As you leave the Old City and enter the Eixample (literally, 'Expansion'), narrow, labyrinthine streets and alleys become broad, traffic-clogged, geometrically precise roads. The area is a Modernista showcase: its buildings include the Sagrada Família, La Pedrera and the Hospital de Sant Pau.
Restaurants in the Eixample
Even before Alkimia was awarded its Michelin star it was notoriously tricky to get a table, and these days it hasn't got any easier. Chef Jordi Vilà is hugely respected, and turns out complex dishes that play with Spanish classics – for instance, liquid pa amb tomàquet with fuet sausage, wild rice with crayfish and strips of tuna on a bed of foamed mustard. There is also an enviably stocked wine cellar. What is lacking, however, is a great deal of warmth in either the minimalist dining room or from the occasionally tight-lipped waiting staff.
A restaurant that is not suitable for all pockets, but it has an amazing sampling menu that is made in the Hotel Palace, devised by the talented Michelin-star chef Romain Fornell. They have a lunch menu that includes two snacks, a starter, a main course, dessert and coffee. All included – Michelin star quality served in the spectacular setting of the Hotel Palace.
Eating well at a reasonable price would be a pipe dream in Barcelona if it weren't for restaurants like Àpat: its lunchtime menu is surprising and scrumptious. The dinner menu brings to the table dishes such as cod steak with sweet apple and traditional chickpea stew.
With a visit to Pho, you’ll be pleased to find a true Vietnamese eatery – simple and delicious – an authentic bar and restaurant representative of Southeast Asian cuisine. The food here is not only flavourful, but healthy and fresh to boot. Vietnamese cuisine stands apart from food from other parts of Asia, with fewer fried foods than Chinese, and less emphasis on spicy flavours than Thai. In Vietnamese dishes, spiciness doesn't pack quite the punch but serves more as a flavouring, blended with an abundance of expertly measured herbs throughout every dish, such as mint (a big player), basil and cilantro.Along Vietnam's Mekong River, women prepare dishes, mostly soups, while sailing in their boats for those along the riverbank to taste. Soups are still the main attraction at Pho (which is what they're called), where Haí Nguyen cooks with the same artistry and exquisite taste she clearly called on to decorate her little two-floor restaurant. Shades of fuchsia, green and white dominate, chosen for their ability to inspire hunger, according to students of colour psychology. Satisfy a big appetite by savouring a bún bò hue, a delicious, spicy soup with lemon herb, veal and pork. You can also get it with chilli pepper, soy sprouts and two kinds of cilantro. We sampled the cha giò rolls with diced meat, noodles and vegetables, fried, crunchy and wrapped with fresh mint leaves and lettuce and dipped in a fish sauce. We also started with the goi cuon chay, summer rolls with bún (rice
Adelf has brought a breath of fresh air to the Eixample with this restaurant, which shines with its own innovative light thanks to the intelligent way it combines Japanese, Catalan and Mediterranean cuisine. Try the octopus marinated in Japanese radish, or the scallop, oyster and guacamole tartar, and you’ll see what we mean.
Three friends who graduated in philosophy, journalism and art history have turned a corner bar into delicious miniature restaurant, where they rework and update classic dishes from Basque and Galician cuisine, served on small plates. On Saturday mornings they offer brunch with toast and a home-made jam that has become an object of pilgrimage.
The secret of Chicoa - a classic example of the city’s rustic-style restaurants – is that they offer first-class Catalan cuisine. One of their specialities is cod, which they serve in every different way imaginable.
Many locals might well give Cachitos a wide berth without suspecting that behind the striking decor lies a truly great food experience. With its excellent, varied dishes, presented entirely without affectation, the cuisine’s success is the result of a careful, common-sense selection of premium ingredients. The barbecued squid and ribs are absolutely first-class. Good wines and cocktails.
A small bar with the feel of a modern bodega where tradition and innovation meet over tapas. Order anything from ensaladilla rusa to cannelloni with hare.
Anyone who misses the meals they loved on holiday in Menorca, come to Talaiot. They serve all the island’s simple, tasty dishes, like oliagu, a soup made from vegetables and dry bread. And of course, dishes with all the flavours of the sea: mussels with celery and leek, or the superb monkfish casserole.
Bars in the Eixample
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.
The gourmet area of Cervesa Moritz, in what used to be the old factory, is a non-stop food and drink extravaganza. In the brewery area, which has the longest bar in the city, you can try unpasteurised beer from a beer tap connected directly to a barrel in a microbrewery. You can also choose from a long menu of tapas from around the world, devised by by Jordi Vilà, which fuses the cuisines of Alsace and Spain. There is also a wine bar, and a French-style brasserie will soon be opening, as well as a gourmet restaurant. In this building, which was completely renovated by Jean Nouvel, you can also visit the microbrewery, but the best thing is to just take a stroll around and discover the little architectural details – the plant-lined walls, the periscope windows – that make the Fàbrica Moritz one of the city’s most amazing public buildings.
This, the most austere of the bars in Sant Antoni, offers a strict diet of good coffee, even better cakes and sandwiches, delicious creams and fruit juices.
Bar Mut has an ineffably Gallic feel, with its etched glass, bronze fittings, chanteuses on the sound system, and (whisper it) Paris prices. The tapas are undeniably superior, however, running from a carpaccio of sea urchin to fried eggs with foie. Other sophisticated food for the soul to look out for includes haricot beans with wild mushrooms and morcilla or poached egg with chips and chorizo sauce. In a word? Formidable.
Surrounded by cool and delicate terraces, this bar walks on its own. Instead of design lighting fixtures and fancy chairs, you will find Iggy Pop and The Ramones concert posters. It is worth going there on a weekday evening when the pool table is available for you and your friends, and the usual ‘parish’ is sitting at the high stools next to the bar counter.
Lovers of good wine and tapas will be happy here: they offer a stunning selection of wines from around the world, with a good range of wines from Catalonia, all at shop prices and with a corkage charge of €4. They also have six different beers on tap. Propped against a barrel, you can enjoy a drink with selected cured meats and tinned products, and unusual tapas such as the quail egg omelette with black truffle oil.
Class and elegance are two words that come to mind once the Manhattan or the Negroni cocktails tickle your tongue at the Noti Goodbar. The ambience also helps to increase the fancy feeling with its expensive design and modern shapes. Housed in the former offices of El Noticiero newspaper, this restaurant has one of the best cocktail bars in the city, from the classic (sample the cosmopolitan), to some of the most daring potions such as the sake martini cocktail or an exotic lychee cocktail that for those who want to treat their palate to something really different.
This fabulous cocktail bar has become an essential drinking place of the new Barcelona 'chic' nights out. The cocktails are not cheap, but it's worth mentioning that they to match up to the stunning interiors of the place.
This is the elegant version of a cinema student room, full of photographs of French actresses who look like they're just waiting for someone to ask them for their autograph.
Barcelona boasts many a dark and classic cocktail bar, so why not try something a bit different? The Italian owner of Why Not brings his vision of a 21st-century cocktail bar. With its bright white bar and stools, it’s got just the right touch of flashy, yet still has an intimate feel. The cocktail menu doesn’t forget its classic roots, but the modern touch brings with it fresh fruits and other fun ingredients you wouldn’t find in the past.
What to see & do in the Eixample
Described variously as rising dough, molten lava and a stone lung, the last secular building designed by Antoni Gaudí, the Casa Milà (popularly known as La Pedrera, 'the stone quarry') has no straight lines. It is a stupendous and daring feat of architecture, and the culmination of the architect's experimental attempts to recreate natural forms with bricks and mortar (not to mention ceramics and even smashed-up cava bottles). Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it appears to have been washed up on shore, its marine feel complemented by collaborator Josep Maria Jujol's tangled balconies, doors of twisted kelp ribbon, sea-foamy ceilings and interior patios as blue as a mermaid's cave.When it was completed in 1912, it was so far ahead of its time that the woman who financed it as her dream home, Roser Segimon, became the laughing stock of the city - hence the 'stone quarry' tag. Its rippling façade led local painter Santiago Rusiñol to quip that a snake would be a better pet than a dog for the inhabitants. But La Pedrera has become one of Barcelona's best-loved buildings, and is adored by architects for its extraordinary structure: it is supported entirely by pillars, without a single master wall, allowing the vast, asymmetrical windows of the façade to invite in great swathes of natural light.There are three exhibition spaces. The first-floor art gallery hosts free shows of eminent artists, while the upstairs space is dedicated to giving visitors a finer appreciation of Gaudí: ac
In one of the most extreme architectural makeovers ever seen, Gaudí and his long-time collaborator Josep Maria Jujol took an ordinary apartment block and remodelled it inside and out for textile tycoon Josep Batlló between 1902 and 1906. The result was one of the most impressive and admired of all Gaudí's creations. Opinions differ on what the building's remarkable façade represents, particularly its polychrome shimmering walls, its sinister skeletal balconies and its humpbacked scaly roof. Some say it's the spirit of carnival, others a Costa Brava cove. However, the most popular theory, which takes into account the architect's deeply patriotic feelings, is that it depicts Sant Jordi and the dragon – the idea being that the cross on top is the knight's lance, the roof is the back of the beast, and the balconies below are the skulls and bones of its hapless victims.The chance to explore the interior (at a cost) offers the best opportunity of understanding how Gaudí, sometimes considered the lord of the bombastic and overblown, was really the master of tiny details - from the ingenious ventilation in the doors to the amazing natural light reflecting off the inner courtyard's azure walls, and the way the brass window handles are curved so as to fit the shape of a hand. An apartment is open to the public, and access has been granted to the attic and roof terrace: the whitewashed arched rooms of the top floor, originally used for laundering and hanging clothes, are among the maste
The Palau Robert was built between 1898 and 1903 as a private residence for Robert Robert i Surís, the marquess of ... Robert, an influential aristocrat, financier and politicion originally from Girona. The building is now property of the Generalitat and home to an exhibition space with three rooms, one for concerts, one that's home to a tourist information office, and one is a bookshop. There are also public gardens out the back for a respite from the noisy intersection where the Palau stands.
'Send Gaudí and the Sagrada Família to hell,' wrote Picasso. While it is easy to see how some of the religious clichés of the building and the devotional fervour of its creator might annoy an angry young Cubist, Barcelona's iconic temple still manages to inspire delight in equal measure. Gaudí dedicated more than 40 years (the last 14 of them exclusively) to the project, and is buried beneath the nave. Many consider the crypt and the Nativity façade, which were completed in his lifetime, as the most beautiful elements of the church. The latter, facing C/Marina, looks at first glance as though some careless giant has poured candle wax over a Gothic cathedral, but closer inspection shows every protuberance to be an intricate sculpture of flora, fauna or human figure, combining to form an astonishingly moving stone tapestry depicting scenes from Christ's early years. Providing a grim counterpoint to the excesses of the Nativity façade is the Passion façade on C/Sardenya, with bone-shaped columns and haunting, angular sculptures by Josep Maria Subirachs showing the 12 stations of the cross. The vast metal doors, set behind the sculpture of the flagellation of Jesus, are particularly arresting, covered in quotations from the Bible in various languages. The Glory façade on C/Mallorca, the final side to be built and the eventual main entrance, is currently shooting up behind the scaffolding and is devoted to the Resurrection, a mass of stone clouds and trumpets emblazoned with words
When part of the roof of the gynaecology department collapsed in 2004, it was clear that restoration work was needed on the century-old Modernista ‘garden city’ hospital. In 2009, the last of the departments was transferred to the modern Nou Sant Pau building to the north of the grounds, and there are tentative plans to turn part of the old complex into a museum of Modernisme. Scaffolding and builders will be on site for the next decade or so, but the renovations will be gradual and the complex still open to visitors who come to admire Domènech i Montaner’s masterpiece.A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hospital is made up of 20 pavilions, abundantly adorned with the colourful Byzantine, Gothic and Moorish flourishes that characterise the architect’s style and set in peaceful gardens that spread over nine blocks in the north-east corner of the Eixample. It’s set at a 45-degree angle from the rest of Ildefons Cerdà’s grid system, so that it catches more sun: Domènech i Montaner built the hospital very much with its patients in mind, convinced that aesthetic harmony and pleasant surroundings were good for the health. The public enjoy free access to the grounds, and guided tours are available in English.
Antoni Tàpies exploded on to the art scene in the 1950s when he began to incorporate waste paper, mud and rags into his paintings, eventually moving on to the point where his works included whole pieces of furniture, running water and girders. Today, he's Barcelona's most celebrated living artist, and his trademark scribbled and paint-daubed pieces are sought after for everything from wine bottle labels to theatre posters.The artist set up the Tàpies Foundation in this, the former Montaner i Simon publishing house, in 1984, dedicating it to the study and appreciation of contemporary art. In a typically contentious act, Tàpies crowned the building with a glorious tangle of aluminium piping and ragged metal netting (Núvol i Cadira, or 'Cloud and Chair'). The building remains one of the earliest examples of Modernisme to combine exposed brick and iron, and is now a cultural centre and museum dedicated to the work and life of the man himself, with exhibitions, symposiums, lectures and films.
Built for chocolate baron Antoni Amatller, this playful building is one of Puig i Cadafalch's finest creations. Inspired by 17th-century Dutch townhouses, it has a distinctive stepped Flemish pediment covered in shiny ceramics, while the lower façade and doorway are decorated with lively sculptures by Eusebi Arnau. These include chocolatiers at work, almond trees and blossoms (in reference to the family name) and Sant Jordi slaying the dragon.Besides chocolate, Amatller's other great love was photography. His daughter later converted the family home into an art institute and archive for her father's vast collections, from which excellent selections are on display in the ground floor exhibition space.
Designed by architect Rafael Moneo and directed by the affable Joan Oller, L'Auditori tries to offer something to everyone. The 2,400-seat Pau Casals hall, dedicated to the Catalan cellist, provides a stable home for city orchestra OBC, now under the baton of conductor Eiji Oue (although it frequently performs with guest conductors). It's also a place for the revered Jordi Savall to straddle his viola da gamba in an excellent series of early music concerts called El So Original, running from October to April. A more intimate 600-seat chamber space, dedicated to choir leader Oriol Martorell, has a more diverse programme incorporating contemporary and world music, while experimental and children's work is staged in a 400-seat space named after jazz pianist Tete Montoliu. A late-night bus service connects the Auditori with Plaça Catalunya after evening performances.
This private collection of Catalan modernist art opened to the public during the spring of 2010 and boasts modernist art and furniture from the greats of the age. Featured are Gaudí's love seat in the shape of lips (modelled after Mae West's), extravagant ecclesiastic pieces from Puig i Cadafalch, headboards designed by Gaspar Homar, marble sculptures from Josep Llimona and paintings by the likes of Santiago Rusiñol, Joaquim Mir and Ramon Casas.
Since being transplanted from a first-floor flat to the Casa Garriga Nogués – a Modernista masterpiece in its own right – this vast private art collection now has enough room to breathe, with two floors of exhibition space. Godia was a Formula 1 driver for Maserati in the 1950s who funnelled his considerable fortune into an impressive collection of medieval religious art, historic Spanish ceramics, sculpture and modern painting. The permanent collection resides on the upper floor and largely consists of medieval sculptures and paintings, including Alejo de Vahía's Pietà and a Baroque masterpiece by Luca Giordano, along with some outstanding Romanesque sculptures. The inaugural temporary exhibition on the ground floor showcases Godia's contemporary collection, with pieces by Ramon Casas, Eduardo Chillida, Picasso, Antoni Tàpies and Joan Miró.
Shopping in the Eixample
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.
In addition to wooden letters and antique signs, this shop offers books on typography and a selection of daily objects that show off all the letters of the alphabet.
Possibly the most beautiful children’s clothing shop in Barcelona. Elena Mayoral opened Lotta with the goal of selling ‘pretty things’, which is why she doesn’t much like to talk about brands, but more about the products, which come from all over. Printed T-shirts, wall decorations, retro bathing costumes… It’s a fantasy-like space inspired by beloved children’s character Pippi Longstocking.
Labienplantá is a shop that is constantly reinventing itself, starting with its front window. Although Andriana Fajeda has a weakness for Scandinavian brands, she also embraces many local designers. Different brands come and go, but of late you might find Alexandre Nedderman, the label that Alba Gràcia and Carola Alexandre share, El Colmillo de Morsa, and Borne by Elise Berger on the racks. In the accessories area, the quartz necklaces by Lo Lou and the wicker baskets by Twenty Violets stand out.
Nightlife in the Eixample
City Hall ain't big, but it is popular. The music is mixed, from deep house to electro rock, and there's an older post-(pre-?) work crowd joining the young, tanned and skinny to show the dancefloors some love. Outside, the terrace is a melting pot of tourists and locals, who rub shoulders under the watchful (and anti-pot-smoking) eye of the bouncer. Flyers for City Hall are easy to find in bars and shops around town, and will get you in free.
It would seem that number 22 on C/ Bailén was, is and always will be a space for cabaret. Free-and-easy, with red sofas, rococo lamps, mirrors and velvet curtains, Cabaret Berlín, it's said, has enough room for all kids of artistic endeavours: live music, circus shows, theatre, comedy, fashion, magic, performance art, multimedia.
This Caribbean cultural centre hosts exhibitions, publishes its own magazine (Antilla News) and offers Latin dance classes. But when the sun goes down all cultural pretensions go out the window – it's a hedonistic jungle in there. Salsa shows by entire orchestras and DJs playing rumba, merengue and son until six in the morning will spin your head and parch your throat until the only word you can croak is 'mojito'.
This lovingly renovated old music hall, garnished with chandeliers and classical friezes, is a mainstay on the live music scene and is one classy joint. In between visits from international artists and benefit concerts for local causes, you'll find nightly residencies: blues on Mondays, Dixieland jazz on Tuesdays, disco on Wednesdays, pop-rock on Thursdays, soul on Fridays and vintage and Spanish rock on weekends.
This is a real neighbourhood place in the best sense of the word: everyone knows each other, no one will look down their nose at and no one is worried about keeping up appearances. The club has many good qualities, but two in particular stand out. The first is the dance floor on the lower level, ideal for anyone who’s ready to party and boogie the night away. The second is a karaoke area on the upper floor that's different from the typical Japanese variety: it’s a big, open room with a stage where you can rock out and gyrate like Elvis.
Astoria offers a break from the norm. For a start, the club is housed in a converted 1950s cinema, which means the projections are actually watchable. There are three bars and plenty of comfortable seating, along with a small dancefloor; if you're very wonderful, you may get to sit on a heart-shaped cushion in the tiny VIP area. With all this going for it, Astoria has inevitably become the domain of Barcelona's moneyed classes. Drinks are dearer upstairs.
This place is part of the Arena group and attracts a mixed crowd that share a common desire to dance the night away to the campest music around.
The “La boîte Imperator” facelift has created Duvet, and now house music has replaced pasodoble. By the way, someone should explain that Duvet is a kind of bed clothing to Catalan and Spanish speakers.
Some clubs consider DJ sessions a spiritual awakening. Others, like Minusa Club, have a bit more of a sense of humour about the whole thing, and can offer up the fun of swing night or Italian disco night. Who can resist?
There's no stopping Nick Havanna on the Barcelona nightlife scene, currently popular with uni students who love the top pop hits. Surely none of them knows that they're dancing under a giant pendulum designed by Ingo Maurer and that the design, from the industrial touch to the toilets, set the standard for other clubs round town.