I spent three rather blissful days in Barcelona last week, returning with some valuable advice for the city:
- Eating a big plate of bread and manchego cheese at midnight does indeed make tumblers full of whisky and 2 hours of sleep less awful before a 7am flight.
- Don’t drink shots of absinthe laced with tobasco. We didn’t. This saved us.
- Probably don’t go to the W Hotel Bar (despite the 26th floor view), unless you are partial to very loud (bad) Eurotrash music and men with sweaters tied over their shoulders.
Aside from these areas of avoidance, I do have some excellent tips on where to go. The places we visited were a mixture of tips/research before going, local recommendations (it’s handy to sit at a bar and befriend a bartender) and lovely places we stumbled upon. This resulted in no dud tapas, cheap cava and a few fabulous finds for shopping.
Most people I asked before going mentioned La Boqueria, the giant food market (just off La Rambla). It’s full of fish, meat, cheese, cured meat, fruit and vegetables, mixed in with tapas bars, with counters to perch and stop off for food.
|Mercat Santa Caterina|
|Mercat Santa Caterina|
It’s certainly big and bustling, but I would instead head for the Mercat Santa Caterina in El Born. It’s a smaller and quieter version (with less tourists), in the beautiful modern building with snaking, colourful tiled wavy roof. We had some of the best tapas here at La Torna.
This included a bowl of paprika speckled Pulpo Gallego (tender octopus with potatoes), beautifully shiny jamon iberico, grilled asparagus and meatballs in a great mushroom sauce.
|Bar del Pla|
|Bar del Pla|
Another place to head for tapas is Bar del Pla, where we had squidgy black (slightly scary looking, but delicious) squid ink croquettes and octopus bombs (a little like big, round croquettes, but with potato mixed in). Most tapas dishes in the city will come with a plate of Pan Con Tomate, the tomato and oil brushed bread. The pile at Bar del Pla was the best example – it’s always a little surprising how much flavour you can get with the right bread, oil and tomatoes that actually taste of something (far too many insipid kinds in the supermarket).
If you are near Sagrada Familia, or all the other Modernist buildings that I maybe saw (just a map and no signs is sometimes puzzling), Tossa is a good bet for lunch. Plates of smoky salty padron peppers, a fresh salt cod and tomato salad and tortilla revived us after a long walk in the sunshine.
For something sweet, I am being a little biased and picking places within five minutes of our hotel in El Born. But never mind, as they were so gorgeous. The first is Hofman Pastisseria, tucked down Carrer dels Flassaders. All manner of croissants (even stuffed with apricot and chocolate), pastries and exquisite chocolates (with a buttery/sugary smell of baking to convince you to buy anything). The cinnamon bun was the best I have had, flaky and sticky. Just up the road and round the corner on Carrer de la Princesa, also stop in the very old-school Pastisseria Brunells, for brown paper wrapped bars of chocolate to take home and addictive almond biscuits to munch then.
The trip involved lots of cava (even lots of very cheap cava). We went to El Raval one night, with Carrer de Joaquín Costa a spot for a little grungier bars (including slightly weird ones called Olimpic and Manchester).
On the other scale, the very classy Cocktail Bar Juanra Falces was perfect for expertly mixed drinks. It used to be called Gimlet (and is still referred to by most) – it would therefore be rude to not have one of the gin-laced namesake drinks. Another favourite was Disset 17 Graus, with the best brut Imperial cava we tried on the trip.
To offset the eating/drinking, the Picasso museum and Musuem of Contemporary Art (MACBA) are definitely worth a visit. We avoided La Rambla as much as we could – El Born was a brilliant area to stay in. Finally, don’t miss getting the furnicular up to Parc de Montjuïc, stopping off for a tea in the Miramar Hotel, with views over the city.
|Miramar Hotel Terrace|
|View from Montjuic|