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.

Bar Pinotxo

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

Pimentos de Padrón, tapas, BarcelonaPimentos de Padrón via Flickr (license)

Tickets

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

Tapas, 24

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.

Tapas, 24, C/Diputació 269

Tapas 24, BarcelonaTapas 24 via Flickr (license)

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 PlataC/de la Mercè 28

Cal Pep

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

Cal Pep, Tapas, BarcelonaCal Pep via Flickr (license)

El Xampanyet

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

Vaso de Oro, Tapas, BarcelonaVaso De Oro via Flickr (license)

Sensi Tapas

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

Dos Palillos

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.

Dos Palillos, C/d’elisabets 9

Pocket Rough Guide BarcelonaExplore more of Barcelona with the Pocket Rough Guide to BarcelonaCompare flightsbook hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.

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