The Best Restaurants in Barcelona

Part of Barcelona’s undeniable allure is its food: Catalan cuisine has romanced travelers with its greatest hits: paella, tapas, late-night dinners, tissue-thin slices of ham, street food, churros, breakfasts that stretch into afternoon, and Spanish wine. In the years since Ferran Adrià shook the food world awake with the experimental cuisine of his tiny El Bulli, Spanish cuisine has found new respect and attention, from its smallest rustic bodegas to spectacularly modern dining rooms.

30 Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta
For oceanfront dining, Agua is a good bet among the tangle of so-so restaurants lining the city’s beaches. The Mediterranean menu focuses on fresh, simply prepared seafood, and there’s also a quality selection of Spanish rice dishes, steaks, and salads. The terrace sits right at the edge of the sand—and as you might expect, it’s a hot ticket in warmer weather, so book ahead accordingly. Rumor has it the service here can be hit or miss, but you might not mind if you keep your eye on the sapphire Mediterranean and your focus on the celestial flavors. Vegetarian options are also available.
Carrer d'Enric Granados, 147, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
Set on one of the city’s prettiest streets, the café-filled Carrer d’Enric Granados, this trendy bistro is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner—but prime time is early evening, when locals stop by for a drink at the long white-marble-topped bar. It’s an ideal spot for a glass of wine—the daily pours are listed on the chalkboard—and pica pica (small bites). There’s also a restaurant at the back with more formal seating. You’ll find a sophisticated take on typical Catalan tapas and dishes (the burger is also particularly good). The bar seating lends itself to solo dining and exquisite people-watching.
Rambla del Raval, 45, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
In the increasingly gentrifying El Raval neighborhood, along the leafy main avenue of Rambla del Raval, a whole host of restaurants, cafés, and bars are popping up. Among them is this intimate bistro from noted Catalan chef Carles Abellán, which takes a refined approach to traditional home cooking without being pretentious. To that end, the narrow dual-level space, a former bodega, is simply decorated with rustic wood furniture, forest-green walls, and a ceramic-tiled, marble-topped bar. The menu is divided into categories of small dishes—From the Sea, From the Mountain, From the Orchard—plus a few versions of classic Spanish stews. Leave room for the homemade desserts: The soft, silky Brie cheesecake is divine. Reservations are essential.
Carrer de la Palla, 8, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Set among the labyrinthine streets of the Gothic Quarter, this café offers a delicious selection of cakes, tarts, cookies, and other desserts—all baked by nuns from convents and monasteries around Spain. There are truffles from the sisters of Valladolid, cider cake from Santa Inés of Seville, and tea biscuits from the Convento Madre de Dios in Cáceres. Enjoy them with a cup of coffee or pot of tea, or try the famous hot chocolate. You can get a table upstairs, but it’s down below that you’ll want to score a seat: The space—a medieval-era Jewish bathhouse—features ancient stone walls and high vaulted ceilings. Live classical music concerts are occasionally held there, making for one of the more magical places to indulge your sweet tooth.
Passeig de Gràcia, 24 Bis, 08007 Barcelona, Spain
Tucked inside a renovated former 19th-century factory near Passeig de Gràcia, this temple to Spanish gastronomy is housed in a breathtaking modernist masterpiece, with soaring vaulted ceilings, vintage lighting fixtures, ceramic tiles, and mosaics. Each of the four eateries inside has a distinct design and cuisine: La Llotja specializes in seafood; La Brasería is all about grilled and a la plancha meats; La Paradeta showcases Iberian cheeses and cured meats; and the buzziest spot, La Tapería, serves up hot and cold tapas. The central hubs are the Wine Bar and the Beer Bar, where you can sample a variety of local Catalan drafts. And at the intimate circular Oyster Bar, you can taste famed Galician oysters, as well as caviar, Norwegian salmon, and king crab.
Carrer de la Mare de Déu dels Desemparats, 18, 08012 Barcelona, Spain
Set in the trendy Gràcia neighborhood, this lively, convivial tapas bar is a magnet for hip locals seeking a modern twist on traditional Catalan cuisine. The creative young kitchen staff turn out an array of fresh, inventive, generously portioned dishes at surprisingly affordable prices. Start with the salmon tartare with wasabi ice cream or tuna tataki on flatbread; mains include grilled octopus nestled atop sweet potatoes and drizzled in a smoky olive oil, and cannelloni stuffed with traditional butifarra sausage and mushrooms. Prices range from 4.50 to 12.90 euros (approximately $5 to $14). Service is friendly and efficient.
Carrer del Roser, 82, 08004 Barcelona, Spain
After a day spent exploring Montjuïc’s gardens and museums, this cozy corner restaurant in nearby El Poble-Sec makes for an ideal dinner stop. Simply decorated, with bright green walls, a long wood bar, and a handful of tables, La Platilleria doesn’t have a fixed menu; rather, the kitchen offers a daily selection of seasonal, locally sourced small plates. There are Spanish stalwarts like patatas bravas, pan con tomate, and Ibérico ham, but it’s worth trying the specials, which might include a rich dish of braised oxtail atop polenta, or osso buco with sweet potatoes. A small but well-curated selection of Spanish wine, cava, and craft beer is available—if you’re feeling daring (or thrifty), order a 3 euro ($3.35) pinguino, a penguin-shaped carafe of rustic local wine.
Carrer del Cardenal Casañas, 17, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Restaurants abound in the heavily touristed Gothic Quarter, but few of them are particularly good. Irati is one of the exceptions, a bustling spot popular with locals thanks to its excellent pintxos, traditional Basque tapas served on bread and speared with a toothpick. There’s seating in the back, but you’re really here for the experience of eating pintxos, which means standing shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar and helping yourself to the buffet of bite-size offerings. A sure bet is the jamón, lightly drizzled in olive oil, and the blue cheese topped with quince paste and walnuts. Save room for the hot snacks, like ham-and-cheese croquetas, which are brought out at regular intervals from the kitchen. And don’t toss your toothpicks—that’s how the bill is tallied.
Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25, 08004 Barcelona, Spain
Forget Google Maps: You’ll quickly locate this venerable tapas bar in El Poble-Sec by the line out the door. With standing-room-only space for just 20 people, this sliver of a spot fills up fast—and stays that way until closing time. In a room lined floor-to-ceiling with bottles of wine, liquor, and pricey vinegar, you can sample a dizzying variety of tapas and montaditos (small bites served atop slices of bread). Many of the ingredients—namely the mussels, sardines, and tuna—come from cans, which sounds suspect, but Spanish conservas (tinned food) is actually of the highest quality. The cheeses—all fresh—are also top-notch.
Pg. de Fabra i Puig, 296, 08031 Barcelona, Spain
A lot of the best places to eat on the cheap in Barcelona are a little out of the way. For a truly local experience, and the fastest tapas in town at ridiculously cheap prices, try on La Esquinica (the little corner) for size. Do as the Barcelonans do and drink vino turbio (house wine shaken until it’s frothy) and sample a little bit of everything. Croquettes, bombas, patatas bravas (potatoes with garlic mayonnaise and hot sauce), stuffed mussels, and grilled Spanish meats, all prepared in house and served up in a matter of minutes. Note: Like so much Spanish bar food, this is not light cuisine, or particularly vegan or vegetarian friendly. Also, if you go during typical Spanish meal times on a weekend (2-3pm, 8.30-10pm) expect to wait in line to be seated. The nearest metro stops are Vilapicina and Virrei Amat, L5.
Carrer del Dr. Dou, 5, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Though Barcelona is hardly the epicenter of paella (that would be to the south, in Valencia), this hands-on culinary workshop/dining experience offers a fine introduction to what’s arguably Spain’s most famous dish. Set in an appealingly hip Raval-area space featuring soaring ceilings, exposed brick walls, and industrial lighting, the class starts with a welcome glass of cava along with a brief overview of paella from founder Alex Betolaz and chef Alex Villar. Don an apron at your cooking station, but don’t expect anything too labor-intensive; ingredients are, for the most part, already prepared, though you will do a bit of chopping, pouring, and stirring. (You can book your paella preferences ahead of time, and vegetarian options are available.) Then you’ll gather around a long wood table and sample various Catalan specialties along with your paella (and there’s usually plenty of sharing going on). Choose from three different paella-making experiences, starting at €50/per person for two courses and going up to €85 for multiple courses plus unlimited wine.
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