This post is long overdue and has been sitting in drafts since February, but better late than never! Below is a list of our favorite places to eat and drink and the sights that enjoyed most.
There's a whole world of small shops and cafes, but here are the select few that we frequented.
- Cafés El Magnifico was our favorite coffee shop in Barcelona. There is very limited seating, but the service and the people that work at this beautiful shop, that has been in business for 100 years were over the top. And, their coffee selection and presentation was one of the best we had all year.
- Casa Gispert is a century's-old character-filled dry goods store that had so many goodies. We mostly bought carnaroli rice for risotto (using this rice for risotto will change your life), sundried tomatoes, and dried apricots. But they have a huge selection of biscuits, pastes, sauces, etc. It's the perfect place to pick up a snack or a gift.
- Vila Viniteca. We bought almost all of our wine, cheese, and meat here. Go here, buy a bottle of Rioja, some chorizo and manchego cheese and walk over to the Parc de la Ciutadella for the perfect picnic you have the perfect picnic.
- Hofmann Pastry Shop is a tourist hot-spot. I'm sure it's listed in some Barcelona restaurant guide book. But that did not stop me from visiting this delicious bakery for their almond or mascarpone croissant a couple times per week. Seriously. This is place serves the best croissants I've ever had.
The meal schedule is a bit different in Barcelona than Americans are used to. Catalonia doesn’t care about breakfast. I found most people got by on a small breakfast—a croissant and a coffee. The biggest meal is lunch between 1 and 4 and then during the dinner hours 8 to 11, they eat a bit lighter. There are four types of meals that we enjoyed in Barcelona that are helpful to be aware of and on the lookout for.
- Tapas — Your likely familiar with this format, which usually consists of a series of small plates. In Barcelona, the tapas menus almost always included squid or anchovies, bread with fresh crushed tomato rubbed on it, tortilla, patatas bravas, and cheese and cured meats. You can enjoy this any time of day, almost anywhere. I highly recommend the tortilla and want to note that it's not like a mexican tortilla, but is instead like a dense omelette that contains the simplest of ingredients, potatoes and eggs. It's delish.
- El Menu — This is usually a special menu that restaurants offer around "lunch-time" It's a preset menu for only about 12 euro and includes a starter, main course, dessert, wine or beer, and coffee. It’s best enjoyed on a plaza or patio. You must enjoy this. Relax and make it a two or three-hour meal.
- Pintxos — Pinchos / Pintxos consist of slices of baguette topped with almost anything, from fish to cheese and fruit to sausage. They are essentially small-bites and often served for 1 or 2 euro each. They are held together by a toothpick and you pay for each toothpick left on your plate. It’s so fun. This delightful food is actually from Basque Country, not Catalonia. But, nonetheless, you’ll see them all over the place. However, in Barcelona there is a street lined with Pintxos places, Carrer Blai. Go there and drop into a few different places for two or three Pinxtos.
- Paella — This is usually huge and served for at least two people. The Catalonian version is a red paella, which sometimes surprises people who are used to the standard yellow paella. The red is a result of the heavy use of tomatoes. It's great and best enjoyed in a restaurant near the sea.
Here are some top recommendations for places to eat:
- Tapas and Cava at Xampanyet. This place will be packed no matter what time you go. Simply make your way up to the bar, order a cava and wait for your table. Or, if it's really busy, just enjoy some tapas at the bar.
- Dinner of tapas at Cal Pep. Visitors to Cal Pep are served at the bar and the cooks decide which dishes you get, depending on the preferences you share with them when you're seated. It's fun and delicious.
- Drinks and dinner at El Nacional. This is a huge space with four different restaurants, a central bar, and a gelato stand. It's an excellent spot for a drink at the bar and people watching or dinner.
- Paella on the beach at Xiringuito Escriba
- Pintxos on Blai Street
Sights & Experiences
These are some of our favorite experiences that we had in Barcelona.
- Sagrada Familia. Here's a post about our experience.
- Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
- Cava tours and tastings in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia. Here's a post about our experience.
- Take the Cable Car to Montjuic
- Cook and Taste Cooking Class
- Train, Hike, and Lunch at Can Borrell. Here's a post that describes our experience at Can Borrell.
- Hike to Montserrat and tour the church
- Parc de la Ciudad
- Picasso Museum
- Parc Guell
And, honestly, our favorite hours were spent just wandering around the city, mostly in El Born and the Gothic Quarter. There is always a celebration or festival happening, so you're likely to stumble into something wonderful.