I’m going to start this post with a massive disclaimer. I’m not coeliac and I don’t have severe allergies. I have a dairy intolerance and, at the time of my trip, also had a suspected gluten intolerance, both linked to a lifelong skin condition. I avoided obvious gluten and dairy whilst in Barcelona, but didn’t bother to check about hidden ingredients, as the worst that would happen if I accidentally ingested either would be that my skin would become inflamed and itchy for a few days. Therefore, I can’t guarantee that any of the places mentioned in this post are totally safe for those who need to avoid all traces of gluten or dairy; please ask the serving staff and do all of your usual checks first. That said, I hope that you might find the below recommendations helpful for planning your trip to this vibrant city!
Seafood paella is usually a safe bet
The famous Spanish dish of paella is everywhere in Barcelona, and was recommended in most of the blog posts and articles that I found on gluten-free dining in the city. It’s rice-based (hooray for rice!) so is most likely safe for those avoiding gluten (of course, if you must avoid all traces, please do check that there has been nothing dangerous added in the cooking), and the seafood version is fine for dairy free folk too (you can also get a mixed paella which includes chorizo, so watch out on what you’re ordering). The problem with paella for solo diners is that many restaurants will only offer it for groups of two or more people together, so you might have to hunt around. I ate paella solo at Hugo’s in the El Born area of the city (not far from the Arc de Triomf) on several nights.
Grab a gluten-free sandwich at Conesa
This sandwich shop was recommended in every blog post I read on this topic! I went to the central branch on my first day in Barcelona and was impressed to see that they have a separate preparation area for gluten-free sandwiches, as well as a clearly set-out menu in several languages, showing the range of fillings on offer as well as the bread. They also understood my request for no dairy, although our conversation was a mixture of Catalan, Spanish and English, so do have the phrases you need prepared in the local languages too.
As lovely as the beachside area of La Barceloneta is, it can be a nightmare for dairy free-ers who mourn for what they have lost, as you walk past ice-cream parlour after ice-cream parlour, from which other holiday-makers emerge with beautiful-looking treats in their hands! So imagine my elation when I stumbled across a sign promising “the best vegan ice cream in Barcelona”! This lead me down a side-street to the little shop of La Heladeria Mexicana, which offers a range of delicious vegan delights. The staff speak English and are happy to show you what’s safe for you. I highly recommend the (actually very) spicy chocolate ice cream!
Go grocery shopping at El Corte Ingles
If you decide to make your own packed lunch instead of eating out every day, head to the food hall of this department store on the Placa Catalunya. It’s not the cheapest place to shop (think Marks & Spencers food hall) but it has an amazing range of free-from options, including some stuff I’d never seen in shops in the UK – delicious chocolate chip brioche buns for example – perfect for a snack on the beach!
Have you got any other tips for free-from eating in Barcelona? Share them in the comments below!