazelnut and Chocolate treat. Nice to have a sweet item half way through the tour!
7. Bodega C’Al Pep (13.13 pm)
Carrer Verdi 141
Popping itself out on Verdi Street is this charming little Bodega. It’s a local bar with history on its very walls, local chatter from its many ‘regulars’ and new school popularity, evident from our entrance. Wow, there are “tourists” coming here the locals seem to be pleasantly surprised at our arrival.
When in a bar, have some alcohol eh? And a local red Vermouth is served up.
Another toast is raised and a plate containing two oiled anchovies and a piece of bread with Spanish salami arrive.
I wash it all down with a flourish taking in the marvellous decor of a bar which hasn’t, or hasn’t needed to change in years. I love it.
8. La Botigueta del Bon Menjar (13.34 pm)
Carrer de Santa Agata, 18-20
This wee bakery is on a corner and is more of a “takeaway place” however it has a few seats and a shelf, so as the only sit down customers, we take over! We enjoy a chat with the owner, who greets us and then serves us up two dishes each.
First up is Escalavida and romesco “pintxo”. This is vegetables on bread which includes and olive.
Then we are treated for a meatball mix in pea and gravy.
At this point I have eaten and drank every single drop of food or drink so far and have surprised myself. One venue left…but first a welcome surprise. We stop off on route to the last pub and Renee takes us down a street then says “here’s Gaudi’s first building.” And there it is, Casa Vicens, gleaming on a quiet street and without a tourist in sight apart from our group. Amazing.
After that it’s onto the 9th and final stop…
9. Pastisseria Ideal (14.00 pm)
Carrer Gran de Gracia 207
Here in this little bakery, the rousing food tour comes to a close. We are in the very bakery where the mini cremat was invented.
Back in 1919, a local gentleman called Miguelangel opened this place and invented a sweet dessert with caramel called the mini cremat. It comes with a choice of tea or coffee, so I opt for coffee.
And guess what? I finished it all. Kind of felt good that I’d eaten everything on the tour but for sure I was now full! We have a quick closing chat before the tour comes to a close.
Here’s a list of my tour buddies for the day!:
Tour leader – Renee (California, USA)
Sandy and Stan Lipkin (Denver, USA)
Jess and ALi (NSW, Australia)
Jonny Blair (Bangor, Northern Ireland)
So what an incredible day out. If you want to book this awesome food tour, here are the details, all of which are on the Gracia Food Tour Website (they are also on Facebook):
When: Offered Tuesday to Saturday mornings at 10am. Check our booking calendar for all open upcoming dates.
Time & Location: We meet for the tour promptly at 10:00 am on Passeig de Gracia 108, right in front of the Valentino store. You will find your guide holding a Devour Barcelona sign. Sometimes we add a second tour so please check your booking for exact starting time! The tour lasts around 4 hours and ends at the Fontana metro stop.
Price: €65 per adult (21% Spanish sales tax included in all prices), €45 per child age 12 & under. Free of charge for non-eating children under 5.
What’s included: At least 12 food tastings and 2 beverage tastings, generally enough for lunch.
Who: Anyone of any age who loves food (note, all group tours are currently offered in English, other languages on request)
Capacity: Generally up to 12 people per group tour (larger private tours possible by request)
What to wear: Comfortable clothing, walking shoes, & sun protection
Weather conditions: Food tours take place rain or shine.
Here are my videos from the Gracia Neighbourhood Food Tour in the order they happened: