The year-long warm climate, the incredible cultural diversity, and the world-class dining scene is what makes Barcelona one of the coolest cities in Europe.
Barcelona is iconic and contemporary all at once. The magical works of Gaudi add a distinct cultural identity and historic feel to the city, while the growing restaurant and nightlife scene attracts tourists from all around the world. A metropolitan city with long, sandy beaches, Barcelona is the perfect place for a sunny get-away.
Home to world-renown chefs Ferran and Albert Adria, Barcelona has quickly risen to become one of the best foodie destinations in the world. Along with traditional tapas and montaditos, you’ll find several ground breaking Michelin star awarded restaurants in Barcelona.
Whether you are looking for cultural musings, exploring the dining scene or just want to have a relaxed get-away, Barcelona is your city. Wonderfully diverse and equally exciting, Barcelona will not leave you disappointed.
Where to Stay
If you’re on a budget, the best way to find a good place to stay in Barcelona is through AirBnB. There are plenty of beautiful and centrally located apartments available for just a fraction of hotel costs. Waking up in the morning to go and grab a coffee at the corner café next to your apartment will make you feel much more included in the local lifestyle than sitting at yet another hotel breakfast buffet.
If you’re on a budget and looking for a good, affordable hotel, try Hotel Jazz located just near Placa Universidad. The hotel is clean, centrally located with just a 3-minute walk to Placa Cataluna, and has a roof terrace with a bar and swimming pool. When booked early enough, you’ll find a double room for just under 100EUR.
In the mood to splurge? Stay at the beautiful Grand Hotel Central located near the Gothic Quarter. The rooms are beautiful and the roof terrace overlooking the city has among the best views in town. The infinity pool is the perfect place to relax before hitting the city on a hot summer day. If you are looking to get away from the city center, the 5-star Gran Hotel La Florida is an oasis located on top of Mount Tibidabo. This “Leading Hotels of the World” boutique hotel has indoor and outdoor pools along with a beautiful sun deck and spa with view’s over the entire city.
Where to Eat
Up until a few years ago, the brunching trend had not yet reached Spain, where a breakfast normally consists of a cortado (similar to an espresso macchiato) and a croissant or pan de chocolate. In recent years we’ve seen more and more café’s picking up the trend resulting in the rise of some really great brunch locations in Barcelona.
Our absolute favorite is Flax & Kale, a “flexitarian” restaurant that focuses on plant based, healthy food. The menu is largely vegetarian but they do have some fish dishes too. Our favorites are their healthy pancakes, acai bowls and the avocado toast. They also offer a large selection of cold pressed juices and nut milks. Our favorite is the “virus killer”, a mix of pear, lemon, ginger, raw honey and Echinacea, a delicious health boost for the immune system.
Image source: Flax & Kale Facebook page
Caravelle, located in El Raval, is a small café with a nice brunch menu with everything from home toasted muesli with passion fruit yoghurt and berries to Moroccan-style baked eggs. Our personal favorite is the French toast with fresh strawberries and ice cream. Right next to Caravelle you’ll find small, lovely boutiques (check out La Variété and Nuovum) so the location is great if you plan to do some shopping or browsing afterwards.
Café Federal in the Gothic Quarter originates from Australia, where brunch is HUGE deal, and that also reflects in the menu. The interior is modern and really comfortable, which is a lovely contrast to the old gothic quarter. The menu consists of several exciting dishes such as shakshuka eggs (with tomato salsa, cumin and rocket) as well as toasted brioche with caramelized onion and sautéed mushrooms. You also have a nice variety of drinks, like fresh juices and protein shakes. Our favorite is the raw vegan smoothie made with almond milk, banana, honey and raw cocoa, but if you are in a mood to celebrate early, their Bloody Mary is great as well.
Looking to start your day off at the beach? Head to Makamaka Beach Burger Café or Surfhouse for a great brunch to start the day. Makamaka offers a large variety of burgers and is located at the entrance of Barceloneta. Also located on Barceloneta beach, Surfhouse offers a lovely, healthy breakfast and several fresh juices on their menu. They also organize activities on a weekly basis, ranging from paddle surf brunch to beach workouts, which are all combined with a delicious meal at their café. The concept is original and exciting, and adding a healthy, delicious meal to it makes it the perfect place to start and spend your morning.
For a quick coffee break, stop by Satans Coffee Corner or Nømad Coffee Lab and Shop in El Borne. For tea, make sure you go to the beautifully modern tea house and restaurant Artte. Have an artisanal coffee or a drink at the stylish concept store Wer-Haus on Carrer d’Arago. The store has 3 distinct spaces focusing on fashion, food and art and is the perfect place for a morning or afternoon hangout.
Equally cool but completely different in style is Espai Joliu. This “plant concept store” looks like a cute flower shop combined with a super cool café. We love their cozy and healthy brunch buffet.
Both lunch and dinner in Barcelona are enjoyed much later than in central Europe. A common time for a dinner is 2 or 3 PM and for dinner 9 or 10 PM. Naturally, nightlife in Barcelona also starts and ends much later than we might be used to. Most parties start after 1 am and end at 5 in the morning, where you’ll see flocks of young people running to the nearest bakery, which most likely just opened for the day, for a snack before heading home.
If you are not familiar with the Adria brothers yet, you are in for a treat. Albert and Ferran Adria are the masterminds behind the famous El Bulli restaurant, which is now closed but was for many years known as the best restaurant in the world. The brothers have since then decided to revolutionize the Barcelona dining scene by opening several high-quality, but moderately priced, restaurants all in one neighborhood, Barcelona’s off-the-path Poble Sec/Parallel area. Tickets Bar was the first one up. Tickets serves what can be described as molecular tapas. Each and every plate that comes your way revolutionizes the traditional tapas experience and takes it to a whole new level. The interior is circus themed, and your waiter takes you through an unforgettable journey of tastes during your evening at Tickets. The Michelin star awarded restaurant also has a “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” –themed dessert room where you can enjoy your equally creative and delicious desserts after your meal – actively ask to be moved there for your dessert serving, there isn’t enough space for all guests.
Similar to the Tickets concept, the Adria brothers run several other restaurants, including Mexican themed Hoja Santa and Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant Pakta, both equally highly recommended. Make sure you don’t miss to visit one of the Adria brothers’ restaurants while in Barcelona. A helpful tip: without reservation you rarely have a chance to get a table, and online reservations open up every night at midnight for 60 days from the day you want the booking.
While you are in Barcelona, don’t miss heading to Girona and the world famous El Celler de Can Roca. The three Michelin starred restaurant owned by the Roca brothers is constantly awarded Best Restaurant in the World awards and is, righteously so, an absolute bucket-list destination for any fine dining lover. We had their 14 course menu with a wine pairing and can easily say it was the best meal we’ve ever had.
Craving something more traditional? Head to the 3rd generation family-run Quimet & Quimet in Parallel or the newly opened sister bar Bodega Quimet in Gracia. You won’t be able to sit down to enjoy your meal in this tiny bodega, but the tapas are among the best in Barcelona.
Alternatively, head to stunning high-class food court El Nacional for great tapas in a beautifully modern setting. El Nacional is built as a big food market and consists of 4 different sections, one for fish, one for tapas, one for cocktails and one for cakes and dessert. The tapas are truly delicious and you are free to either order your meal from a waiter or grab one of the plates from the flying menu, with a waiter brining plates around and asking guests if they’d like to have what he is bringing. There’s also a beautiful oyster bar in the center of the space.
Looking for something small on the go? Head to Entrepanes Diaz for the best sandwiches in town. This small, traditional hidden gem offers a large variety of Catalan sandwiches and tapas. The options might overwhelm you at first but go for the calamari sandwich or the Antxon (with chorizo, poached egg & cheese) and your taste buds will thank you.
Entrepanes Diaz. Image source
Ready to start the night with a nice class of cava and a small snack? Xampanyeria is a small cava bar in Barceloneta where you get a bottle of cava for every 2 sandwiches purchased. This historic establishment-turned hipster hang has gained a lot of popularity throughout the past years so make sure to go early to secure a spot.
The best cocktail bar in Barcelona is without doubt Boca Chica located right above Boca Grande restaurant on Passatge de la Concepció just off Passeig de Gracia. This 4 story cocktail bar looks like a smaller version of The Great Gatsby party mansion. The chandeliers, the beautiful high ceilings and the furniture is perfectly combined for an unbeatable atmosphere. If there is one place you go for drinks – make sure this is it! Tip - check out the toilets on the bottom floor, at around mid-night it turns into a dancefloor with a DJ spinning records live.
If you are looking for a more casual drink head to newly opened brewery Ølgod in El Raval. Have one of their craft beers together with a mini burger.
La Dama is a newly opened restaurant on Diagonal Avenue. At the entrance you are received by a bell boy leading you inside and opening the door for you. The interior is just beautiful, decorated with vintage inspired furniture, the atmosphere takes you back to the 1950’s. We have not yet had the chance to try their food but we did taste several of their cocktails and each and every one was amazing. This place will soon become among the hippest in town – you read it here first!
Just 50m away from La Dama you’ll find the best nightclubs in town. The famous Sutton, Bling Bling and the latest addition Gatsby are all conveniently located on the same street. If you are a group of friends booking a table is recommended for the best experience. If you are seeking more alternative music and style, head either to Otto Zutz for great hiphop beats, or to RazzMatazz for crazy electro parties with crowds of students & the local alternative scene.
If you’re not in the mood to go all in and join Barcelona’s eccentric party scene, you can head to Mirabé on the foot of Mount Tibidabo for romantic drinks on one of the city’s most secluded terraces with a view over the entire city.
What to See and Do
If it is your first time in Barcelona, you absolutely must start by visiting the various works of Gaudi. If you are short on time, Sagrada Famillia, Parc Guell and his famous works along Passeig de Gracia are the can’t-miss spots. Afterwards, have a stroll through El Born and the Gothic Quarter and discover small boutiques and cafes. Later on pass by El Raval, located parallel to the famous, but equally touristic La Rambla. This once shady part of town now exudes alternative coolness, with cafes and shops around each corner. If you have some more time, make sure you head up to the top of Mount Tibidabo for unmatched views over the city and a rollercoaster ride in one of the world’s oldest theme parks.
If you are a football fan, get some tickets to an FC Barcelona match at the Camp Nou. Tickets to most games can be purchased for under 70euros on the official website so don’t buy tickets from un-official vendors outside the stadium or on other websites.
When in Barcelona, you can’t leave without visiting the seaside and, in summer, having a dip in the ocean along Europe’s nicest city beach. Barceloneta beach is beautiful but far too touristic and crowded to enjoy, so head to the MarBella or Icaria beach instead, just a 15 min walk or short bike ride in direction north, past the Port Olimpic.
Outdoor markets are quickly becoming a trend in Barcelona. If you are into flea or food markets, check out Van Van Market, Palo Alto Market or Lost & Found Market, where you’ll find food trucks, jewelry, clothes and much more. On a sunny day these markets are great spots to have a drink while browsing, with a lovely festival feel and a cool, sympathetic crowd
Caught in the rain and tired of visiting museums? Make sure to go to the Aire of Barcelona Spa and Hamam near Parc de Ciutadella for some rest and relaxation. If the weather is nice and you want an alternative to the busy beaches, go to the Olympic Pool of Barcelona, located on top of Montjuic. The pool was opened to the public after the Olympics in 1992. Although it is not very well taken care of (don’t expect anything too fancy, it is a public pool after wall), it offers unbeatable views over the city and almost no one knows about it – usually it feels almost too empty. Also nearby on Montjuic is a true hidden gem, the Montjuic Cemetery. This beautiful cemetery located on the slopes of Montjuic and facing the sea, was built with the help of architects, sculptors and other craftsmen, making it a piece of art within an unexpected location.
The surroundings of Barcelona are just as spectacular as the city itself, full of vineyards and coastal beach cities, it is the perfect starting point for a road trip through beautiful Cataluna. Visit the beach town of Sitges or take a wine yard tour with Brightside Tours in one of their cool restored minivans for an unforgettable ride along the coast, and a lovely wine tasting at an organic, family owned vineyard in Alella. For a real getaway for those who live in Barcelona or plan to spend a few weeks there: head out into the Catalan backlands towards Suria and pay a weekend visit to La Garriga de Castelladral – a family-run restored winery and olive oil Masia with spectacular views, beautiful details and hosts that make you feel like part of their family.
Alta Alella Winery. Image source
Barcelona offers endless opportunities for culture, fun and fine dining all together. We hope you enjoyed reading about our favorites. Have something to add? Let us know in the comments below! Have any questions or need specific advice – don’t hesitate reaching out. We’ve lived in the city for almost three years and consider it a second home.