First, a few helpful pointers to avoid disappointment. Most places are closed on Sundays. There are a few cafes open, but they mostly cater to tourists. Consider getting out of Barcelona on a Sunday and pack a picnic on the beach or grabbing something on the go while visiting Tarragona, Montserrat, or somewhere up the coast. Second, some places are closed or have shorter hours on Monday as well. The best time in Barcelona is Teusday through Saturday. Lastly, most places are closed August. La Boqueria and the markets are ghost towns.
Gourmet Walking Tour
If you want to spend a few hours taking in the gastronomic sights of Barcelona, a good introduction is to roughly follow the route of the Gourmet Walking Tour. You can’t eat everywhere, but mix in various shops. My favourites from the tour
- La Boqueria for breakfast, lunch, or supplies for a picnic
- Escriba for the best chocolate croissant in Barcelona
- Carrer de Petritxol for a stop at a Granja La Pallaresa or Dulcinea for hot chocolate and a pastry
- Xurreria – for churros
- Caelum – a perfect stop for tea, chocolate, and a delectable cake or chocolate snack
- Oroliquido – for the best olive oils and sherry vinegars
- Mercat Santa Caterina – for lunch at La Torna, a stop at Olisoliva, or a kiosk for Jamon
Breakfast in Spain starts late, from 9-10am and generally comes in two forms. The first, is generally a coffee (caffe) and small snack, a “mini” sandwich de tortilla (or jamon) or a pastry like a xuxo or ensaimada. The second is a hearty and filling meal, for example a stew of beans and sausage or seafood a la plancha. Typically, the big meal is accompanied by a generous quantity of red wine or cava. Here are some of my picks for breakfast:
Bar Pinotxo – The best cortado, xuxo, ensaimada, or a larger plate of the day.
Tapas24 – Patatas Fritas con Huevos y Jamon
Lunch in Spain is typically a sit down multi-course meal that starts around 1:30-2:30pm and lasts until 3 or 3:30pm. If you see people eating before that, stay away because it’s for tourists. You may also do an earlier “brunch” on a Saturday, but this is less typical. There is a Catalan tradition on weekends “Fer el Vermut“, a snack before lunch.
- Lunch (or brunch) at a kiosk in La Boqueria. My favorites are El Quim for chipirones con Huevos (Baby octopus with eggs), Bar Pinotxo for a special of the day and some red wine or cava. I’ve also been told good things about kiosk Universal.
- Cova Fumada – A typical local place in Barcenoleta.
- Picnic stop at one of the markets above and buy 100 grams of Jamon, 200 grams of manchego (or other cheese), a baguette, and a bottle of red wine. Eat it in the Citudella parc, Parc Guell, or the Grec Parc near Montjuic.
- Consider Alkimia for an unforgettable and leisurely high-end lunch near the Sagrada Familia. The next two options are cheaper alternatives also near the Sagrada.
- La Paradeta for cheap seafood (closed Mondays). It has three locations in Barcelona and one in Sitges.
- Origen 99.9% – A small chain focusing on local Catalan cuisine. The quality varies by location, but it offers a reasonable value for lunch. It has outposts near the Sagrada Familia, Santa Maria del Mar church, and Universidad metro.
- Cafe Viena is the local fast food and one of the few decent places on Las Ramblas. It serves burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. It was made famous by Mark Bittman in the NY Times, laying claim that the flauta d’ibéric d.o. jabugo is “the best sandwich”. It’s not even close to the best in Barcelona, but it is tasty and relatively inexpensive.
Lunch largely depends on your plans for the day, but I would recommend taking a leisurely lunch somewhere with a menu del dia. Go with one that it is off the main tourist streets or squares. Typical meals should cost between 10-15 euros and include wine or water.
- Xurros from a Xurrerria – The quality can be hit and miss.
- A macaroon or pastry from Bubo (near Santa Caterina del Mar church)
- Olives or anchoas and “una caña” (a beer) on a terrace. Moritz is the best local beer brewed in Barcelona. They have a stronger and darker “epidor” if you can find it.
For wine, consider one of the several locations of Vila Viniteca and pick up some local cava from Penedes, or a red wine from Priorat or other local DOC.
In Spain dinner is a smaller meal because many people have a big sit down meal at lunch time. Dinner also starts late, from around 9pm and goes until 11 or midnight. I don’t recommend eating before that unless it is for tapas which run a bit earlier, from around 7-10pm. A few suggestions:
- See my previous posts on tapas restaurants and fine dining.
- Bacoa, a tiny place behind the Mercat Santa Caterina serving some of the best burgers in Barcelona. Have the “Bacoa” which comes with manchego, onion jam, and bacon.
- Pizza – there are several great Italian restaurants in BCN if you want a break from Spanish food. For example, Bella Napoli is famous for its pizzas and its sea urchin pasta. Another good choice is Ravalo for cheap thin crust pizzas.
- For super-cheap or late night eats, stop at one of the ubiquitous Frankfurter joints, like “Otto Stylt” for a Hamburgesa Completa, a Frankfurter, and some fries.
- Bubo for a pastry
- Gelato in Gracia. See the Gelato guide. My favorite is Gelateria Cafeteria Italiana for the dark chocolate.
- Crema Catalana or Tarte Crema Catalana from a local shop with dinner