For culinary connoisseurs and burgeoning foodies alike, autumn in Barcelona is the season to stimulate your palate and delve into dozens of Catalan traditions. And with festivals and excursions based around Catalunya’s autumnal delicacies, it’s easy to turn a simple meal into a day of fun family activities. Wrap up warm and get out in the crisp air to take advantage of these seasonal offerings.
As the leaves begin to turn, street vendors take over Barcelona’s busiest corners, selling the traditional fare of La Castanyada. The aroma of roasting chestnuts (castanyes) wafts into open apartment windows, mixing with the enticing scent of hot sweet potatoes (moniatos).
La Castanyada is a centuries-old tradition that began as a burial ritual, in which families honoured those who had passed on while enjoying the treats of the autumn harvest. The traditional food of this occasion is said to have originated from the days of bell ringers, men who worked throughout the night to advise their towns of the upcoming Tots Sants, or All Saints Day, and needed energy-dense food and sweet wine (moscatell) to sustain them. Today, the food and drink are enjoyed at the dinner table, and energise families as they pay their respects to their loved ones in the local cemetery.
Another sweet staple in Catalunya is the panellet, also associated with All Saints Day. A small ball of marzipan rolled in pine nuts, traditional panellets have a chewy inside made only from sugar, marcona almonds and egg whites. More contemporary bakeries have infused their panellets with chocolate, coconut and coffee flavours, among others. Whether your preference is for the authentic or the innovative, there’s a place for you to taste the city’s best panellets.
For traditional panellets, certified by the European Union’s Traditional Specialties Guaranteed guidelines, visit:
Foix de Sarrià – Established in 1886, this confectionary is among the most famous in the city. It was founded by master confectioner Josep Foix Ribera, whose son, J.V. Foix, went on to become a well-known Catalan poet after spending many years helping run the shop. Its refined delicacies exude as much class as the store attendant dressed in a black tux. Major de Sarrià 57.
Dolceria de la Colmena – This bakery is one of the oldest in Barcelona, still standing in its 1867 location in Plaça de l’Àngel. After sinking your teeth into its panellets, sample its extensive menu of brioches, meringues, macaroons, cheesecakes and more. Plaça de l’Àngel 12.
For a modern take, visit:
Escribà – From ‘ravioli’ to chocolate and raspberry filled panellets, this store has a flavour for everyone. Past its displays of pastry art, take a seat and sample its creative takes on the Catalan classic. Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 546.
Casa Vives – Trays of different colours, shapes and textures of panellets wink at you through the display window. The fig flavour is especially popular, ranked among the best panellet in the city. Sants 74.
A pastime enjoyed for generations, mushroom hunting is a hallmark event of autumn in Catalunya. After the first rains dampen the forest floor, families head out together to dig up their share of culinary gold.
Although in recent years the government has limited mushroom hunting due to dwindling fungus populations, there are still many designated areas around Catalunya where you can forage safely and sustainably.
Closest to home is the Montseny Natural Park, located in the mountains north of the city, approximately an hour away by train. The expansive fields and lush countryside are filled with red and orange hues this time of year, making the park an ideal place to soak in the season.
El Poblet lies west of the city, and is among the most renowned foraging spots in the region. Affordable day passes for mushroom hunting can be purchased at the Monestir de Poblet.
Northwest is El Solsonès, a small medieval town often referred to as the hidden gem of the mushroom hunting world. Every year the locals coordinate the Mushroom and Mushroom Picker Fair, with talks, hunting excursions and the season’s best mushrooms for sale. This year’s fair falls on October 21st and 22nd.
Before you get to picking, make sure you’re prepared. While over a thousand wild species of bolets can be found throughout the region, only 175 are safe to consume. Among these are the Waxy Cap (Hygrophorus latitabundus), Saffron Milk Cap (Lactarius deliciosus), the Grey Knight (Trocholoma terreum) and the Black Trumpet (Craterellus cornucopioides). There are also 25 highly toxic species, including the Death Cap (Amanita phalloides), that you’ll need to be able to spot and avoid. To make sure you’re enjoying the right type of mushroom, join a guided group for hunting or ask a local expert to confirm what you’ve found.
This is just a few reasons why we love autumn in Barcelona. It’s the season to expand your culinary repertoire while enjoying some of the most famed Catalan cultural traditions with the whole family.