10 top tips to eat well on a budget in Barcelona

places to eat bar Cañete Barcelona

There are plenty of places to eat in Barcelona, with a restaurant, bar, café or grocer’s shop on every street corner: finding something to eat is not going to be an issue. If you’re on a budget, however, a few pointers can be helpful: here are our top ten tips for eating well on a shoestring.

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1-Tourist sites

Avoid restaurants or cafés near the most touristy areas. Along Passeig de Gràcia, las Ramblas, around Sagrada Familia, in Parc Güell or on the beaches, prices can be through the roof.

It’s well worth exploring the quieter streets in the neighbourhood. Everything comes down to simple maths: the fewer tourists there are, the more reasonable the prices will be. The articles below will give you some pointers.

2- Terraces

Some places apply a 10% surcharge for eating on the terrace, but Barcelona is full of little cafés and restaurants with inner terraces where this rule does not apply.

3- Breakfast

Avoid getting breakfast in your hotel, unless it’s included in the price of the room.
When in Barcelona, do as the locals do and have a mid-morning snack: find a bar, sit down and order yourself a milky coffee, a sandwich, a local pastry and/or fresh orange juice. Plenty of options!

4- Fixed-price lunch

It’s a good idea to eat your main meal of the day at lunchtime. Many restaurants offer a fixed-price lunch menu from 1pm, with generous portions and often for a very reasonable price. You’ll get a choice of starters, mains and desserts, or coffee, with a drink included in the price.

The cheapest options come in at just under 10 euros, and in many places the fixed-price lunch will set you back less than 15 euros. Certain restaurants offer more sophisticated options for around 20 euros.

In any case, by eating well at lunchtime, you’ll avoid paying through the nose for a bigger meal in the evening.

5- Fixed-price evening meals

Most restaurants in Barcelona operate on an a la carte basis in the evenings, but certain restaurants have recently started offering fixed-price options.

These will often be the same as the restaurant’s lunchtime offerings, but you’ll have to pay a few euros more. If you’re after a big meal, you may well be better off ordering a la carte.

6- Pica-Pica

Another option for your evening meal: pica-pica, a form of shared meal in which everyone helps themselves from dishes set in the middle of the table.

If you’re with a group, order tapas, demi-rations or rations (don’t know the difference? See our article on Catalan specialities) to share. This is an excellent way of trying a whole range of local specialities in a single meal.

Just try not to get carried away, as things can add up quickly.

7- Thursday is paëlla day

Want to try paëlla? In Barcelona, Thursday is paëlla day.

Look for a fixed-price lunch menu which includes paëlla as one of the main courses. You shouldn’t have to look far! By ordering at lunchtime, you’ll pay less than you would in the evening. The Catalans themselves won’t eat paëlla in the evenings, as they consider it to be too difficult to digest later in the day.

8- Bread

Bread is not always included in the price of a meal in Barcelona. You may be asked to pay for bread which you didn’t order.

If bread is served to your table, make sure it’s included in your chosen menu. If you’re asked if you would like bread and you accept, you’ll have to pay.

9- Picnics

Barcelona is a great place for picnics, with its mediterranean climate and wide choice of open spaces.

If you’re eating on a shoestring, the Nostrum chain sells ready-made meals in practical containers and at very low prices.

A more “foodie” option is to get your supplies from one of Barcelona’s pretty markets. See our article: Barcelona for foodies: our top 5 food markets. This gives you a great opportunity to try fresh produce and local charcuterie, including the famous Iberico ham, for less than you’d pay in a restaurant.  Once you’re loaded up, find a bench, a beach or a park and tuck in. A quick, but memorable, solution.

10- Our Food and Drink section and The Fork

A couple of final tips…

    • Take a look at our Food & Drink section.
    • The Fork also offers some impressive discounts on restaurant menus. It’s well worth a look, and if somewhere catches your fancy, book ahead.

Bon appétit, or Bon profit! as the locals say…

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