Escape the tourist traps of La Rambla and discover the most authentic tapas bars and restaurants in the heart of Barcelona’s old town.
With its warren of narrow back streets, fairytale squares and medieval alleyways, not to mention 2,000 years’ worth of history and culture, the Gothic Quarter is the oldest and most iconic barrio in Barcelona’s historic old town. For travellers looking to take a bite out of the city’s world-renowned gastronomy, there’s simply nowhere more exciting.
Here we help you escape the notorious tourist traps that line Las Ramblas and seek out the most authentic tapas bars and restaurants in Barcelona’s iconic Gothic Quarter. Disfrutar, amigos!
Bar la Plata
Tucked away on one of the Gothic Quarter’s battle-scarred backstreets, this tiny traditional tapas bar dates back to 1945 and is a firm favourite with the locals. Its secret to success lies in its minimalist approach – there are only four tapas options to choose from: ensalada de tomate con cebolla y olivas (a fresh tomato salad with onions and olives), montaditos de anchoas (anchovies served over fresh bread), butifarra (Catalan sausage) and their famous pescadito frito (deep-fried sardines). And be sure to try the excellent house wine and vermouth! It’s so good that even renegade chef Anthony Bourdain made a pit stop here with his film crew on one of his recent visits!
Address: Carrer de la Mercè 28, 08002
Les Quinze Nits
Tucked away just off Las Ramblas is one of Barcelona’s most beautiful and iconic squares, complete with trickling water fountain and swaying palm trees. A haven of hedonism, here you’ll find all sorts of bars, restaurants and nightclubs, but the undisputed champion of the ring is the elegant Les Quinze Nits. Focussing on traditional Mediterranean and Catalan cuisine, this is the ideal spot for a sophisticated lunch or dinner with inspiring views – snag a table on the sunny terrace if you can. The set lunch menu is priced at around €20 and offers outstanding value for money, with two courses, dessert and wine. Take your time and indulge your senses.
Address: Plaça Reial, 6, 08002
La Alcoba Azul
Hidden on a small street near Plaza Sant Jaume, Alcoba Azul is a local treasure. Their specialty are their tostas: a toasted bread garnished with a harmonic blend of toppings. Indulge yourself in the tasty Lamb Tosta, topped with lamb, eggplant, spinach, hummus, shallot, cherry tomato confit, and tzatziki. Another must-try? The delectable goat-cheese stuffed peppers with a rose marmalade. Alcoba Azul is no secret, so come early if you want prime seating. Opt for the cavernous yet cozy interior, and be surrounded by dark wood details, a low ceiling, and melting candles. Or, sit on the outside terrace with a bestie or 7 for the quintessential Barcelona experience.
Address: Carrer de Salomó Ben Adret, 14, 08002
Cafè de l’Acadèmia
One of the best things about exploring the Gothic Quarter and it’s tapas bars and restaurants is getting lost and finding yourself in a secret little ‘plaça’ (square). The 4th century Plaça de Sant Just is one of the most charming of all Barcelona’s plaças. And it’s also one of the finest places to eat! Cafè de l’Acadèmia is famed for serving traditional regional cuisine, with plenty on offer for meat lovers and seafood fanatics alike. And the best news of all: owner Jordi Casteldi also has his own vineyard, which makes this an ideal place to pair your feast with a bottle or two of the good stuff.
Address: Carrer dels Lledó, 1, 08002
You can drive from Barcelona to France in less than two hours on a good day. And let’s not forget that the region of Catalonia extends over the Pyrenees and into French territory. The result? Catalan cuisine – and the language as well, for that matter – has strong Frenchy influences. One of the most Catalan of all Catalan dishes is snails (‘caracoles’ in Spanish). Located on the ever-bustling street of Carrer dels Escudellers, Los Caracoles dates back to 1835 and is still run by the founding family. Little has changed inside and it feels like stepping back in time, with its looming chandeliers, dark-wood furnishings, and hulking stone archways. Start with the house special snails and a bowl of the bouillabaisse fish stew, which has been on the menu since 1925. And whatever you do don’t miss the roasted chicken, which has become something of a local legend. Finish your banquet with a traditional crema Catalana, which is basically the same thing as French crème brûlée – though of course, the locals will tell you the dish originates here in Catalonia, not in France!
Address: Carrer dels Escudellers, 14, 08002
Would you like to eat more of Barcelona’s best bites? We’re passionate about Barcelona and its cuisine and would love for you to join one of our delicious food tours. Find out more about our tours here!
May 3, 2018 | Words and photos by Ben Holbrook for Eye On Food Tours