Barcelona has a long-standing reputation as city seen by many as a mini food mecca. The Catalan culture is steeped in a rich history where food is seen as a social activity rather than a necessity. On our recent trip we discovered a vibrant community, with unique architecture in a buzzing city which seems to offer authentic, quality food and wine to suit all pockets. Here you will find everything from market delights to Michelin magicians.
The city is home to a plethora of great restaurants where the food is delicious yet affordable, it is hard to pass any corner without some small tapas bar trying to lure you in and tempt you with a glass of Cava. With prices from less than €2 a glass we would urge you to forget your Prosecco allegiances and give this sparkling wine a chance, seen by many in the industry as the closest thing to a fine champagne you can get.
Although speak to any of the wine bar owners and they will tell the Catalonians love their beers first and foremost, being home to the Estrella Damm brewery that may be no surprise but it may be also down to the feeling of an ice-cold beer of a hot day. Unlike many other cultures it is commonplace in Barcelona to see everyone having a beer or glass of wine with their lunch.
The city is by no means small but is definitely best discovered on foot. Below you will find our top suggestions of where to explore.
Barcelona unlike some city destinations would not be famed for its brunch offering, although that is slowly changing, they are still some special spots to enjoy, here are some breakfast feasts we loved.
La Boqueria Market, Les Rambles, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
A wander around the many food markets, most notably the Mercat de la Boqueria just off the city’s most famous tourist area Las Rambla is one not to be missed. If you wish to experience all that Barcelona has to offer you will find it here (even it’s famous pickpockets). La Boqueria is dotted with olives, seafood, fruit, meats, cheeses, coffee and much more. It is like a little sea of colour, with each aisle packed to the gills with tourists and locals alike soaking up the atmosphere. Well worth getting there before 12.00pm when everything is in full swing. Come with an appetite as you will not leave hungry.
Alsur Cafe, Roger de Llúria 23, 08010 Barcelona
Definitely one of the coolest breakfast spots, set over two floors with a nice terrace if you are lucky to have the sun shining. Lots of natural juices and traditional brunch dishes such as pancakes, eggs Benedict and an abundance of freshly baked breads and cakes. Throw in the free wi-fi and some good tunes and you are onto a winner.
El Jardi, C/ de L’Hospital 56, 08001 Barcelona
A little off the beaten track but well worth seeking out is El Jardi, located in the gardens of the old Hospital Santa Creu you will find this little outdoor treasure. Salads, omelettes, fresh fruits, sublime cheeses and their unrivalled Catalan tomato bread make this ideal for some brunch bites al fresco. If you are feeling particularly bold try their “El Jardi” vermouth which is a little bit of a house signature.
Dostrece, Carrer del Carme 40 Barcelona
Nestled in the Raval district, Dostrece offers up some more alternative brunch options than most and is one of the few vegan friendly brunch venues we stumbled upon. Healthy almond milk pancakes, vegan pastries and even vegan “breakfast nachos” (guacamole, black beans, tofu scramble) make an appearance. Brunch is served from 10am and if you fancy satisfying the carnivore in you pop in later for their stone-grilled Galician steak and a cocktail, the Raval can be a little seedy at nighttime but once you have your wits about you it is a vibrant, artistic and diverse neighbourhood to explore.
One thing you will find in abundance in Barcelona is a hub of high quality dining, with over 22 Michelin starred options and no shortage of world-class chefs, the dining out scene is a hotbed of everything from the cool to the sublime. Below are some of our current favourites.
Restaurant 7 Portes, Passeig Isabel II 14, 08003
7 Portes is probably one of the best known venues in Barcelona, said to be a favourite of Picasso and Dalí alike these 180 year old restaurant walls could probably tell a tale or two. Most famed for its bid festive plates such as their Paella Parellada or their Crema Catalana. You will be hard pressed to find another like it in the city. Booking advised as 7 Portes is always in demand.
Tickets, 164 Av. del Parallel, 08015 Barcelona
When we asked any of our food loving friends where not to miss Tickets was always number one on the list. Tapas but unlike any you have tried before, bought to by two of Barcelona’s most brilliant chefs brothers Ferran & Albert Adrià. Expect a lot of theatre both on and off the plate, foams and froths will be in no shortage. From the front of house’s circus style uniforms to the quirky lay out, Tickets, is one of the hardest tickets in town to book and with good cause. Dishes like Sesame, strawberry and curry cookie, basil air waffle and spider tuna tartar with sea urchin, lace the menu. Expect the unexpected, Tickets will be a meal to remember.
Ikibana 148 Av. del Parallel, Barcelona
Only a short stroll from Tickets you will find one of Barcelona’s more eclectic menus, a fusion of Japanese and Brazilian flavours set in a striking dining room designed to stimulate all of your senses. Sushi made with exacting technique from the open kitchen, some of the best uramaki we have tasted and tempura so light it seemed to defy gravity. Oh and did we mention the cocktail and sake bar, one taste of their “Basil Yoichi” and you will be hooked.
Monvínic, 249 Carrer de la Diputaci, 08007 Barcelona
For us wine lovers Monvínic was one of the most hotly anticipated venues we ventured to. Recommended as having one of the best wine lists in Barcelona, all available on their tablets for your perusal, with over 3,000 bottles in their cellar this contemporary setting is a real showcase of design. You would be forgiven for thinking Monvínici is just about the wine and not the food, although born from a collectors passion, this was a true highlight on both counts for us. We opted for a tasting menu with wine pairings from one of the most enigmatic and charming sommeliers Bernard, who is one of seven employed by the venue and we were blown away by the accuracy of each match. Open for 10 years and managed by a passionate Frenchwoman Isabelle Brunet, each course is explained in detail with a charm and ease, there is no hurry in Monvínici, here everything is to be savoured. Do not miss this if visiting and make sure to ask for a tour of the impressive cellar!
Enoteca, Hotel Arts, 19-21 Calle Marina, 08005 Barcelona
Set overlooking the marina in the opulent surrounding of the five-star Hotel Arts, Enoteca is a two star Michelin experience that may not come cheap but is worth every penny. The skill of incorporating the best of Catalan produce from the sea to the mountains and presenting dishes with astounding attention to detail is impressive to say the least. With some fascinating dishes such as their native lobster and chicken wings, mushroom meringue and a show stopping traditional Catalonian dish of calçot but not as you will see served in most restaurants as this one is eaten with a tongs!
Each dish is a triumph over the last with Head Chef Paco Pérez popping out to take part in each diners meal and ensuring the finishing touching such as the truffle shavings are served by him alone. A very intimate restaurant and perfect if you want somewhere with a serious wow factor with striking views over the marina, service is attentive and exacting. Prices are reflective of most two star Michelin venues, with tasting menus priced from €170pp.
Barcelona really comes alive at night, with many dining out at 10pm or 11pm many of the bars only come to life in the wee hours. Sip a cocktail in one of the city’s many speakeasy bars, enjoy a beer in some of the hidden craft bars or dance the night away in the slickest bars Barcelona has to offer.
Dry Martini, Aribau, 162, 166 08036 Barcelona
Dry Martini is something of an institution in Barcelona, crammed with antique cocktail memorabilia and retro gin bottles, the tuxedo suited, ultra professional staff are some of the sharpest in the trade. Named in the World’s 50 Best Bars, Dry Martini is seen as being a tour de force in innovative cocktail concepts. Although the name correctly suggest Martinis are high on the cocktail list (gin martini in particular) you will find a cocktail to suit every palate although for us the “Smoking Martini” was a stand out classic.
Solange, Aribau, 143, 08036 Barcelona
Following nicely on from the James Bond martini theme, just across the road from Dry Martini sits Solange, named after one of Bond’s many love interests in Casino Royale. Although step inside and it feels more like Goldfinger with all its gilded glory, liquid gold lighting and 1960’s decor. Pair that with a long list of inventive, expertly blended drinks, some caviar or oysters and you have the recipe for a memorable 007 night.
Eclipse Bar The W Hotel, Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents, 1, Barcelona
Set in the dizzying heights of the 26th Floor the very exclusive Eclipse bar is where the real party starts. With unrivalled views over the city, top DJ’s and a super slick interior, Eclipse is one of the hottest bars in Barcelona. Expect to see lots of beautiful people, champagne bottle sparklers, and some serious cocktail wizardry. Be warned you must use the famous W Hotel guest list to gain access.
BierCaB, Calle Muntaner, 55, 08011 Barcelona
When seeking out good craft beer bars in Barcelona, one name kept popping up as a must try, Biercab. On good recommendation from serious craft lover’s we were pleased to find over 30 taps to tantalise our tastebuds, with at least 12 local brews. The bar itself is quirky and pretty intimate, decked out with an interesting wooden sculptured ceiling. However it is the hoppy treats behind each tap that has this bar bustling almost every night of the week. What is even better is they have a bottle shop right next door if you fancy some brews to go. The perfect spot if you’re thirsty for something other than Estrella!
Penny Banger, Carrer Ample 35, Barcelona 08002
Tucked away down the many winding roads of the city’s Gothic quarter you will find a little gem in one of the oldest buildings in the city. Run by an Irish couple, this is not what you might expect when you think “Irish bar”, there’s no tackiness anywhere to be found. Instead you will find a beautiful bar oozing charm and character with striking murals,comfy leather sofas, a good cocktail list and of course a decent pint of Guinness. Most importantly you will find some of the friendliest staff in the city ready to welcome you with open arms.
Barcelona is easily accessible from Dublin and Cork airport with flights daily in high season from Ryanair and Are Lingus priced from €79.99. A short trip of less than two and a half hours makes this an ideal City Escape and the perfect weekend getaway.