There are just SO many things I could recommend that you do in this great city of design, art, culture and food! I have put a few key things here that you can pick and choose from, as I am sure you will find other things to do as you wander (as in the best vacations!) and ultimately have a wonderful time 🙂
Some of my favourite things to eat in terms of tapas: pa amb tomaquet (tomato bread), xiperones (baby squid with the legs on!), razor clams, bombas… I am sure you will find your own favourites!
- Bagauda – coffee, beer and bites in the Gothic quarter,with good music
- Bitacora – in the old fishing village of Barceloneta you will find this delicious hidden gem!
- Black Horse – a pub in the Born area, grab a proper drink with a bite to eat, sitting in or outside this lovely local spot.
- La Bombeta – A very local, cheap place in Barceloneta. More and more tourists go to this area which was once poor and local. They don’t speak English here and ask you not to bother trying… so if you are brave enough to wield your efforts with a Catalan menu and go with the flow, you will be treated to a delicious meal. No matter what, you must order the ‘Bombas’ – you cant get them often and they are deliciously spicy, meaty potatoes.
- Suquet de L’Almirall – great seafood a la carte or set menu, at great value.
- Quimet i Quimet – tiny tapas bar where you can get squeezed in and eat and drink with the locals. A fun experience!
AVOID going to places right on the Ramblas for a cheap eat as they are often bad – example ‘Tapa Tapa’ or ‘Xapella’ they are awful… rather take a side street and see what you can find, there are alot of lovely cafes and tapas places that will be better and just as cheap.
- Cal Pep – Cheap and GREAT tapas in the gothic quarter (walk to Miramelindo for good mojitos afterwards!). Sit at the counter and eat razor clams like a local, with the locals.
- Cerveceria Catalana – Near the centre, good for traditional, inexpensive tapas.
- Ciudad Condal – If you are shopping/ wandering near Placa Catalunya, this is a nice lunch spot with good tapas, best enjoyed on a nice day sitting on a table outside so you can people watch.
- La Fianna – Moorish influenced cool little place to have dinner and a drink in Born. It’s a little cavern like place, close to plenty of cool bars.
- Paco Meralgo – This is a fun place for a group – we ate in the upstairs private room where the seating (and ceiling) is low, so you feel like you are in a Japanese place (or kindergarten). Food was good, with the ‘Obama balls’ as I called them (cuttlefish croquettes) being one of my favourites!
- Tapas 24 – Great Spanish chef Carles Abellan’s smaller venture – relaxed local tapas.
- 7 Portes – One of the oldest and most traditional restaurants in Barcelona. Open Sundays.
- Agua – Good seafood by the sea. Use their private beach or come dressed for dinner – imagine a beach bum with money vibe. They serve a great black Paella but it’s not available every day.
- Asador del Aranda – great barbecued lamb in a beautiful location on the hill (Tibidabo)
- Barceloneta – Fantastic fresh seafood by the water, with a kitschy décor that has flair.
- Cal Pinxo – In the beautiful Palau de Mar building by the harbour.
- Can Majo – In the harbour at the end of port Olympic, you can sit on the terrace for nice views and good food.
- Dans le Noir – For something different go for dinner in the dark with blind waiters! A strange experience, you wont realise how much you rely on sight to eat. I have only eaten at this one, but heard that this is the best food of the international chain.
- Dos Palillos – Head here for Asian tapas when you are over the Spanish kind – delicious!
- El Cangrejo Loco – Good food by the harbour. Paella here is good.
- El Pescadors – Great seafood in a city establishment.
- El Xalet – Gorgeous views in a serene spot. Enjoy lunch or dinner overlooking the city.
- La Venta – Out on the hill outside the city, just a cab ride away. A cute hacienda with greenery and a view, as well as delicious, carefully prepared local food.
- Ohla Gastrobar – This former palace is now a 5 star hotel with a Michelin restaurant (Sauc). If you can’t get a booking there or want something easier on the wallet, go for the gastrobar, you will not be disappointed! Open Sundays (and with live music). Don’t miss a drink on the roof terrace and ground floor bar – cocktails are great.
- Sagardi – Homage to the Captain! If you are a fan of Basque (Northern Spanish) cuisine and have a hankering whilst in Barcelona, head to the one in Born. You will be welcomed with home-made cider, and don’t forget to order the chuletta. If you are looking for a passing snack in this area, go across the square to Bilbao Berria for Basque pintxos, the original version of the one in London.
- Tapeo – Great find right opposite El Xampanyet. Book a table and enjoy amazing food. Order the cuttlefish fidua and bombeta!
- Tantarantana – try saying that name after a few drinks! A romantic spot with authentic food.
- Ten’s – tapas with a twist by a local Masterchef winner. Worth a try.
- Boca Grande – Relatively new, elegant and trendy restaurant and bar in the centre. I haven’t been yet but as it was recommended and it is open Sundays, it had to be shared!
- Passadeis del Pep – Awesome experience! When you arrive, you will wonder if you have the correct address as it looks like a rundown electronics shop from the façade, but take a gamble and to be pleasantly surprised. Go with an empty stomach as there is no menu (you have to tell them when to stop bringing food out and they will still want you to try dessert and grappa)!
- Torre d’Alta Mar – Situated in one of the city’s cable car towers, it has great views whether night or day. It is a special occasion spot for sure, although I don’t remember the food matching the amazing venue.
There are tons of Michelin level restaurants that I am sure you will come across. The standard of ‘proper’ cooking is high! Some of the ones I have been to or been recommended by locals from this category are:
|Casa Calvet||Cinc Sentits||Commerc 24|
|Dos Ceilos||Fonda Gaig||Lasarte|
|Neri||Moments||Moo (by Roca)|
Vegetarians: It is getting better in Barcelona, but if you are a veggie then you probably already know how painful it can be to get food – so just for you: http://www.timeout.com/barcelona/restaurants/vegetarian-delights
- Ambar in Raval is reminiscent of any city dive bar. Cool people talking about changing the world, kitsch décor and cheap drinks.
- Café Schilling – good for coffee, a drink to start the night or a bite.
- Bar Kasparo – a cute café for day or evening, set in a quiet square near the centre.
- El Xampanyet is an institution! go here for cava (and/ or tapas). It is in Born, a great neighbourhood for more cool bars, both new and old. (Not open in August!)
- George Payne – Irish sports bar with BOGOF on beers daily… It’s not my scene but if you are interested!
- Vaso de Oro – a small and busy bar with good tapas and a great atmosphere (order your beer in a ‘flauta’), in Barceloneta.
- CDLC (Carpe Diem Lounge Club) is in the Port Olympic, has good world food and is not typical Spanish, for when you get tired of tapas! The fun part is that you can sit on big beds to eat your dinner – a bit chi chi but fun. It backs onto the beach and you can go here just for drinks as well to enjoy the terrace and dancing.
- Dry Martini – great cocktails in a very cool old school bar. Men in white coats serve deliciusness.
- Mirablau – a cute bar up on Montjuic hill has lovely views of the entire city, day or night.
- Merimelinda – bar in Born area with great mojitos.
- Ohla – Ground floor bar at the hotel with great cocktails.
- Bankers Bar – grab a Banker’s Martini at the Mandarin Oriental.
- Boca Grande – drinks and tapas in an elegant trendy spot, where you go to see and be seen.
- Eclipse – the top floor bar/ club at the W hotel is perfect for a few drinks at sunset to enjoy the views. Or come back after 11pm for a really good night dancing. Sundays there is even RnB!
- Jamboree – may look like a jazz club most of the time but Thursday nights brings some heat!
- La Terazza is almost a village in its own right just outside the city. It is a fun experience but perhaps not what I had imagined. May be one best to go to when there is a DJ on you want to see.
- Omm – The roof top terrace bar at the Hotel Omm (cool designer hotel in the centre) is good for a drink, or later on go down to the club in the basement.
- Opium Mar – fun for a good night out. It is on the strip at Port Olympic, where there is plenty of similar choice. The music is mainstream (house) and it has a trendy vibe with plenty of space and entertainment. You can go here for drinks on the beach terrace early evening or at the end of your night for a dance, closes around 6am.
- Otto Zutz – hip hop in Barcelona – a rarity!
- Razzmatazz – huge space with live music and fun parties. Funnily, I have seen Jarvis Cocker perform here!
- Sutton Club – Newish hangout of the rich and famous with good music. Not as central as some of the others (Gimlet is nearby for a drink) but everything is a quick cab away anyway.
There are so many places to stay in the city, here are some starts/ my favourites!
Things to do
- Walk! Walk as much as you can to take in the amazing architecture everywhere. I used to like walking from Placa Catalunya down the Rambla and to ‘Colom’ (Columbus monument you can climb up to top for a great view) and the flea market. From here, you are right by the beach, so you can wander down the Port Olympic strip and the beach to checkout bars/ restaurants. Or you can head to Mare Magnum shopping mall (where artists sell their wares outside).
- Get lost in the gothic quarter. Born is the most beautiful place to wander around in. Go to the old town and then meander…
- Walk around Born- especially check out carrer de l’allada vermell
- Check out the shops on passeo de Gracia in the main centre, there is a cool home design shop called Vincon, which I always like to visit for some fun ideas.
- Take a day ticket for the red tourist bus from placa catalunya and you can hop on and off throughout the city which is pretty good as well as sitting on top deck if the weather is good, then you can see everything without rushing around all day depending how much time you have. definitely get off and walk to Parc Guell if its a nice day – Gaudi’s cool park – we took a picnic lunch there. (Don’t bother with the blue bus as you can and will end up walking to most of the places it stops).
- Rent a boat in Parc de la Ciutadella
- Walk/ photograph/ eat at the Boqueria market
- Visit la Sagradia Familia – unbelievable facets of history and art on every side
- Go to Camp Nou for a tour if football is your religion. Game tickets are usually expensive.
- Museums aren’t my thing but there are plenty of great ones here, from Picasso to Miro.
- Go to Placa Espanya in the evening to see the coloured fountain show. The parliament building is also nearby and what used to be the old bull fighting ring.
- Drink some chocolate http://www.timeout.com/barcelona/food-and-drink/dipping-chocolate-and-where-to-get-it
- Check out some churros or chocolates http://www.timeout.com/barcelona/shopping/bakeries-o-sweet-temptation
- Take a tour of at least 1 gaudi building – either casa mila or casa batllo. the recorded guide is worth the money.
- Take a Segway tour through the old town and by the beach – amazing! http://barcelonasegwaytour.com/en/
- Tibidabo is nice but a little overrated. I went up there once to see the giant Jesus and church which was nice, but other than that there isn’t much, an old theme park which is a bit vintage!
- If you fancy a bit of a trip and the weather is warm then I recommend getting a train (Renfe) from the centre, and go to a beach (Sitges is most famous but i went to a nice quiet one at Mataro) which will take under an hour to get to. Otherwise you can go further up the cost brava, and go to Roses, Figueres and Cadques where the Dali museum/ home is. If you are interested in Dali or want to see a beautiful seaside town this is lovely.
It is impossible not to love this city, hope your adventures are as good as mine!