Stylish and captivating Barcelona is a fabulous choice for a weekend away. Situated on the sparkling Mediterranean sea with fairytale modernista architecture it exudes a fun, cosmopolitan atmosphere. Scratch under the surface and you’ll discover Barcelona’s hidden charms, fiercely proud locals, gastronomical delights, shafts of golden light moving through its gothic old town and endless food, drink, colour, fashion and art. There is so much to offer in this compact city, that it is almost impossible to stop at just 10 – so the top 10 has become a top 12!
La Boqueria. That market – an absolute must for any visitor to Barcelona. At it’s best during the morning when the stalls are piled high with fresh produce, meat, fish, hanging legs of jamon iberico, homemade sweets, fresh juices and even chocolate. Pull up a ringside stool at Bar Pinotxo, and ask the owner – the legendary Juanito Bayen – what’s good on the menu today. Nearby sample some traditional Catalan fare at Bar El Quim guaranteed to satisfy rumbling tummies. Venture further in past endless stalls of fresh seafood on ice, but watch out for ankle nipping shopping trolleys guided by resilient grannies well experienced in the hustle and bustle of market life. If you manage to get through unscathed, reward yourself by pausing at La Grande Central Bar, perhaps treat yourself to a glass of cava and a pincho of mouth-wateringly fresh tortilla (Spanish omelette)…and why not…!
Las Ramblas, 85-89 (metro Liceu)
Quimet I Quimet. There’s no shortage of authentic bodega wine bars in Barcelona, but this one perhaps is best-loved, located in the up and coming barrio of Poble Sec. Standing room only, lean against a barrel and choose from hundreds of creative montaditos (toasted bread with toppings). Recommended is the smoked salmon with honey. If you’re still hungry, follow up with a selection of deliciously pungent cheeses served with a dollop of quince or marmalade. The walls are lined from floor to ceiling with wine and cava bottles meaning you won’t go thirsty and their beer selection on tap extends beyond the standard local offerings. Doubling as a shop, you can take home the goods you have sampled too.
Calle del Poeta Cabanyes, 25 (metro Poble Sec)
Placa de Sant Felipe Neri. One of Barcelona’s most beautiful and romantic squares, a surprising silent haven hidden away in the midst of Barcelona’s tourist-clogged old town. With a fountain gently trickling and lamps serenely glowing at dusk, it’s a far cry from its spine-tingling past that has made it symbolic of Spain’s suffering during the civil war. Against the façade of the Iglesia de Sant Felip Neri, people were lined up and executed and in 1938, 42 civilians were bombed by Franco’s air raids. Bullet holes and shrapnel marks still remain on the church walls today as a stark reminder. Now at peace, the placa is home to the wonderfully atmospheric 5* Hotel Neri bar, whose terrace is a perfect spot to sit and contemplate its fascinating history.
Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, 3, Ciutat Vella district (metro Jaume I)
Cañete. Newly opened Cañete, situated on the rather unassuming Calle Unio, is a world away from the neighbouring tourist traps on Las Ramblas. Bustling, slick and contemporary, it pays homage to the traditional tapas bar with bar seating only. It’s the perfect place to enjoy innovative and exciting tapas based on traditional dishes. Comes complete with leafy Andalucian style smoking patio out back. Recommended is the rabo de buey al “vino tinto”.
Calle de la Unió, 17 (metro Liceu)
Santa Maria. This slice of gourmet heaven in the trendy Born district is committed to giving you a top-notch food experience at a reasonable price and it’s reputation is well known throughout the city. Cosy, romantic and a delicious culinary experience, it offers an inventive take on tapas and a creative menu degustacio.
Calle Comerç, 17 (metro Jaume I)
Fundacio Joan Miro, Mont Juic. Escape the madness to this fascinating showcase of Barcelona’s well-loved artist Joan Miro. Situated high up in the Park Mont Juic, it’s a tranquil spot boasting breath-taking views of the city. Bask in glass and light and a kaleidoscope of surrealist colours and shapes, sculptures and theatrical art.
Parc de Montjuïc (funicular from metro Parallel)
Dry Martini. Barcelona’s unique speakeasy recaptures the heady prohibition days. Classy yet remarkably unstuffy, recline in leather seating and pay homage to the name as professional bar staff expertly prepare your drink to order.
Calle Aribau, 162-166 (metro Diagonal)
Els Pescadors. Understandably considered by some to be the finest fish restaurant in Barcelona, located in a picturesque square in what was once the city’s fisherman district and a meeting point for revolutionaries. Dine in the preserved old tavern or on the peaceful and shaded terrace. There’s also a modern dining room. Specialities include Suquet (Catalan fish stew) and exquisite rice dishes.
Plaza de Prim (metro Poble Nou)
Passeig del Born. Overlooked by the magnificent Santa Maria del Mar Church at one end and the old market at the other, is one of Barcelona’s most fashionable and attractive tree-lined boulevards. No shortage of cafes, restaurants and boutique shops and at night it is one of the most popular areas to go out with locals and foreigners alike.
Metro Jaume I
Muy Buenas. Lively Cuban staff will prepare you a mean mojito to get your night underway at this stylish art nouveau bar situated in the multi-cultural and revamped area of El Raval.
Calle Carme 63, Raval (metro Liceu)
Cal Pep. Tirelessly popular and possibly the tiniest tapas bar in Barcelona. Attached it has an equally tiny restaurant, where the decision is taken out of your hands as waiters bring you plate after plate of the freshest, tastiest raciones de tapas. Book the restaurant or do as the locals, line up for a seat at the bar and take your pick. It’s fresh, fun and oozes personality and fabulous atmosphere and above all the food is perfection. Not to be missed!
Plaça de les Olles 8 (metro Jaume I / Barceloneta)
Escriba. The most stylish of the beachfront xiringuitos, this is the place to savour a lazy Sunday afternoon eating paella and drinking with friends after a stroll along Barcelona’s famous beaches. Choose a table on the sunny terrace or inside enjoy a lively view of the kitchen as your paella is made to order. Don’t be afraid to venture to the sea during winter, you can enjoy the warmth of the restaurant with views of the ocean and clear blue sky.
Ronda Litoral Mar, 42
Article Written by Lizzy Prosser
Correspondent, Connoisseur Magazine
Images and content © Lizzy Prosser 2011