BCNGuide

The Best Tapas Spots In Barcelona

Where to eat squid-ink croquettes, cult-status conservas, and beefy bombas in Catalonia’s capital.
Tapas and beer at Bar El Velódromo in Barcelona, Spain.

photo credit: Sara Larsson

The origin story of tapas, named after the Spanish word for lid, isn’t entirely clear. One of the more popular legends is that during the 13th century, barkeeps would put small slices of bread, ham, and cheese over customers’ drinks—like a lid—to keep the dust and flies out. No matter how they got their start, one thing just about everyone can agree on is how much fun a meal made from tons of tiny plates can be.

Today, tapas can be anything from simple bowls of olives in dive bars, to gourmet dishes in avant-garde restaurants. While you can still find staples like patatas bravas, tortilla, and deep-fried calamari rings, fewer places serve classics like chorizo, manchego, or figs wrapped in bacon. From the most historic haunts to trendy new hangouts, these are the best tapas bars in Barcelona.


THE SPOTS

photo credit: Sara Larsson

Tapas

El Born

$$$$Perfect For:Drinks & A Light BiteDay DrinkingCheap EatsPeople WatchingSmall Plates
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In the tourist-heavy, chronically overpriced El Born neighborhood, there aren’t a lot of bars like El Xampanyet left. Open for close to 100 years, it stays so busy that the scene often spills out onto the street, where locals happily mingle with out-of-towners. And a glass of cava will only set you back €2.

The baked potato is topped with tangy sobrassada and an aioli so garlicky you may worry nobody will want to speak to you after eating it, but it tastes so good you won’t care. This place is always packed, so get there just before they open at noon, and again at 7pm, to beat the crowds.


Don’t be fooled by the retro look of this place. The marble-topped counter and classic Catalan geometric floor tiles may mutter “old-man bar,” but the menu full of funky natural wine and seasonal plates couldn’t be more on trend. Try the crispy cocido, croquettes of meat stew, and show-stopping mushroom carpaccio with wasabi and strawberries.

One thing you won’t find at Bar del Pla is what locals might refer to as food for guiris, or tourists—things that Catalans wouldn’t order in a bar, like paella or sangria (the servers’ t-shirts that read “f**k sangria, drink natural wine” is a hint). Service is more efficient than affable, but you’re here to eat and drink, not make new friends.


Not much has changed at this classic bar since it opened in 1955—the vintage interior’s geometric floor tiles and mosaic-topped tables make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Jai-Ca’s home of Barceloneta was once a sleepy fisherman’s village and is now a beachfront neighborhood with tons of tourists. But locals also love this spot for giant plates of fried baby squid, chipirones (garlicky grilled scallops), and the bomba: a deep-fried potato ball filled with spicy ground beef that was born right in Barceloneta.


Quimet & Quimet is entirely dedicated to serving conservas—tinned produce, meat, and seafood with near mythical status in Spanish tapas bar culture—on slices of bread. They can everything themselves and serve it up as a small, open sandwich called a montadito.

Get there when they open at noon, and with a bit of luck, there won’t be a line outside. If you end up having to wait the thirty or so minutes to get in, it’ll be worth it to experience one of Barcelona's most classic tapas establishments. Once you’re in, jostle your way through the tiny, standing-room-only bar, where hundreds of bottles line the walls, to try ones like the famous salmon with Greek yogurt and truffle honey, the pickled Iberian pork cheek, or the foie gras with mushrooms and chestnuts.


To get into Cañete, you’ll undoubtedly have to wait in line for 30 minutes as people with sharp shoulders push by, saying they know so-and-so in a bid to skip to the front (don't worry, they’ll be told to wait just like everyone else). The hectic journey to that comfortable bar seat will be a distant memory once you’re devouring the red tuna tartare, grilled baby scallops, squid and white bean stew, and chicken cannelloni.

Nowhere in Barcelona rivals the sheer quality of this classic bar, and it’s priced accordingly—don’t expect this meal to be budget friendly (or quick, for that matter). When they ask if you want tomato bread, the answer should be a resounding “¡Sí!”. And while you're at it, order a local Catalan Montsant red or a Godello white from the north of Spain.


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? La Plata’s menu offers a choice of only four tapas: fried butifarra sausage, anchovies, tomato salad, and the star of the show, pescaditos—small fish, such as whitebait, breaded and fried.

Their predictable, tried-and-tested approach keeps this tiny bar perennially packed from morning ’til night, and locals continue to flock to La Plata despite its location on one of the most tourist-trodden alleyways in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. It’s one of few places in the Old Town that still reminds them of how things used to be—and what they used to cost (a beer is just €2.50, and the pescaditos are a steal at €3).


This beautiful Art Deco bar serves traditional Catalan specialties like cod with a ratatouille-like pisto (minus the eggplant), and our favorite: cheese-smothered macaroni gratin with roast chicken and pork. The croquettes are the house best seller—you can get squid ink or Iberian ham, but we like to order one of each. With just the right balance of creaminess and crispness, they’re some of the finest in the city and go great with unpasteurized beers directly from the Moritz Barcelona Factory.


At first glance, Mont Bar looks a little like your run-of-the-mill dive, with customers perched on stools at a bar overflowing with bottles and a giant fridge displaying assorted fishy treats. But look a bit closer and you’ll realize the guests are a surprisingly well-heeled bunch, the bar is topped with marble, and that’s actually fresh lobster in the fridge.

This spot does elevated takes on tapas, like clam soufflé and tuna belly with a pine-nut emulsion that you can order a la carte. If you want to go all in on the fine-dining experience, the tasting menu with a wine pairing is a sure bet.

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