There's a saying in Spanish that translates roughly to 'Small house, big heart', and the owners of Casa Xica (which means Small House in Catalan), Marc and Raquel must have very big hearts indeed. The easiest way to describe what they do is to call it fusion cooking. But that term has become so overused, and in their case it's more of a compilation of tastes they've learned in faraway lands with their own touch added to tempt even the fussiest of diners. Take, for example, the tabbouleh: it's delicious, healthy, made from local ingredients and enhanced with fish practically taken right from the sea. Casa Xica provides that little push you might need on your date to make the all-important first move.
Kenia Nakamura and Anna Peray go hand in hand in this welcoming space where 'kaiseki' rules. This Japanese cooking concept varies throughout the year depending on the season and you’ll find the essence of the product on every plate. The pair have developed a harmonious menu, one that is thoughtful, aesthetic, ceremonial, and stripped of any pretentions. It’s not only a gastronomic project but a life project.
Passing by El Pla you'll see that it's a romantic spot by definition. As you make your way amid the dark and narrow streets of the Barri Gòtic, the scene is being set for your arrival into this restaurant with exquisite low light and an informal yet elegant decor that pairs perfectly with the cuisine. The wines and desserts also go well with the starters and mains, and they're outstanding. El Pla has been open for two decades now, and the work of chef Andrew Smith has lifted it to an especially sweet spot, with dishes charged with flavour and creativity, like the grilled carrot carpaccio withelderflower and horseradish.
It's great for lunch, sure, but dinner at Le Cucine Mandarosso with a friend or family member might be a bit strange. Because the ambience emanates an intangible intimate and cosy quality that's just right for a romantic date. It's all subtle, casual, with retro furniture, and products and books on the shelves that line the walls. Plus the Italian cuisine itself raises the bar on sensuality. If your dinner date still isn't clear on your intentions, Le Cucine will help you out in that capacity. A word of warning (or advice): the burrata cheese can make you lose all your inhibitions.
In the game of seduction and coupling, the element of surprise and a certain blast of excitement can mark a turning point in a relationship. You could meet your partner at the door wearing just sexy underwear and a rose between your teeth. But inviting your sweetheart to a restaurant inside the tower of a funicular could win you even more points, given that it's a frivolous whimsy of sorts in itself. This is when you're ready to bring out all the heavy artillery to say: 'I'm starving, but I'll sell a kidney for you to have a stunning meal.'
The Grup Confitería have reopened the old Beltxenea (a Basque restaurant that once stood on the same spot and closed in 2012) and renamed it Rilke. Decadent romanticism sticks to the place like syphilis to Baudelaire: it's a stately building that dates back to the early 20th century, boasting an imperial dining room with views of the interior courtyard that's presided over by a Venus de Milo, a fountain with lions, and exquisitely dense vegetation. You sit down with a glass of burgundy, sigh, and have the feeling that any minute a character out of 'Madame Bovary' will appear. If the person you're wooing has goth or ethereal leanings, ask for a table in front of the garden and recite Baudelaire's 'A Carcass' to them. And what the hell, if they're not a goth or a weirdo, the amazing dishes that come out of Rafa Peña's kitchen will win them over nonetheless.
Over the years, Osmosis has established itself as a place for affordable, creative and excellent cuisine – a fine-tuned machine when it comes to set menus made with immaculate products. Osmosis is among the ‘bistronomics’ restaurants that popped up around the city a few years back. A fairly minimalist interior where all the focus is on good food and service, and at reasonable prices. Osmosis is a laid-back place with lots of little nooks and crannies and private rooms for small groups or couples. The lunchtime menu is perfect for closing a deal without subsequent indigestion, and for romantic dinners.
More than a decade back, an old neighbourhood pork shop transformed into this eatery with a modernist aesthetic, old photos on the walls and small, softly lit spaces. After a good dinner of select cured meats, cheeses, fondue, salad, and plenty of wine, you'll only be able to think of one way to burn off all those calories. They've got dishes that can raise the dead, so you know Recasens will spark more than one flame.
For the views alone, Marea Alta has become practically a first-class tourist attraction. Up on the 24th floor of the Colón building, diners get a sensational, unprecedented 360-degree view of the city. They also take a panoramic view of the marine products they use, with what director Enrique Valentín calls 'a simple and at the same time difficult idea': high-quality fish and seafood from the best suppliers from around Spain and served raw, smoked, marinated and grilled. Shellfish is a known aphrodisiac; add to that some great views and the object of your desire will be yours, whether it's someone you want to get to know better or you're rekindling the fire with your longtime love.
This is one of the few Barcelona Noucentisme (early-20th-century Catalan movement that started as a reaction against Modernisme) buildings where you’re welcome all day. Fragments Cafè owes its good taste, perfectionism, and knowledge to Ricardo Feriche and Juliet Pomés, who spend a lot of time searching for spaces where people can relax and enjoy themselves. In this spirit they set up this delightful place, perfect for bon vivants, where their lighting work stands out – with the warmth of the natural light by day and the just-the-right tone at night.
This is not an Italian restaurant. And it's not an Italian trattoria either. It's a Venetian tavern, and its name reflects what such places used to be called in ancient Venice: bacaros. Venetians are different from other Italians. Fish suppliers in Roman times, they still live on water, and in any of the city's six neighbourhoods you can eat divine creations – if you take care to avoid touristy spots. Their cuisine is very particular to their city, refined and featuring plenty of seafood, with touches that were left behind following the Turkish invasions and enriched thanks to the adventurous passion of their sea explorers, with Marco Polo at the helm.
This lovely Italian restaurant offers home cooking and top-quality pasta. Worth a visit for starters like fresh burrata, or tasty pasta: linguine with cherry tomatoes and basil, or papardelle with ragout, for example. The doll's house dining room with double tables makes for an ideal setting for a romantic date. Especially if your idea of romance is out of 'Amélie' or inside a doll's house.
Au Nom de la Rose has managed to make roses a part of our daily lives, rather than saving them for special occasions – it’s as if you were living in Paris. At their two locations (in C/Ganduxer, 26, and C/Valencia, 203) you can get anything from a single rose to sophisticated bouquets, like the aromatic roses of Kenya or the roses of Piaget. They also sell jams and sweets with a rose fragrance and scented candles.
Flowers, while beautiful on their own, can also be an art form, and at Dadaflor they decided to explore that. In the hands of artist-florist Marta Arnau, this space functions as a shop for all types of flowers – natural, dried, fabric and plastic – and as an art gallery where flowers, mixed with other materials, are used in creative and daring ways. And now you know the origins of the shop's name.
An old meter box factory now filled with beautiful flora, this is truly a treasure of the Sants neighbourhood. As always, you can go to Hivernacle for all your indoor and outdoor gardening needs: plants, seeds, soil, tools and accessories. But what's new is that now they also rent urban garden allotments to measure. If you lack space at home to grow your own lettuce, you can always take a walk to Hivernacle to get in touch with your wild side.
La Rambla de les Flors has maintained the spirit of the 19th century, when La Rambla was the only place in Barcelona where flowers were sold. You’ll find hundred-year-old stands, like Flors María, that probably inspired the excursions of Ramon Casas and Jose María de Sagarra, as well as other colourful shops that freshen up their look with the changing of the season. In April, the 15 flower stands are painted red to celebrate the tradition of buying roses on La Rambla for Sant Jordi.
At this small florist’s in Rambla Catalunya, they truly appreciate tradition. Maria Ponsà is the latest in a long line of family of florists who worked for the Spanish kings Alfonso XII and Alfonso XIII. If you need advice on your garden, you’re intrigued by the art of Ikebana or you’re looking for a natural yet original arrangement, you’ll find inspiration in the displays at Maria Ponsà’s shop.
Arrangements and quiet corners that inspire lush green interiors and party bouquets are Jordi Ferran’s specialties. Ferran makes personalised creations at his shop in the Eixample. For Sant Jordi, you’ll always find a perfectly blossoming red rose with the traditional spike and Catalan flag.
Javier Manjarrés’ roses are not your typical long-stemmed reds. They’re beautiful, yes, but more in the way that poetry, history and art are beautiful; they smell of old parchment. And you can read. These particular roses are made from paper found in the back room of a pharmacy in C/Carme, the stem is decorated with recycled dowel rods from Roman blinds and attached to the petals with old silk thread. If you’re looking for a rose that will never wilt, you’ll find it in this shop in the Raval.
Satisfy both your sweet tooth and your taste for nostalgia at this traditional chocolate shop where the chocolates are the product of maestro Michel Laline. His are artisanal creations in the form of strips you can gulp down, chunky bars in an array of flavours and of course, for the more traditional, the good old bonbon.
Corsets are back in fashion, and for that we have Bibian Blue to thank (or blame). The designer started the brand in 2000, and not long after that models took to the catwalk in her creations, and she was dressing stars such as Lady Gaga. What came next was that her atelier became the benchmark for aficionados of fetish, burlesque and pin-up fashion, and for those seeking initiation into the world of the corset.
The latest trends for the modern man, right on the line that runs between the classic and the innovative. This is The Outpost, a shop that has become a point of reference for men who like brands such as Maison Martin Margiela, Neil Barret for Palladium shoes and Maquedano hats. If you want to do some fun and no-pressure shopping, you've come to the right place.
Eliana Sabater's handcrafted soaps showcase the work of the third generation of an Argentinean lineage with Mallorcan origins that has found the art in soap and made it a family business. They have around 30 scents that to spice up our skin: from the classics such as jasmine and rose to the more modern melon, violet and chocolate. You can also wash your hands with soap petals, Gaudí tiles made of soap and even a bar with a hidden message. There is no limit to the imagination of these artisans of soap.
Beneath the shop sign saying 'Novedades Perfumería' you will actually find Satan Cafè Corner, and can try a coffee served by Marcos, the owner of this showroom of new coffee-related products. And entering the delightful Grey Street gift shop you will find vintage paper alongside pottery from Grenada, Ask Alice notebooks, Bonitas del Norte clothing, jewellery, cut-offs of colourful clothing, fridge magnets, photographs and lithographs, at prices starting from one euro.
Santa Eulalia has set the standard for fashion in Barcelona, with four generations of experience dedicated to haute couture, tailoring and prêt-á-porter. All the big brands are here: Lanvin, Balenciaga, Céline, Michael Kors, Neil Barret and Rodarte. You'll also find names that occasionally exhibit in the pop-up store of a shop where luxury dominates and where they've been making dresses to order since 1843.