When it comes to food, few cities can compete with Barcelona. From classic tapas spots to neighborhood natural wine bars and some of the best fine dining in the world, the Catalan capital has it all. And while eating in this city may not be as affordable as it once was (or as other parts of Spain still are, for that matter), there are enough fantastic restaurants for every budget and taste.
As long as you respect the local eating hours, which can be summarized as “late,” you are guaranteed never to go hungry. That means lunch is at 2pm, dinner is 9pm, and you probably should think twice before going anywhere that opens before 8pm. The city has also recently seen a boom in new restaurant openings, a lot of them taking over old tourist traps that have since closed. Meanwhile, an influx of international chefs and creative Catalans returning home have opened their own exciting spots that build on familiar Mediterranean recipes.
In short, Barcelona’s food scene has never been more fun. If you’re looking for some tips on how to make the most of it, along with a few great hotel recommendations, you’ve come to the right place.
If there’s one place you should prioritize while visiting Barcelona, it’s Besta. This newish restaurant on the traditionally less fashionable “left” side of the Eixample district mixes Galician and Catalonian influences on their constantly-changing menu. Packed with unconventional combinations using seasonal produce and fresh seafood—think white Mediterranean shrimp tartare with aged Galician beef carpaccio, and calamari with swiss chard and black pudding jus—everything here is both surprising and will make you immediately want to order it again. Round it all out with a gin and tonic (or two) made with their very own gin, which is distilled with algae and oysters for a cool, cucumbery (and only very slightly salty) finish.
The Sant Antoni district is the hottest neighborhood in Barcelona these days, and Benzina’s lively terrace is perhaps the center of the whole scene. The Catalan capital is more diverse and cosmopolitan than ever, and it really shows in newer restaurants like this one—with its British owner, Italian chef, playlist from the 70s and 80s, and the distinctly New York feel. The restaurant, which opened in 2018, serves unexpected takes on traditional Italian dishes (like eggplant parmigiana with parmesan ice cream or Sferamisu, a deconstructed spherical take on tiramisu), strong cocktails, and an excellent selection of Italian wine.
Between the fashionable location in El Borne, the well-dressed crowd, excellent lighting, and distressed wooden tables with bench seating, Fismuler kind of feels like a performance art studio that also happens to serve excellent food. The menu changes regularly, but staple favorites include the dorada tartare with almonds and grapes, the truffled escalopa with low-temperature egg yolk, and an ultra-gooey cheesecake that’s more cheesy than sweet. Take a seat in the light-filled dining room, or book well in advance to bag one of only six tables on the small outdoor terrace.
Going out for Japanese food in Barcelona used to mean one of two things: either you’d have to take out a bank loan to pay the bill, or you were stuck eating forgettable noodles and mediocre raw fish. Fast-forward to 2022 and the Japanese food scene in Barcelona has never been hotter, with El Japonés Escondido on the Borne-Barceloneta border being the top spot. Start with a steaming bowl of mussels served with a deliciously spicy, sticky sweet-chili sauce, before getting into the blue-fin tuna moriawase selection so silky smooth that you barely need to chew. Apart from incredibly fresh fish, what sets this place apart is the excellent service and a dining room that feels more like a late-night drinking joint than a restaurant.
CLASSIC SPANISH SPOTS
Located just off Passeig de Gràcia, Bar Mut is the kind of place that if you mention it to anyone who’s been, the response will invariably be “aaaaaah,” as they go all googly-eyed thinking about that excellent meal they had there. Bottles of wine line the walls in this classic, cramped bar with its high wooden stools and marble countertops, and you order whatever is on the chalkboard that day. While the specials change regularly, make sure to try the seasonal croquettes, steak with either mushrooms or foie gras (depending on the time of year), or the lobster in egg and brandy. They do take reservations, but if you get there on the earlier side, you can usually squeeze in before the crowds take over, or try your luck on the small patio.
photo credit: Sara Larsson
Betlem Miscelánea Gastronómica
Situated in a residential area on the quieter side of the Eixample, this tapas bar is the kind of neighborhood spot that everyone coming to Barcelona for the first time hopes to find, but seldom does. Everything here is delicious and affordable, the staff is friendly, and it’s just one of those places where you’ll want to spend as much time as possible. Grab a stool by the window indoors or watch the world go by at one of the outdoor tables, and order a few staples like fried calamari and Iberian jamón and croquettes. Betlem also serves creative specials like steak tartare with smoked eel and an omelet with black pudding and seasonal mushrooms, in case you feel like mixing things up.
Entrepanes Díaz in upper Eixample is a sandwich spot from the Bar Mut team where all the waiters are over the age of 50, wear pressed white dress shirts, waistcoats, and bow ties, and always take the time to get your order just right. Meanwhile, the sandwiches are pure joy, overflowing with classic Iberian ingredients like morcilla, tortilla, and squid. The juicy calamari baguette is the best in town, while the oxtail with spicy mayo, parmesan, and arugula is a fantastic meatier option. All of it, including the selection of tapas, makes for a great quick bite on your way back from Park Güell.
The mostly industrial seaside suburb of Badalona doesn’t get as much foot traffic from visitors as other parts of the city, but that’s just because more people haven’t heard of L’Estupendu. Literally translated as “the stupendous,” lunch here is just that. Think of this place as “beach casual,” with a spacious patio that overlooks the waterfront, and more seafood than you could ever eat in one sitting. Expect bowls overflowing with grilled mussels and clams à la marinière, along with huge portions of different paellas, like black rice with razor clams and crab. This is also a great place to sample fideuà: a uniquely Valencian and Catalan take on seafood paella, in which the rice is replaced by short, toasty noodles.
photo credit: Sara Larsson
Bodega Pasaje 1986
With Barcelona’s most famous chef brothers, Albert and Ferran Adrià, announcing the closure of their culinary empire, a number of new restaurants are ready to take over where they left off. Run by the former director of Albert Adrià’s legendary spot Tickets, Bodega Pasaje 1886 is an upscale bodega (or wine bar) that feels super casual. Located on the edge of the city in Plaza España, you’ll see everyone here from local elderly couples to visitors who have clearly seen every episode of Chef’s Table. They come for the elevated takes on Catalan dishes in the form of pig’s trotters with black pudding and mushrooms, roast chicken with raisins and pine nuts, or a simple seasonal tomato, cucumber, and onion salad, but often end up staying all afternoon sipping ice-cold beers on the sunny patio.
PERFECT FOR DATE NIGHT
Barcelona is home to a lot of very high-end restaurants, but the atmosphere at these places is far more casual than you would expect. Despite being one of the best restaurants in the world, you’d struggle to find a fine-dining spot more laid back and actually pleasant than Disfrutar. The three owners were each previously head chefs at elBulli, and they’ve brought all that expertise here, without any snobbishness. The dining room is bright and breezy, with an open kitchen and very friendly staff, and the food is exactly as spectacular as you would imagine. From the panchino (or bao bun) filled with beluga caviar to the “gazpacho sandwich” and the “beet that comes out of the land,” prepare to discover that what you see on your plate here is rarely what you taste in your mouth.
Denassus feels a bit like somewhere two sommeliers opened to hang out with friends on their days off. The Poble Sec wine bar is the kind of place where you might stop at for a quick drink on their patio and, before you know it, it’s 1am and you don’t know where the hours have gone or how many glasses you’ve had. And best of all, you won’t care. Come for the wide range of natural wines sourced from small organic producers, but stay for the equally impressive shared plates, like Peking duck croquettes and grilled leeks with citrus vinaigrette, along with a string of excellent daily specials.
Albé is what happens when a Lebanese restaurateur moves to Barcelona, falls in love with the produce, and starts combining Lebanese techniques with Catalan ingredients. Dishes include everything from smoked labneh with pita, to octopus with pomegranate reduction, and Iberian pork cheek over french toast and smoked sour cream. Albé is the perfect place for a daytime business lunch, when the dining room fills with natural light, but works too for a romantic dinner in a plant-filled, mood-lit setting.
It’s easy to see why Yubi has quickly become one of the hottest spots in town—everything from the Eixample location, to the gorgeous space filled with teal tiles and plush velvet sofas, to the excellent food, is done extremely well. The restaurant has two different places to eat: the Japanese ryokan-inspired dining room and a more informal tapas and cocktail bar. Both sides are great, but if you’re serious about your food (and we’re assuming you are if you’re reading this guide), the dining room is the place to be. Once you’ve had your fill of Japanese-French-Catalan bites like spring rolls filled with Catalan butifarra sausage, stop by the bar for a cocktail. We like the Osaka made with Japanese Roku gin, lychee, sugar, and egg white.
There are a lot of tasting menus to choose from in Barcelona, but one of our top picks is Caelis. You'll get to feast on rich dishes like cured egg yolk tart with caviar, or lobster and foie gras macaroni, all while being in one of the city’s most stylish hotels. Although the crowd and atmosphere can feel pretty formal, once all those businessmen reach the end of their wine pairing, the mood definitely starts to relax a bit. And since this is Barcelona, where fine dining is generally more laid-back and affordable than say, London or Paris, you can really go all out here on a 15-course meal plus a wine pairing for €158. Or, come at lunch when you can get the same exciting dishes on a three-course prix-fixe menu for €48.
GOOD FOR GROUPS
Nothing says Barcelona more than seafood paella on the beach, and nowhere does it better than Can Fisher. With a buzzing patio overlooking busy Bogatell Beach, this spot could easily be mistaken for a tourist trap, but, in reality, it’s the total opposite. Everyone comes here for the daily selection of grilled fresh fish and raw seafood, like oysters and red shrimp tartare, not to mention one of Barcelona’s finest selections of what locals call “arroces,” meaning rice dishes—or what you might call “paellas.” The service is impeccable, and they’ll even bring you wet wipes to clean your hands after you’ve finished your feast of anywhere from seven to 70 fishes.
photo credit: Sara Larsson
“Casa de menjars,” which roughly translates as “food house,” refers to an old-school style of Catalan restaurant that served traditional home-cooked food to the working class during breakfast and lunch. While the modern-day versions are more refined and stay open for dinner, their dedication to traditional recipes and high-quality ingredients is as fierce as ever. Maleducat is a great example of one with a short, concise menu of shared plates made from the finest local produce. Despite having opened in Sant Antoni only days before the start of the pandemic, Maleducat (Catalan for “rude” or “ill-mannered”) has quickly become known for hearty, classic dishes like Iberian ham croquettes and beef tendon stew, which we definitely recommend trying on their sidewalk patio (if you can get a spot).
Run by the team behind Bar Alegria, one of the oldest tapas bars in Barcelona, Casa Luz is a great place to kick off a night out with friends. The crowd here skews on the younger side, especially if you’re on the rooftop at sunset where you’ll see plenty of people wearing something by an up-and-coming local designer. The tapas options include a bright-red tomato tartare with smoked butter and a decadent truffled omelet, while the wine is mainly Catalan.
photo credit: Sara Larsson
Everything in Spain happens late, which is why the locals start their beach days with lunch before hitting the sand. Unlike the many tourist traps at the nearby beachfront, La Zorra in Sitges isn’t the kind of place you stumble upon by accident. You’ll most likely need a reservation weeks in advance, especially during summer weekends when the day-trippers come to town, but it’s worth it since they’re serving some of the best paella around—not just in Catalonia, but in Spain. The versions at La Zorra don't stick to traditions, so you can dig into a giant pan of seabass and Iberian ham paella or even one packed with crab meat, bottarga, and served with a whole spider crab on top.
Set in a beautifully renovated 19th-century building, Monument is the ideal hotel for those visiting Barcelona for one of two reasons: designer shopping or fine dining. With an address just off Passeig de Gràcia, the hotel attracts more than its fair share of fashion-minded visitors (Chanel, Gucci, and Hermès are all just a block away). Rooms are modern and spacious, but what really sets this hotel apart is the two, excellent onsite restaurants, Oria and Lasarte.
It might come as a surprise that a city set right on the beach barely has any waterfront hotels. Turns out rooms with sea views are in shockingly short supply and W Barcelona on the Barceloneta boardwalk is the only hotel in the city with private beach access. Add in three swimming pools, more than 50,000 square feet of outdoor space, an excellent spa and five bars and restaurants (including the great seafood restaurant, La Barra), and it is easy to see why this place remains a favorite—especially with the party crowd. Book a “Fabulous” room if you want to wake up to panoramic views of the beach and the Mediterranean.
Recent years have seen a boom in affordable boutique hotels in Barcelona. Located on the cusp of downtown El Borne and more residential Eixample, Yurbban Passage offers the best of both worlds: a quiet spot that still has most of the city’s main attractions within easy walking distance. Rooms feature hardwood floors and warm textiles, although the real draw here is the rooftop terrace with its infinity pool and some of the best views in the city. The dimly-lit spa is somewhere you can hang out and relax, while the top-floor rooms are worth booking for the added space and private terraces.
Set above a golf course and overlooking Sitges and the sea, this hotel with its multiple swimming pools and a spa is the perfect spot to unwind after a long day at the beach. The rooms are airy, the beds are especially comfortable, and the food at the on-site restaurant La Punta is consistently excellent.
If turning 19th-century mansions into charming boutique hotels were a sport, then Barcelona’s designers would be headed straight for the Olympics. This particular building dates back to 1856 and has been restored to maintain the original design features, like the colorful geometric floor tiles and sliding wooden doors that are typical of the Catalan Modernist design movement. Casa Bonay is a popular hangout with locals, with the Libertine cocktail bar, Bodega Bonay tapas bar, and Chiringuito rooftop bar, all on-site. The five Courtyard Large Terrace rooms offer private patios, hammocks, and outdoor showers.
Seventy Barcelona is somehow a hotel that's affordable (with rooms often around $150 a night), beautiful, and centrally located. Rooms are spacious, with comfy beds and great showers. The rooftop features sun loungers and a pool, while the ground-floor patio is perfect for an afternoon cocktail or even catching up on work. The location, right on the border of Eixample and Gràcia, is ideal if you want to experience a bit of everything, whether that's designer boutiques, museums, and architecture, or some of the best tapas bars and restaurants—like excellent Bar Mut, on the same block.