Jump to content

Barcelona recommendations

Recommended Posts

Adding an outlier, the montadito bar. Irati in the Barrio is one of the first, from my memory, and in the scrum you can grab breads with toppings you’d be happy to serve at home - smoked salmon, salmon mousse, tortilla con mayonese, sobresada, morcilla, chistorras, and on...


About 8 to 10 with a glass of wine, 20 euros.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 595
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

An open letter to two esteemed members who are making their first trip to this, one of my three favorite cities, later this summer. Veterans might wish to skip the "obvious" section:   Obvious thin

On many trips to Barcelona, I stayed in an apartment rented out by its owner. I found it in the columns of a newspaper or magazine, and it was great value (they since sold it) - but it's worth lookin

Agree re the cava - it was awful.   The tapas was good though, and the atmosphere fun.   In terms of cost, a couple of poker players shouted our bill.

And then Can Lluis, the 80 year old Catalunyan bistro, serious in a friendly way, entirely disinterested in tourists. Three impeccable courses, wines, coffee, Cognac, around 40 euros. Of course the family probably owns the block.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Also confession, Bar Pastis has NOT closed. The late night immersive Piaf bar is still there. I had turned down what was once a sketchy dark alley, discovered a garish Irish bar, and thought it was the same location. Bar Pastis, with its lower lights, is still there a little further along.

Link to post
Share on other sites

An open letter to two esteemed members who are making their first trip to this, one of my three favorite cities, later this summer. Veterans might wish to skip the "obvious" section:


Obvious things to do:


Gaudi. You should set aside half a day just to see Gaudi's works. The Sagrada Familia is the most famous, but I find there's not much to see when you actually get there. It's most striking seen at a distance. La Pedrera, his weird apartment house, is good, and if it's open go up to the roof (also, some other great apartment facades are nearby, including his Casa Battlo). Go inside the Palau Guell in the Barri Xines if it's open and take a look around. But don’t miss, above all, the Parc Guell. It's a subway ride plus a walk, or a short taxi ride, but it's a total Gaudi environment - a park he designed for a wealthy benefactor. Disneyland as conceived by a conservative Catholic mythologian. Spacey.


Tibidabo. Do the tram car up to the basilica overlooking the city. The basilica itself is not thrilling, but the view is great. Better still, if you follow the road that runs around the left hand side of the basilica (facing it), a five minute walks brings you to spots from which you can look in the other direction - inland from Barcelona. Lovely views of the countryside. There's a bar with terrace seating in front of the basilica, if you need a bit of black pudding or something.


Montjuic. This is the other mountain overlooking the city. Unless you hate Miro, you should spend a couple of hours at the Fundacion Miro. You can also walk around the Olympic stadium area. If you consult a map, there's a pretty easy walk down from the summit which brings you past the old palace, which is now a museum of art (always closed when I've visited - maybe you'll be lucky); again, great views as you descend.


The Picasso museum in the old town, but on the far side of the Via Laietana from the more popular part of the Barri Gotic, is essential if you like Picasso.


Barceloneta. This is the gritty, social realism bit of the trip, even though a lot of the old seaside bars were torn down before the Olympics. This is a long-ish walk from the center, but gets you to the city's only beach. On the way, you pass plenty of seafood tapas bars. When you get to the beach area, do explore some of the sidestreets to get a glimpse of what ordinary working life in Barclona is like. I've visited some of the bars around here at night, but they are home to simple, drunken fisherfolk, and I was aware I was the only tourist. Fine in the day-time, and the beach is okay for swimming.


Barri Gotic. Most of your time should be spent simply exploring the Barri Gotic, the largest preserved mediaevel city zone in Europe (forget Venice). Walk endlessly down tiny alleyways, looking at antique shops, bars, and food stores. Inexhaustible. There are a couple of streets where the kids get a bit lively at night, but personally I think you can walk the Barri Gotic twenty four hours. Barri Xines on the other side of the Ramblas - I suggest taking a walk around in the day-time to get your bearings. The sidestreets can be dark and creepy at night, and there were still a lot of stray drug users around last time I looked. On C/de Escudellers, near Los Caracoles restaurant (you can't miss it - there are chickens roasting on a spit outside), look out for a big store selling really good ceramics and houseware from various regions of Spain. Once inside, look out for windows in the floor. They reveal a cellar downstairs which is a wine bar - good list by the glass, and plenty of hams and cheeses to sample. Late hours around the Barri Gotic, you'll find countless small spaces which you wouldn't notice shuttered during the day are actually modernistic cocktail lounges, each with its own idiosyncratic design - these are spaces for drinking rather than eating tapas.


Placa Reial, a square just off the Ramblas, is worth looking at - Gaudi designed some of the lampposts, and there's usually some street entertainment going on - but avoid the bars and restaurants. Over-priced and touristy.


One more thought. A side-trip to Monserrat is a good way to spend half a day. It's an easy train ride, followed by a spectacular cable car ascent. The alleged point of it all is the basilica dedicated to the "black Virgin", and associated souvenirs. What makes it worth while is climbing up beyond the church to higher parts of the mountain, where you get wonderful air, amazing views, and some peace and quiet.



Less obvious things to do:


In other words, I worked these out without much help from guidebooks.

The Museo Federic Mares, near the Cathedral, boasts an endless collection of religious statuary. Everyone knows that. Less obvious is the little Museum of Everyday Life which is upstairs from the Virgins and angels. Odd opening hours, so check, but this is a terrific collection of everyday objects from Barcelona's belle epoque. Children's toys, timepieces, snuff-boxes, shaving kits, household items - you name it - an endless display of good taste. Nearby, look out for the Salo de Tinell, once a royal chamber - it's the most beautiful example of an arched gothic room (oh, I'm no good at describing architecture - it's a lovely space to take a peek at).


Boqueria Market. You won’t miss this - the main food market on the Ramblas - but in addition to drifting around the stalls, remember that this is a great place for breakfast or a snack. There are a number of tapas bars in the middle of the market, among the stalls. Choose one which has a view of something interesting - like the fish stalls, where experts gut and serve vast quantities and varieties of seafood - get up on a stool, order a beer and a slice of tortilla, and you can watch the market at work at your leisure. I could do this for hours.


Once you've explored the main part of the Barri Gotic, centred around the Cathedral, and stretching essentially from the big square, Plaza de Catalunya down to the waterside, consider crossing Via Laietana - going towards the Picasso museum. Wander around the backstreets here. It's an old part of town which is definitely not touristy. There are some great little bars here where you can drink for almost nothing, and eat good seafood tapas. I could take you to them, but addresses I don't have. But it's not a large area, so it's worth a look. I don't believe it's dangerous, but it's a working class neighborhood, so I'd dress down (generally, I have never found Barcelona dangerous, but petty crime is everywhere - pickpockets and bag snatchers - so arrange your valuables accordingly; and particularly beware being surrounded by "gypsies" giving you flowers - I just yell at them and walk into the street).




El Xampanyet. Most guidebooks mention this little cava bar a few doors from the Picasso Museum, but you need to know how to make the best of it. It opens for a brief time, early in the evening. My book says 6.30, which sounds about right. You should get there right away and belly up to the bar. They bring out tray after tray of delicious morsels - anchovies, butifarra catalana (white sausage), ham, etc - served on small slices of bread . You can point and order. I find the artisanal cava a little sweet (think Babycham), but the cider's not bad. Friendly service from people who've been working there many, many years. Obviously combines well with a trip to see Picasso's blue period.


El Portalon. I regard this as the essential Barcelona bar. It used to be a typical bodega, but now it's about the only one left. Like El Xampanyet, quirky opening hours - evenings only - and it's hard to find. But if you follow the curve of C. Banys Nous, looking for number 20, you'll track it down amidst the expensive antique stores. It looks like the inside of a barrel. Excellent tapas (try the deep fried artichokes and the snails), dirt cheap wines drawn from the cask, and some real atmosphere. For a sit down meal, the specialty is fideu - essentially a paella, with vermicelli instead of rice.


If you've any interest in twentieth century art, don't miss having a drink in Els Quatre Gats, down a little street called c/Montsio. It was the nightclub at which the Barcelona avant garde gathered around the turn of the century, including the young Pable Picasso, who illustrated the bar's newsletter and made many drawings there. It's a true landmark (http://www.tamu.edu/mocl/picasso/photos/quatref1.jpg). There's a dining room, but I;ve only ever dropped in for a glass of wine or acav to admire the art work. (Website: www.4gats.com)


Bar Pastis is Barcelona's version of the French House. Take C/Santa Monica, a turning off the Ramblas a little down from the Barri Xines. After dark, unless they've been moved on at last, you'll find a cluster of cross-dressing hookers at the entrance to the street. They won't bother you, and you'll be irresistibly reminded of British wrestling greats like Jackie Pallo and Adrian Street in full regalia. You'll see the lighted sign above Bar Pastis on the right. It's a dark, smoky little boite, with perpetual Edith Piaf and Charles Trenet playing, and the obvious drink is absinthe. Open very late.


Another bar which is a personal favorite is Padam! Padam! It's a tiny place at c/Raurig 9, just off c/Ferran, and you have to be buzzed in. It's small, friednly, and a bit of an Edith Piaf theme bar, but usually has interesting art exhibits. I suppose the clientele tends to be "mixed".


Non-alcoholically speaking, you should start at least one day with hot chocolate and churros. My favorite is a bar in one corner of Placa San Jaume. This is the square which has the local government building on one side, and the regional parliament on the other - you're bound to pass through it a lot. Walking away from the Ramblas, this hot chocolate joint is in the far left hand corner, on the square. Beyond it, a narrow pedestrian street leads uphill, along which you'll find a couple of good wine stores and groceries, and two cute hole-in-the-wall bars which are good places to take a morning coffee.



Tapas bars:


All over town, of course, but you'll find a concentration of popular ones along C/Avinyo, which runs from C/Ferran down towards the water, and especially along C./Ample and C/Merce which are parallel streets near the bottom of Avinyo. Also, if Scott gets homesick, there's a pub on Avinyo (or possibly the parallel c/del Regomir)which shows soccer and serves Guinness. In fact, if La Barca are playing, the streets are deserted, and everyone goes to a bar to watch the game.


Anyway, you'll want to walk up and down all these streets. El Tropezon on Regomir is a good place to order chunks of octopus, cut fresh from a whole, huge beast. You'll also see bars advertising chorizo al diablo - bits of spicy sausage flamed with local liquor. Don't miss Bar Celta la Pulperia on c/de la Merce, a popular but spacious bar specialising in fried seafood tapas. Nearby is a small tapas bar which specilaises in cooked ham from the Canaries, served with little boiled potatoes. Unusual. Also in the area, you'll find several Asturian-style bars - you can't miss them, they have lots of heavy wooden beams, and specialise in cider, strong blue cheeses and an alcoholic milkshake (essentially) called leche de pantera, or panther's milk.




I'm not the best person to ask about the new wave of Barcelona restaurants. You've probably read plenty about them, and if you have specific questions, other members can probably help more than I. I was going to Barcelona a long time before this trend happened. Indeed, I would caution you that, until recently, Barcelona was not a great restaurant city. The best eating has always been in bars, and from the market, and some of the old-time restaurants you see in every guide book can be big let downs. I really would avoid some heavily promoted places like Quo Vadis (if it still exists), Los Caracoles, Agut D'Avinyon and Amaya (the tapas bar is fine, I'd give the restaurant a miss). Set Portes, down by the water on Passeig d'Isabel - go if you have time; it's like Rules without the game, and it attracts many Americans and Japanese, but it's a lovely old room and the food's okay. In fact, if you're going to eat paella, eat it here. The roast kid is another option.


My top recommendation, which is missed by most guidebooks, is the closest thing Barcelona has to a St John's. It's the Ateneu Gastronomic (www.ateneu.com). Just off C/Ferran, about five minutes from the Ramblas, it's a plainly decorated restaurant (with wine bar attached), at which the husband and wife proprietors offer dishes researched from the city's history and ingredients carefully sourced from the Catalunyan countryside. They also have a wine list which focusses on local co-operatives. Since it's a very reasonably priced restaurant, I strongly recommended a full blow out. First, choose from the "para picar" (for picking at) menu - artisanal sausages and cheeses, good foie gras, and various hams with toast. Then appetizers - look out for local wild mushrooms, or even a thistle salad. Meat or fish (specials often involve re-creations of mediaeval dishes). Cheese with honey is a good dessert. This is the place I go to for horse tartare! The wine list is such that you will probably be able to order the most expensive bottle on the menu without a second thought. I've never had trouble getting a table in the restaurant without a reservation.


A more conservative recommendation is Ca D'Isidre, down a little sidestreet, C/les Flors, off C/de Sant Pau which runs straight through the Barri Xines. This is a small, smart dining room, offering quite sophisticated Catalunyan cooking. This doesn't mean lots of ingredients on a plate, but quite conservative, well-executed dishes - sauteed baby eels, followed by a simply roast or braised piece of meat or fish. Excellent cheese tray. Popular with diplomats and well-heeled visitors. I managed to walk in, but it may be wise to reserve.


I also quite like Can Culleretes, up an alleyway in the Barri Gotic - the oldest restaurant in the city. It reminds me of traditional restaurants in Rome - a simple dining room with paper tablecloths and matter-of-fact service. But some of the dishes, like the braised partridge with spinach and pinenuts, are pretty good. This is not a fancy place, and it is old-fashioned.


That'll do for now. I hope other members will add to, or indeed criticize, these recommendations.

A friend just asked me for Barcelona recommendations, which is a bit like asking Phil Schapp if there are any Charlie Parker tracks he likes.


Made me look back at this thread, and editing out what has obviously closed in the way of bars and restaurants, this is surprisingly still relevant for first timers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have been reflecting on two dishes from the trip, the artichokes with pig feet and uni at Hisop, and the pig feet with snails at Can Lluis. Obvious at a glance which was the Michelin-starred dish and which the dish from an 80 year old family restaurant.


But both immensely enjoyable in quite different ways.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wishing I was still there.


Ideal Cocktail Bar is still good, well located for Hisop and probably other Eixample dining destinations.


La Pineda is unmissable, selection of local sausages changes every time I’m there.


Kicking myself for not having a drink in Els Quat Gats. How did I not get around to that?


Still boycotting the modernized El Portalon, although for all I know it’s good. It is exactly as if someone installed a modern dining room in McSorley’s, except this joint is a way lot older than McSorley’s.


Did I mention Tapas24? The original on Passeig de Gràcia, still serving considered, well made food. I was there for breakfast, didn’t really need the McFoie. I was served an exquisite plate of fried eggs, butifarra blanca, with a few fries.


Sad that I had to walk past Sombreria Orbach every day (on the corner by my hotel) without going in. As I explained to the owner last year, his hats last 20 years. I hope to transact with him at least one more time in this life.


Sucks that the Cathedral requires tickets; not because it’s expensive, but it seems a little counter to the mission. Have to see the geese though.


I never go anywhere near Sagrada Familia any more, as it’s an architectural travesty, but amazed to see cranes over it as if there is still an effort to finish it. Leave it alone, it will only get worse.


First time at Fundacio Joan Miro in maybe 10 years, and it’s stunningly good (I went back to Fundacio Antoni Tapies, but I usually do.) It occurred to me that I haven’t been to the Picasso museum “in like forever,” or El Xampayet nearby, but I am doing my best.


I missed Bar Celta this time, and Casa Guinart. One day I have to see if Set Portes still has a late night local crowd. Can Culleretes had a Katz-style tourist line outside when I walked by.


Did I say I wish I was still there?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Re-reading something I wrote 15 years ago is strange. The clientele at Padam! “mixed”? It was a gay bar. What a curious euphemism I used. I also find “cross-dressing hookers” embarrassingly archaic.


Agut D’Avinyon is better than I then thought. I probably ordered wrong. And I should have been able to spell Els Quats Gats without inserting the French word for “four.”


The other thought which weighs on me is that, in 2004 I had been visiting Barcelona for about 16 years.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 6 months later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...