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 it 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 to satisfy every budget - and taste.
In the wake of the pandemic, 2021 is shaping up to be quite the year for restaurants in Barcelona. With sustainability more en vogue than ever, fresh air and fresh food are the bottom line, as Barcelonians ditch dark, cramped bars for spacious, airy restaurants - preferably ones with outdoor seating - along with those utilizing seasonal, locally sourced produce. In short, 2021 is the year of fresco (Spanish for fresh), served al fresco. And if you’re looking for the top spots in Barcelona to do just that - along with a few great hotel recs - this is the guide for you.
If there’s one place you should prioritize while visiting Barcelona this summer, it’s Besta. This brand new restaurant on the traditionally less fashionable “left” side of the Eixample district may have opened amidst all the grimness of the pandemic, yet there is something truly joyful about the mix of Galician and Catalonian influences seen throughout the 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.
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 everything but. Everyone comes here for the daily selection of freshly grilled fish and raw seafood, like oysters and red shrimp tartare, not to mention one of Barcelona’s finest selection of what locals call “arroces,” meaning rice dishes - more commonly referred to by visitors as “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.
With Barcelona’s most famous chef brothers, Albert and Ferran Adrià (formerly of elBulli), 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 distinctly casual and neighborhood-y. Set on the edge of the city in Plaza España, you’ll see everyone here from local elderly couples to visitors who clearly rewatched every episode of Chef’s Table during the pandemic. They come for the elevated takes on Catalan dishes with everything from pig’s trotters with black pudding and mushrooms, to 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.
Much like every Spanish vegan’s favorite lunch spot, Honest Greens, Fismuler also started in Madrid before making its way to Barcelona. Between the fashionable location in El Borne, the incredibly well-dressed crowd, excellent lighting, and distressed wooden tables with bench seating, it kind of feels like a performance art studio that also happens to serve rather excellent food. The menu changes regularly, but staple favorites include the tartare of gilt-head bream (or dorada) with almonds and grapes, the truffled Wiener schnitzel or escalopa with low-temperature egg yolk, and an ultra-gooey cheesecake that’s more cheesy than sweet and will make you want to order a second round to go. 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.
Located just off Passeig de Gràcia, Bar Mut is a well-known and beloved destination for wine and good food: 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 one dish they had there. Bottles of wine line the walls in this classic, usually cramped bar with its high wooden stools and marble countertops, typical of the early 20th-century Catalan Modernist movement. Order whatever is on the chalkboard, and 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.
The Sant Antoni district is the hottest neighborhood in Barcelona these days and nowhere is that truer than on Benzina’s lively terrace. The Catalan capital is more diverse and cosmopolitan than ever and it really shows in new restaurants like this one - with its British owner, Italian chef, music harking back to the 70s and 80s, and distinctly New York feel. The restaurant, which opened in 2018, attracts a loyal following that can’t get enough of its 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. What more could you possibly want?
Barcelona is home to a lot of very high-end restaurants, but what sets the city apart from the likes of, say, Paris or London, is that the atmosphere at these places is far more casual than you would expect. Despite being ranked as 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, but without the 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 seldom what you taste in your mouth.
Situated in a residential area on the quieter side of the Eixample, this chill 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 the steak tartare with smoked eel and an omelet with black pudding and seasonal mushrooms, in case you feel like mixing things up.
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.
Sartoria Panatieri has two locations, one in Gràcia and the other in Eixample, but we prefer the more central Eixample outpost, set in a converted industrial space with a leafy patio. Their pizza dough is made with hand-milled flour, and covered in a mix of organic, seasonal, and mostly local ingredients, before getting baked in a wood-fired oven. But the main reason to come here is the homemade selection of artisanal cheese and charcuteries, the latter of which uses Gascón pork from a nearby farm. You might think a sausage is a sausage, no matter how fancy the pig, but the meats here will really have you debating trying to smuggle a few links back home in your luggage.
Summer in Barcelona is notoriously hot and muggy and, when the streets reach a boiling point, there are two solutions: hit the beach or visit a rooftop bar. Fortunately, the city has plenty of the latter, including this one located atop Barcelona’s newest luxury hotel in the midst of the busy Gothic Quarter. Besides having some of the city’s best views of the Old Town and Barcelona Cathedral, this place also hosts live DJs, serves a mix of salads and dishes straight off the barbecue, and makes really solid cocktails. If you’re looking for somewhere to go for a romantic night away from the crowds, or just want to take advantage of their bottomless mimosa brunch high above the city, keep this place in mind.
“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 welcome people well into the evening, 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 hip 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 deep-fried artichokes and macaroni stuffed with hare, which we definitely recommend trying on their sidewalk patio (if you can get a spot).
Denassus feels a bit like somewhere two sommeliers might open to hang out with friends on their days off. Which is exactly what this spot in Poble Sec is. It’s the kind of wine bar 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 almonds and citrus vinaigrette, along with a string of equally excellent daily specials.
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 Barcelona’s glamorous 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 are Oria and Lasarte, the two excellent, award-winning Spanish restaurants on-site. Book your stay here.
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 three swimming pools, more than 50,000 square feet of outdoor space, an excellent spa and five bars and restaurants (including the superb 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. Book your stay here.
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 designed for a bit of relaxation with whoever you’re traveling with, while the top-floor premium rooms are worth booking for the added space and private terraces. Book your stay here.
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 painstakingly 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 and feature in most of the guest rooms. Casa Bonay is a popular hangout with trendy 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. Book your stay here.
A new arrival on the hotel scene, Seventy Barcelona offers an unbeatable combination of affordable accommodation and gorgeous aesthetics in a central location. 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 the sophisticated Eixample and more bohemian Gràcia districts is ideal for visitors looking to experience a bit of everything, from designer boutiques, museums, and architecture, to some of the best artisanal stores, tapas bars, and restaurants - like excellent Bar Mut, on the same block. Book your stay here.