I first visited Barcelona when on my graduation trip with Contiki in 2007, and hated it. We had arrived in Barcelona at 4pm on a Sunday, and were given 3 hours to walk around before we convened again... Except that many shops often close at 5pm for their afternoon siesta, and I was bored out of my wits.
Years later, when planning my first solo trip in early 2015, I decided to give Barcelona a chance, and I'm glad I did! It changed my perspective, and I fell in love with the city all over again, busy streets, delicious food, and amazing architecture. Since then, I've returned twice in 2016, am planning another trip in Nov 2017, and am trying to hablo Espanol, haha... First up, the food!
Food Recommendations (that I've tried)
(1) El Xampanyet
Address: 22 Carrer Montcada, Barcelona
Hours: 12nn-3.30pm (Tue-Sun), 7pm-11pm (Tue-Sat). Closed on Mondays.
Info: Food here is great - the pulpo (octopus) is amazing, as is the squid (calamar). Also a must order is their version of the Angry Eggs - mash, chorizo and a slow cooked egg. They'll mix it up for you - so shiok to have. Tried the booze they make in-house as well… Tastes amazing, forget about ordering it by glass, just go for the bottle - it's cheap and really yummy! Don't ask for the "cava", ask for the "Xampanyet", which is the one they make in-house! Finish off with biscotti served with a dessert wine - you're just supposed to soak the biscotti in the sweet wine and enjoy, but I usually polish off the sweet wine as a shot once I'm done with the biscotti. Don't waste alcohol, right?!
(2) La Cova Fumada
Hours: 9am-3.15pm (Mon-Fri), 6pm-8.10pm (Thu & Fri), 9am-1pm (Sat). Closed on Sundays.
Info: Awesome joint that’s a favourite among locals, be prepared to wait or SQUEEZE in at the bar (if you can somehow find a spot). Must tries: Bomba, Pulpo, Calamar. They also have this fish fillet covered in tomato sauce – really enjoyed the food here, and buzzing atmosphere too!
Hours: 8am-1.30am (Mon-Fri), 9am-1.30am (Sat & Sun).
Info: Try the bacalao, super delicious. The Arroz Negro or "Black Rice" (essentially squid ink paella) is also a must order - it's the special of the day, so cross your fingers and hope it's on the menu!
(4) Ciudad Condal
Address: Calle Galileu, 1, Barcelona
Hours: 8am-1.30am (Mon-Fri), 9am-1.30am (Sat & Sun).
Info: It’s opened by the same guys as Cerveseria Catalana, a tapas bar and restaurant, one of those old school places with many different types of tapas, try to go before 8pm. Try the Eggs Cabreous - super thin crisply fried potato sticks in a light tomato sauce with a fried egg on top (this is the a regular version, El Xampanyet serves it differently). Also try the Cuttlefish (not calamari). It’s yum!
Hours: 12nn-1am (Sun-Thu), 12nn-1.30am (Fri & Sat).
Info: Recommended by a lady seated beside me when I was at Cerveseria Catalana. She said these 2 were the best restaurants to head to in Barcelona (in her opinion), and the Arroz de Bogavante (Lobster Paella) is really yummy, and it's usually only just a special on the menu. Tried it, no regrets.
(6) Quimet Y Quimet
Address: Poeta Cabanyes 25, Barcelona
Hours: 12nn-4pm (Mon-Sat), 7pm-10.30pm (Mon-Fri). Closed on Sundays and in August.
Info: Stepped in due to friends recommendations - popular spot to head to, even though it’s only standing room. Staff was kind, helpful & attentive to me, especially when they saw I was alone and could only speak English. Must tries: Salmon Yoghurt Honey Montadito, Tuna dotted with Caviar and balsamic syrup, Stuffed Squid.
(7) Cal Pep
Address: Plaça de les Olles 8, Barcelona
Hours: 1pm-3.45pm (Tue-Sat), 7.30pm-11.30pm (Mon-Sat). Closed on Sundays.
Info: Awesome spot, friendly servers. I rocked up on my own, and managed to score a seat at the bar where the open kitchen is, with no clue on what to have - the server told me he would choose the dishes for me, and I gamely agreed. Best choice ever. I enjoyed all his recommendations: Calamari, clams and an omelette. Slightly pricey though, cos he recommends, and I didn't see any menu!
Hours: 12nn-4pm (Mon), 7am-4pm (Tue-Thu), 9am-5pm (Fri & Sat). Closed on Sundays.
Info: Great place, gets packed so go early. Must try: Chiperones con Huevo, also known as baby squid with egg. Absolutely delish, and my choice was given the stamp of approval by a couple of fellow tourists I chatted with the first time I was there. They’ve been traveling to Barcelona and eating at El Quim for 10 years, and always order that dish. They also recommend ordering cava to go with it, even at 10am in the morning! Prices have gone up, it's quite pricey there for this dish (23 euros I think?) so be prepared to fork out before you sit down, even though it's in the middle of a market!
(10) El Vaso De Oro
Address: Baloboa, 6 (Barceloneta)
Hours: 9am-12mn (Tue-Sun). Closed on Mondays.
Info: Nice neighbourhood feel, IMO! Great to people watch old folks chilling, haha. Heard great stuff about the beef steak as well as foie. I've also been told to push my way through (can get crowded at dinner) and order chorizitos, patatas bravas, solomillo (cubed steak), oratun (tuna steak, which here comes spicy). Their foie gras is quite legendary too, apparently. They are also well-known for their beer on tap.
(11) Flax & Kale
Hours: 9.30am-11.30pm (Mon-Fri), 10am-11.30pm (Sat & Sun).
Info: Fancy new age hipster health food joint. Juices are really yummy, and despite the health food angle, food is too! Was pleasantly surprised by their salmon quinoa dish, and if you love yoghurt, granola bowls etc, you’ll probably love it too.
(12) Cal Boter
Hours: 9am-12nn, 1pm-4pm, 8pm-12mn (Mon-Sat). Closed on Sundays.
Info: I had the Ox Meat with Foie, and red wine. The wine is given in this old school decanter, which you’re supposed to pour directly into your mouth with this thin spout, looks a bit like those Si Chuan Eight Treasures Kung Fu tea thingies, except it’s for your own personal use and has a shorter spout hahaha. It was fun to drink from that! That said though, it’s a bit of a far trek, and in my opinion, I had trouble finishing the steak, cos too overwhelming with the foie gras cream sauce. Go early, or make reservations if you can, it can get quite packed. Creme Catalana was recommended by a friend for dessert, if you can manage!
Food Recommendations (from friends, that I wanted to try)
(13) Can Sole *
Address: Calle Sant Carles, 4, Barcelona
Hours: 1pm-4pm (Tue-Sun), 8pm-11pm (Tue-Thu), 8.30pm-11pm (Fri & Sat). Closed on Mondays.
Amanda Lum says: Best paella and best mussels pot EVER! The squid stuffed with prawns and mushrooms is a must try. Also, maybe the lobster and rice soup - basically a wet paella.
Joanne: Really good paella and you should try the fideuas (paella using noodles, pronounced fi-de-ous, I think). A little bit pricey though. Must make reservation, try and sit upstairs as it gets crowded and noisy downstairs. Ask for a little less salt and it would really be perfect. English menu available.
(14) Can Culleretes *
Hours: 1.30pm-4pm (Tue-Sun), 9pm-11pm (Tue-Sat). Closed on Mondays.
Joanne says: Die die must try. Our favourite. It’s really hard to find cos it’s tucked in some corner street in the midst of all the small lanes and shops. Must ask for “gambas all I oli” (prawns in olive oil and garlic), which can only be found in the Spanish menu - simply the best among the many we’ve tried. The “lechon” (suckling pig) and pica-pica (platter of seafood) is also really good. We also tried a wet version of paella, which was also yummy. English menu available but not as complete as the Spanish/ Catalan menus. House red was ok, but white was good.
(15) Bar Kiosko Pinotxo (La Boqueria) *
Hours: 7am-4pm (Mon-Sat)
Info: Joanne says:La Bouqueria is a really interesting market and Kiosko Pinotxo can be found right in front, at the entrance. It’s a little bar counter with great food and owned by a flamboyant old man. I read that one of the most famous chefs in Spain (cannot remember his name) goes there for his meals when he is in Barcelona. Good beef stew, jamon bocadillos and bikini (ham and cheese toasted sandwich – called bikini only in Barcelona). Breakfast and lunch only. No menu and staff do not speak English (but they understood the “beef stew”). Cheap, unless you have the prawns (gambas).
(16) Senyor Parellada *
Address: Calle Argenteria 37
Hours: 1pm-4pm, 8pm-11.30pm daily.
Joanne says: This restaurant is found at chic and RELATIVELY affordable Hotel Banys Oriental, where we stayed (hotel is highly recommended, if you ever need to find accommodation in Barcelona). We had grilled squid and pasta for starters and there were really good. The lamb (if you like lamb), duck are also highly recommended for main course. The people at the next table shared a giant pot of paella, which looked fanstastic! Prices are surprisingly reasonable, considering the setting and quality of food. That would explain the queues during dinner, especially on weekends, so make a reservation. English menu available and waiters can speak English and makes good recommendations, hooray!
Hours: 7am-1am (Sun-Fri), 7am-2am (Sat).
Zen says: Near Park Guell. Red sangria and the white were both good. Paella was really good. Clams, Crab balls and squid also recommended.
(18) Boadas Cocktails *
Hours: 12nn-2am (Mon-Thu), 12nn-3am (Fri & Sat). Closed on Sundays.
Zen says: Boadas is a little speakeasy bar, great for sun downers. Walk in and have a conversation with the bartenders to get your drinks - don’t refer to menu. A perfect spot if you enjoy unique cocktails, 8-12 euros per cocktail. Go in the day for a quiet drink or after 6 to catch a crowd. But you MUST sit at the bar.
(19) La Pepita *
Hours: 1pm-4.30pm (Tue-Sat), 7.30pm-1.30am (Mon-Sat). Closed on Sundays.
Samantha says: Golden Pepita (mini beef sandwich w grilled foie gras and fried egg), fried calamari w kimchi mayo, sea bass w spinach strawberries & basil, corn ice cream w popcorn & bourbon.
(20) La Flauta *
Hours: 7am-1am (Mon-Fri), 9am-1am (Sat). Closed on Sundays.
Audris says: Beef with foie gras, Mushroom with asparagus,foie fresco with raspberry sauce, the mussels with balsamic vinaigrette. For the daring, try the pasta that is topped by a cooked egg which is broken and mixed into the dish. Seems like it’s a touristy spot.
(21) Rocambolesc *
Address: La Rambla, 51-59, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Hours: 12nn-12.30am (Sun-Thu), 12nn-1am (Fri & Sat).
Info: From the creative genius of El Cellar de can Roca’s youngest brother, this is the Barcelona outlet of the original Rocambolesc in Girona. Think customisable ice-cream, and candyland! (El Cellar de Can Roca = 3-Michelin star restaurant in Girona, named World’s Best Restaurant in 2013, 2015, and is #3 in 2017!)
(22) Opera Samfaina *
Address: Basement of Rocambolesc (see above)
Hours: 1pm-1am daily.
Info: Stumbled upon this place when checking out Rocambolesc. Even if you aren’t going to eat here, ask to be let in to see the place – they’ll give you a RFID wristband that you scan if you order food. Lots of artworks, crazy out of this world décor, many of which are interactive, it’s kinda mindblowing. There’s one where they project cartoons and images onto the dinner table and plates, while you’re eating. Very showy, and looks fun! It’s put together with the guys behind El Cellar de can Roca too, so the food must be good – haven’t tried it yet, but I probably will on my next trip!
What to see & do in Barcelona
Barcelona sees millions of tourists every year: from beaches to architecture, it's breath-taking. Here are some of the recommendations on what to do when not stuffing your face with food. ;)
Tip: Purchase the T-10 card upon arrival in Barcelona. This card lets you take the public transport (bus/metro) within Barcelona, and is way cheaper than purchasing a single trip ticket. I usually end up walking lots, so a single T-10 card is more than enough to last me a 5-day trip in Barcelona - don't bother doing the touristy hop-on-hop-off buses, it's a pain to hustle through your day, and you almost always never get your money's worth!
Hours: 9am-6pm (Nov-Feb), 9am-7pm (Mar & Oct), 9am-8pm (Apr-Sep), 9am-2pm (Dec 25th & 26th, Jan 1st & 6th).
Info: Built almost 100 years ago, Antonio Gaudi was the architect and brilliant mind behind this massive structure. His plans were so grand, it STILL hasn't been completed! I don't know much about history and I'm not a very religious person, but standing in the church with the light shining in through the stained glass windows brought me such wonder and calm - I spent almost 2 hours exploring the grounds and just sitting to soak in the ambience. I'd suggest getting a audio-guide (you've already made it all the way there and paid up for the entrance, you might as well invest in an audio-guide so you can make head or tail of everything you see) and giving yourself time to explore the place. Attempt to climb the stairs only if you're not claustrophobic or afraid of heights - it can get quite stressful when going up and down... My knees were quite weak at the end of the attempt! Gorgeous views though, and quite worth the effort.
(2) Casa Batllo
Hours: 9am-9pm daily. Last entrance at 8pm.
Info: Another of Gaudi's efforts, it really reveals how colourful and quirky his mind was, and how far ahead of his time his designs were. Again, get the audio guide for the best experience, so you know exactly what to look out for!
(3) Park Guell
Address: 08024 Barcelona, Spain
Hours: 8.30am-6.30pm (01Jan-28Feb, 29Oct-31Dec), 8.30am-7pm (01Mar-25Mar), 8am-8.30pm (26Mar-30Apr, 28Aug-28Oct), 8am-9.30pm (01May-27Aug). Last entry 1hr before closing.
Info: A bit of a trek, but a beauty on a day with nice weather. Summer's probably a great time to go, as the flowers will be in bloom, but if not, the greenery and architecture around the park would be a great view too! You might find it difficult to take a great shot of the park though, it can get quite crowded with tourists!
(4) Temple of the Sacred Heart of Jesus @ Mount Tibidabo
Hours: 11am-7pm daily.
Info: Hop on the train, funicular and a bus to get up to Mount Tibidabo for a breath-taking view! It has a amusement park too, but I didn't go in (not even sure if it's still operating). Enter the church (Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor) for free, and pay to take the lift up to the terrace. I personally think it's worth the fee to take the lift up to the terrace on a clear day, because the views are honestly the best I've seen in Barcelona, as seen below.
So that's Barcelona in a (very big and long) nutshell. I hope you experience the beauty of it yourself, and get the chance to fall in love with it the way I have!
Should you know of any changes (closure, change in opening hours, shift in address) to any of the places I've mentioned, please drop a comment and I'll update this post with the accurate information. Muchas gracias, amigo!