Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city located in Spain’s eastern region of Catalonia, on the Mediterranean Sea. The city took a turn toward the future by hosting the 1992 Summer Olympics, which helped to transform neighborhoods like Barceloneta. Historic master works by architect Antoni Gaudí and artist Pablo Picasso remain prize draws. Culinary innovators like Ferran Adrià and brother Albert have also impacted the city, but most plates are traditional and still rely on pristine seafood fished from the Med, along with incredible meat and produce from the surrounding country. Learn about 22 top places to eat or drink in Barcelona.
Numbered establishments on the map correspond to information below for easy reference. Establishments also appear in alphabetical order instead of in order of preference.
This high-end tapas bar features a glass front, high-top tables and L-shaped wood bar overlooking a case of pristine seafood on ice. Beautiful sea scallops, with the coral still attached, join plump squid, live clams and many manner of shellfish, which can all be plucked and prepared a la plancha, though some proteins, like clams, benefit from staying raw. Paco Meralgo also serves a definitive version of pan con tomate, with crisp rafts of bread slathered with tomato and olive oil.
MUST ORDER: Live Clams “Carril,” Scallop, Pan con Tomate, Squid a la Plancha
2. Bar Mut
This popular tapas bar has been open for approximately three decades, with Kim Díaz grabbing the reins nine years ago and adding an upstairs club with live music called El Mutis. Mut is short for Vermut, Barcelona’s most popular spirit. The street level restaurant features a black awning, planter-lined sidewalk tables, thick white tables with barstools, and wine shelves that climb to the ceiling. Blackboard menus feature a number of premium seafoods a la plancha, including Zamburinyes, Cloisses and Navalettes, though some of the most popular dishes are land-based. For instance, Carpaccio d’ous Ferrats features ever so slightly fried eggs sporting chorizo, shrimp, pine nuts and crunchy fried potato strands. Daus de Vedella amb Foie combines the talents of rosy medium rare filet mignon and foie gras a la plancha, all garnished with sea salt, rosemary, and port reduction, served on shimmering slate.
MUST ORDER: Carpaccio d’ous Ferrats, Daus de Vedella amb Foie, Seafood
3. Cervecería Catalana
This restaurant has grown so popular that they now have twin dining rooms and a pair of parklet-like patios, which sported poinsettias on the walls for Christmas. I sat in the main room, which touted back-to-back wood bars overlooking seafood, montaditos and salads. No Cerveceria is complete without beer, and Catalana has plenty, with bottles filling multiple walls. Design flourishes are limited, though you will find a cartoon mural of Barcelona. In terms of food, you’d be wise to ignore the pre-made bar bites and order seafood prepared a la plancha and dressed with olive oil, parsley, sea salt, and a squeeze of lemon. Bulbous cuttlefish, razor clams and briny cockles are particularly good.
MUST ORDER: Berberechos a la Plancha, Navajas Gallegas a la Plancha, Sepionas Planchas
Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s biggest tourist zone, but it still yields occasional culinary finds amidst the sea of humanity. For instance, Debora Coimbra’s chocolate concept, which debuted in 2013, resides around the corner from the main drag. The glass fronted space features hexagonal tile floors and chocolate in every iteration imaginable. Donuts, dipped in either dark or white chocolate, rest on decorative wall-mounted dowels. chocolate bars, bonbons, cookies, and cronuts are just a small sample of Chök’s selection. These are perhaps the only hard-shell donuts I’ve experienced, but they’re very good, with crunchy coats and airy raised dough. Chocolate splattered potato chips are also fun, with a sweet-salty dichotomy and the resemblance to Jackson Pollack paintings.
MUST ORDER: Chocolate Bars, Chocolate Potato Chips, Pistachio Donuts
5. Dry Martini
It was clear what to order at Dry Martini, which Don Pere Carbonell debuted in Barcelona over 30 years ago, serving nothing but…you guessed it…dry martinis. Now Javier de las Muelas is at the helm. The space remains old school plush, with wood everywhere, green and red leather lounge chairs, glassed-in shelves of vintage barware, dapper bartenders in powder grey coats, a SPEAKEASY RESTAURANT in back, and blues music on the speakers. The original dry martini recipe, which likely dates to the 1800s, appears on a mirror behind the bar like so: ½ London Dry Gin, ½ French Vermouth, 1 Dash Orange Bitters, Squeeze lemon rind, Add a green olive. Despite James Bond’s famous preference for a shaken martini, Dry Martini calls for stirring. Bombay Sapphire, their well gin, is one-note, but in the hands of my old school bartender, and combined with other ingredients, I still enjoyed their martini immensely.
MUST ORDER: Dry Martini