Modernist architecture, Michelin-starred dining and fascinating conversation – the Wanderbeak Gourmet Gaudí Food & Architecture Tour is a deep dive into Barcelona’s high society.
It was a book filled with pictures of Antoni Gaudí’s fantastical architecture that first drew me to Barcelona.
I remember flicking through the colourful pages and being awed by the flamboyance and irreverence of it all.
Then of course, after moving here, I discovered the food and wine and, well… I never left.
So when I was invited to experience Wanderbeak’s new food and architecture tour, an indulgent 4-hour junket through Barcelona’s glitzy Eixample neighbourhood, I didn’t really have to think too hard.
I loved every second, but here are a few extra special moments that filled me with joy and left me with a new perspective of the city.
The “Oysters and Cava Never Tasted So Damn Good” Moment
The tour started on the gorgeous Passieg de Gracia. I remember walking down this architecturally rich boulevard on my first ever day in Barcelona and instantly falling in love. It’s still my favourite street.
Marwa, the infectiously charismatic creator of the tour, whisked us off to the gastronomic emporium of El Nacional, where we were greeted by the manager and ushered to the oyster bar. Straight into the good stuff.
We said ¡Salud! and sipped a crisp rosé cava – Marwa certainly knows how to treat her guests. It was a delicate light blush and the bubbles looked like beads of mercury as the sun shone through the glass.
Our oysters were served over ice, tempting us to slurp them down in all their otherworldly exoticness.
“You can season them with a little squeeze of lemon, or with shallots and Worcestershire sauce,” Marwa guided us. “But I recommend trying this first one on its own so you can taste it properly. And you can chew these to get the texture and flavour. They’re such good quality.”
The first oyster was from the Mediterranean and it was like a wave crashing over my tongue, a salty kick of flavour.
The second was from Galicia, a sweeter, nuttier flavour that paired beautifully with the cava.
It was a glorious way to start the day.
The “Why Do They Say Catalonia is Not Spain?” Moment
Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous region of Catalonia and local politics can be a bit of a challenge to get your head around.
“60% of Catalans voted for independence from the rest of Spain in an unofficial referendum recently,” Marwa explained. “A long, long time ago, Catalonia was completely separate from Spain and a lot of Catalans want it back.”
It was fascinating to learn more about it all and somewhat liberating to be able to discuss it all openly with Marwa without fear of ridicule. Politics in Catalonia, and Spain in general, is after all an extremely a complex and delicate subject
“And of course it all has an impact on the gastronomy and, as you’ll soon see, the architecture.”
The “Wow, I Never Noticed That!” Moment
Marwa led us to a cherry picked selection of Barcelona’s most famous Modernist buildings, including Casa Batllo, La Pedrera and Casa Amatller.
We learned how the architectural movement took over the city as a result of Catalonia’s booming textile industry of the 19th century. But more importantly, we heard fascinating stories about the families who became rich beyond their wildest dreams in a matter of years.
“A lot of people got very rich, very, very quickly,” Marwa explained. “And this area, Eixample, was brand new then. The place to be. Wealthy families would employ architects to design elaborate homes as a display of their wealth.
But not just to show that they were rich, but to show that they were cultured, that they appreciated art and design. And this was when Gaudi started designing more and more of the buildings that Barcelona is now famous for.”
But more than that, Marwa narrated the intricacies of the façades and showed how they were designed to tell the stories of the owners.
I found myself in a constant state of amazement. “No way, I never knew that!” and “I’ve never noticed that before!”.
I’ve gawked at these buildings hundreds of times in the past, but this was like seeing them with eyes anew for the very first time, with the lights switched on.
Marwa kept the stories coming with tales about Sant Jordi, the patron saint of Catalonia, who slayed a dragon.
“A rose bush grew from the dragon’s blood and Sant Jordi picked the most beautiful rose to give to the princess.”
But even more interestingly, Marwa showed us how the story had worked its way into the local architecture, and possibly the Catalan flag.
“No one really knows the origins of the Catalan flag. There’s the story that a king was injured and he put his four fingers in between his ribs and then rubbed red stripes down his shield with his blood…”
I live for these kind of stories.
The “I Never Knew That About Chocolate!” Moment
As I learned on Wanderbeak’s Savour Spain Food Tour last year, Marwa is a fellow chocoholic. But the difference is that, whereas I only know how to eat it, she knows a vast amount about its origins and production.
“This is what you should be looking for when you buy chocolate,” she explained as we sampled different varieties, from dark chocolate with a salty after bite to sweet white chocolate with strawberry.
I also loved hearing the stories about the family who started the company and lived in this palatial house.
“In the end the owner’s daughter, Teresa Amatller, lived here alone. And because she had no heirs it was given to the city.”
The “VIP Welcome and 4 Course Lunch at a Secret Michelin-Starred Restaurant” Moment
The highlight of the Gourmet Gaudi tour is a lavish 4-course lunch at one of Barcelona’s most exclusive Michelin-starred restaurants.
I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you which restaurant it’s at, but suffice to say my jaw almost hit the ground once I realised where we were going.
A special tasting menu has been put together especially for for Marwa’s guests and it’s clear she is loved by all who work at the restaurant.
“That lady that I was just talking to, she’s the owner of the hotel and restaurant. She’s so lovely!”
Every morsel was pure bliss, with interesting flavours and textures created from quality produce.
“It all changes with the seasons,” Marwa explained. “That’s why they’ve got this lovely green bean dish on the menu for us today.”
The wine, too, was every bit as special.
After we’d finished eating I took tiny sips of intense espresso and studied the petit fours from every angle, dragging out the meal for as long as I possibly could.
The day had been exactly what I’d hoped my life would be like when I moved to Barcelona all those years ago.
They say that success in life is “not about what you know but who you know”, and Marwa is the best friend you could ever wish to have in Barcelona.
Not only does this tour open doors to new gastronomical experiences you’d be unlikely to have as an independent traveller, but it also pulls back the curtain on local politics and connects the dots between the city’s cultural and culinary charms.
A truly unique and rewarding experience.
Make it Happen
- Visit the Wanderbeak website to book your spot on the Gourmet Gaudi tour.
- Price is €165 per person all-inclusive for everything (which is fantastic when you consider it includes a 4-course Michelin-starred lunch with wine!)
- The tour lasts around 3 hours, with roughly 30 minutes of actual walking time.
- Groups are limited to 8 people to maintain the feeling of being out with a group of friends.
- The tour runs from Tuesday to Friday – starting at 12.30pm and ending around 3.30-4pm. Private tours are also available.