As you walk around the city looking for food you may find yourself thinking of the old Catalan proverb:
Barcelona és bona si la bossa sona (Barcelona is only good if you’ve got money).
But don’t let anybody tell you there’s not good cheap food out there.
In my list of the best tapas in Barcelona I’m not just going to help you find the fantastic – I’m including 7 places to get free tapas just for ordering a well-deserved beer after a day of sightseeing.
Let’s dig in.
What Are Tapas?
Tapas originated in the 18th century in the southern region of Andalusia as small snack sidekicks to the drink of the day: sherry.
The name ‘tapas’ comes from the custom of covering drinks with plates (tapar in Spanish means to cover) to avoid pesky bar flies ruining a customer’s beverage. Over time bars used this opportunity to offer free food.
Today the three most famous tapas are patatas bravas (pictured, fried potato wedges with a spicy tomato sauce), pinchito moruno (marinated/spiced pork kebabs), and chipirones (mini fried squid).
As far as Barcelona tapas bars go you’ll find one on every street!
Here’s a map of my selections:
The Best Tapas in Barcelona
This stylish Spanish tapas bar stands out for its passionate servers and hungry locals perched on stools watching the open-plan kitchen show.
The lobster croquettes here really bring a tinge of luxury to a very commonplace dish. The steak with foie and truffle keeps the standards high but if you’re feeling really adventurous grab the tripe and beans.
Modernity and flavour meet in perfect harmony in this Barcelona tapas bar fit for fans of Nabokov, slick decor, and perfectly seared tuna! It’s great to see some adventure in tapas and that’s what you find here.
Also one of the best and crunchiest pan con tomate in the city.
This is a great weekend snack and drink spot near the Picasso Museum. The small and hip restaurant with its inviting wooden walls also includes a lovely terrace for some al fresco dining.
Grabbing two of their homemade vermouths, a little bowl of olives, and a meat and cheese platter is how locals eat in Barcelona.
The pan con tomate and albondigas (meatballs) also top notch. It’s also one of the only tapas bars in Barcelona with craft beer.
Another historic local that brings tourists and locals together like few other places. Part of the fun is nudging your way through the boisterous crowds to order your tapas at the bar.
Here there are no seats – so grab your food and a sparking white (called ‘El Xampanyet’) and get to know your neighbour over some smoked cod and tomato confit or butifarra del Perol (a local sausage).
The place opened in 1929 and hasn’t stopped serving since.
The best tapas in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter add an air of sophistication to a neighbourhood usually reserved for shot bars and bad decisions.
The beautifully presented modern fare has the presentation to match with a couple of my readers remarking its Michelin star quality. The tuna ceviche and paella really raise the bar and gluten-free eaters will be spoiled for choice.
Make sure you book a table in advance.
If you need to serve up quality tapas why not set up shop in the middle of Barcelona’s biggest food market? If you’re looking for fresh and even famous (Anthony Bourdain swore by the place) then the Catalan classics here hit a home run.
The navajas (razor clams) and codfish with ratatouille are huge favourites but the locals usually go for xipirons amb mongetes – a type of triend cuttlefish with beans.
I respect any tapas restaurant whose daring mission statement is something like “we hold true to our grandmother’s recipes but open up to the world”. The seasonal cuisine here jumps out for its complicated simplicity.
This is one of the best places to try ensalada russa (a type of potato salad): a strange Spanish obsession if I do say. Other hits are the marinated salmon, scallops, and a mean strawberry mojito! Two please.
It’s also rare to find a house wine so favorable to the taste buds.
La Cova Fumada
This little hole in the wall place packs a punch with a capital ‘P’. From the outside you wouldn’t know it’s a Barcelona tapas institution. They don’t even have a sign, but no bother. The family has been serving for 3 generations, and they know it’s the food that counts!
The famous tapas dish here are the bombas, a type of crispy potato ball stuffed with ground meat and topped with a spicy sauce. The beef cheeks are also to die for while the seafood, being in the fisherman’s neighbourhood is super fresh.
If you want your tapas on a Barcelona beach this is as close as it gets without falling into a tourist trap.
When people ask me where to eat tapas in Barcelona this is my go to because it’s a no-nonsense bar where you even get free tapas with your drink.
Large portions reign supreme and keep the traditions of the Spanish region of Galicia alive and well. The pulpo a la gallega (octopus, potatoes, paprika, and rock salt) is a great example.
This was recommended to me by a taxi driver who said all his colleagues go here for a quick bite. Make sure you book in advance or you’ll be sitting at the bar.
This chaotic and messy bar may be rammed with people from opening to close, but for good reason. What stands out here is how such quality can be achieved with such a varied Spanish tapas menus.
From the Serrano ham to the eggplant with honey to the bombas you’re in good hands.
The sangria here is excellent and if you’re a lover of fresh seafood you’ll be in heaven: go for the cuttlefish.
Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria)
The best cheap tapas in Barcelona if you’re looking for a little fun with your food.
This rammed bar is essentially a fast food joint churning out small tapas plates made from classics like butifarra sausage, chorizo, and all sorts of local cheeses and cold cuts.
Nobody dares step in the place without getting a bottle of their sparkling homemade rose – it’ll only set you back about €4.00. This is the ultimate day drunk social spot for meeting tourists.
The Best Free Tapas in Barcelona
A bit of a hidden gem in Gracia that focuses on only two things: beer and tapas. Order even the smallest €1.80 beer and you’ll get free patatas bravas (fried potato wedges in a spicy sauce), a tasty tortilla, Serrano ham, chorizo sausage and more.
The only problem is it gets a bit crowded, but the atmosphere is decidedly local and you won’t complain because there’s free food! The ensaladilla Rusa (a kind of potato, vegetable, and mayonnaise salad) is really delicious.
The owner Pilar speaks English and is as friendly as they come – but cash only!
Here you’ll find free tapas like croquettes and empanadillas served just like in Madrid. The tradition of cubo de birras con racion (a bucket of beers with a plate of food) lives on here and the prices are low! It’s also right by the beach.
Good, cheap, and friendly is the name of the game at my go-to Barcelona free tapas place. This luminous and modern Spanish bar really keeps tradition alive. They’ll give you a homemade tapa of your choice from the bar with any purchase of a beer, wine, or vermouth.
I like hitting this place up in the peak of summer for the chilled €1.00 white wine. A great place to just sit outside in the square and watch the neighbourhood come alive in the evening.
El Moll de Rebaix
The locals keep saying that Barceloneta is gradually losing its soul as the authentic locale is replaced by chains or tourist traps – this is a massive tapas exception.
The fresh produce, warm atmosphere, and old school decor add up to a humble and charming bar run by two brothers who value customer service. Try the pimientos de padron con migas (an Andalusian classic with peppers, chorizo and breadcrumbs).
This Barcelona tapas bar is hidden on a small winding street in the Raval. It may not be the best or the most fun but finding another terrace in the Raval which serves free tapas with your drink? Good luck!
What stands out here are the massive portion sizes of the mains – bring an appetite. This is also a great tapas bar to check out some South American specialties, particularly Chilean dishes.
I recommend the homemade ham croquettes.
La Xula Taperia
The combination of Madrid-style free tapas with every drink and the creativity of a modern Barcelona tapas joint is just lethal. So get there in the early afternoon, grab a draught beer, and let the chefs do the rest.
Aside from the free tapas this place is up there in the top restaurants in Barcelona for their creative Mediterranean dishes like cannelloni with butifarra sausage and mushrooms, duck breast carpaccio, and fried eggplant with foie gras foam.
Every list needs a wildcard and for this one we’re going two countries over to Italy. If you’re looking for free tapas with a drink but you want a cocktail instead of beer then look no further than this stylish Milanese-style aperitivo place.
In the late afternoon you’ll have your pick from the buffet-style setup with a selection of pastas, meats, cheeses, hummus, and Basque-style pintxos. There’s probably no greater food selection in the list.
Get More Free Stuff in the Comments Below
I’ve given you my list of the best tapas in Barcelona but that’s just the beginning! Any question you have regarding your Barcelona holiday will be answered by me personally in the comments below.
And don’t be afraid to join the Barcelona tapas discussion in my new Facebook group called I’m Off to Barcelona – here you can ask any questions, air out grievances, chat with fellow travelers, and more – anything goes!
Happy eating 🙂