A story-filled exploration of Barcelona’s historic centre packed with essential bites and sights, the Wanderbeak walking food tour is an ideal way to see and taste the very best of this vibrant and ever-evolving city.
Words and photos by your gluttonous guide, Ben Holbrook.
1. Because You’ll Start Your Foodie Day the Spanish Way
After meeting Marwa, our charismatic guide, on Las Ramblas we ambled our way over to a gorgeous old tapas bar in the Raval neighbourhood. “We can introduce ourselves properly over a drink!” Marwa suggested. I liked her already.
And because Marwa is all about making sure everyone on her tours eats and drinks like a local, the first round of tapas was vermut-style. Sweet and punchy, this seductive fortified wine is what the Spanish drink as an aperitivo with something to “pica pica” (pick at) to get the appetite going before lunch – it was just what I needed.
We gobbled down gourmet Spanish olives and beautiful little balls of bacalao (salted cod) while Marwa shared the first of her many fascinating insights of the day, revealing the history of the bar and the delicious things we were shovelling gratefully into our mouths.
It really is a bloody good way to start a food tour.
2. Because of the Magical Moments Between Mouthfuls
Marwa has clearly spent a lot of time planning her food tour. It’s not just about getting from one foodie spot to the next as quickly as possible – instead she whisks you off to magical squares and meandering streets, sharing stories of Catalonia’s colourful history, tales of dragons and knights in shining armour.
3. Because You’ll Eat All of the Essential Tapas Dishes
Contemporary Catalan cuisine is all about elevating the classic flavours of traditional dishes. But once you’ve sat down at this bustling local tapas bar (specially chosen by Marwa from a list of thousands) and feasted on must-eat tapas like “pimientos de padron” (grilled peppers), spicy “patatas bravas” (potatoes), and Barcelona’s famous “bombas” (potato stuffed meatballs), you might just find yourself asking, “Why bother?”.
Oh, and the little chorizo sausages in cider are literally the most addictive things I’ve ever had the joy of not having to resist. This is what old school Spanish cooking is all about.
4. Because You’ll Feel Like a VIP
I’ve travelled a lot and I’m all too aware of that sinking feeling that you get when you walk into a bar, cafe or restaurant only to be given the tourist-treatment.
On the Wanderbeak food tour, however, things are different. The owners of each establishment – many of whom seem to be good friends of Marwa’s – come out to say hello and make sure you’re enjoying everything.
Chris, one of my new friends on the tour, said it best: “It definitely feels like we’re getting the VIP treatment!”.
5. Because it Comes from the Heart
The element that takes the Wanderbeak tour from being a ‘good tour’ to being a ‘great tour’ is the energy, charisma and knowledge of Marwa. Born in Egypt and raised in Canada, she later carved an immensely successful career in London but left it all behind to pursue her dream of moving to Barcelona and setting up her own tours so that she could share her passion for the city.
Whether revealing the (gobsmacking) reasons why Spanish restaurants hang legs of jamón in their windows or how the city’s Arabic and Jewish residents influenced the flavours of the city, she does it with genuine enthusiasm and admirable depth.
6. Because You’ll Discover Secret Spots that You’d Never Find Alone
Barcelona is one of those cities that always has something more to offer. I’ve lived here for years now but I still get lost every time I venture into the old town. Hell, I still get lost just wandering around my own neighbourhood. So I was really rather surprised when Marwa took us to the famous mosaic made by Joan Fontcuberta – I’d never seen or heard of it! Named the “Kiss of Freedom”, it really is a magnificent piece of street art with a unique and inspiring story, but I’ll let Marwa tell you all about that.
7. Because You Need Barcelona’s Best Churros in Your Life
Doughy goodness fried in peanut oil, sprinkled with a little bit of sugar and double dunked in treacle-thick hot chocolate, Spanish chocolate con churros are one of life’s simple pleasures. Unsurprisingly, Marwa is friends with the people who make the best churros in Barcelona!
8. Because it Really is a Ton of Fun!
Like watering-cans made of glass, I’ve seen people drinking from these bizarre spouted bottles for years but had never tried it before going on the Wanderbeak tour.
In true Spanish style, the beauty of the “porron” (pourer) is that you can pass it between your friends and share the wine, competing to see who can do it with the most style.
The wine pours literally straight into your mouth and, because your lips don’t touch the bottle, you don’t have to worry about germs.
Me? I “porron-ed” most of the wine down my chin and chest like a complete newbie.
9. Because You’ll Eat the Very Best of the Very Best
Needless to say, we were so full that we were practically rolling around the city after all of this, but there was one last stop to make. For dinner we ate platters of extremely high quality Spanish meats and cheeses, washed down with lashings of silky smooth Rioja.
What’s very apparent is that Marwa doesn’t cut corners. You can rest assured that whatever you eat on her tour will have been carefully selected to give you the best possible eating experience.
I won’t spoil the surprise for you, but the restaurant where we ate our final feast is definitely one of my new favourite foodie spots in Barcelona.
I take my hat off to her.
10. Because You’ll Make Lifelong Friends
I think half the joy of eating Spanish style is the social element that goes along with it. The whole concept of the “tapear” (hopping from one tapas bar to another) is all about enjoying good food in the company of others. And that’s what I enjoyed on the Wanderbeak tour, chatting with other foodie travellers and sharing the experience with likeminded people.
If you’re coming to Barcelona and want to get a real feel for both the city’s cultural and culinary delights then the Wanderbeak tour is absoultely ideal. Not only will you eat all the right dishes in all the right places, but you’ll also get to see most of the old town (Gothic Quarter, Raval, Born) and learn a good wedge about its history. What’s more, Marwa will see to it that you have a jolly good time and that you leave Barcelona not only with a full stomach but also with a head full of memories.
Make it Happen
Tours run for about 4 hours and cost €85 person (includes all drinks and 15 different dishes).
Marwa also offers private tours, which are great if you’re travelling as a group.
Is it worth it? When you consider the volume and quality of everything you eat, and also the added value of being guided through the city, I think the price offers outstanding value for money.