Barcelona, a huge city with much to offer. Culturally-wise, for relaxing, partying, but definitely when it comes to vegan food. I’ll try to cover some aspects and share other blogs that have seen even more of te city down below. Barcelona can also be called BCN in short (not ‘Barca’, that is the short name for their soccer team).
The city lies in the region Catalonia/Cataluña, which is not simply a matter of its geographic location. Most Catalans are very proud of their history, culture and own language. But the languages spoken and/or written are both Spanish and Catalan, and in the city most people will understand English. Some translations for keywords can be found in the Vegan Catalonia Basics post.
We stayed in Barcelona for just a couple of days with friends, just before we went to Mallorca. But I’ve visited the city multiple times now and I keep enjoying it. If you wish to meet other vegans in the city, keep an eye out on the Meetup-page for Barcelona.
WHAT TO EAT: BARCELONA
The city has good vegan food spots all over the city. You can choose from delicious Catalan cuisine, both gourmet- or cantina-style but if you prefer different flavors, there is also Indian-food, vegan pizza, falafel and raw-food, to just name a few. Definitely check out Barcelona on HappyCow. But just so you know: you wouldn’t have been to Spain if you haven’t tried tapas! ;)
Spain is famous for its tapas (small dishes) but unfortunately it’s not very vegan friendly. Lucky us that there are some vegan basics and of course the veganized versions at all the vegan(-friendly) restaurants. And feel free to order a single tapas at one place and move on to the next place (if there is only one vegan option for example). Tapas prices range from €4 to €8.
(Used below are Spanish and Catalan names)
Patatas bravas / Patates braves: Delicious fried potatoes wedges with a spicy tomato-mayonaise sauce. Check if the sauce is vegan or ask for leaving it out. Or substitute it with ketchup. Might also come with the famous garlic mayonnaise called aioli, or ali oli, which might be non-vegan. When it’s made fresh, a restaurant might skip using raw eggs out of fear of salmonella. Aks if the aioli is without eggs ’sin huevo’, and if you really want to be sure; also check for milk ‘sin leche’.
Pa amb tomàquet, also called Pa amb oli (both Catalan): bread, often toasted, with tomato rubbed over and seasoned with olive oil and salt. Sometimes, garlic is rubbed on the bread before rubbing in the tomato. Be aware that this dish is sometimes served with any type of animal product, so check if it’s only the bread with tomato and oil. It has it’s own Wikipedia-page!
Champiñones con ajo / Xampinyons al ajillo: baked mushrooms with garlic, parsley and olive oil. Can’t miss with this one!
Pimientos de Padrón / Pebrots de Padrón: A plate of small fried green peppers, with dashes of rock salt. Not spicy, more of a bitter taste: bit like green bell peppers.
Escalibada / Escalivada: Aubergine/eggplant, red pepper, onions and tomatoes- typical to Catalonia, Valencia and Aragon. This may be one of the dishes that comes with sea food. You might want to check this by asking for ´sense peix´(without fish). Wikipedia
Gazpacho: (Not really a tapas but probably on the menu) Cold soup made of raw vegetables. Should be vegan by default. If you want to check the broth, ask if they’ve used ‘caldo de verduras’ instead of ‘caldo de carne’.
Aceitunas: olives. Mostly safe but feel free to check if they’re with with anchovy (‘anchoa’ in Spanish, ‘anxova’ in Catalan).
Pan con ali oli/aioli: bread with garlic butter/mayonnaise, ask if the aioli is without eggs (as mentioned at the patatas bravas).
Although I haven’t seen these around, be on the look out for more vegan options such as; ‘Espinacas con garbanzos / Espinacs amb citrons’ (spinach and chickpeas), ‘Zanahorias aliñadas / Pastanagues amanides’ (marinated carrots).
HORCHATA/ORXATA (TIGER NUT MILK):
Our friend bought us fresh ‘horchata/orxata’. Which in this case is milk made from ‘chufa’, also known as ‘tiger nuts’. You will find it all over Barcelona, just look for bigger gelato stores, bakeries and other places. The milk should be vegan by default but I found brands in the supermarket that had added milk proteins. So feel free to ask the store if their horchata has milk (‘leche’ or ‘llet’) in it.
Prices will differ per area and store. I wouldn’t recommend buying it in the supermarket because you can get fresh horchata throughout the city (the light-version in the supermarket was vegan but tasted horrible so please look further for a fresh one). The best I had so far was near the Diamond square (Plaça del Diamant) in Gràcia. The place is called ‘Orxateria Astúries’ (on the corner of Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla and Carrer d’Astúries), here you can also get a sugar-free option (the milk is already a bit sweet by itself). Near the square is also the small vegan take-away restaurant Vegetart Cuina Vegana and the hotdog-store on the square also sells vegan hotdogs (soy-based), but it’s nothing special taste-wise (I was happy I carried some store-bought aioli with me).
VEGAN ICE CREAM:
After a good meal we can all use some good ice cream, right?!
Well, Barcelona has quite some options for us vegans. There are vegan-friendly places like La Gelateria del Barri, Gelaati di Marco,
Bodevici, La Heladeria Mexicana, and even some more! Feel free to ask at a ice cream place if they offer vegan options. Or check HappyCow for more spots.
I’ve only been to the chain Dino, but had the best vegan dark chocolate ice cream so far! They also had vegan pistachio and hazelnut ice cream. I found this store near the train station (Carrer de Sants, 98) but one closer to the center can be found in Barceloneta or all across the center. The offered options differ per location.
!! Cautions or pay attention to’s:
– Patatas bravas might come with a non-vegan sauce.
– Olives might be filled with anchovy (‘anchoa’ in Spanish, ‘anxova’ in Catalan)
– Pa amb tomàquet / Pa amb oli is sometimes served with any type of animal product, so check if it’s only the bread with tomato and oil.
– Aioli, or ali oli, might be non-vegan. When it’s made fresh, a restaurant might skip using raw eggs out of fear of salmonella. Aks if the aioli is without eggs ’sin huevo’. The cooled ones in stores are mostly with egg though, but always check; I found a (uncooled) vegan aioli in a Spar (brand was Mera).
Barcelona has much to offer, don’t expect to see it all in just a weekend! I won’t go deep into all the sightseeing since everyone will have different preferences. But there are some tips I can give if you happen to go to any of these touristy spots.
- Park Guell:
Since 2013 the free park has become a paid park and the visitors can go in by shifts (every 30 minutes, but you can stay as long as you like). This might sound like the city turned it into a moneymaker. But because of this it’s actually much less crowded compared to before. Bút, if you prefer to save some money and still see some bits of the park you can go walk around in the free area (the surrounding forest) and see the plateau from above. Just outside the entrance you will get a good glimpse of the stairs. This way it’s free and you’ll save €8, but it’s up to you if this ‘light’ version is worth the trip to the park. (A real Dutch tip ;) ) If you go, you can always walk into the neighborhood ‘Gràcia’ afterwords, here you will find my favorite orxata-place and some great local-produce stores.
- Sagrada familia:
This was my fifth time in Barcelona and I still hadn’t seen the inside of the beautiful church (imo) designed by Antoni Gaudí. This time I finally bought a ticket and got in, after 14 o’clock when the sun started shining through the beautiful orange windows. Photos can’t grasp the interior’s vibe and doesn’t do it any justice, so definitely check it out yourself. Entrance prices are between €15 (just entrance) and €29 (entrance, audio tour and towers) , you can order your ticket online and show the PDF from your smartphone, or buy your ticket at the door. Visitors under 30 years old, students and seniors get a discount. Also keep an eye out on their promotions. Interesting fact; the entrance fee is a donation to help finish the construction. If you’re interested in the construction (and it’s history), don’t forget to go below the church after you checked out the interior.
- Barceloneta beach:
The beach closest to the touristic center is the beach of Barceloneta. The beach can be very crowded but it’s a great place to take a quick dip in the sea and eat at the Bar Celoneta Sangria Bar nearby or go to The Green Spot for a fancier (and a bit more expensive) experience. A new place just opened when we were here in September, it’s called Poké Maoli, they offered vegan bowls. If the beach is full, try the other beaches along the coast, towards the North-East.
For this trip we only had a couple of days in BCN and choose to do all the touristy activities. For the special, hidden gems check out the rest of the interweb :) Check out Caitlin’s amazing tips on BCN and much more great articles on her blog. And more BCN-tips on Keepin’ it Kind.
HOW TO GET AROUND?
Jump on the metro or the bus, or if you’re experienced with cycling around in a busy city, get yourself a city bike.
SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL AND BARCELONA
Wandering around the city you might encounter slogans such as ‘Tourist, go away!‘, ‘I live here, I am not a tourist’, ‘[Neighborhood] is not for sale!‘. While this shouldn’t withhold you from visiting Barcelona altogether, I would like to give you some insights to put it into perspective and then it’s up to you on what to do. Barcelona is not the only city experiencing these issues but it feels right to address them in this post.
- Many places get acquired in dodgy ways and the unregulated rental flats get stacked full with tourists, mostly without the proper taxes being paid or permits acquired. Housing prices go up and locals have to leave their homes. So try renting a place where you know that a share of your money goes to the welfare of the country and is (less) destructive to local communities. Read more about it here.
So where you stay definitely has its impact, while AirBnb is a wonderful platform, it is prone to be used for dodgy business and tax evasion. See if there are places that promote sustainable tourism in Barcelona like this ‘eco & social’ hostel Jam Hostel.
- Tourists are for Barcelona what a monoculture can be for the farmer and environment (I actually got this great analogy from our local friends). Tourism booms in the center and all the activities surrounding this area will start to focus on this single industry. But these created jobs are unstable (depending on tourist-seasons for example) and often the wages are low (which creates an influx of foreign workers).
- Local economy: Tourism is on the rise, Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe. Official numbers show that it quadrupled from 1990. But with the many unregistered tourists, even this big number is (heavily) underestimated. On top of this, the income gap between rich and poor keeps widening and the unemployment rate is still pretty bad. So the more local you can spend your money the better!
I hope the city, with all its inhabitants will find a ethical and sustainable balance.
That’s about it for Barcelona! If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Take care and travel safe!