Paella is almost certainly the best-known Spanish culinary speciality. Originating in Valencia, its name comes from the huge pan in which it is cooked.
Traditional paella and its variants
The most traditional paella is made up of rice and poultry. The local version in Barcelona tends to include seafood in the place of meat.
Specialist paella restaurants often offer different varieties of the dish, most commonly seafood paella and a mixed paella (including both meat and seafood). Vegetarian paella, with vegetables in the place of the meat and seafood, is becoming increasingly widespread.
- There are similar dishes which are specific to Barcelona and the surrounding areas: arròs caldoso (rice in stock), arròs negre (a black rice dish including squid ink), and fideuà (a sort of paella, but with vermicelli in the place of rice). These are more typical and more widely enjoyed by the local population than paella itself – so don’t hesitate to try them?
When to eat paella
Although it may seem odd, there are specific times for eating paella, in Barcelona and in the rest of Spain.
Paella is rice-based, and has a reputation for being difficult to digest. For this reason, the Spanish prefer not to eat paella in the evenings – best try it at lunchtime.
In Barcelona, Thursday is, by tacit agreement, paella day! Many restaurants include the dish in their lunch menus on Thursdays, bringing the price down.
The best places for paella in Barcelona
Paella can be found in all of the “tourist” restaurants. These often display menus in several languages and employ advertising staff to draw in customers. There are a lot of “tourist” restaurants which serve paella on Las Ramblas and the Passeig Joan de Borbó in Barceloneta.
These restaurants are best avoided, as they often represent poor value for money. The paella is often disappointing, made up exclusively of rice and a small amount of reheated, frozen seafood.
- Note that in many restaurants, paella needs to be ordered for a minimum of 2 people. Expect to pay around 20 euros per person.
- You’ll almost certainly need to book to get a table at any of our recommended restaurants.
For genuine and tasty paella, try one of the addresses below – tried and tested by us!
7 Portes: the most authentic one
7 Portes is an icon on the Barcelona restaurant scene. Opened in 1836, it counts some pretty big names among its past clients. The décor is old and authentic. The price is slightly higher than average, but it’s worth it for the atmosphere and the quality of the food.
- Each place has a plaque with the name of a famous person who has eaten there. You may find yourself in a seat used by Che Guevara, Picasso or Placido Domingo!
- Remember to book!
- Why? For the historical setting
- When? Monday to Sunday, 1pm – 1am
- Where? Passeig Isabel II, 14 (metro: Barceloneta, L4)
Xiringuito Escribà: the specialist one
The Escribà family are well-known in Barceoona’s foodie circles. For starters, they own the spectacular Pâtisserie Escribà on Las Ramblas, mentioned in our article on Iconic shops around Las Ramblas in Barcelona. The desserts served at Xiringuito Escribà, one of the most popular seafood restaurants with the locals, come from the store.
The word “xiringuito” is generally used to denote the beach kiosks which pop up from April to September, serving food and drinks on the beach. Whilst the Xiringuito Escribà is by the sea, it’s actually a “proper” restaurant, open all year round. What it loses in proximity to the sea, it makes up for in terms of comfort and services.
The kitchens are open, so you can see the paella being prepared in front of you. Seriously appetising!
A picture is worth a thousand words, so take a good look at the photo illustrating this article: it was taken at the Xiringuito Escribà. Note that the restaurant also serves a truly excellent vegetarian paella.
- Note: the restaurant has a great reputation, so it’s very important to book ahead!
- Why? For unique, expert paella-making skills
- When? Every day from 1pm to 10:30pm
- Where? Avinguda Litoral, 42 (metro Ciutadella/Vila Olímpica, L4 then a 15-minute walk)
La Dentellière, a great restaurant in the Gothic neighbourhood
We make an exception this time: we recommend a paella that we have not tested yet (but it won’t be long). Given the passion with which the owner talked to us and the good products that are used in the restaurant, the paella of La Dentellière can only be succulent! In addition, it costs about 15 euros per person!
If, one evening, you are at least two people and you want to eat a paella in the historic center, do not miss this place and then tell us what you thought! 😉
- Good news! By specifying that you come from Barcelona Top Travel Tips, a small digestive (chupito) will be offered to you!
- Why? Because of its central location
- When? Every evening from 7pm to midnight (closed on Tuesdays)
- Where? Carrer Ample, 26; metro: Jaume 1er or Liceu