I went to Barcelona and had NO bad food. This is everywhere we ate:
By Helen Wright
Barcelona is one of my favourite cities, home to some of the most recognisable places in the world, including Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Camp Nou. There is a wealth of attractions to wow tourists, but me? I go for the food in Barcelona. Chorizo sizzling in oil with fresh tomatoes on crispy warm bread. Juicy fresh fish from the Mediterranean Sea. You will have no problem deciding what to eat in Barcelona. The whole of Spain is a culinary hotspot, but it’s Barcelona’s laid-back cafes, day-long tapas and effortlessly chilled vibe that has me going back year after year.
Food in Barcelona
My friends and I go regularly to Barcelona for a late summer catch up and with all of us being frequent visitors, sightseeing is out and stuffing our faces is in. One of the best things you can do in Barcelona is go from tapas bar to tapas bar trying all the fantastic food on offer. On our last trip, we did nothing but spend long afternoons bar and restaurant-hopping (with a little bit of research beforehand) and I can genuinely say we had no bad food. Barcelona is actually home to 24 Michelin star restaurants but, guess what, we didn’t eat at any of them. You can dine brilliantly on a budget in Barcelona and the €2 beers aren’t bad either.
If you want to eat in Barcelona and eat well, this is how to do it:
What to eat in Barcelona and where:
The Spanish love their food and eating tapas in Spain is an activity in itself. Tapas isn’t supposed to be a dinner, as such. The idea is not to order everything at once and scoff it all to yourself. This super sociable dining style is to sample little bites (tapas is Spanish for ‘small plates’) while sharing a drink and conversation with friends. Then, moving on and doing the same at the next place. Going to eat in Barcelona is fantastic for tourists, because not only do you get to taste some excellent local food, you’ll also get to see more of the city as you bar hop. And – you never go hungry! I’m all about indulgent graze eating and that is why I love to eat in Barcelona.
In Barcelona, buzzing, often hidden restaurants serve some of the best food in Spain. Even the shortest walk around Barcelona’s medieval streets will uncover some of the best tapas bars in the world.
WHERE TO STAY In Barcelona for foodies?
Where you stay in Barcelona can have a big influence on where you’ll end up eating. For a less-touristy area, with the ability to wander around and stumble across fantastic food in Barcelona, we always stay in El Born. El Born is a lively, bohemian neighbourhood, not entirely without tourists, but with a decent mix of local residents and visitors to be atmospheric, but not bursting at the seams.
The area is home to some of the oldest streets in the city, yet has a modern, artistic vibe and – most importantly – excellent tapas bars and restaurants. Everything we ate, drank or did was within walking distance from our base in El Born. Key tourist attractions like Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia are a bit further out, but on this trip we were there to eat and eat we definitely did.
Where (exactly) to eat in Barcelona
Almost everywhere we dined on this trip was a personal recommendation or a favourite place from previous visits, but we were also lucky enough to stumble across some local gems too. All the food was SO good, and this is everywhere we went:
Bar La Plata
Barcelona’s rustic tascas (traditional tapas bars) saw a boom during the 1920s, when fisherman and dockworkers would squeeze in, shoulder to shoulder, for conversation and a swig of vermouth to round off the day. Located in the Barrio Gótico, this tiny tasca has a big reputation in Barcelona, but most tourists might pass the diminutive little corner bar without a backwards glance – and more fool them. It’s living-room sized with only five or six tables. Alternatively, stand at the bar and share stories with the staff, one of whom, Pepé the bar manager, has been working there for 40 years.
Choosing isn’t hard, there are only six things on the menu, which has been the same since 1945: Tomato, onion and Arbequina olive salad with anchovies; Botifarra (local sausage); fresh anchovies; and the house specialty, deep-fried sardines, fried whole. A unique dish, particularly to us Brits, these cheeky little fishes are a real crowd pleaser. Added more recently, fantastic sausage or anchovy ‘pintxo’, brought a little Basque country influence to the menu (which is scribbled on a blackboard on the wall). Simply put, this place is as authentic and easy as it gets to eat in Barcelona and it’s wonderful. If you get lost looking for it, local foodies will know where to send you. They call it ‘Los Pescaditos’ (the little fish).
Address: Carrer de la Mercè, 28, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Reservations: Not available
Small plates: Average €3
Wine: €3 per glass (Beer €2)
Found on a little side street in the Gothic district, Pla could easily be mistaken for just another jolly Catalan tavern, but the wait for a table says otherwise. For starters, the wine selection is enviable and the downstairs bar is very popular with locals. Loud, lively and always packed, peering through the window of this atmospheric eatery almost looks like a Spanish dive bar that just happens to sell excellent food.
The adventurous menu changes every few days and relies on whatever fresh, quality ingredients are available. For a selection of classic tapas, you can’t go wrong. The patatas bravas were some of the best we had, along with the juiciest king prawns, drizzled in garlic oil and served over a display of shitake mushrooms. The cool thing about Pla B is the kitchen relies on Catalan traditions with a unique twist, using subtle Asian influences. Think Beef fillet with grilled foie, flamed mackerel and baked cod with curry.
The later it gets (around 9 or 10pm) is when the place is at its most loud and jovial. When it comes to a brilliant atmosphere coupled with great food in Barcelona, there is nowhere better. For couples, this is the place to go for Spanish romance. Sit under the candlelit arches while the music of Barcelona life vibrates around you. Reservations are accepted and are definitely a good idea.
Address: Carrer de Bellafila, 5, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Small plates: Bravas €6.50, Rib of beef €16
Wine: Average €28 (bottle)
All the best places to eat in Barcelona
This was a place we accidentally stumbled across, and what a find. Walking back to El Born from the marina, we fancied a bite to eat and this cute taberna lured us in with its flattering lighting and rustic interior. The waterfront itself has many a fine dining establishment, including one on the roof of the Museum of Catalonia. However, on the waterfront, expect to pay for the glossy décor and view over the water, with menus aimed at the cruise crowd.
A few streets back, past the Passeig de Joan de Borbó, is this cute corner bar with an outstanding wine list and a simple-but-tasty tapas menu to go alongside your carafe. The rovellons a la plancha (grilled, marinated mushrooms) are a triumph, as is the creamy langostinos risotto and melt-in-your-mouth beef stew.
The restaurant was opened by three friends who wanted to support sustainable produce and local growers and suppliers. Its name comes from the ‘Mrs. Violeta’s grocery store’ that stood here over 100 years ago and today’s emulation is just as adorable. There are inside and outdoor tables, but I expect it’s mostly locals that frequent this friendly neighbourhood bar. Pull up a chair at this BoBar (Bohemian Barcelona) joint and you’ll feel like one of them.
Website: creacionessomorrostro.com (although isn’t very helpful)
Address: Carrer del Baluard, 58, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Reservations: Not usually required.
Small plates: Average €6
Wine: Average €22 (bottle)
To say we loved everywhere we decided to eat in Barcelona this trip is an understatement, but if I had to pick a favourite, this could very possibly be it. We were passing this old-school Spanish restaurant when the crowd of people loitering outside caused us to take closer inspection. Inside, the place was buzzing. Every table was packed solid with couples, business people, groups and families, all tucking in to mountains of fried seafood. Red-faced waiters weave through the crowd with the precision of a carefully choreographed flamenco. It was clear this wasn’t a fluke; this place is always busy. We were told there was an unspecified wait for a table and we almost decided against it. In the end, the aroma was so intoxicating we stuck it out. We had a cold beer on the pavement as we waited and were seated within 40 minutes. It was worth it.
If you like seafood, this is the place. The giant king prawns soaked in garlic are a must. There are three different types of fried squid (chocos, calamares, or chipirones), fried anchovies (boquerones), whitebait (pescaditos), steamed mussels and clams, and grilled razor clams. Balance it out with the spicy bomba (fried, meat-filled potato balls) and fried eggs with potato and Spanish ham. Wash it down with beer. This is how to eat in Barcelona. You won’t be disappointed.
Address: Carrer de Ginebra, 13, Carrer de Ginebra, 7-9, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Reservations: Primarily walk-ins. Reservations can be made but no less than 24-hours in advance.
Small plates: Garlic prawns €9.80, Bomba €2.50, Calamari basket €9.
Wine: Average €23 (bottle), Beer €4 Eat in Barcelona
This bar / restaurant is basic-looking from the outside, but insiders know it’s all about the secret terrace hidden at the back. Tropical plants, bright wall murals and pontoon lights, give this inconspicuous cafe a hidden holiday speakeasy vibe. The food is consistently good, with large portions that are excellent value for money.
The garlic king prawns (again) are outstanding. The fragrant paella is cooked with brown rice and served in a huge bowl, easily feeding four people. If you’re trying to squeeze in some vegetables too, the salads here are enormous and make for a delicious palate cleanser between all the gluttony.
Address: Carrer de Balboa, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Reservations: Only by phone or in person
Small plates: Prawns €10, Paella €8
Wine: Average €18 bottle.
Where to eat in Barcelona (continues)
This tiny tapas bar is a huge hit with foodies looking for a bite to eat in Barcelona. There are a few locations, but the restaurant in Gràcia has a casual café dining room and a small outdoor terrace, ideal for holidaymakers wanting to soak up the afternoon sun. The tapas menu isn’t huge, which is a good thing since you really have to try everything since it’s all so ridiculously good.
Top of the list would be melt-in-your-mouth Iberian cured ham croquettes, followed by fried pork snout and Andalusian squid rings. That’s before you’ve spotted the Cochinita (pork) Tacos and the Cuttlefish Fideuà (noodles paella). Oh, and save some room. Pepa Tomate is often rumoured to serve the best potato bravas in the city. Wear something stretchy!
Address: Plaça Revolució de Setembre 1868, 17, 08012 Barcelona, Spain
Reservations: By email or phone only.
Small plates: Ham croquettes €2.90 for two, Fideuà €14, Squid €11
P&O Cruises recently featured a Barcelona video diary with acclaimed Spanish chef, José Pizarro. Often referred to as the ‘godfather of tapas’, José has created a bespoke tapas menu and street food style dishes for passengers onboard P&O Cruises new ship, Iona. In the video, José not only cites Dos Pebrots as one of the most inspirational places to eat in the city, he says he would travel from London to Barcelona just to eat here. If that isn’t reason enough to go immediately, I don’t know what is.
From the outside, you would never know Dos Pebrots (Two Peppers) is a restaurant from Michelin-starred Chef Albert Raurich. Its low-key, paired down exterior tells a completely different story to the elegant interior and creative menu served inside. Dishes have an ancient Mediterranean-influence. The squid with paprika is sensational. Pair with a side of asparagus served with orange blossom and pork, followed by soft grilled beef, and mackerel with pitta bread. The food is beautiful, using classic techniques and is the most interesting take on Spanish tapas that you will find in the whole country.
Watch the video from P&O Cruises with José Pizarro
Besta is a food ‘destination’ created by chef duo Carles Ramón from Catalonia and Manu Núñez from Galicia. The pair have blended the highest quality influences and fresh produce from their respective regions to create a pheromonal menu (*that may put some off for being rather unconventional). That’s absolutely fine with me though, as those people can go elsewhere and hopefully make it easier to get a booking (which unfortunately does usually need to be made at least a month in advance).
Besta will be the food in Barcelona that you will go home and tell your friends about. It’s quite the adventure! Sea bass in walnut cream, wild boar with algae, smoked beef with olives and cabbage in béarnaise sauce. It’s certainly original, but most-importantly utterly delicious and perfectly cooked. They also have their own in-house branded gin, which is distilled with algae and oysters. Tell me if you plan to go – I will be ‘green’ with envy!
Address: Carrer d’Aribau, 106, 08036 Barcelona, Spain
Reservations: Usually required a few weeks in advance at minimum.
Small plates: €8 average
Wine: Average €24 (bottle)
Don’t Miss: La Boqueria to eat in Barcelona
El Quim de la Boqueria
Behind many of the restaurants listed above is the heart of Barcelona’s best food – La Boqueria. Don’t be fooled. This crowded, tourist-heavy market is not only one for the guide book gang. Hidden beneath the iconic iron girders are secret food haunts, chef-approved growers and providers, one-stop-shops for edible souvenirs and bustling bars with Cava on tap.
Find your way to El Quim, a counter-top bar that has claimed the top spot right in the centre of the action for over 22 years. There are only 16 colourful bar stools available, so if you’re lucky enough to grab a spot, don’t hesitate. This quick-stop tapas bar happens to serve some contenders for the best food in Barcelona. All the produce is sourced from within La Boqueria itself and served on small plates to compliment a glass of Port, Sangria or beer (ideally).
They specialise in traditional Catalan dishes like fried eggs and squid (the most famous plate), fresh anchovies bathed in oil and vinegar, artichoke chips and the classic Spanish omelette. If you are up early enough for breakfast, they also make some spectacular egg plates too. elquimdelaboqueria.com
Another one to try is Bar Pinotxo, which has been open in La Boqueria since 1940. The stuffed mussels, and pulpo (octopus) are the most famous dishes on the menu and for good reason. Plus, they serve the most delicious Cava to toast to all the fabulous food in Barcelona. pinotxobar.com
Honorary Mention: Cat Bar Cat
It’s not strictly a food joint, but this BaBo café is one of the best places to grab a drink and a late-night bite. The fun bar is in the Gràcia neighbourhood and has a friendly atmosphere day and night. If you are feeling peckish, the tapas and pintxos are really good and you get one free with every drink. The ‘escalivada’ (grilled vegetables) with goat’s cheese or the home-made ravioli is a winner.
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