A city on the beach, Barcelona is a buzzing metropolis, surf town, creative hub and everything between. From El Raval to Gràcia to the gothic quarter and beyond, each neighborhood offers something special. Beyond visiting icons like Gaudí’s Park Güell (we recommend buying tickets ahead of time and going at dusk) and La Sagrada Familia, there’s a lot going on in this vibrant city. From tapas bars to coffee spots and museums, we have listed some of our favorites here.
With two locations in Barcelona, Satan’s Coffee guarantees a good brew. Crafting high-quality drinks using Right Side coffee, the cafe also offers plenty of easy breakfasts and snacks—from Japanese-inspired kyabetsu teishoku rolls to omelettes, porridge and more. Grab a coffee and a sandwich and start your 30-minute walk to Fundació Joan Miró, past the iconic Camp Nou Stadium, and the grand staircase to the Palau Nacional.
Fundació Joan Miró
Sitting atop the Montjuïc hill, the Fundació Joan Miró is dedicated to the Barcelona-born artist and is a must-visit for art, architecture and design enthusiasts. From huge, colorful sculptures to the epic “Tapestry of the Fundació” to countless paintings and more, the museum offers gallery upon gallery of Miró’s works—along with pieces by other artists including Calder, Matisse, and more. The building itself, designed by architect and city planner Josep Lluís Sert, is worth taking a closer look at too. We recommend giving yourself plenty of time to visit, and take a walk through the surrounding parks and visit the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (if you’re not suffering from art fatigue)—where the stairs offer a glorious panoramic view of the city below.
When Ferran and Albert Adrià closed the doors to elBulli, the chefs (and brothers) celebrated over a decade of worldwide recognition. While Ferran focused on education and other projects, Albert turned his attention to building a small family of elBarri eateries in Barcelona—mostly in the Poble-Sec neighborhood near Plaça d’Espanya. Our pick of these is Tickets, a playful, theater/circus-decorated celebration of food and drink. The amusement theme isn’t too overbearing and does nothing to overshadow the exquisite dishes. You can order à la carte, but we recommend asking the waiter’s favorites. Highlights include the cherries with kimchi “frosting” and almond “pits,” which arrive at the table in a small bonsai pot with the fruits still attached to a tree. Their reconstituted olives may be the most savory treats you will ever eat, and the entire experience—from gastronomy tricks to the atmosphere—is something you will likely reference for decades to come. Make your reservations early, as getting a table can take a good three months of planning ahead.
Unassuming but wholly impressive, Bar Mut offers seasonal tapas, larger dishes and countless wines. With a focus on seafood, the kitchen serves dishes using super-fresh and seasonal produce—and it’s evident in the flavors. Just let your waiter know if there’s anything you don’t eat, and leave the rest to them. The interior is a cheerful mishmash of materials—marble, brass and timber—with touches of art deco and old-world decor. Depending on where you’re coming from, we suggest detouring past Gaudí’s masterpiece Casa Batlló (which is a 10-minute walk away) and then taking a seat outside in one of the window booths.
For those who want to be beachfront, it doesn’t get much closer than Hotel Arts—and it’s also only a 10-minute drive from La Sagrada Familia. While the views, service and pool (right next to Frank Gehry’s Golden Fish sculpture) at this lavish hotel are impressive, it’s the spa that truly stuns. Hidden away on the 43rd floor—some 490 feet (150 meters) above sea level—it’s an oasis with a view. Several saunas, steam rooms and hydrotherapy pools are just the beginning: there’s also a terrace to relax before or after your treatment. Spa staff discuss treatments at length before moving ahead, taking into consideration everything from your skin type to your mood. Not just for hotel guests, the spa also offers locals monthly memberships.
Bar de Pla
While Barcelona is littered with approachable tapas joints, Bar de Pla is not to be missed. It’s one of those bustling Barcelona not-so-secret venues that (either because of word-of-mouth or its placement at the elbow of an El Born alley) attracts visitors and locals. After work is especially busy as Catalans gather, but you can almost always find a spot to nudge your way in—even if that’s outside, drinking G&Ts or cold Estrella over a barrel. The staff is friendly, but in that casual way that doesn’t try too hard. And the food is simple yet extraordinary. We suggest trying their huevos revueltos over fried potatoes and either thinly sliced jamón ibérico or dark, salty Catalan sausage. Then there’s tender oxtail with foie gras, grilled octopus, squid ink croquettes, plump smoked coca (sardines) and patatas bravas, but it’s the octopus “bombas” that Bar De Pla is most famous for. The wine and vermouth list is extensive and global (they have a preference for natural and biodynamic varietals), which isn’t surprising for a Spanish bar run by four sommeliers, but their single malt whisky collection is a welcome surprise.
Several world-class cocktail emporiums have opened in Barcelona in the past decade, and one of our favorite spots is Hemingway Cocktail Bar in the central Eixample neighborhood. Don’t be put off by the generic name, this dark basement bar—with friendly bartenders eagerly standing by to diagnose your perfect concoction—is worth seeking out. The bartenders craft cocktails that are creative, made with the best ingredients and perfectly balanced. They also know how to put on a show: the Choke and Smoke features a dram of Glenmorangie in a transparent glass Hobbit pipe, smoke swirling in the chamber, with a bar of chocolate over the bowl. The idea is to sip out of the button, inhale the smoke and then take a bite out of the chocolate—slaking most of your vices in one cocktail.
Images courtesy of respective venues, hero image by Katie Olsen