One of the best things about Barcelona is being able to grab a bite or a drink outside in a square or on a restaurant terrace. But what about during the colder months? Can you still enjoy people watching and a breath of crisp air? The answer is yes, and we'll tell you where you can have lunch or a nice vermouth and a snack when the winter sun is shining. We've also found some of the best-equipped spaces in the city where you can sit outside at night without catching your death of cold. Outdoor heaters and fellow outdoor types provide enough warmth to chase the chill away.
Daytime winter terraces
You don’t have to go to out to the countryside to have a calçotada. You don’t even have to go beyond Collserola. You just have to get to this restaurant, located near Carmel park. They have more than ten set menus, including a calçotada menu that includes endless calçots, barbecued meats, a drink, bread and dessert. Their terrace is raised a few metres above the pavement, and is shaded with umbrellas and hundred-year-old trees. At some point during the meal, someone is bound to say, 'It doesn’t even seem like we’re in Barcelona.' Whoever does, pays.
Located in a building constructed for the Internacional Exposition of 1929 that makes for an incomparable setting, this restaurant is an oasis of tranquility and nature. It’s so dreamy that you’ll want to write poems on the napkins and draw pictures on your electricity bills. They have set lunch menus, and they'll also do set dinner menus for groups. In winter, the café closes at 6pm. Just when the sun starts to set an everyone starts thinking about heading down to lower ground. And just when someone decides it's a good time to burst into song. Whoever does, pays.
Is there anything more unnatural than sitting on a terrace in February, when all they say about the warm Mediterranean climate seems like a bad joke? Well, go ahead and sit at this terrace and enjoy a nice summertime drink, the horchata. Seeing people sitting on the terrace of El Tío Che, located in the most traditional and beautiful part of the Rambla de Poblenou, one would think that climate change is a fallacy. It’s true that horchata is a state of mind, like summertime, or New York. Don’t think that they don’t serve less summery options here, they do. But going to El Tío Che and not having an horchata is like going to Italy and not eating pizza.
The Barceló Raval Hotel offers two terrace experiences. One is on the rooftop, located almost 80 metres above the ground, and offers 360-degree views of Barcelona. To call this aerial view of our fair city a skyline would be a bit pretentious. The other terrace is located on the ground floor, which opens onto Rambla del Raval and Plaça Manuel Vásques Montalbán, and belongs to BLounge, the hotel's bar, restaurant and club. The experience here is more ‘Raval-y’, so, by definition, less peaceful than you might find in other spots. Still, you can sip a cocktail surrounded by scenes that look like they're out of ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’
This place has an Italian air about it, and gets excellent midday sun. What’s more, it’s located in a small and protected square, creating a sort of microclimate. Unlike other spots in Barceloneta that have shed their seagoing identity to attract customers looking for the cheapest food, Filferro offers an excellent range of local cuisine. The bread is from the Baluard bakery, now a benchmark with both restaurants and locals. The restaurant’s ambience is what used to be described as ‘yuppie’, though now, what with the ravages of neo-liberalism, they seem more like an endangered species.
Another Barceloneta terrace, Can Ganassa's is in a well-protected square to keep out the winter cold. But this time, the products, the style and the service are everything you would imagine in this neighborhood. The waiters are welcoming and cheerful, just what you need at the end of a long, tiring day. The design here is defined by the very lack of it; unlike the atmosphere, which is great. Out on the terrace, the sun beats down hard at lunchtime, and the fact that it’s a bit far from the beaches, and that Passeig de Joan de Borbón hasn’t filled up yet, means that finding a table is not completely out of the question.
Jazz concerts, men playing dominoes and children running around everywhere. Families, party people with hangovers and women returning from the market. Aside from all this you'll find good things to eat and drink at the self-service bar. In the middle of the courtyard is a fountain surrounded by benches, while inside the building there are workshops, exhibitions and other activities traditionally associated with local community centres, which is what this is, after all.
Myths about this pub: there's nothing but tourists, covering the space with huge city maps and very little interest in anything to do with the locals; everything is way too expensive; the food is horrible; they’re always showing football on the TVs and playing nothing but U2 between the matches; at night there's no one but drunk women from Bradford celebrating a hen night; it's always too dark; when you leave, no matter what time it is, it always seems like you’re leaving an after-party. As with all myths, some are based on truth, but if there’s one place in Barcelona where myths can be debunked, it's at Flaherty's.
With no offense to the historians of the city, Plaça de Sant Pere is known to many as the Plaça of La Candela. This idyllic location, with its church, photogenic lamppost, and tiled street, is one of the prettiest corners of the neighbourhood. And, in the midst of this Barcelona diorama is the restaurant’s terrace. The food is a fusion, but very modest. They have a set lunch menu, but if you go at a popular hour, you’ll die of starvation before getting a table. That’s why we recommend you dine under the winter sun, read the paper, and most importantly ask yourself, 'Where in the world would I be better off than right here?'
Location is everything. And this classic of the Born district has one of the most coveted terraces in the city. That said, they've also got an enviable wine menu, with an ample selection of bottles and rivers of wines by the glass that they change up regularly. Their anchovy olives and 'longaniza' (spicy pork sausage) are magnificent. And even if you already know, we'll tell you again because you’ve probably walked past their terrace a thousand times and not been able to find a seat. So, when you look outside and it’s raining so hard that it seems like the end of days, don’t stay in. Run to this terrace, fast – because you won’t have a better chance to enjoy it. When the good weather comes, so do the groups of tourists, university students, wedding parties...
Night-time winter terraces
There’s something about a terrace that draws 'em in. If there’s no terrace, it's not like people stand around complaining it. But if there is a terrace, they'll queue up to get a seat. It's like the line, 'If you build it, they will come,' that the little girl keeps telling her dad in 'Field of Dreams'. Some time ago, the good folks at Claris decided to keep their terrace open during the winter months. The cover that keeps the heat in does block some of the view, but it ensures a cosy area where you can dine on their gastronomic offerings such as turbot with couscous, or eggs with potatoes and caviar. They also have a cocktail bar, and live music three times a week.
Its location makes Orio one of the most interesting eateries in Barcelona. Right on C/Ferran and with an open-air terrace on the Pas de l'Ensenyança, Orio is a tapas bar with designer pretensions. It belongs to the Sagardi group. Inside, the room is presided over by a huge rowing boat. Outside, the terrace has half a dozen tables with outdoor heaters, all of which help to give this narrow passageway a welcoming, cosy feel. Feast on the typically Basque tapas known as 'pintxos', or opt for a warming hot dish. It can be a bit expensive (it’s hard to get away with paying less than €20, even if you just have tapas), but sitting on a terrace that’s so much in demand gives you a certain caché.
The restaurant group Tragaluz took a few years to figure out what Lobo was going to be. It went through many changes in its structure, its concept and its food. Would it be a club upstairs? And would there be a DJ on the floor below? Maybe it could be an informal restaurant? A Japanese restaurant? Maybe a sort-of Japanese restaurant? While all this confusion was occurring inside, Lobo’s terrace became the civilised option in the small square, where it competes with its neighbouring terraces from Mirinda and Segarra. Very popular with tourists, Lobo's terrace wins extra points during the winter months for the comfort factor.
Sometimes, when you find yourself in the midst of winter, eating at this seafood restaurant that specialises in rice dishes, you feel like a Japanese soldier who, decades after WWII, continues to wander armed through the jungle, convinced that you still have an empire to defend. It’s winter, it’s cold out, and the ocean view from your table isn’t very appealing, romantic or refreshing. You’re imagining other people throughout the city eating lovely stews loaded with so many calories that they’ll be able to sit out on their balconies afterward in their T-shirts. But here you are, with your seafood paella, basking in the outdoor heating. It’s a lost battle, perhaps, but it’s also a sweet and delicious defeat.
This is a timeless classic, like Bob Dylan albums, John Ford films, and Evelyn Waugh novels. It’s a place you always have to take your friends when they visit Barcelona. And your mother-in-law, if you never want her to visit again. With its bohemian and meditative interior vibe, its terrace is a sociological study with metal tables. The kitchen not as ambitious as it is effective, you can get a dish for a fiver, and you can eat until 1am. We recommend you sit on the terrace at sunset, and watch the atmosphere change as the night goes on.
It won't be long before the sun never sets on Chef Carlos Abellán's empire, and a squirrel will be able to scamper from one of his places to the next without ever touching the floor. One of Abellán's most successful businesses is this tapas restaurant, right off Passeig de Gràcia. Its terrace, complete with heaters and protective wall, is one of the few spots you can eat outside without everyone on the street passing you thinking that you lost a bet. The 'bikini' (toasted ham and cheese) sandwich is delicious, the croquettes are out of this world and the prices are reasonable. Drivers stopped at the light will look at you with so much envy that you’ll feel happy to be you.
A restaurant in a garden, A Contraluz is beautiful and tasteful. The cuisine is Mediterranean and modern, but not at all intimidating. The ambience is a bit refined yet magnificent, filled with plants and other green zones. The place is so romantic that when the waitress comes to take your order, and you won't know whether to order the merluza a la naranja or drop to one knee and propose to her. The terrace is designed to be accessible year round without anyone losing any digits to frostbite. The outdoor space is covered and heated, an increasingly popular choice for local restaurants that don't want to suffer more losses than necessary among their smoking clientele.
For all Pere Calders fans – God has heard your prayers. The cul-de-sac named after the writer has recently become home to one of the loveliest spots in Sant Antoni. They have books by the Catalan author, the draught beer flows freely and there’s a selection of tapas that sends shivers of pleasure through the district. Obviously, the best thing to try is the vermouth. They stock four brands, but if you want to try a Priorat, then you should go for the one from Falset. Incidentally, the outdoor terrace is one of the district’s best kept secrets: You’ll just keep coming back.