The best of Barcelona
They love to build in Barcelona. And when they get started, they don't hold back. The Catalans are passionate about style and facades and determined to hire the world's best architects to slap up the most incredibly buildings and even whole new districts.
“We want to create landmarks,” architect Jordi Puig says. “Big name architects from all round the world enter competitions to design a new building. The end result is something big, new and spectacular.”
And when it comes to food, the dishes are no less spectacular. Barcelona has 25 Michelin starred restaurants this year. What's more, 11 Barcelona restaurants have BIB Gourmand status and there are 72 Plate Michelin restaurants designating they serve good food.
“In Barcelona we have a culture that’s all about wanting to changing things, that things don't need to stay as they are,” Chef Jordi Vilà of the one Michelin starred Alkimia says.
It's no surprise that millions of travelers from all round the world fly here every year. The city is a feast for both the eyes and stomach.
The best restaurants
Blogger and founder of the Barcelona based food blog 7 Caníbales, Carmen Alcaraz, recommends the following restaurants:
The restaurant opened in 2014. They serve modern Mediterranean food. Did you know Disfrutar means 'to enjoy'?
Carrer Villarroel 163, Barcelona
This restaurant is located in the Mandarin Oriental hotel on one of the main city avenues Passeig de Gràcia. They serve tapas, lunch and dinner here. Chef Angel Léon is behind it. The restaurant has been awarded BIB Gourmand status and prices start at a comfortable 35 euro.
Passeig de Gràcia 38
This restaurant is also located in the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona. One of the most famous chefs in Spain, Carme Ruscalleda and her son Raül Balam, are responsible for the food. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and has also been newly renovated.
Passeig de Gràcia 38
This restaurant serves organic food and experiments with various raw food concepts. The restaurant has one star in the Michelin Guide. Pleasant prices.
Passatge de Marimón 5
This restaurant opened in 2001 and serves classic dishes based on local seasonal produce, naturally in a modern and appealing way. The restaurant has one star in the Michelin Guide.
Passatge de Marimón 9
Michelin star menu from 55 euro
The best restaurants definitely cost a bit. But you can also eat dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant that costs no more than ordering a salad and glass of wine in a café in Oslo. Every restaurant offers a so-called menú del día, or menu of the day at lunch time. This can include three to five dishes and wine, served from 13.00 to around 16.00, at a far lower price than the dinner menu available in the evening. For example, a menú del día at Alkimia costs from around 55 euro per person.
Ronda de Sant Antoni 41
Barcelona has a magnificent long beach. Naturally, there are plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants along the beach. In June, St John is also celebrated here with a festival and fireworks. Naturally, this is where we want to stay. Hotel W opened just a few years ago. The hotel is shaped like a sail and there were plenty of discussions before it was built, as many people argued the height of the building would ruin the sea views. Whatever your thoughts on the hotel, it has a fantastic location by the beach plus a rooftop outdoor pool with ocean view. Rooms from 470 euro per night.
Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents 1
If you're looking for a great location at a budget price, head to the four star Petit Palace. There is actually only one Petit Palace hotel in Barcelona, situated right on Las Ramblas, but it's so crowded here, it can feel as though you've been squeezed into a sardine can. Go for this branch in the elegant district of Eixample, a stone's throw from the designer stores on Passeig de Grácia. Spacious, excellently styled rooms, wonderful service and a good and healthy breakfast are yours from around 80 euro a night.
Carrer Roger Llúria 21
Casa Camper Barcelona
You might think Camper is boring enough to only make shoes. What we know is that this shoe brand has now opened hotels in Barcelona and Berlin. Their designer Ferran Amat has styled the hotel using the same color palette as the shoes, including plenty of red walls. The hotel is at the top of Raval. Ten years ago, this part of town was notorious for its high crime rate, but hipsters have since moved in and taken charge to ensure people can enjoy healthy food and cool interior design products. The hotel also houses the classic restaurant Dos Palillos with two stars in the Michelin Guide. It’s close to Plaça Catalunya from where you can take the train and bus to the airport.
Carrer d'Elisabets 11
You can’t avoid architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), the pride of Barcelona. His masterpiece, Sagrada Familia, remains unfinished but reports in the Spanish media suggest it will be completed in 2020. Casa Milá or La Pedrera (the stone quarry), was the home of industrial magnate Milà, and was the very last house Gaudí designed before he started on Sagrada Familia. They say there isn't a single straight line in the building. Milà's wife hated the building and moved away when she was widowed. There are numerous Gaudí buildings dotted around Barcelona. Scandinavian Traveler recommends booking tickets in advance, as long lines form early each morning. It can be a strain to stand in line in hot weather.
Tickets: From 15 euro, free entry for children up to 10.
Tickets: From 20 euro, student discount available. Free entry for children under six. The museum can also be visited in the evening.
Passeig de Gràcia 92
Bars – with views
It's never a problem finding places where you can drink cava or order a cocktail. Even so, we're happy to recommend a couple of places high up where you can see all the way to Madrid. Almost, at least. Museu Nacional d’art de Catalunya in Parc de Montjuïc on Plaça Espanya (metro of same name) has both a restaurant (Oleum with no fewer than two stars in the Michelin Guide) and a bar. The views are stunning. From 1 April to 31 October there's a light show in the famous fountains in Parc de Montjuïc, which can be worth watching as you relax with a glass of wine. Another option is to take the elevator up to the Skybar at Grand Central, perfect for lovers of extravagant surroundings and glamorous cocktails. And who doesn't?
Each district has its own market. Everyone has heard of Boquería. It's now become such a tourist trap it's difficult to make your way round it and where extremely generic coconut water and slices of fruit are sold in plastic cups. It's therefore also worth checking out Mercat Santa Caterina, that was refurbished a few years ago. Under the brightly colored undulating roof, you can buy pata negra from Guijuelo, cheese, fish, shellfish, cakes and candy. If you're hungry, there are several tapas bars and a large, modern restaurant. Mercat Sant Antoni first opened in 1882 and is currently being renovated. It’s scheduled to reopen at New Year 2017 and is bound to be worth a visit. This area used to be pretty dull, but in the last few years, many new restaurants and stores have opened.
Av. Francesc Cambó 16
Mercat de Sant Antoni
Carrer del Comte d'Urgell 1
There are plenty of large international chains and fashion houses here and many small stores have had to close their shutters in the last few years. Why not also support local stores with specialist expertise in their areas? There are many stores that date back to the telegraph age but are still very stylish.
L’Arca de l’Àvia is a family run vintage store in Born with carefully chosen dresses, jewelry and fabrics. Many of the dresses used in the movie Titanic were sourced here. And if you’re going to get married, you'll find a fantastic selection of nostalgic wedding dresses here. The store also restores old garments and fabrics.
Santa Eulalia has become something of an institution with 173 years of fashionable service behind it. In addition to stocking Spanish and international brands, they offer bespoke tailored dresses and suits. Even if you can't afford the prices, it's worth browsing the fantastic clothes sold here.
Vila Viniteca sells sherry, sparking cava and fine wines. Vila Viniteca opened its doors in 1932 and is one of the finest wine merchants in the city today.
Passeig de Gràcia 91 og Pau Casals 8/Kun for menn
The metro is simple, easy to navigate and takes you quickly all the way from the airport to the harbor (with a transfer along the way). You can buy a card for the length of your stay in Barcelona when you land at the airport, which will save both time and money. If you want to burn off your tapas calories you can rent a bike or rollerblades. Several areas have been made bike friendly, not least the boardwalk and Barcelona has had a bike sharing scheme for residents since 2007. You can rent these city bikes for short trips but they’re less advantageous if you want to go on longer rides around the city. If you do, we suggest Ajo Bike Rental in Raval that rents bikes on a daily or hourly basis, instead.
Text: Inga Ragnhild Holst