La Sagrada Familia
In case you missed the updates, I went to Barcelona at the end of February for work! (For a conference where we launched one of the products I manage in my real-life job!)
In an incredibly fortuitous turn of events, it turned out that one of my friends had been living and working in Spain for a month (those consultant perks) and we were able to overlap during her last couple days in Barcelona. AND my other friend had a work trip to France around the same time and flew in the weekend beforehand to hang out. AND! Dan came to meet me after the conference was over, and we ate our way through Barcelona before heading to Sitges and Valencia for a few days (separate recap coming on that).
It was an incredibly fun and delicious trip. I didn’t realize that Barcelona is like the #2 most popular European city destination, but I can see why–you can structure your entire vacation around a steady stream of tapas, aimless walking to see the city, and obviously some Gaudi sites for culture. You can walk from La Rambla to Barceloneta (the beach) in 15 minutes and if the cab driver can’t understand your broken Spanish, pointing at a map always works. And everything is cheap(ish)!
Here is where I ate and my recommendations on what to do:
- Baluard Bakery Baluard 38-40 baixos: Recommended by our cooking class hosts, this was a cute little bakery near Barceloneta down the street from La Cova Fumada selling baguettes, fresh bread, pastries, small cakes and sandwiches. Their almond croissant was great. I would recommend them for a quick breakfast or lunch if you’re hanging around the beach.
- El Nacional Paseo de Gracia 24: This place generates a lot of buzz, but I would say go for a drink and people-watching rather than the food. You can order off a limited menu and wait to grab other items (like small servings of paella, patatas bravas, and Spanish tortillas) dim sum-style off of roving waiters. The sangria is delicious; the food is just okay. I’d recommend starting with a drink here and then moving next door to Tapas 24 for better food.
- El Xampanyet Carrer de Montcada, 22: I loved this place so much I went back twice (the friend who recommended it also went back twice when she was in Barcelona)! It’s extremely cramped and hectic with waiters squishing in between the tiny tables, short, crammed bar and tiny back kitchen serving up small plates of incredible tapas. Both times, we ordered the tuna belly over leeks (my favorite), this soft egg served over a bed of mashed potatoes with chorizo dish (for the meat eaters), the beef with peppers (for meat eaters), the house special anchovies and the cod omelet. The menu was initially given to us in Catalan and we couldn’t read any of it, so we just asked the waitress to bring us stuff based on words like “cod” or “octopus” and everything she brought was FANTASTIC. Not a relaxing atmosphere by any means, but great food and very cheap cava (Spanish sparkling wine).
- La Cova Fumada Calle Baluard, 56: Recommended by our cooking class hosts as well as some other guide I had read, we trekked over here at 10:30am on a Monday and were seated immediately in the rustic, no-frills, fairly empty restaurant. We tried going back on a Saturday morning around 11am and it was PACKED, so I recommend going on a weekday, or some obscure hour since the restaurant is tiny and the wait may be long. The house specialty is the bomba, a fried ball of mashed potatoes stuffed with meat which my friends tried, but what I loved were the meaty fried anchovies–crisply fried yet so flavorful inside–and the cod served in tomato sauce–falling-apart flaky in a super flavorful sauce. Not the best place for vegetarians as most of the menu options are meat or fish, but they do have grilled artichokes! This was one of my favorite seafood spots I went to.
- La Flauta Calle D’aribau, 23: This was by far the best quality to value spot that I visited (although El Xampanyet is a close second). We tried a tuna, egg and tomato flauta (sandwich on the tiniest, freshest baguette), a slice of foie gras, fried camembert, marinated anchovies, patatas bravas and two desserts (plus wine), and our total was €36. I had read a ton about Cerveseria Catalana before I went, but after comparing the menus, they look almost exactly the same except La Flauta has cheaper prices. Definitely recommend.
- Tapas 24 Calle Diputació, 269: The pescatarian options were relatively limited here, so we ended eating a lot of potatoes, but they were delicious so no one was mad about it. Patatas bravas, fried potatoes with a broken egg on top, fried hake (one of the favorite things I ate on the trip), peppers and some lentil stew. I wasn’t blown away by anything except the hake. The wine was also very reasonable-a bottle of red for just 12 euro.
- Tapeo Montcada, 29: This small, trendy tapas spot had a long line trailing down the alley when we went to El Xampanyet (they’re across the street from each other) for dinner on Thursday night around 8:30pm. However, when we stopped in for dinner on Friday close to 10pm, we were seated after just a 10 minute wait. We ate caramelized, butter-soft leeks served in pools of olive oil, a burrata salad that had an incredible half of a giant of burrata spilling out onto a small pile of vegetables. It’s a little pricey, but the cava sangria is DELICIOUS. The restaurant is small and best for couples, though I spotted a table of 5-6.
- Xurreria del Banys Nous Carrer dels Banys Nous, 8: Yes, those fat churros overflowing with chocolate or gooey dulce de leche may look PHENOMENAL, but they are listless from sitting at room temperature for hours. In my amateur opinion, eating churros fresh from the fryer is the ONLY way to eat them. I don’t think the place really matters as long as you’re getting them fresh. In Barcelona, we tried churros from The Chocolate Box and this Xurreria–the churros were definitely premade and rewarmed at the former, with a super super thick and glossy chocolate more reminiscent of pudding. I tried the plain churros twice at Xurreria (once with chocolate)–when they were cold, they were just meh, when they were hot, they were AMAZING! 1.20 for 5 churros with a scoop of sugar, 3.20 with chocolate. Check out this list for more churro places.
- La Fabrica multiple locations: One fateful night, I was the dictionary definition of h-a-n-g-r-y after a ~9 hour working shift. Shelby and I had grand plans to eat at this highly-rated restaurant but ended up ducking into this shop instead for a quick bite. They have a huge variety of flavors–you can choose meat, chicken, fish, vegan, vegetarian and cheese. We tried the tahini tofu, the spinach, eggplant, caprese and Shelby tried a chicken one. The eggplant one was GREAT, the others were not remarkable, but this is a good, quick vegetarian-friendly snack option.
Things to Do
- Barcelona Slow Travel Cooking Class: I sifted through a lot of reviews before settling on this class and I definitely recommend it. Cristina and Guillermo are AWESOME hosts with super interesting stories, and they will expertly guide you through whatever you make. (In my case, it was about 8 different tapas dishes.) I think they cap their classes at 8 people, so as with all cooking classes, it’s a great way to mingle with other visitors to Barcelona.
- La Sagrada Familia: 1) get the audioguide 2) they never checked my ID to confirm my student ticket.
- Park Guell: don’t forget to reserve tickets before you go! Go for sunset, or bring a snack and hang out and have a mini picnic.
- Shopping in Born: so many cute shops around this neighborhood near La Rambla, definitely worth lunch + an afternoon wander!
- La Boqueria: One of the most popular attraction in Barcelona, this market has fish vendors, fresh fruit, candy stalls, prepared food vendors, jamon hawkers, cheese stands, etc. I loved buying the €2 containers of fresh mango here, but I didn’t try eating at any of the mini restaurant stall counters. The empanadas I tried were meh and don’t buy touristy things like jamon here–you’ll find better-priced jamon basically anywhere else.
- Rent a bike near Barceloneta: I wish I had time to bike around the city, but alas I ran out of time. If you visit in the summer, definitely visit the beach. It looked gorgeous but it was way too cold to venture into the water when I was there.
- Do a tapas crawl through Barceloneta: there are so many amazing tapas places in Barcelona, but there is a strong concentration in Barceloneta. Order just one or two tapas and a drink at each spot and work your way up or down the peninsula! Spots that I had starred due to good reviews include: Jai-Ca, Segons Mercat, Restaurant Cheriff, Restaurante Montolio Can Mano, Restaurant Can Sole, Bar Electricitat, Cal Papi, Bar Bodega Jordi, KAIKU, and of course La Cova Fumada.