It’s tempting to say that there’s nowhere quite like Barcelona. As cool and hip as they come, this is Catalunya’s elegant and self-confident modern capital. It's no wonder, then, that the city is also one of the most exciting places to eat in Spain. From the Pocket Rough Guide to Barcelona, this is our pick of the best tapas bars in Barcelona, from traditional taverns to chic contemporary bars.
The best tapas bar in the best market is the Boqueria’s Pinotxo, no contest. The market’s most renowned refuelling stop – just inside the main entrance on the right – it attracts traders, chefs, tourists and celebs, who stand three deep at busy times. A coffee, a grilled sandwich and a glass of cava is the local breakfast of choice, or let the cheery staff steer you towards the tapas and daily specials (€5–15), anything from a slice of tortilla to fried baby squid.
Pinotxo, Mercat de la Boqueria, Ramblas 91
At this star-studded tapas bar by El Bulli-famed chef Ferran Adrià, amazingly inventive dishes (€5–20 each, expect to spend €70) mix impeccably sourced ingredients with sheer flights of fancy. Meanwhile in the adjacent and very sleek cocktail and oyster bar 41°, even more outré snacks and canapés are served. Reservations are hard to get, and are taken up to two months in advance.
Tickets, Av. Paral.lel 164
Carles Abellan, king of pared-down designer cuisine at his restaurant Comerç, 24, offers a simpler tapas menu at this retro basement bar-diner. There’s a reassuringly traditional feel that’s echoed in the menu – patatas bravas, Andalucian-style fried fish, bombas (meatballs), chorizo sausage and fried eggs. But the kitchen updates the classics too, so there’s also calamares romana (fried squid) dyed black with squid ink or a burger with foie gras. Most tapas dishes cost around €4 to €16. And there’s always a rush and bustle at meal times, so be aware that you might well have to queue.
Bar La Plata
A classic taste of stand-up snacks in the Old Town, with a marble tapas counter open to the street (anchovies are the speciality) and dirt-cheap wine straight from the barrel.
Bodega La Plata, C/de la Mercè 28
There’s no equal in town for off-the-boat and out-of-the- market tapas. You may have to queue, and prices are high for what’s effectively a bar meal (up to €60), but it’s definitely worth it for the likes of impeccably fried shrimp, grilled sea bass, Catalan sausage, or squid and chickpeas – all overseen by Pep himself, bustling up and down the counter.
Cal Pep, Pl. de les Olles 8
Step into this La Ribera institution for a glass of Catalan fizz and a bite or two before dinner. The traditional blue-tiled bar does a roaring trade in cava, cider and traditional tapas. The drinks are cheap and the tapas turn out to be rather pricey, but there’s usually a good buzz about the place.
El Xampanyet [no website], C/de Montcada 22
Vaso De Oro
An old favourite for stand-up tapas (€4–15) – there’s no menu, but order some thick slices of fried sausage, grilled shellfish and a dollop of tuna salad and you’ve touched all the bases. Unusually, they also brew their own beer, light and dark.
Vaso De Oro, C/Balboa 6
It's best to make reservations as this intimate space as it quickly fills with diners looking for tapas with an exotic spin. There are impeccably executed classics like buttery patatas bravas, but the stars of the show, such as the tender Iberian pork tataki, take their cues from further afield (€5–12).
Sensi Tapas, C/Ample 26
East meets west – and hipsters meet each other – in El Raval's cool asian fusion tapas bar. They offer à la carte dim sum in the front galley bar (steamed dumplings to grilled oysters and stir-fried prawns; average spend €30) and a back-room, counter-style Asian bar where tasting menus (€60, €70 and €85, reservations required) wade their way through the highlights.