Arriving in Barcelona without recommendations is an overwhelming experience: there's just too much to try and not enough time. So to avoid wandering around alleyways wracked with indecision, here are a few places to get you started with some amazing, traditional eating and some fine, low-key drinking.
Hotel Casa Fuster: This is a very old hotel with beautiful architecture, with a jazz club at night—if you don’t stay here, it’s a place you need to visit for sure just to take in the atmosphere. The director Pedro Almodovar shoots a lot of movies here.
Bar Mut: This place is very traditional Catalan. They focus on amazing produce, and that’s it. You’d go here to try the simplicity of Catalan food, nothing fancy. In particular, try their meat cooked Chinese-style in a clay pot - it's absolutely fantastic.
Cal Pep: Also a very traditional Barcelona hotspot that has been around for 20 or 30 years. Everything is fresh from the market that day, and the restaurant as a whole focuses much more on seafood rather than meat: clams, razor clams, calamari, etc. Everything gets thrown on the grill for a hot second and then is served very fresh - it's all amazing.
Bar Pinochio: Inside of La Boqueria. Very traditional, the kind of food that would be cooked at home. Here, I love to get the monjetes de botifara beans with blood sausage.
Tickets Bar: Opened by Albert Adria - brother of Ferran - this is one of the most inventive, exciting restaurant experiences in the world. Their tapas here are creative and just insanely delicious. One of the dishes I loved most was the toro tuna with iberico fat. Toro is already amazing, so imagine that with some juicy iberico fat!
Restaurante Pakta: Another Adria brothers venture, this Peruvian-Japanese spot will impress you with some incredible fusion and a depth of flavor that's hard to find anywhere else. Tasting menu style, totally worth the price.
Quimet & Quimet: Get the housemade vermouth and bar snacks like anchovies, oysters, jamon iberico and so on.
El Xampanyet: You come to this family-owned-since-the-1930s place to drink rose Cava and nibble on house-made marinated anchovies. Get a glass of wine mixed with water con gas or a limonata soda. It’s cheap, like 70 cents, so you can drink like 10 of those and get nice and drunk on the cheap.
Can Paixano (also called La Xampanyeria): Come here for Cava and a delicious sandwich of sausages or blood sausages off the wood fire (at 10pm!). It’s very cheap and a very good experience. It’s been around since 1969 in the Area Barceloneta (near Area Borne).
Tapas 24: This is a very nice place for tapas—very simple but fun to go to. Go and experience the ambience and say hello to chef Carles Abellan.
And I’ve saved the best for last. If you have time to spare, I highly recommend taking a quick 10-minute train outside of Barcelona to a small city called Granollers. Once you're there, head straight to Cala Sila, a very traditional restaurant that to me is one of the absolute best. Try all of the things, but in particular don't miss the suquete de beix (seafood stew) or the canelones - cannelonis filled with duck, oxtail, turkey, and more.
After a few days of indulging at some of these places, you'll be able to say you had a true Barcelona experience. Head home content, full, and with a nice, thick piece of jamon iberico.
Photo Credits: Lost and Found Cities, Cal Pep, Different Doors, A Recipe for Gluttony, Barcelona Book, Barcelona.com, Instagram / Carles Abellan
Cover Photo; Flickr/Joan Blarnes