The Barcelona Guide
Barcelona is a city full of wonder and beauty, where there’s a pronounced passion for life, food, culture, and of course, 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, to name a couple), eat the best tapas of your life and get lost wandering the labyrinthine, majestic streets of the Barrio Gótico? Below, some of our favorite spots—along with some recommendations from friends who love the city as much as we do.
Enigma38-40 Carrer Sepúlveda, El Raval
One of the most exciting openings of 2017 so far comes from Albert Adrià, who added Enigma to his family of Barcelona restaurants. In some ways a play off of the Adrià brothers former famed Catalonia spot, El Bulli, Enigma serves an inventive, curious cuisine via an ever-changing tasting menu. Dining here is meant to be an experience, and as the name hints, to have a bit of a mysterious appeal: After booking (well in advance), you're sent an access code, which you type into the keypad at Enigma's nondescript entrance. The interior—a futuristic, multiple-room space that appears to be fashioned out of some combination of ice, clouds, and waterfalls—is divided by course. You'll end up sampling about forty small plates in the span of three or so hours, generally only finding out what's on the menu after you've eaten it. This isn't an easy place for dietary restrictions, but it's a worthy gastronomic adventure if you can swing it.
Suquet de l’Almirall65 Passeig de Joan de Borbó, La Barceloneta | +34.918.104.22.168
The philosophy behind Suquet de l'Almirall, helmed by Quim Marqués, a fourth generation chef, is to feature seafood caught and sold in Barcelona's harbors—most of their ingredients are purchased at the local fish market, which is just steps from the seaside restaurant. The menu is filled with classically Catalan (but often adventurous) seafood dishes like fried anchovies and an insanely good paella. Don't leave without ordering the suquet, the signature huge bowl of steamed shellfish. Try to get a seat on the beautiful outdoor patio.
Pakta5 Carrer Lleida, Sants-Montjuïc | +34.936.24.01.77
Nikkei is the name for the cuisine that developed as a result of the enormous influx of Japanese emigrants to Peru back in the late 19th-century—a unique fusion that until recently had only been available in Peru. The union actually isn't as strange as it first appears; both cultures put an enormous emphasis on fresh fish (call it sushi or ceviche), so the result brings the spice and excitement of Peruvian cuisine to the sophistication of Japanese. It shouldn't come as a surprise that it was Albert Adriâ who had the vision to bring Nikkei abroad, and his touch is clearly visible in the artful dishes on Pakta's seasonally changing tasting menu, which are done with all the skill, creativity, and showmanship he's come to be known for. The restaurant's modern, geometric interior, which is decorated with colorful weaving looms, lives up to the food.
Botafumeiro81 Carrer Gran de Gràcia, Vila de Gràcia | +34.932.184.230
Botafumeiro is a warm family restaurant where you're just as likely to see dignitaries as local celebs. Sit at the bar (kind of a Spanish version of an oyster bar) and have a late lunch.
Cinc Sentits58 Carrer d'Aribau, L'Antiga Esquerra de l'Eixample | +34.93.323.9490
Tuesday through Saturday, at lunch and dinner, Cinc Sentits serves a remarkable tasting menu, four or six course. (Nora Ephron, who told us she hates tasting menus in principle, called her lunch here "an astonishment.") The Catalan cuisine at Cinc Sentits changes based on what is currently in season and freshest: line-caught fish from villages along the Mediterranean coast, artisanal cheeses from Catalan towns, organic butter and beef from the Pyrenees. And you can opt to have your tasting accompanied by Cinc Sentits's thoughtfully curated wine pairings sourced from Catalonia, along with a selection from across Spain.
Can Pineda55 Carrer de Sant Joan de Malta, El Clot | +34.933.083.081
Can Pineda is famous for really traditional Spanish cooking and an old-school style. It's a bit of a classic—we first learned about it when Mario Batali, Mark Bittman, and Claudia Bassols filmed there during a PBS food special GP did with them a few years ago called Spain... on the Road Again. Definitely order the rice with mushrooms.
Carme Ruscalleda10 Carrer Nou, Sant Pol de Mar | +34.937.600.662
Chef Carme Ruscalleda owns and operates this beautiful place overlooking the sea. Her food is Michelin-starred, inventive, and delicious. While Sant Pol de Mar is a bit outside of Barcelona, it's a charming seaside town and makes an excellent day trip.
Flash Flash25 Carrer de la Granada del Penedès, Vila de Gràcia | +34.932.370.990
Flash Flash is a Barcelona classic. It’s always open during the day and it doesn’t close until very late at night (the kitchen closes at 1 am). The interior—done in a sleek black and white—is a big part of the appeal.
Xiringuito Escribà62 Avinguda del Litoral, El Poblenou | +34.932.210.729
The paella is nice, but what’s great about this “chiringuito” is that it’s right on the beach so it comes with spectacular views. On a sunny day (and with some great company), it's a quintessentially Barcelona experience. Seats fill up quickly so call ahead.
Passadís del Pep2 Pla de Palau, Ciutat Vella | +34.922.214.171.124
It's easy to miss Passadís del Pep if you don't know what you're looking for—the more than 30-year-old spot is located down a long hallway in a nondescript apartment building, and there's no sign, so follow the address exactly. Once you arrive, you'll be greeted by a traditional-looking dining room, with stone walls, white tablecloths, impeccable service, and no menu in sight, as owner Joan Manubens Figueras prefers to serve whatever looks freshest at the market. When he first started the restaurant, the kitchen was run by his mother, and he continues to cook in her traditional style—fresh food founded in great ingredients and simple preparation, with a heavy emphasis on gorgeous local seafood (there are always a lot of crustaceans on offer). The no-menu situation also means no prices until you get the check, so expect to pay around 120 euros per person (including wine).
La Balsa4 Carrer de la Infanta Isabel, Sarrrià-Sant Gervasi | +34.932.115.048
With its wooden architecture and a wide open-air porch, La Balsa is the type of place where you'll want to stall a little while you finish off your bottle of wine post-meal. In August, their evening buffet is amazing—it's a bit pricey and there are moments it can feel like a scene, but it's a great place for a summer night.
Can Marti4 Carrer de la Font del Mont, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi | +34.934.069.195
Can Martí is a very informal restaurant in the mountains, best accessed by a hike along the Carretera de las Aigües, a dirt road where people from Barcelona go to jog, bike, and walk their dogs. Accordingly, it offers great views of the city. The food is simple, with dishes like tortilla de patata, judías blancas, barbequed meat, salads, and barbequed calçots. It’s essential to reserve in advance, and if it’s calçot season, reserve those, too.
Federal Cafè39 Carrer del Parlament, Sant Antoni | +126.96.36.19907
This Aussie-style cafè, which opened in Sant Antoni in 2010, is best for brunch—sit in the pretty outdoor garden terrace if you can. The interior, a casual, cozy space, is split between an upstairs and downstairs, with a large communal table occupying most of the bottom floor. There is something to please everyone on the menu, from baked eggs with veggies, to hamburgers and salads, to pick-me-ups in juice, latté, and cocktail form.
Dos Palillos9 Carrer d'Elisabets, El Raval | +34.93.304.0513
This Far East-inspired restaurant is the brainchild of Albert Raurich—who spent nearly a dozen years at Ferran Adrià's El Bulli, seven of which he was head chef. Located in the Casa Camper hotel, Dos Palillos has two bar areas—the Asian bar serves their tasting menu at dinner, and at the more casual-feeling tapas bar, it's à la carte for lunch and dinner. There are also two spaces offering a bit more seating—the outdoor terrace and the signature Dos Palillos table, which fits about a dozen guests. Not surprisingly, the menu varies, but expect dishes like crispy chicken bites with curry, grilled oyster with sake, tuna steak temaki with nori, and burgers served on homemade bread with ginger.
Gallito19-21 Passeig del Mare Nostrum, La Barceloneta | +34.933.123.585
Gallito is part of the Barcelona-based, family-affair restaurant group that is also behind Madrid favorites Ana la Santa and Bosco de Lobos. The really delicious Mediterranean food at Gallito is matched by its seaside view and easy, LA-meets-Spain vibe (picnic-style tables, bright pillows lining bench seating, and a mix of fresh bouquets and potted plants). The terrace is great on warm days, but you can still glimpse the beach from Gallito's glassed interior, which has that inside/outside feel.
Granja M. Viader6 Carrer d'en Xuclà, El Raval | 34.933.183.486
A fifth-generation family-run establishment, Granja M. Viader feels like a Spanish take on the traditional American diner. Known for their pastries and thick hot chocolate, and traditionally dressed waiters (white button down, black tuxedo vest, and bow tie), this spot is best for a special treat kind of a breakfast. And if you don't have time for a sit-down meal, you can also order bakery items to go.
Hoja Santa54 Ave. Mistral, Sant Antoni | +34.93.348.2194
A welcome Mexican addition to Barcelona's food scene, Hoja Santa is a collaboration between famed Albert Adrià of Tickets and Chef Paco Méndez, a Mexico City native. The menu here puts an innovative spin on traditional Mexican fare—tacos filled with duck and mole or slow roasted pork, oysters served with prickly pear juice, avocado gazpacho. (Side note: Next door to Hoja Santa sits the pair's more casual taquería, Niño Viejo.)
CeleríPassatge Marimón 5, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi | 188.8.131.52
The folks behind Tribu Woki (a Barcelona-based market and restaurant group) are on a mission to make local, organic food a more explicit part of the culinary conversation in the city. Accordingly, their new restaurant concept, helmed by chef Xavier Pellicer, can be found right next to one of their market spaces. The minimalist restaurant features concrete walls, simple brick, and straightforward furnishings—all the better, so you can focus on what's being cooked up in the open kitchen. As for the menu, the focus is on hyper-fresh, locally-sourced vegetables—and while it's a great dressed-up kind of restaurant for vegetarians (a rarity in this meat-and-seafood town), Pellicer definitely knows his way around fresh fish and roasted chicken.
Restaurant Coure20 Pasaje Marimon, Sarrià-Sant Gervasi | +34.932.007.532
The exterior of Albert Ventura's fine dining establishment is unassuming—right off the Diagonal Avenue, a few blocks from Plaça de Frances Macià, the facade is simple and reserved, which actually matches the restrained, bare-bones décor inside. The formal dining room here is actually downstairs—there, you'll find a pre-fixe menu of small, gorgeously plated takes on traditional Catalan dishes. While the dining room is great for large parties or special occasions, we actually prefer to be seated at Ventura's more casual tapas bar upstairs. There, you can chit-chat with the chef about each dish, and order from an a la carte menu that, if a bit more casual, is just as elegantly considered as what you'll find downstairs. Either dining area is great for a more dressed-up lunch option.
Rías de Galicia7 Carrer de Lleida, El Poble-Sec | +34.9184.108.40.206
Like many of Barcelona's fine dining establishments, Rías de Galicia is divided into two sections: A more casual tapas bar on the top floor, and a more formal, white tablecloth situation downstairs. The menu is casually organized around seafood dishes from Galicia, in the northern part of Spain. Order from the tapas menu upstairs, or choose between a la carte and pre-fixe downstairs.
Petit Comitè13 Passage de la Concepció, Eixample | +34.936.337.627
Chef Nandu Jubany is best known for Can Jubany, the fine-dining restaurant he and his wife started out of a country house an hour outside the city back in 1995. In the last few years, he's come on as the "gastronomic advisor" at Hotel Majestic; their main restaurant, Petit Comitè, offers a great taste of what Jubany can do without the drive. Expect traditional Catalan food in a formal, white-tablecloth kind of setting that's perfect for a special night, like a birthday or an anniversary.
Xemei85 Paseo de la exposición, El Poble-sec | +33.935.535.140
Almost as soon as Venetian ex-pats Stefano and Max Colombo (who also happen to be twin brothers) got a taste of Barcelona's boisterous nightlife, they were hooked on the city. Their cozy Italian spot, Xemei—named for the Venetian word for twins—is widely thought of as the best place for Italian food in the city, with gregarious Stefano handling front-of-house and the organic wine program, and Max expertly leading the kitchen. The restaurant was actually unlicensed when it first opened, and though the paperwork is legit at this point, the interior is reminiscent of its underground roots—the itty-bitty space, cluttered with worn, mismatched furniture is centered around a big central bar that opens into the kitchen, and where Max presents the food before it's brought to each table. Not unlike local cuisine, Venetian dishes center around seafood, so regulars here rave about anything that combines pasta and fish—although it's hard to imagine being disappointed by anything on their daily-rotating menu.