Some people say Barcelona has become touristy and overcrowded, and the fight between Barcelona-lovers and Madrid-admirers about which is the nicer city, is ongoing. I spent five months in Barcelona during my Erasmus ten years ago, and have visited the city frequently since then. It’s true that Barcelona is a magnet for visitors from all around the world, but if you know where to stay and if you know the right restaurants, bars and cafés to hang out at, you’ll have a lovely time. You’ll love the city as much as I do.
A must eat are definitely Patatas Bravas, which are very popular in the region (I’ve read though that they originated in Madrid, pssst!). Crunchy and fried outside, soft on the inside, served with a spicy sauce and often with aioli, too. It sounds pretty simple, but it’s one of the most satisfying dishes to enjoy together with a cold beer.
1. Bodega 1900
A small restaurant and vermouth bar that looks like an old-fashioned, traditional Spanish place, serving different small and medium dishes to share. Fresh and local ingredients play the main role here and nothing at Bodega 1900 is ordinary. Everything is served in a very appealing way, all looking and sounding mouthwatering. Vinegar and oil marinated white anchovies (boquerones), medium rare pieces of juicy beef, razor clams, everything here is worth a visit. Oh and it’s Albert Adrià, who owns this lovely restaurant.
2. La Pubilla
One of my favourite spots in Barcelona. Great wines, fantastic hearty dishes such as braised meat with quince, or scallops with pork belly on cauliflower or mushrooms. Make sure to have their Crema Catalana for dessert. It’s a cosy, non-pretentious spot for food and wine lovers, a bit off from the main touristic areas.
Another Barcelonian gem you shouldn’t miss. The traditional, classic bar and restaurant serves beers on tap, huevos estrellados (fried eggs with fried potatoes), ensalada rusa (a type of tuna and vegetable salad with Mayonnaise) and other different kinds of food from the area like fried fish and seafood or Iberian ham.
4. Mont Bar
This is a tapas bar with a creative and fine dining touch. The dishes are beautifully plated, with many interesting and delicious details. Their raw tuna dish looks almost too beautiful to eat, their oyster with escabeche and mandarine or the flan made from Comte cheese with truffle are other dishes you can discover on the menu. It’s a spot that shows you impressive variations of all kinds of Spanish dishes and is definitely one tapas bar you shouldn’t miss.
5. El Magnifico
Get a cup of coffee on the spot, to go, or simply bring some beans or ground coffee home. It’s one of the best coffee spots I discovered in Barcelona. El Magnifico is located in the old town, close to all the must-sees and the beach.
A very New York vibe brunch place with thick pieces of brioche bread, poached eggs, pulled pork and sauce hollandaise on top, great coffee and more. A café that’s great to chill out by yourself or to meet with friends.
7. Xurreria Dels Banys Nous
You can’t miss this churro spot. Churros, deep fried long pieces of dough, coated in sugar and served with a small cup of thick warm chocolate, are a Spanish classic. You’ll find plenty of them around the city, but this spot is for me the most charming and traditional one. It’s a tiny shop, producing churros constantly and selling them when still warm in a pointy paper tube.
8. Quimet & Quimet
In the areas of Gracia, more towards the North of the city you’ll find Quimet & Quimet. It’s a laid back bar with small dishes, local beers, and wine. The place has a rustic interior with dark wood, a long massive bar, all bursting of local charm. It’s one of the oldest places in Barcelona, famous for their open ‘sandwiches’. They’re called montaditos and often topped with roasted paprika, smoked salmon, tuna and other ingredients.
Traditional tapas are more a thing of other parts of Spain, but Jaica does a good job, too. A great spot if you’re looking for a simpler restaurant. Sometimes, there’s live music, and almost always a line of people waiting at the bar to get a seat. Their bombas, fried meat and potato balls served with a hot sauce, are delicious, nothing can go wrong with pimientos de padron and their pulpo a la Gallega is also nice. We also always ordered the txipirones.
10. Cafe del Sol
The cafe as such is nothing extraordinary, but they have pretty good patatas bravas and beers and you should definitely sit outside on the Placa del Sol and enjoy the buzz of the city, the atmosphere and…the sun.