You’re going for the pan con tomate, Gaudi architecture, beach and fun-loving vibe.
Taxis Easy to get from the airport and available (no Uber though).
Subway system It is really easy to use, especially if you’re trying to head to La Barceloneta for some beach time.
Bikes The public bike system is only for local residents as they want to encourage tourists to rent bikes as the bike shops put up a fit when they public systems were first installed.
Walking Seeing Barcelona by foot is a great way to soak up the Gaudi architecture sprinkled throughout the city.
good to know
People eat late An early dinner will be around 10 and most people will be finishing meals around midnight, children included.
Best time to go May through September has fantastic (and hot) weather.
Local words A couple taught me how to say these basic words and here is the phonetic spelling.
Mole-bay: all good; Sears-plow: with pleasure
eats & drinks
Xurreia Trebol Churros are a specialty of Barcelona, which means you get to start the day with a cup of piping hot chocolate and sugar-coated fried dough barrels. We love this standing-room only spot located off of the main street, Passeig de Gracias, where the tail-end of the high-end shops are located, because it feels like you’re stepping into someone else’s morning routine: Families ordering large portions for the young ones, local store owners grabbing a couple to munch on while heading to work and university students giggling to themselves while scrolling through their phones. $ Gracia
Bar Bodega Quimet If you’ve read any other guide or received recommendations from friends, Quimet Y Quimet is most likely on that list (along with Las Ramblas). We prefer their smaller, cozier outpost with seating on a quiet street in Gracias for the local vibe/less touristy feel. On one dining experience, we sat next to a lovely retired American couple who were spending three months living in the area and said this was their hands-down favorite spot. Must tries: Start with the house vermut, the house-mixed plate filled with marinated anchovies, olives and everything else you want when starting a meal. Move on to the octopus and make sure to try the house-canned fish. $$ Gracia
La Cava The sister restaurant of La Pepita, it’s located around the corner from Bar Mut and has window seating, so you can look out on the street and people watch while sipping on cava and snacking on pan con tomate, olives and jamon iberico. It is great for a snack if you’re waiting for a table at La Pepita or Bar Mut. $$ Gracia
Bar Mut Fancier than other spots in the neighborhood, you definitely need a reservation or you’ll be looking at a one to two-hour wait or to be completely blocked at the door. The meat dishes, scallops, pan con tomate and patatas bravas are not to be missed. $$$ Gracia
La Pepita Sister restaurant to the a wine bar La Cava a couple doors down, La Pepita serves more updated tapas as well as some classics mixed in there. Try the garlic shrimp, asparagus with ginger, octopus and house-canned tuna — they also had some other house-canned ones that looked good. Funky and lively space, super casual. $$ Gracia
Goliard The restaurant offers tasting menu that’s very reasonable and fantastic. $$ Gracia
Gut The menu offers more of a Mediterranean flare with the goal of being casual and feeling healthy. $ Gracia
Santa Gula Salad lovers will enjoy this spot for small plates and healthy dishes. $ Gracia
Lo Pinyol An adorable tapas restaurant with vermut in the neighborhood. $$ Gracia
Ajoblanco A tapas/cocktail bar worth stopping by for a lively vibe and live music on some nights (check online). A little out of the way unless you’re in Gracia neighborhood. $$ Gracia-ish.
Tapeo A friend described this as the “Perfect place post shopping!” The fideo, a dish similar to Paella as it’s filled with fresh seafood but made with noodles, is supposed to be the dish to get. Stop by for lunch to revive yourself after shopping. $$ Born
Cal Pep One of the more famous seafood and tapas restaurants in Barcelona. Always crowded but worth visiting. $$$ Born
Bodega 1900 Ferran Adria’s younger brother Albert opened this slightly modern take on a classic tapas restaurant. Everything was delicious and high quality, but it feels less like a local restaurant and more like a fancy one trying to be casual. The spherical olives, a remnant from El Bulli, were pretty special though. $$$ Born
Cacao Sampaka A chocolate shop started by Albert Adria, who actually makes fantastic chocolates. $$ Born
La Paradeta One of our favorite restaurants in Barcelona. You wait in line, pick out your seafood at the counter, where the staff scoop it up and send it off to the kitchen to be cooked a la plancha or in marinara sauce. Fresh, flavorful and simple. Order wine or beer around the counter and sit until they call you and sit at one of the bare-boned tables. Great for groups, families or couples in the mood for delicious food in a casual setting. $$ Gothic
Boadas An old-school cocktail place on a tiny street called Tallers, just up from the market. It’s one of those cocktail places that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time and offers a pleasant respite from the craziness outside the door. $$ Gothic
Bar Canete Near Las Ramblas, this restaurant gets written up a lot. It is solid and good, but the press has raised the prices so there is that to consider. If you are in the neighborhood and hungry, definitely go, you will not be disappointed, but it is not somewhere to seek out. Great lamb skewers, anchovies, croquettes. $$ Gothic
El National On the cusp of Gracia but within walking distance of Las Ramblas, it is similar to an Eataly as it is set up with different restaurants inside a larger building. The structure itself has a rich history and gorgeous interior with good food but can be bit touristy. It’s open all day so it is a good resource if you’re hungry during siesta time when other places are closed. $$$ Gothic
Cafe Vienna Good for breakfast if you do not have it included in your stay. $$ Gothic
Flax & Kale The place to go for cold-pressed juices, smoothies and other healthy, flexitarian food. It’s part of the mini veggie-focused empire of chef Teresa Carles. Open for breakfast, lunch or dinner. $$ Gothic
Hotel 1898 bar The rooftop bar at the hotel offers unobstructed views of the city, a quiet respite from the busy Las Ramblas below and drinks and small plates to enjoy it all with. $$$ Gothic
Can Majo Great for fideo, tapas and paella by the beach. $$ la barceloneta
La Cova Fumada Inventor of the “potato bomb” as they claim, this establishment is tiny, old school and without fuss. $$ la barceloneta
Suquet de l’Amirall Serving good fish and rice dishes on an outdoor patio or inside, it’s a no-fuss restaurant with solid food in an otherwise busy area. $$ la barceloneta
Bar Tomas A good, pre-dinner stop for a beer or a glass of wine and the patatas bravas (a dish to definitely order). $$ la barceloneta
see & do
Park Guell This is an outdoor masterpiece of Gaudi’s that was originally built for private use and is now open to the public. The walk up the hill is steep and windy but worth seeing where more of the people of Barcelona live and finding small shops and markets along the way (otherwise, jump on the underground or take a cab/bus). Explore the park, making sure to take tons of photographs and soak up the panoramic views of the city and colorful and playful architecture. It will be crowded because everyone else has the same idea — there are some fun SnapChat filters though because of that.
Parc de la Ciutadella A beautiful park with a large pathway leading up to it, it is a wonderful place to run, picnic or relax. There are historic buildings inside the park, where you will find groups blowing large bubbles, as well as large grassy areas full of locals, especially on the weekends or after work in the summer.
Market de la Llibertat Smaller than the famous Las Ramblas market, this local spot includes a similar variety of vendors with less shouting at tourists and people crowding the alleys. In the mood for a niacin and energy boost? Stop at Juan Noi for some oysters as a break.
Abaceria Central Market Another covered market filled with food stalls and products, perfect for browsing and absorbing the local feel of the city.
Local Market This is more like a super market is located in the square off of Carrer de Verdi, one of the main streets in Gracia where you will find great local shops, cafes and bars. Squares are common in this part of town, where the street will open up into a large space littered with small outdoor cafes and plenty of seating area for you to sip a coffee, beer and munch on a snack. This market is a good stop for inexpensive fresh fruits, snacks and barrels of vermut. A liter is three Euro, which is a steal anyway you look at it. Buy a couple of oranges and you can make yourself a mid-day beverage at the beach, the park or the comfort of your room.
Boqueria/Las Ramblas Market Every person you have ever met who has been to Barcelona has probably told you to go to Las Ramblas. And you should. Once. The market itself is exciting and alive: full of small restaurants and all sorts of vendors to explore. I would go once, maybe twice, but I prefer some of the other smaller markets in the city. Pinxoto or Quim are the two of the famous/best ones.
Running There is a path above the beach to run on as the sand can be soft. There are also a few places to stretch by the water with bars and all sorts of exercise equipment in the center area.
Mount Tibidabo As mentioned in a Friends episdoe, it is a mountain overlooking Barcelona with an amusement park offering beautiful views of the city.
El Palauet Living More of an upscale bed and breakfast than a boutique hotel, the property offers a handful of two-bedroom suites that are ideal for two couples or families who want a low-key experience. Private entrances, fully stocked kitchens and butler service are only a few of the perks. The room amenities and design are modern while each suite offers a unique component, such as intricate and colorful glass windows that overlook Mount Tibadabo in the distance. $$$$ Gracia
Hotel 1898 A luxury boutique hotel located in the center of Las Ramblas. Rooms are spacious, comfortable and nice. A spa downstairs offers an indoor swimming pool with an outdoor rooftop pool available for hotel guests. $$$ Las Ramblas
Cotton House Even though it is owned by Marriott, the hotel evokes the original charm and design of the property with circular wrought-iron staircases, original flooring and a lush, plant-filled outdoor balcony where breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks are served. Rooms are modern with step-in showers and large windows. A small lap pool is on the roof with full-service attendants, aka, you can order drinks and snacks. (Pictured left) $$$ Eixample
Casa Bonay A hostel meets an Ace Hotel, Casa Bonay offers no frills or perks other than a dimly lit cafe and great location. A design-focused, low-cost hotel, it is ideal for people who like a nice aesthetic but are not ready to shell out dough for luxury to match it. $$ Eixample
Vermut Or Vermouth as Americans call it, is the drink to enjoy during the day over a glass of ice with an orange slice for red vermut and a lemon slice for white. It’s a refreshing fortified wine that’s also very alcoholic (in the best way possible). You can buy a liter for three Euro from wooden barrels in supermarkets in the Gracia neighborhood, which is well worth it if you are staying at an AirBnb or even if you just sit in the park and sip on some (something we may have done more than once). In restaurants, it’s served as an aperitif before lunch or even dinner and often with soda water to dilute it, if you wish. It’s not really a stand-alone drink to have after dinner or late at night, and you might get some looks to hurry up and finish your glass before the meal arrives.
Gracia Neighborhood It used to be separate from the city of Barcelona and was later absorbed in the 19th century as the city expanded, which is one reason why you’ll immediately notice the different feel and architecture of the city. Expect small, colorful walkways, intimate squares and a more residential vibe than the crowded, store-filled streets of the Gothic neighborhood.
La Barceloneta The beach area that stretches from the W hotel to the famous Hotel Arts and past it. The bit closer to the W is the nude section for both men and women. You’ll find people of all ages stretching in their birthday suits under the sun. Other than well-endowed men who like to peacock and strut their stuff up and down the beach, it’s pretty tame and respectful for the most part.
Born Characterized by windy streets and an artistic vibe, it is home to the Picasso museum, which is worth seeing if you are prepared to wait in line. There are lots of boutiques and shops from local dressmakers and artisans (at a really good price) as well as espadrilles at shockingly low prices.