How do you eat tapas in Barcelona? It’s super easy, especially in a cosmopolitan city where most of the waitstaff speak multiple languages, including English. There are different types of tapas, all of which you can enjoy on a cooking vacation and foodie tour of Barcelona, including:
- tapas frias
- tapas calientes
What is a pintxo? Basicaly it’s a tapa (singular of “tapas”) that is composed on a piece of bread. It can be simple – a bit of jamon on a slice of baguette – or complex, with several layers of ingredients and flavors. “Pintxo” refers to the toothpick that holds them together, and make them easy to spot. The toothpick is also how you pay. You select the pintxos you want and then when you are finished they will count the toothpicks on your plate and charge you accordingly. (Try Pinxtos on our Basque Culinary Vacation!).
Tapas Frias (or Fredes)
These are simply put tapas that are served cold. Some of the most common types of tapas are cold, including anchovies, which can be commonly found cured in oil (anchoas) or in vinegar (boquerones in escabeche), as well as the ubiquitous esqueixada de bacalao – a type of Catalan ceviche made from tomato, reconstituted salt cod, onion, and olive oil.
Tapas Calientes (or Calents)
You guessed it – hot tapas! Some of the popular varieties are patatas bravas (potatoes served with two sauces – an aioli and a spicy paprika-flavored sauce), croquettes, and seafood (octopus, mussels, calamari). But they can be almost anything. We enjoyed a wonderful tapas of mushrooms at the Boqueria market which was simply some 7 or 8 varieties of mushrooms cooked in a hot pan and drizzled with oil and salt. Some of our cooking classes in Barcelona feature recipes for cold and hot tapas dishes, which are both delicious and easily reproduced at home.
Montaditos are pretty much the same as pintxos, or a composed type of tapas on top of a slice of baguette (or sometimes cracker).
These are little sandwiches, so more akin to pinxtos and montaditos, but with a top layer of bread.
What time can you eat tapas? Anytime, really. A Spaniard explained to me that Spaniards sleep less than any other nationality in Europe, and if grabbing a tapa or two for breakfast meant you could sleep an extra 10 minutes, then you were happy to do so. You can eat tapas for lunch, as an afternoon/happy-hour type of snack, for dinner, or as a late night snack if you are out partying. Travelers on our cooking vacations in Barcelona might find themselves enjoying tapas throughout the day!
What do Spaniards drink with tapas? This depends a bit on the time of day. If for breakfast or lunch, probably beer (yes, even for breakfast). If before dinner an apperitif such as vermut or cava. But white and red wines, sangria, other cocktails, and soft drinks are also commonly served with tapas, so there is something for almost every taste.
Note that in southern Spain you used to be able to get free tapas when you ordered drinks at a bar. Now most places in Spain you have to order and pay for the tapas you eat, but in the region of Andalusia you can still sometimes find free tapas. One of the most traditional of these is the tasty tomato bread.
What are you waiting for? Book a foodie tour or cooking vacation in Barcelona with TIK and start enjoying this wonderful culinary custom!
Read more about Barcelona in our blog:
- The Boqueria Market
- Visiting La Sagrada Familia
- Barcelona’s El Born Neighborhood
- Exploring Modernisme
- The Mercat del Ninot
- The Passeig de Gracia
By Peg Kern
Sign up to receive our newsletter, which includes travel tips, recipes, promotions, and information on our best cooking vacations.