When you're out exploring all the best things to do in Barcelona, you're bound to get hungry. And when you're looking for tapas, you'll see menus boasting them just about everywhere you turn in the Catalan capital. The choice can be overwhelming, and nowhere else but Barcelona boasts tapas in such variety – but this can apply to quality as well as the dishes on offer. Here is our guide to the restaurants, cafés and bars serving the best mini-meals in Barcelona.
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22 great Barcelona tapas bars
Packed to the rafters with dusty bottles of wine, this classic but minuscule bar makes up for in tapas what it lacks in space. The specialities are 'conservas' (shellfish preserved in tins), which aren't always to non-Spanish tastes, but the 'montaditos' (sculpted tapas served on bread) are spectacular. Try salmon sashimi with cream cheese, honey and soy, or cod, passata and black olive pâté. Get there early for any chance of a surface on which to put your drink.
Polleria Fontana isn't just a common chicken eatery. It's also not that close to the Fontana metro station. Instead it's a tapas bar/restaurant between the Fontana and Joanic metro stations. Owner/chef Nil Ros and his team are committed to traditional Catalan cuisine and home-made dishes using his granny's recipes. Everything is made fresh, and we found both the classic dishes and the tapas were well executed. They even do paellas.
At this restaurant, Jordi Cruz (from Àbac) gives his idea of what a tapas bar should be. This includes his own versions of classic tapas, such as squid with citronella alioli, as well as dishes from Àbac like foie gras with figs, migas, and Sichuan pepper ice cream.
Think of it not as a trek to the less-than-central neighbourhood of Nou Barris, but as a quest; queues outside are testament to the great value of the tapas. On especially busy nights you'll be asked to take a number, supermarket-style. Waiters will advise first-timers to start with 'chocos' (tender battered squid rings), patatas bravas with alioli, 'llonganissa' sausage and 'tigres' (stuffed mussels). After that, the world is your oyster, cockle or clam.
Ex-financier Jaume Muedra has come home, and brought his mother's kitchen with him. He's set up a top-notch tapas bar featuring calamares, Russian salad, oxtail, fried fish... all first-class. It's a seaside tavern in Barceloneta with all the comforts of the 21st century.
This tavern frequented by those who work at or near the sea has got to be a favourite for hearty lunches in Barcelona. Among the iron-and-marble tables, you can get lunch specialities every day that will put hair on your chest: stewed garbanzos, 'capipota' and salted cod are just some of the stars on the menu. La Cova Fumada is said to be the birthplace of the spicy potato and mince meat 'bomba', and as Josep Maria tells us, it was here where, over 60 years ago, his grandmother Maria Pla invented this local delight.
It's worth getting to know Balius, a cocktail bar that specialises in top vermouth and cocktails made with vermouth, and when you're feeling peckish you can order from a repertoire of cured foods, tapas and small dishes that have their origins mainly in Aragon and Castilla. For example, the 'lomo de orza' is finely cut pork loin marinated with 'alioli' (garlic mayonnaise) and lemon, and the 'atascaburras' is a salted cod dish that has the fame of being mentioned in 'Don Quijote'.
The restaurant gets its name from a series of dishes from around the world that you'll find on the menu. For example, the fresh and fun tuna tataki with Asian aromas; octopus with Iberian 'tocino' (bacon fat) in thin slices, and saffron rouille sauce; or the skewer of Duroc pork and hummus with turmeric. Meats and fish, like the octopus, are cooked on the grill. If you love more typical tapas you'll also find cold tapas and the usual tinned accompaniments, along with croquettes, calamari and patatas bravas. And you'll find a good selection of meats that are smoked in-house.
El Cañota is a Galicia-inspired seafood tapas bar, and it comes with a pedigree. It's the younger brother of the renowned Rías de Galicia, one of the greatest Galician restaurants in the city and the country. El Cañota serves traditional dishes: fried fish and seafood, patatas bravas, Galician octopus, 'ensaladilla rusa', and draught beer and wine. All of it is top-quality, and served in a laid-back venue that's perfect for a celebratory meal, or for dinner after taking in a show at the Teatre Lliure, Mercat de les Flors or BTM, which are all nearby.
At the poetry-themed Pervers Taverna Poética, the menu arrives to you inside an actual envelope with 13 verses by the poet Eduard Sanahuja that synchronize your body and soul to best prepare you for the appetizers and cold or warm sandwiches on offer. Their ‘patatas bravas’ are called Stendhal and come with two sauces – a spicy red sofrito, and a mild black-garlic ‘alioli’ (garlic mayonnaise). You’ll also be surprised by a delicious spicy ‘sobrassada’ sausage sponge cake served with smoked sardines that’s a wonderful mix of flavours and textures.
Experienced in the world of taverns, Xanc and Meli apply the formula that makes their fish dishes such favourites to other culinary delights. The menu, while brief, is tasty and well executed: cod with garlic mousseline and ratatouille, cuttlefish with meatballs tinted with squid ink, tripe, and pea stew. In a world of bars dedicated to fried food, tataki, and ceviche, at Xanc i Melithey, they're big fans of dishes you can dig into with a spoon. For something sweet, try the gorgeous home-made tarte Tatin or the ‘tapones de Cadaqués’, which are little sponge cakes sprinkled with sugar.
This 'Bad Cat' bar with is one of the best-kept secrets in the Gràcia neighbourhood. Friendly prices, generosity when it comes to the tapas – you even get a free one with every drink you order – tall draught beers, huge G&Ts, a special warmth, and even a sense of humour. You won't be disappointed by the tapas and pintxos: they use top raw materials and everything is cooked just as it should be. Be sure to try the 'escalivada' with goat's cheese or the home-made ravioli.
Albert Adrià provides the brains behind this spot, and his restaurant Tickets is just across the road. You know that with an Adrià at the helm in the kitchen it's an innovative cuisine they're serving up, even though they try to be true to the flavours that dominated in local food from the early 20th century: the smoked, the salted, the grilled and the pickled. It's a pleasing trip to the past without leaving behind the modern mindset for the 21st-century palate.
From outside, this Galician bar might look like it's about to crumble down at any minute – in fact, the sign is falling apart, so you might never even think about crossing the threshold. But take the chance, and at the bar is where you'll find all the action. For one thing, you get a free tapa with your beer! Plus, you can sample dishes made from excellent products and brilliantly executed, including an out-of-this-world Galician octopus and a ridiculously fresh hake. You'll also be happy with dishes that are more Barcelona's versions of pub grub tapas, such as the Galician tripe, sow's ear, etc.
At chef Daniel Roca's Barra Alta you’ll find select yet affordable dishes such as pork, cod, and veal made into inspired recipes with just the right amount of inventiveness that won’t upset traditionalists or disappoint creatives. You also have the option to get bigger portions of your favourite dishes. The jewel in the crown is a surf ’n’ turf of ‘capipota’ with cod: confit of cod cheeks swimming in an extremely juicy sofrito nuanced by the contrast of saltiness with the marine and bovine jelly. It’s amazing, and you’ll have to order more bread to absorb every last tasty bit.
The three essential tapas at this emblematic bar with just six tables are the fried whole anchovies, the tomato salad, onion and olive salad, and the ‘pintxo’ of ‘morcilla’ sausage. We’ll add a fourth because we love it, and because, indeed, with this addition we’ll have presented the entire menu at La Plata: the gorgeous pintxo of simply the best anchovies around. They’ve been serving these same staples since 1945, making La Plata experts at what they do. Good service, good food, and good wine! Why fix it if it ain’t broke?
El Sopapu is about as traditional a tapas bar as you’re going to get. Have a seat at one of the four high tables and order some classics: beer, ‘patatas bravas’, a ‘bomba’ (a large breaded and fried ball of mashed potatoes with a meat centre), and ‘capipota’ (stew made of pork or veal with white beans and sausage). They pour a mean draught beer, and everything you order is prepared from scratch. El Sopapu is a tapas bar in Barceloneta staffed with people from Barceloneta and serving Barceloneta cuisine. It doesn’t get much more local than that.
Owner Ivan Castro has managed to make this into one of the most popular bars among the city's gastronomy lovers. What makes Mont Bar special is creative cooking – with inspiration and experimentation from the chef and Castro's wife, Ana Merino. What sets Mont Bar apart from gastrobars is that they really go all out with the recipes. The menu includes 25 items that you can consider separately, or put them together for an incredible tasting menu.
Xampanyet cava and vermouth help to wash down their simple but effective tapas. Lined with coloured tiles, barrels and antique curios, the bar, popular with both tourists and locals, chiefly functions as a little slice of Barcelona history, and has been in the hands of the same family since the 1930s.
It might sound like a cliché, but it's true: Vaso de Oro is one of the best places to get a draught beer in the entire city (the name translates to 'Glass of Gold'). This makes for quite a busy bar, where you have to fight just to get your elbow down to order, let alone stake out a spot. But join the struggle, as it's well worth it for the quality and variety of their beers. And their tapas – among them patatas bravas, anchovies, meatballs with cuttlefish – are a beer's best friends.
Not that long ago, Betlem was a corner store that helped train the palates of those who lived in the post-Olympics Eixample neighbourhood with a variety of products that showed that there was life outside big supermarkets or small shops stranded in time. With a well-accustomed clientele, Víctor Ferrer, a chef trained in great kitchens, made the logical decision to close the store and make it into a tapas and tasting bar called Betlem Miscel·lània Gastronòmica. For a time Barcelona was a place where tapas had all the flavour and texture of asphalt, but Betlem is a good example of the slow and exquisite transformation that happened here.
La Xula Taperia presents us with a high-spirited offering that Madrid's renowned for in the shape of a draught beer and a tapa – that's a free bite with each drink – and mixes it with creative cuisine. Their beers are poured to perfection, and their small and casual tapas are well-suited to their creative style. Examples include the tuna tataki and mustard tart, and the 'pringa' burrito made with Andalusian grilled beef, spinach and cheese.
Become an expert in patatas bravas
We dare to pick the best places in Barcelona to get this popular tapa of thickly cut and fried-to-perfection potatoes piled high and served with a spicy sauce. Purists will opt for recipes passed down from generation to generation, while many will discover new and innovative formulas that are just as delicious in their own right.