While visiting a foreign country my goal is to see everything I can, go to as many places as possible within my timeframe and try almost any food I can get my hands on. From the country’s staple dish to hidden bars, restaurants and cafes recommended by locals, it was time to stuff my face (in between taking in all of Gaudi’s architecture) in Barcelona, Spain!
A major global city and capital of Spain, Barcelona is a trendy tourist city with an extended landscape of mountains and ocean. Yet eating within budget was tricky. Staying in the heart of the city, Ciutat Vella district, I was faced with swanky restaurants, expensive bars and overpriced cafes.
And in Barcelona, little food equals high prices but tapas didn’t fill me up and I could see my budget immediately going down the tubes. That wouldn’t stop me; I made it a point to eat and drink my way through Barcelona in great fashion. So the travel guru inside of me used past travel experience, got the inside scoop from the locals and took advantage of any deals. And my mission went a little something like this.
Gone to the Market
La Boqueria: a great place to stock up on culinary delights.
Since I was staying with some friends who rented an apartment, we had access to a kitchen; a refrigerator, stove, a table and chairs – perfect for any traveler on a budget. And with tapas visible through every window of the many street cafés we walked by, we got food ideas and made a daily visit to La Boqueria. The large market was filled with produce native to Spain, delicious baked goods, fresh fish, a variety of cheeses and many other goods. So we bought the freshest ingredients, made our own tapas and ate until we were full.
Breakfast in Bed
A big filling breakfast is hard to come by in Barcelona and the traditional light meal served in the morning is often overpriced in many cafes so I made my own. I bought some fresh pastry from a local bakery (just around the corner from the apartment) and brewed a fresh pot of coffee daily to jump start my day. Since I was walking an unknowing amount of miles in a day, the pastry was worked off in no time!
1 Vino, 2 Vino, 3 Vino, More
We stocked up on wine and relaxed with a glass in hand in the apartment. Whether I drank a glass while eating our homemade tapas (I was on vacation) or enjoyed another before heading out for the night, it was my way of staying on budget. And not to mention, the local popular Spanish beers were cheap and quite tasty. Again, we took full advantage of the kitchen and made it a point to drink at “home.”
I was on vacation and needed to treat myself from time to time. So, when out to eat, I stayed within budget by ordering the three-course meal offered at many of the local restaurants. Also known as “tourist menus,” these set choices included an appetizer (soup or salad), a main dish and dessert with coffee. And it only gets better; a glass of wine or domestic beer was also part of the set price (12 to 15 Euros). Affordable, filling and delicious!
Fill up on Bar Snacks
Paella – a Spanish staple
Most bars and restaurants have a dish of Spanish olives staring you in the face as you sit down. And after ordering a drink, some places bring you fresh baked bread and pressed olive oil. But be leery, some restaurants charge you for these snacks so ask before you eat. If they are complimentary, take advantage and fill up!
A Happy Hour
A variety of bars offer drink specials and food choices at a lower price throughout the week. So during the day, while we toured the city on foot, I scanned restaurant’s menus to find the best deals and later took to those bars.
Even though I stayed within budget my food experience was nothing less than exceptional. I ate homemade paella, munched on the freshest green olives and enjoyed great seafood by the sea. While Barcelona can be an expensive tourist trap, there are always ways to stay on budgetary track!