Barcelona’s best restaurants… for all tastes & budgets
A dream destination for food-focused travellers, Barcelona boasts everything from fancy fine-dining restaurants to wallet-friendly tapas joints. After years of eating and vino-sipping his way around the city, local travel writer Ben Holbrook shares his personal recommendations on the very best of the best.
Fonda España: Best for… Contemporary Catalan Dining
Housed in the dazzling Hotel España, just off the iconic boulevard of Las Ramblas, this elegant restaurant is a feat of Catalan modernism and unquestionably one of the most beautiful dining rooms in Barcelona. The menu is the brainchild of Martín Berasategui (who also happens to own Barcelona’s only 3-Michelin-starred restaurant), and focuses on classic Catalan dishes elevated with modern touches. The quality is exceptional and the reasonably priced tasting menus offer the perfect opportunity to explore Catalonia’s glorious gastronomy.
Address: Sant Pau 9 -11, 08001 Barcelona. View on a map.
Blai 9: Best for… Barcelona on a Budget
Dining in Barcelona needn’t be expensive. There are plenty of great places to eat cheaply. But for budget bites and jovial vibes, be sure to head to the ever-bustling gastro neighbourhood of Poble-sec. Not only is it home to many of the Adria brothers’ legendary Michelin-starred restaurants, but it also harbours the hedonistic playground of Carrer Blai, a sprawling pedestrianised street lined with tapas bar after tapas bar.
Most specialise in pintxos, which are bite-sized beauties of delicious toppings spiked to a piece of bread with a toothpick. Keep an eye out for bars offering a “pintxo and a drink for 2€”. Blai 9 is a personal favourite and a great place to try more creative combinations.
Address: Carrer de Blai, 9, 08004 Barcelona. View on a map.
Disfrutar: Best for… Blowing the Budget
It’s no secret that Barcelona is a gastronomical utopia - a city teeming with Michelin-starred restaurants. They're all worthy of a visit, but Disfrutar is special in that it focuses on offering playful and imaginative takes on local dishes. It’s a bite into contemporary Catalan cooking from local chefs who have mastered their craft under the watchful eye of Ferran Adria at elBulli, the fabled restaurant that won the title of World’s Best no fewer than six times.
Tasting menus start at around 100€ per person and you can more or less double that figure if you order the wine-pairing menu too, which I wholeheartedly recommend. But if there’s one time to splurge, this is it!
Address: Carrer de Villarroel, 163, 08036 Barcelona. View on a map.
La Dama: Best for… a Long Lazy Lunch
The Spanish see it as their God-given right to enjoy their lunch, and hold it dearly as the most important meal of the day. Many children still go home to their families to eat, and even during a busy working day people will leave their jobs behind for at least an hour so they can indulge in a leisurely lunch. As a result, lunch in Barcelona is generally always a lazy affair, but for something extra slow and special, head to La Dama.
Occupying one of Barcelona’s most fantastical modernist buildings, the setting of this handsome restaurant is perfect for taking your time. The menu features all sorts of Mediterranean treats, with endless seafood and grilled meats to nibble your way through. The excellent wine list and homemade desserts provide another good excuse to loiter a while longer. Oh, and the cocktail bar is sure to add at least another hour on.
Address: Avinguda Diagonal, 423, 08008 Barcelona. View on a map.
Can Solé: Best for... Paella
Next to tapas, paella is undoubtedly Spain’s most famous dish. The huge demand for it, however, means there are far too many bad paellas being served in Barcelona. In fact, many local gourmands would advise against eating it at all, unless of course it’s cooked in someone’s home. But fear not, for there are a few establishments around that are revered for their rice-cooking prowess, and Can Solé is one of them.
Located in the historic fisherman’s quarter of Barceloneta, stumbling distance from the beach, this ancient locale has been perfecting its seafood and paellas since 1903. The key to their success? Nothing has changed. No modernising of dishes, no scrimping on quality or economising on portions. Try to get a seat by the open kitchen to see your food being cooked the old-fashioned way.
Address: Carrer de Sant Carles, 4, 08003 Barcelona. View on a map.
Bar Cañete: Best for... Tapas
White-coated waiters and pan-jostling cooks make for a theatrical dining experience at this historic tapas bar. Located near the city’s famous Boqueria food market, it’s all about traditional Catalan tapas made with quality seasonal ingredients. It’s simple stuff, made right in front of your very eyes. At least, it is if you sit at the bustling bar that overlooks the kitchen. Ask one of the regimental waiters for a few recommendations to start with and keep asking until you are satisfied. The same tactic can be applied to ordering wine, of which there is an endless selection from some of Spain’s best bodegas.
Address: Carrer de la Unió, 17, 08001 Barcelona. View on a map.
Market Santa Caterina: Best for... Market Bites
La Boqueria (just off Las Ramblas) is by far the most famous market in Barcelona. But truth be told, tourism has take a toll on it. Some brave (or extremely stubborn) locals do still shop there of course, but in general it’s become more of an attraction than a place to shop. Instead, locals head over to the colourful Santa Caterina Market in the Born barrio.
Its sinuous roof is covered with multicoloured tiles, reflecting the freshness and variety of the produce within. And, indeed, it is a true market-goers market, a place where the owners of the stalls still have a personal relationship with their customers. Take a tour and try a few samples before stopping off at the locals’ favourite Bar Sant Joan for giant sandwiches and some of the best bombas (spicy potato-meatballs) in Barcelona.
Address: Av. de Francesc Cambó, 16, 08003 Barcelona. View on a map.
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Ben Holbrook is a British travel and food writer and has been living the good life in Barcelona on and off since 2009. Check out his blog Driftwood Journals for more of his inside gastro guides and follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for daily travel inspiration.