Eating well with your feet in the sand is possible in Barcelona and along the whole county coastline, especially now that we've travelled from Castelldefels to Montgat in search of the best urban beach bars, or 'xiringuitos'.
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This xiringuito with decor inspired by Easter Island is the perfect place to imagine that the Mediterranean is really in the Pacific, and that the small lapping of waves you might find here are really giant crashing tubes ideal for surfing the day away. On the menu you'll find healthy options (nothing is fried) and a generous cocktail selection. Vai Moana is also one of the few places to have a menu specifically designed for children, with choices like macaroni and mini hamburgers, because Bogatell beach is popular with families. The spot is frequented by happy and sporty types who don't suffer the mundanities of life, like whether their bathing suit is filled with sand.
Getting away from the mob that invades Barcelona every summer and exploring a bit outside the city is always a good idea. And it can be as easy and as simple as booking a table at the always-terrific Kauai located on Gavà beach. This is a great place to get quality tapas and drinks in cheerful and friendly surroundings. When you're ordering off the menu, don't forget the skewers! Take the kids, your partner, your in-laws, a group of friends... Or even dare to spice up a date: a swim after dinner on a practically deserted beach ought to do the trick.
At the bottom of the W Hotel, surrounded by sculpted bodies, giant burgers, cocktails of impossible colours and gastronomic guilty pleasures, you can kick off your shoes on the shore and daydream as you stare at the horizon, while the harmonies of the Beach Boys waft out on a summer breeze from the inside dining room. This fantastic xiringuito has found the perfect forumula: gourmet burgers – veal, wagyu, Iberian pork and more – and original cocktails and satisfying smoothies.
Barracuda isn't strictly a xiringuito but rather a restaurant on the beach that boasts a fantastic terrace with sea views. In fact, the lovely and wide stretch of beach at Castelldefels is the antithesis of the always-packed Barcelona beaches, and is perfect for a dip in the water before lunch or dinner. Specialities are stellar rice dishes and paellas from chef Xavier Pellicer (also of Barraca and Céleri), fresh fish, and local and organic products. If you go by car, you can leave it in the car park at the Playafels hotel.
One idea is to get a bicycle and follow the bike lane from Plaça d'Espanya all the way to this little oasis in Prat de Llobregat, where you can reward yourself with a plunge in the sea and a cold beer along with, for example, an 'ensaladilla rusa' (Russian salad) and a plate of hummus – the perfect plan for a warm summer morning. Don't limit yourself to the daylight hours, though. At night this xiringuito's offerings are also quite the temptation, and you can kick back with a few drinks until three in the morning, along with a bit of live music or a quality DJ session.
The outskirts of Barcelona boast such attractive gastronomical offerings as this xiringuito in El Prat de Llobregat, where you'll also find restaurants that we love: from Ona Nuit where they use only local raw materials to the pizzas at Can Pizza. Duna attracts local hipsters and residents who've lived in the area forever, and on the menu they've got sandwiches, tapas, Saturday sessions with vermouth and music, and a selection of set menus for groups, such as the paella set menu for just €20 per person. At night you could come across DJ sessions or stand-up comedians (who you just might understand after a couple of cocktails).
This favourite spot is on the beach in Barcelona's Poblenou district to let the world know that a xiringuito is much more than a sandy spot where they just serve greasy pork sandwiches to silicone-stuffed bikinis and hairy-chested beefcake. Xiringuito Escribà is the classy joint that serves high-quality rice dishes, fresh fish and other seafood tapas (the grilled seafood platter is divine), along with other interesting items such as the delicious seafood 'bombas'.
Embracing a modern-day concept of a xiringuito, Pez Vela is the place someone in Denmark might be imagining when they say dreamily, 'How about Barcelona?' on a winter's day under a grey Copenhagen sky. Beach, glamour, a terrace with sea views, that indescribable light at sunset, and a feeling between elegant and informal, which is a nice way to think about how the rest of the world sees Barcelona. Plus you can eat really well, with sophisticated and modern cuisine using traditional Barcelona recipes. Try the grilled fish of the day, any day.
At Donzella Beach Club in Badalona you can have a tapas-based dinner for the same price as a juice, a beer and six slices of manchego cheese in Barceloneta – a fact we've proven empirically to be true. So it's worth your while to reserve a table at this charming xiringuito that specialises in palleas for lunch, and features a tapas menu at night. Be sure to order the fisherman's-choice fish of the day, the Andalusian-style squid, and the 'ous estrellats' egg dish, to go with the cocktail of your choice, if you're so inclined.
This xiringuito inspired by California beach life is the perfect spot for locals to forget that Barcelona is Barcelona and not Los Angeles, and that they don't work for the post office and that they don't want to leave it all behind and live their lives surfing the waves of the Pacific. Once locals and visitors alike have settled in and left the bustle of city life behind, you can appreciate your surroundings, have a look at the menu, order a healthy salad and a smoothie, or nachos, a burrito or veggie burger, and even take part in any of the numerous activities they organise. That includes paddle surfing for 45 minutes for free!
A place on the beach in Barcelona that has 'English breakfast' as its first menu item is a place where you'll immediately feel at home, and a place that seems to know exactly what you need. Note there are also French and Norwegian breakfasts, so everyone's covered. There's also a 'Juice made with great care' among their fresh juices, a cheese plate and cold cuts, octopus, salads, burgers (including veggie), and stranger temptations such as a sangria with strawberry and lychee, Jägermeister, a breakfast option called 'Bhudda bowl', and anchovies in vinegar. You're welcome even in your plastic flip-flops and covered in sand.
Be Gay is a gay xiringuito, where heteros are always welcome, located on the nudist part of the Mar Bella beach, where you also won't be looked at sideways if you show up in a bathing suit. That's the personality of a xiringuito where a bunch of guys who don't know what body fat is drink protein shakes with burgers, salads or sandwiches while someone else walks up wearing nothing but a sunburn to order a couple of beers to take away. Delectable.
If you think the Barcelona bar aesthetic trend of somewhere between retro and modern can't be exported to a 'xiringuito', you're mistaken. At La Deliciosa, a little oasis of Mediterranean cuisine in a beach bar, you'll find a wall with cement tiles (fake, of course), wooden fruit crates (also not authentic), and an air of vintage decor made of plasterboard that sooner or later will fall out of fashion. Sandwiches, hamburgers, juices, tapas, and ice cream feature at this xiringuito that also takes its name from the past: the part of the beach where it stands was once called La Deliciosa as well.
This all-terrain xiringuito is pure versatility, and the kind of place you imagine lyricists are writing about in songs of holidays by the seaside. Mojitos are served up with the frequency of glasses of cold water on a hot summer's day at the beach; at night after a session of dancing to tunes with DJ Frank Nicolás, the fun-loving head into the sea to cool off; there's a guest magician performing from time to time; and it's full of good vibes and people looking to have a great time with friends old and new. And that's just at night. Daytime at Dolce Vita is pretty cool as well.
Removed from such concepts as 'beach life' is one of the best xiringuitos on the Barcelona coast. At Ca la Paquita you can eat very well indeed, something that's known about the spot by locals in the area and many well-informed Barcelona residents and visitors. Their secret is top-quality raw materials, from Guijuelo ham to shrimp, sardines, and anchovies, as well as popular menu items like the 'ous estrellats' egg dish and patatas bravas. And lest we forget, it's also down to the charisma of Paquita and her daughter Eloísa.
And a few inland xiringuitos...
Xiringuito Aigua is one of the city's perfect spots to have a vermouth at midday, eat breakfast at the weekend, meet for a coffee or lunch during the week, or have a few beers in the afternoon. Far from the horror that can be the Barcelona centre in the summer, here you're surrounded by vegetation, a man-made lake and the feeling that you've escaped the city crowds for a while.
Those who visited La Caseta del Migdia before it went all mainstream always treat everyone else with the typical condescension of music fans who say 'only the first album was any good'. But they also know that this xiringuito on Montjuïc, where they serve grilled meat and regrettable mojitos, hasn't lost a speck of its charm over the years.
'Off Barcelona' you'll find this inland indie xiringuito with lovely sea views, where they also host a good number of cultural activities during the summer, from live music to open-air cinema. Their notable cuisine made with local produce also makes the trip worth it.