Ten foodie tips for your Barcelona holiday

Or how to dine like a real Catalan!!

  1. Eating is a pleasure… and compared to London, Paris or New York, relatively inexpensive.
  2. In Barcelona – as in Spain more generally – people eat at different times than in northern Europe or North America. It is rare to take lunch before 14.00 (2pm). Restaurants will serve lunch up until around 16.00 (4pm). Equally evening meals are later. Eating places tend to get busy around 20.30 (8.30pm) but often remain open for new diners until midnight or even later.
  3. Outside hotels, breakfast is not often a cooked meal. The best deals are in the numerous bakeries around the city where locals enjoy a coffee or chocolate plus a croissant or other pastry for under €5.
  4. Tipping is comparatively rare. Many do not tip at all. If you pay by credit or debit card, waiting staff simply expect the amount on the bill. Those who pay by cash often leave the small change behind.
  5. Watch out for the IVA. That’s a 10 per cent tax on eating out. Most establishments have added it into the menu amounts but a minority persist in adding it as an extra.
  6. Avoid dining on La Rambla (the main tourist drag in Barcelona). There are loads of food places but the best that can be said of them is that they achieve mediocrity. After all, they know that they get very little repeat business and that tourists (or natives for that matter) can’t tell one from the other.
  7. Most places (including all bars) will serve you just a coffee or beer if their tables are not full of diners. Once you have a coffee or other drink, you can sit for as long as you like – and that includes La Rambla. So you can people watch for very little. Many establishments also have wifi.
  8. Lunchtime is generally cheaper than the evening. Many restaurants, including some of the best, have all inclusive pricing with three courses, bread, a drink and sometimes coffee. Look for the Menu del Dia on boards outside the restaurant. Be sure to insist on this as some places will try to palm you off with the more expensive a la carte menu – especially once they see you are a visitor.
  9. Tapas – small plates of food – are great fun but they are not meant as a substitute for a full meal although some places will offer seven or eight plates for a set cost. Tapas are meant to get you through “food down times” such as the early evening.
  10. Try something new. Go outside your “safety” zone. Don’t just go for pizza or paella. Or burgers. Most Barcelona eateries have an English menu or someone who can explain the food in English (sometimes you need both!). And sign up for Secret Food Tours Barcelona to get a better insight in how the people of the city eat.

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