Eating in Barcelona is not just about satisfying your hunger. It’s a whole experience focused on spending time with friends and family, using all of your senses, and trying innovative and classic dishes alike. For locals, the big meal of the day is lunch, which doesn’t start until at least 2:00 PM and can last two hours. On weekends, lunch gatherings can linger well past sunset.

Dinner comes much later. People in Barcelona dine around 10:00 PM and don’t really go partying until 1:00 AM. If you can’t work such a long afternoon lunch into your travel schedule, you could opt for “elevensies,” a light snack and espresso at 11:00 AM that’s typical during weekdays to stave off hunger. That should help you make it to that late-night meal and even later drinking session.

One of the best things about eating in Barcelona is its affordability. There are plenty of cheap bites to be had, and many dishes are meant to be shared. Better yet, the fancy restaurants usually have a prix-fixe lunch menu, known as the menú del día, which gives you an appetizer, main course, dessert, and drink, all for around 20 euros. So while you’re in Barcelona, grab a bocadillo and cafe con leche in the morning, order some jamón and queso croquetas at local Catalan and Basque bars, treat yourself to molecular gastronomy one night, and wash it all down with a housemade vermouth or the local cava.   

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Mercat de la Boqueria – This is one of the most recognized markets in Barcelona. Here, you can spend hours wandering aisles of cheese, cured meats, fresh-squeezed fruit juices, fish that was caught the morning of, ripe produce, and, best of all, candy and other sweets. If you want to see it in peace, come early. The same applies if you’re looking for “the good stuff,” such as the catch of the day and fresh fruit. Note that it’s closed on Sunday.

Photo: Pinotxo Bar/Facebook

Pinotxo Bar $ – This tiny, 14-seat tapas place is located in La Boqueria. It’s one of the best tapas bars in all of Barcelona, a true local staple. It even won the praise of the late great Anthony Bourdain.

Carrer del Blai $ – Come sample as many dishes as you can possibly fit into your schedule (and stomach) on Blai Street. Here, you’ll find dozens of restaurants on either side where tapas range from one euro to 2,50 euros per piece. At the end of your meal, the waiter will count your toothpicks to determine your bill, so go easy on those patatas bravas if you’re penny-pinching.   

Tickets by Ferran Adrià  $$$ — Ferran Adrià is a Michelin-starred chef and Catalan local who is most famous for the now-shuttered El Bulli, which was once named the best restaurant in the world. Now at Tickets, you can expect to be equally wowed by his molecular gastronomy techniques. You have to make a reservation around three months in advance, and prices are quite steep, but you can sample a tasting menu with wine for about 100 euros per person.

Xiringuito Escribà $$ — Xiringuito in Catalan, or chiringuito in Spanish, means a casual beach-side eatery. This one is where Barcelona families come for a long Saturday lunch, evident in the ever-present weekend crowd. Make a reservation and enjoy a long walk along Bogatell Beach on your way there to work up an appetite. At the back of the dining area, you’ll see cooks at work over large, round, flat pans making savory paella and fideua, a version of paella made with noodles instead of rice.

Photo: Els 4 Gats/Facebook

Els 4 Gats $ – This is a landmark restaurant tucked into a street in the Gothic area, and it was known to be a meetup point for modernist artists in Catalonia, including Pablo Picasso and Ramon Casas i Carbó. The original restaurant closed in 1903 but was thankfully restored and reopened in its full historical glory in 1989.

Salamanca $$- One of the biggest misconceptions about food in Barcelona is that you have to try paella while you’re here. Actually, paella is not a classic Catalan dish, and you’re much better off trying it in cities that are actually known for it like Valencia. That said, if breathing the Spanish air is making you crave paella, the rule of thumb is to get as close to the water as possible. You’ll find Salamanca right at the port, and it serves one of the best seafood paellas in town.

Photo: Arume

Arume $$ – Serving gourmet food at a reasonably affordable price, Arume is a real hidden gem. Here you’ll find exciting food that stimulates all your senses, featuring locally produced meats and fresh produce. There’s also delicious vegetarian options. Reservations are encouraged because space is limited.

Monvinic $$$ – Located in the Eixample, Monvinic is an elegant, fine-dining experience with a carefully curated wine selection. Prices ain’t cheap, but you can still sample the wares during the menú del día at lunch, all for around 20 euros.

Photo: Taberna Milgritos/Facebook

Taberna Mil Grito’s $ – This is where young locals come to enjoy casual tapas nights over a beer and some vermouth. The tapas menu is more creative than most with offerings like quail-stuffed artichokes and pork shoulder tataki with an eggplant chutney.  

CatBarCat $ – This quirky eatery is actually a vegan restaurant, which is fitting for the trendy El Born neighborhood. The vibe is laid-back enough to not intimidate your non-vegan friends, and even skeptics will like the plant-based burger. Plus, there’s beer. Everyone loves beer.

Photo: Alsur Café El Born/Facebook

Cafe Alsur $- Right in the heart of El Born, this is a super cozy spot to have a cafe con leche. There’s also free WiFi, making it a great place to work during the day if you’re remote.

Euskal Etxea $ – This is the Basque Country response to tapas sampling. Order a wide variety of pintxos, which are small bites of tapas piled onto bread. Pair them with a glass of txakoli, Basque white wine. Again, you pay based on the toothpicks you collect.

Photo: Brunch & Cake/Facebook

Brunch & Cake $$  Come for the Instagram opportunity, stay for the matcha pancakes. The brunch menu at Brunch & Cake, from the people who brought you cupcake shop Cup & Cake, includes both your egg classics and swagged out bowls like pumpkin gnocchi with ricotta, eggplant, and mushrooms. The juices and desserts are on point, too. Remember to go early as it’s first come, first served, and brunchers be hungry.

Pizza Circus $ – Many locals would tell you that this is the best pizza in town. This Italian shop, located on Nou de la Rambla Street, serves delicious slices, as well as massive boxes of thin-crust pizza. The pesto pizza is a real winner.

Photo: Gelaaati di marco/Facebook

 

Gelaaati di Marco $ – Craving something sweet? You simply need to treat yourself to a scoop (or three) of gelato. At this high-quality gelateria, you can pick from flavors like crema Catalana, “Tahiti,” pistachio, basil, hazelnut, gorgonzola, and more.

Photo: Petritxol-Xocoa/Facebook

Petritxol Cocoa $ – This cozy churros restaurant sucks you in with its wooden furniture and warm interior. Order a generous serving of churros to dip in hot chocolate, and buy some artisanal sweets to take home.