Let’s try a different format. We thought while we were away: wouldn’t it be nice to have a list, in one location, of food, drink and day trip ideas. So rather than writing a day-by-day diary, we thought we would note down the best places to fill your boots (and where to walk in them!)
Tantarantana – Couldn’t recommend this place enough. Seriously. We’ve eaten enough in our time to know what good food is, and this place is outstanding. Nestled between Carrer d’en Tantarantana and Carrer de l’Allada-Vermell in the Born district, you should plant yourself in the square at 1pm, and genuinely try and eat everything on the menu. You will not be disappointed! Of particular note are the “Beluga” lentil salad, the dashed fried eggs with Jamon, the mushroom croquettes, the pan con tomate, the EVERYTHING. We’ve eaten in amazing restaurants but this place tops the charts. I think the cuisine is best described here as traditional small plates with a twist. Discovering this place was one of the highlights of our last trip – and the best news is it won’t blow the budget with extremely reasonable prices for the amazing quality of the food.
Bar Mut – This was the blowout meal from our first trip and we would recommend booking (they speak English so just give them a ring). We came back to eat the same things, and they were incredible. The staff will just order for you, make sure you get the papas fritas, the salad with the hidden cheese, and order an astonishing bottle of wine in dark and romantic settings. Rumour is there is a secret bar upstairs but we haven’t managed to discover it yet…
Bar la Plata – Tiny. Cheap. Sublime. These are the sort of words we would use to describe this place. With only four items on the menu, and unlabelled wine on tap, this is Tapas in the truest sense of the word, and a true BCN institution. Rock up here during a tapas bar crawl, and try and nab one of the tiny tables. Even with standing room, this place is elbow to elbow eating, drinking and talking. Order the fried fish (a specialty) and the fresh tomato salad. Order anything, you can’t go wrong! And enjoy your unlabelled wine out of tiny glasses. This is Spanish dining in its truest form!
La Vinya Del Senyor – Ok, this place is more of a wine bar, tucked away in the cute Plaza Santa Maria. The outside seating seems to mix with next doors, and the waiters from there will try to rope you in. STAY AWAY, and hold steady my friends, as you are destined for better things. And yes, the wine here is incredible – it would be impossible to pick a bad bottle or glass here; with over 300 wines to choose from you can be guaranteed you won’t end up with a headache-inducing cava or white wine masquerading as acid. However, the food here also happens to be standout, with a focus on well done traditional Spanish dishes. Slightly expensive but very worth it. Also in the Born district, and an excellent stop on a bar/tapas crawl.
La Paradeta – Apparently, there are now a few of these, but for us, the original restaurant slash canteen is behind the Museo del Born cultural centre where I lost my shoe. Queues can be long at peak times, so you can expect a 20+ minute wait. It is very much worth it. The menu is simple. You walk in. You point at the seafood you want. You indicate for the number of people. You pay, and do not get a say in how the fish is cooked. And you absolutely must wash your food down with some unlabelled white wine called Turbio. Dining revelations aside, you take your buzzer to one of the Formica topped tables and nervously pour yourself some wine, wondering what the hell you are doing. Your buzzer goes off. You approach the serving hatch, trembling (alcohol shakes) … and then you proceed to tuck into the most beautiful, fresh seafood. You can relax now… oh, and GET THE CALAMARI. I’m done now.
Euskal Etxea – Eat here on a tapas crawl. With an eye-watering display of pintxos, you can stand and gawp (and eat!) a wide selection of nearly 30 different small bites. It would be entirely feasible for you to make multiple trips here throughout your time in Barcelona, grabbing a few bites here and there, and always trying something new. While the croquettes are fantastic, the little tuna steaks on bread are beautiful, as are the tender little chicken skewers. Just remember to keep all your sticks for the end, which will put a surprisingly small dent in your wallet!
Suculent – This is a place where chefs go to eat. And what a menu they put on – this is a place to have a completely new tapas experience. The tasting menu that we had featured delicious items such as the steak tartare over grilled bone marrow, a glazed chicken comb canape, red prawn ceviche and the lobster, prawn and cuttlefish croquette. Book a table, ask to sit downstairs (slightly more atmospheric), and pick a tasting menu to get through. You won’t be disappointed.
Bobby Gin – Gin and tonic is BIG in Barcelona, and where better to try it than the brilliant Bobby Gin bar. It has a huge selection of gins and gin cocktails and goes beyond what you would expect from a traditional gin and tonic. The bar staff are very knowledgeable and happy to make recommendations as well. The tapas are also good – we went for the hummus which was great. Combined with dinner at Bar Mut this was a perfect evening in the Gracia district.
TIP: all gin and tonics are served as double measures, so whatever you do, don’t ask for a large one!
Harlem Jazz Club – We stumbled across this bar while wandering around Born and saw that they had live jazz on that night. The cover charge was about 9 euros and the band was excellent. Great if you fancy something a little bit different to the usual Barcelona clubs.
W hotel – We couldn’t write about Barcelona without including the W. It’s not our usual scene but it is a lovely hotel with a nice beach location, if a little out of the way. Drinks are pricey as you would expect but if you’re after a big night out, the W could be the place to head.
Hotel 1898 – A recent discovery from our last trip, and a recommendation from my cousin that lived in Barcelona, this is my new favourite rooftop bar in the city. Don’t let its location on Las Ramblas fool you, this is brilliant bar and not touristy at all. It has an amazing 360-degree view of the city and great cocktails. The hotel also has a rooftop pool and it looked so amazing it had us quickly checking the room prices to see if we could afford this one next time. (SPOILER: we can’t). We stopped here on the way to dinner and only wish we’d come a bit earlier so we could have stayed for another drink!
Pulitzer hotel – Another rooftop bar just down from Plaza Catalunya, it’s beautifully decorated with great cocktails and huge gin and tonics. The food is also good, but definitely not the cheapest place! (and not anywhere near as good a view as Hotel 1898)
Montserrat – Right. You are on holiday. You are eating and drinking like kings and queens. Why not go hiking in a thinly veiled attempt to stave off the weight, and enjoy the beautiful views while you are at it? So, bright and early in the morning, you take yourself off to the grand central station in Plaza Espana. When you work out what the correct entrance is to the station, you descend into the subterranean world and get the train headed out to Montserrat. It’s better to start this early for obvious reasons:
a. It’s going to get hot hot hot
b. It’s like a race. You have to beat the other hikers to the top. Everyone loves a bit of competition right?
It is worth noting that you can either get the cable car, or the “rack rail” up to the monastery (the hikes all start from there, no starting at the bottom of the mountain). We opted for the cable car, one hair raising journey in a metal box hanging off some tightly strung cable, barely missing the cliff faces as you ascend sharply. Bring lunch or buy a picnic once you are at the monastery and take it up the mountain with you. Nothing like having a scenic view when you eat!
There are lots of different trails you can hike, but we opted for the longest/hardest one that took us to the top of the mountain. Getting the funicular up there feels like a journey enough; setting off on your chosen hike you realise just how high up you are. Somehow, we took an hour detour and ended up a smaller peak. That besides, the hike was lovely, with scenic views on all sides… but none more so than on the top of the mountain when we eventually found it. It feels like you are on top of the world, and on a clear day you can see the sea and the rolling Spanish countryside.
Good luck on the way down too. It seemed much more knackering descending all the steps! A refreshing sugary drink at the end helped immensely, and we were left with a sense of accomplishment and a mild sugar high before enjoying the rest of the scenic views in the late afternoon.
A fair warning: the map they provide you isn’t as helpful as it suggests. Either the information isn’t as accurate as you want it to be, or we really missed something…
One of the reasons we chose Barcelona was its coast side location, but when it came to our beach day we decided to day trip over to Stiges, a beautiful town to the west of Barcelona. Despite being tiny, Stiges has 17 beaches, all of which are much nicer (and emptier!) than the ones in Barcelona itself. My cousin always recommended Stiges, and when we asked locals what beaches they would recommend, it was always a trip over to Stiges.
Stiges is SO easy to get to from Barcelona – I won’t go into all the details here because the handy website below has literally everything you need. We went from the Passeig de Gracia station, which took about 40 minutes in total. When you get there, leave some time to have a wander around the town if you can, there loads of gorgeous windy streets to explore. We walked along the beachfront for a bit so we could find somewhere a bit quieter and found a beach club area with deckchairs and umbrella (very important) and waiters to bring drinkers to us on the beach. Result. There was also a toilet to use that you didn’t have to pay extra for unlike some of the beaches on Stiges.
We had a blissful day relaxing on the beach, interspersed with occasional dips in the sea and trips to the bar. We really enjoyed it and it was lovely to get out of the city and explore another town. Next time I think we would plan to spend a night here to see the town properly (and there were some amazing looking restaurants to try…)
Touristy Bits and Bobs
Sagrada Familia – You can’t go to Barcelona without hearing about Gaudi. So much so, when I went with my family, we played a week-long drinking game of drinking every time someone said Gaudi (we’re not alcoholics, promise). For anyone that doesn’t know Gaudi is an architect with a very distinct style and much of his work dominates Barcelona, none more so than the incredible Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada Familia is one of the most well-known landmarks in Barcelona and you can’t go to Barcelona without paying it a visit, even if you don’t go inside. Construction for the Sagrada Familia started over 100 years ago, and Gaudi passed away 10 years after construction began. It is still being built, and is due to be completed in 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death. As you know, we are not big on churches or cathedrals in general (though the Sagrada Familia actually classifies as a temple), but this is an absolute must. The outside is amazing, and the inside even more so, filled with colours you have never seen in a temple. You can prebook tickets, which I highly recommend doing as the queues can get really long, especially in the summer.
The other of Gaudi’s masterpieces definitely worth visiting is Casa Batlló. It was redesigned in 1904 by Gaudi, and has since been refurbished. It really is something else, and worth a visit, especially if you liked Sagrada Familia. We would recommend the sunset tour, which comes with a glass of cava (of course we would)
Born is probably my favourite area of Barcelona, and most hotels are chosen on a basis of ‘how far is it to walk to Born?’ It is full of tiny streets to explore, coffee shops, gelato places, tapas restaurants and bars. I would highly recommend you take the time to explore this area, preferably stopping for drinks and a plate of tapas wherever takes your fancy. A great way to spend an afternoon. This is the place we tended to come for dinner and drinks the most, and the place we will always return to when in Barcelona.
Ok ok, we know this is SUPER touristy, but I’m such a child and I love things like this. I had originally come to this with my family years ago, and remembered having a great time, sipping frozen margaritas (that were literally frozen, it was a block of ice in a cup) and sitting in chairs getting drizzled on by the spray (which is why they’d been left empty until we arrived). Anyway, I was determined to drag Rob back to experience the magic.
As the name suggests, the foundations are magic, which means they are lit up to all different colours and change formation in time with the music. It is just up from Plaza Espanya and a nice place to wander round as well. In the summer the shows start at half 9 (pm), and are repeated every half hour or so. We got there just before 9:30 and the place was packed, and we grabbed ourselves a little patch on the ground. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the frozen margaritas so made do with a couple of beers (we found a few cocktail vendors but they were SO expensive – tourist prices indeed)
While not as spectacular as other similar shows you might see, certainly a good (free!) evening activity, especially with children.
While this probably isn’t top of my list of Barcelona must dos, we had a nice afternoon in Tibidabo and there is no doubt this is a place kids would love.
Tibidabo is the tallest mountain in the area, from which you get amazing views of the city (and to me it always makes me think of Friends… (“Years ago, when I was backpacking across Western Europe, I was just outside Barcelona, hiking in the foothills of mount Tibidabo…”)
Anyway, as well as great views, Tibidao has an amusement park perched on top of it, which is one of the oldest functioning funfairs in the world. We had a nice morning where we caught the tram up the hill, and stopped to eat some lunch in a restaurant with the most amazing views.
From there, we took the funicular up the hill, to arrive in the middle of the amusement park. Although we weren’t temped by any rides (especially one where a plane rotated around to float over the side of the mountain) there were some lovely views to admire, and you can also explore the church (Sagrat Cor church) which overlooks the whole city.
Gaudi this, Gaudi that, Gaudi hit me in the face with a whiffleball bat. The curve obsessed architect and closet absinthe drinker takes his hand to creating a park overlooking the city, and, as expected, knocks it out of the park if you’ll pardon the pun. Expect lots of trees, sloping curving walkways, colourful Gaudi elements, Gaudi style benches, Gaudi priced ice creams and bottles of water… you get the idea. Worth heading to for the panoramic views over the city.
Parc de la Ciutadella
Worth strolling around, or through, if you are in the vicinity of Born. Lots of fantastic moorish architecture and influences, and lots of wide green spaces and tree covered areas. There always seemed to be a lot going on here, regardless of the time of day, which made it lovely to walk through.
The colourful and possibly mad Argentinian artist Maxó Renella has a number of galleries slash shops in Barcelona – and the interior is a true glimpse into the mind of an eccentric artist. Hands leer at you from the ceiling. Pencils dangle like stalactites. A model train whizzes in circles above the shop. Remember: you are not in a magic shop in Diagon Alley – you are in a studio. Breathe. Now cast your eye over the tasteful “perspective” photos of Barcelona, and enjoy a sneak peak behind closed doors, shutters and walls of many iconic places dotted around this city. Let’s not talk about the sex art towards the back of the shop.