Barcelona is the bustling gastronomical hub of Spain and the Catalan region. The culinary scene is innovative, vibrant, and constantly growing. In this gastronomical gem of a city, you’re able to sit down and enjoy classic Catalan cuisine such as esqueixada (salt cod salad) or botifarra amb mongetes (grilled white sausage with white beans) and yet the love for the traditional does not hinder the creativity of Barcelona chefs, however. It is actually quite the opposite as they are known for their creativity, which is inspired by the traditional building blocks of Catalan cuisine.
Anybody who claims to be a foodie needs to pull up a seat in Barcelona and experience the pure ecstasy that their cuisine brings to the culinary world. However, it can be difficult to know where to start simply because of the overwhelming amount of culinary options. But have no fear, I have done the footwork for you!
Here are my top ten Barcelona restaurants for a first-time visitor:
El Vaso de Oro
Carrer de Balboa, 6
12 p.m. -12 a.m. daily
El Vaso de Oro is an old school bodega that has been serving up large flautas or flutes of their home made brew since the 70’s. To complement their tasty homemade beer they have also been serving up wonderful raciones (small plates) of traditional cuisine as well.
Pull up a seat at the bar which runs the length of the restaurant, order a few beers, and enjoy some grilled foie gras or pimiento padrons or even a nice steak with those delicious pimiento padrons.
If you want a taste of a local neighborhood joint then El Vaso de Oro is the place for you!
Ca la Montse
Carrer de Balboa, 14
1 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. daily
Paella might not be a traditional Catalan dish but it is still a dish that most of you want to enjoy when you’re in Spain. Any why shouldn’t you, it’s delicious!
If you are not able to make it to Valencia, the birthplace of paella, then head over to Ca la Montse on Thursdays to enjoy some of the best paella that Barcelona restaurants have to offer.
They only serve paella on Thursdays, as most Barcelona restaurants do, so make sure to get there early and dive into their menu del dia (menu of the day) for lunch and enjoy some of the best paella in the town!
Can Paixano – La Xampanyeria
Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7
9 a.m. – 10:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday
When it comes to great Barcelona restaurants they are not all fancy sit downs, actually, most of them are not. There are times where you are going to just have to squeeze into any space available and enjoy. Can Paixano – LA Xampanyeria is one of those places.
This old school grill is not for those who are claustrophobic, timid, or shy. Fight your way up to the bar, use elbows if you have to, and order yourself one of their famous sandwiches. Add a bottle of cava to that sandwich for one of the cheapest meals that you will have the pleasure to eat in Barcelona.
What is their secret to their great sandwiches? The grill that has been operating since 1969! Their grill has been seasoned by every ingredient that has had the honor to touch it since the day they opened. All that meat and fat on that grill allows you to have one of the most amazing sandwiches of your life!
By the way, those bottles of cava are just 10 euros or less but you can only have a bottle if you get some food. Sandwiches and cava for lunch anybody?
Plaça Comercial, 1
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 a.m. Sunday through Thursday; 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Neighborhood: El Born
Bormuth is a popular local restaurant in the hip neighborhood of El Born. It became my favorite place to sit on a hot afternoon and enjoy some of their on tap vermouth. It is not just their vermouth that is delicious, their menu is jammed full of innovative twists on traditional Catalan dishes.
Bormuth is a vibrant and bustling young crowd making it one of the most happening Barcelona restaurants.
Expert Tip: Order one of their goblet-sized gin and tonics, you can thank me later.
Carrer Comercial, 7
1 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. – 12 a.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Mondays
Neighborhood: El Born
If you’re a seafood a lover like me then you can’t pass up on La Paradeta. Every night you can spot this place from the long line protruding from its doors. Popular amongst the locals and tourists alike, this place is offering some of the best seafood that Barcelona has to offer. The seafood here can not get any fresher as the restaurant itself is a seafood market.
When you enter La Paradeta you’re greeted with a counter packed with ice and a cornucopia of sea critters ready for you to devour. Just pick what and how much you would like and they’ll send it back to the kitchen to be cooked up on the spot.
Grab a table and wait for one of the best seafood feasts of your life.
Plaça de les Olles, 8
1 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 7:30 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. Mondays; closed Sundays
Neighborhood: El Born
Cal Pep is my go to Catalan lunch spot because it serves up some up the best traditional dishes in the city. If you’re looking for classic Catalan food then Cal Pep is the restaurant for you!
The best place to sit is at the bar because it faces the open kitchen. I don’t know about you but I love watching my food being prepared. If you are feeling lazy or adventurous you can let your server choose your meal for you. He will ask you a few question about what you like and then put together an amazing menu for you.
A couple of warnings though:
- You will have to wait in line, that is not a problem because you can order a glass of cava while you wait. Cava makes everything better! Also, you get to scope out what everybody else is eating. It is the best visual menu in the world.
- If you let them pick for you, beware of the price. This place is not known for being cheap. While it’s not a high-end restaurant it will still put a dent in your budget if you are not paying attention. I can promise you that it will be the tastiest dent you have ever put in your wallet though!
Of all the Barcelona restaurants on this top 10 list, this is my top recommendation!
Carrer de Montcada, 22
12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. – 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Sundays; closed Monday
Neighborhood: El Born
El Xampanyet is my nightly go to tapas bar. This is a tapas place that is beloved by both locals and tourists. It is also a very crowded tapas bar but that is not a bad thing. It is actually a good thing. A bustling tapas bar means the tapas are in constant rotation and nothing is sitting out for too long. You can always expect the tapas to be fresh when you are in a crowded bar!
Get your elbows ready and work your way up to the counter. Order some tapas, maybe some raciones, and a bottle of their homemade cava. If you can’t get a table or a place at the bar, head outside with your bounty and partake in what I like to call the Barcelona balancing act: the bottle of cava at your feet, a plate in one hand and your glass in the other.
The food is great, the cava is delicious, and the hustle and bustle will keep you coming back. Just don’t be shy and timid otherwise you will get lost in the crowd.
Can Cisa/Bar Brutal
Carrer de la Princesa, 14
1:30 p.m. – 2 a.m. Monday through Thursday; 1:30 p.m. – 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday
Neighborhood: El Born
Can Cisa/ Bar Brutal is one of my favorite places to stop in for some modern takes on Catalan cuisine and drink some beautiful natural wine. If you don’t know what natural wine is that is okay. It is a very popular trend right now amongst the wine community. All it means is that the grapes go through fermentation purely on their on yeast. If you have not tried naturally fermented wine then this is a must stop because it is delicious and celebrates everything that is great about terroir! I suggest a bottle of their sparkling Cab Franc which is a red sparkling that will blow your mind when it comes to sparkling wine.
There is more than just wine here though, even though the wine is enough of a reason to come. I might come here for the wine but I stay for the delectable bites that are offered!
The focus here is on quality fresh Catalan ingredients. The dishes themselves might not be traditionally Catalan but the ingredients are. One of my favorite dishes includes local vegetables, legumes, and flowers cooked in a parmesan broth and the Thai roasted quail with peanuts, chili and lime.
I’m telling you this place knows what they are doing and easily makes it on this top 10 Barcelona restaurants list.
Carrer de la Unió, 17
1 p.m. – 12 a.m. Monday through Saturday; closed Sunday
Neighborhood: El Raval
Tucked away in the once infamous neighborhood of El Raval is a gem serving up some of the best modern Catalan cooking. The first thing to know about this wonderful restaurant is that it sources all of its ingredients from La Boqueria which is probably the most famous open air market in Barcelona.
This is another place where I suggest sitting up at the bar as it has an open kitchen. Did I forget to mention that I love open air kitchens? I really love watching people cook, I almost get as much satisfaction from it as I do eating the food they serve me.
In reality, just make sure to grab a seat as this place is always hopping. It truly is one the best restaurants serving up a modern take on traditional dishes.
Dive into some Catalon canalons with foie gras or maybe enjoy some oxtail in a red wine sauce topped with perfectly browned mashed potatoes. No matter what you order Bar Cañete will not disappoint!
Quimet & Quimet
Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25
12 p.m. – 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
Neighborhood: Poble Sec
Quimet & Quimet is one of those tapas bars that would be in a Woody Allen movie. This is the smallest place on the list but that is part of its charm. It has high ceilings with shelves of wine along the whole place. You will have to fight your way in because it is always packed and there is no sitting down (this place is even smaller than El Xampanyet and Can Paixano!).
To your right when you enter you will see a counter where you order your food. This is the best place to stand and eat if you are lucky enough to grab an empty spot. There is a case that has all the wonderful montaditos or small open face sandwiches, cheeses, tapas and a variety of goodies that you can observe.
Along the other two walls, under the wine, is a long narrow wood bar where you can balance your plates and drinks. In the middle are a couple of standing tables that are packed in with patrons.
They are famous for the montaditos which are small little open face sandwiches that have a variety of toppings. One of my favorites is the salmon belly with truffle honey and ricotta cheese. This is just one of the many delectable things that you can enjoy here though.
Make sure to mind your Ps & Qs though as this place does not take any sass from the customers! Oh, and also please drop your napkins on the floor (yes, on the floor) or you will be scolded.
These are my top ten Barcelona restaurants that I believe anyone serious about eating great food while in Barcelona should go to. Barcelona is a hot spot for traditional and innovative Catalan cuisine. There are so many places one can decide to pull up a seat and enjoy what this beautiful city has to offer; this list though is a great jumping off point for those who want to make sure to have a great meal when traveling to my favorite city in all of Europe!
About the Author
Alex Sexton, is the co-author of Eat Local in Barcelona: A Guide to Catalan Cuisine, Co-Founder of In Pursuit of Adventure and a passionate traveler and writer that enjoys experiencing different cultures through their food and drinking customs. Travel is what fuels him and as long as there is food out there to eat he will never stop exploring and sharing it with you.
Have you been to Barcelona? What’s your favorite place to eat?