Barcelona is a city full of wonder and beauty. I first went when I was 19 years old, with some train money and a backpack and not much else. I fell in love with the city’s passion for life, its food, culture, and of course, its architecture. Where else can you surf in the morning, do a master tour of Gaudí’s surreal buildings (the Sagrada Familia and the Parc Güell, just to name a couple), eat the best tapas of your life and get lost wandering the labyrinthine, majestic streets of the Barrio Gótico? It is a city worth exploring and falling in love with....

    ¡Que vagi bé!


    Places to Eat

    c/ Tamarit, 104

    I would fly all the way to Barcelona just to eat at this completely regular-looking, crowded, noisy tapas bar. I had one of the best meals of my life here, and every dish is a must-have: the croquettas, patatas bravas, tiny fried fish, olives, boquerones, pineapple with molasses and strawberries with sherry vinegar caramel (if they are in season). Their dishes are truly sublime. Go when they open at 7 p.m. because you can’t make a reservation and the lines are surreal.

    Quimet y Quimet
    c/ Poeta Cabanyes, 25

    This place is a bit of a novelty – a tiny, very special tapas bar that only serves preserved food. The walls are lined with cans and jars and the people behind the counter assemble amazing little open-faced sandwiches. It’s really wonderful and quirky and unlike anywhere you’ve ever been.

    Can Pineda
    c/ Sant Joan de Malta, 55

    Really traditional Spanish cooking, very old-school. Good rice with mushrooms. Chef Mario Batali, food critic Mark Bittman and Spanish actress Claudia Bassols went during the filming of our PBS food and travel series, Spain...on the road Again.

    El Gran de Gràcia, 81

    Botafumeíro feels like a warm family restaurant where you would also see dignitaries and local celebs. It’s on the pricey side but the fish is delicious. Everyone recommends it. My friend Moises says to sit at the bar (kind of a Spanish version of an oyster bar) and have a late lunch.

    Mercat de la Boqueria
    Carrer de la Boqueria, off Las Ramblas

    In the middle of Las Ramblas – can’t miss it. It’s one of the most beautiful, lively markets in the world. Totally amazing. Great little places to eat inside.

    El Bulli
    c/ Montjoi, Roses

    El Bulli may be the world’s most talked about restaurant. Owned by world-renowned chef Ferran Adrià, it is famously open only six months of the year and it is basically impossible to get a table. It’s already booked for 2009, but think ahead....

    Carme Ruscalleda – Restaurant Sant Pau
    c/ Nou, 10, 08395 Sant Pol de Mar

    Carme owns and operates this beautiful place overlooking the sea. Her food is Michelin-starred, inventive and delicious. Sant Pol de Mar, a charming seaside town, is a bit outside of Barcelona but it makes an excellent day trip.

    Places to Drink

    Barcelona Pipa Club
    Plaça Reial 3

    One of my BFFs, Abby, lived in Barcelona for a year and loved the Pipa Club. You have to ring a bell to get in, and upstairs you’ll find a happening jazz club.

    Les Gens que J’aime Save
    c/ Valencia 286

    I wandered into this bar a few years ago with some friends and we stayed all night. Cool, darkish (in a library way, not a dungeon way), great drinks and good music.

    Places to Stay

    Hotel Arts Barcelona
    c/ de la Marina, 19

    I adore the Arts. It is a big hotel done RIGHT. Amazing views, beautiful rooms, great service. It’s where I bed down in Barcelona most of the time.

    Hotel Claris
    Pau Claris, 150

    Mentioned in Spain: A Culinary Road Trip, Hotel Claris is just off Paseo de Gracia. There is a rooftop pool, a hipster vibe, and it isn’t too expensive.

    Hotel Miramar Barcelona
    Plaza Carlos Ibañez, 3

    I stayed at this hotel a few years ago and I love the sleek and minimalist interiors. It sits a little outside of the city center, but you can be in the Las Ramblas district in minutes.

    The Ultimate Local’s List

    Claudia and Sandra Bassols’s Barcelona

    Places to Drink and Snack

    Plaça Doctor Andreu, 2

    A bar with a great location and amazing views of the city. We love to go there and have a drink next to the huge window overlooking the city.

    c/ Rec 59

    In the very charming Born area (which has lots of great bars), Mamainé has the best mojitos in town! A bit small, but a very relaxed atmosphere.

    Bar Marsella
    c/ Sant Pau, 65

    Dalí, Hemingway, Gaudí and Picasso used to come to this bar. You can order an absinthe, which is a highly alcoholic beverage. The bar opened in 1820! Young, student, alternative atmosphere.

    La Pallaresa
    c/ Petritxol, 11

    Great place to go for breakfast or an afternoon snack. We love to have churros with “suizo” (melted chocolate with whipped cream) on a quiet weekend morning. It’s in the old Gothic Quarter around the corner from Plaça del Pi, a very cute square where you can sit down and read the newspaper. There are painters showing their work on Sundays, similar to Paris’ Place du Tertre in Montmartre.

    Bar Tomás
    Major de Sarrià, 49

    In the quiet, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood of Sarrià, this bar is a classic for tapas, especially the patatas bravas. Everyone in Barcelona knows the “bravas del Tomás.” Crowded student atmosphere (and unlike other tapas places, it has tables with chairs so you can sit down).

    c/ Montcada, 22

    Great small tapas place in the Born neighborhood. It’s always crowded and you have to eat standing up (there’s a little table at the far end, but it’s always taken). To accompany the tapas, they offer a very nice and inexpensive kind of “champagne” (it’s really white wine with sparkling water).

    Andreu® la Xarcuteria
    Av. Diagonal, 539

    After work, we sometimes sit at the bar of this very small ham and cheese shop and have some of their lovely baguettes of “jamón de bellota.” It’s beautiful to see the mountains of freshly cut Spanish ham. Yummy!!! You gotta be a jamón lover, though....

    La Taverna del Clínic
    c/ Roselló, 155

    Really good tapas.

    Places to Eat

    Flash Flash
    c/ La Granada del Penedès, 25

    A Barcelona classic. It’s always open during the day and it doesn’t close until very late at night. We used to go there for lunch with our grandfather and the rest of our family every single Sunday. It’s also great for a very late dinner (the kitchen closes at 1 a.m.). Great decoration in black and white.

    El Lobito
    c/ Ginebra, 9

    In the neighborhood of Barceloneta, it’s a great restaurant to go for fresh fish. The menu changes depending on what’s at the market each day. It’s always packed with locals.

    Chiringuito Escribà
    Ronda Litoral, 42, at Platja Bogatell

    When we have guests, we always take them to this restaurant. The paella is nice, but what’s great about this “chiringuito” is that it’s right on the beach so you have spectacular views. A real treat on a sunny Sunday. It’s important to reserve beforehand.

    La Balsa
    c/ Infanta Isabel, 4

    A beautiful restaurant around the corner from where we live. Lovely wooden architecture. The August evening buffet is amazing. A bit pricy and posh, but a great place for a summer night.

    Can Martí
    Pasaje Font Del Mont 4, at the Carretera de les Aigües

    Very informal restaurants in the mountains (we like to hike there from home along the Carratera de las Aigües, a dirt road where people from Barcelona go to jog, bike and walk their dogs). Great views of the city. Nice, simple, tasty food, such as tortilla de patata, judías blancas, barbequed meat, salads and barbequed calçots. It’s very important to reserve in advance, and if it’s calçot season, reserve the calçots, too.

    Comerç 24
    c/ Comerç, 24

    In our humble opinion, the tapas here are even better than the ones at Gwyneth’s favorite, Inopia. Their “bikini” (ham and cheese toasted sandwich) with truffles is amazing. Great patatas bravas, ensaladilla rusa, etc.

    c/ Industria, 79

    New Catalan cuisine (in the vein of Ferran Adrià) by chef Jordi Vilà. Very imaginative combinations and an exciting sampling menu.

    Places to Stay

    Hotel Casa Fuster
    Passeig de Gràcia, 132

    Beautiful hotel (a modernist masterpiece by Lluís Domènech i Montaner). The bar is gorgeous. You can go for coffee or a drink. It’s also a jazz venue (Woody Allen played here and stayed in the hotel during the shoot of Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

    Hotel Majestic
    Passeig de Gràcia, 68

    Great location (in Passeig de Gràcia, very close to Gaudí’s La Pedrera) and a beautiful building.

    Casa Camper
    c/ Elisabets, 11

    Very original, small hotel in Raval, around the corner from the Museu d’ Art Contemporani de Barcelona and the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. Though Camper is primarily known for its shoes, the Casa Camper hotel is marvelous.

    Next Week

    Next Week a sweet-tooth’s delight: we bring our favorite cookie recipes to your table.

    The goop collection