Tapas originate in the South of Spain, more precisely Andalusia. Although in Barcelona, Catalonia, tapas came later than in the rest of the country. The “trend” arrived in Barcelona only about 30-40 years ago, but it picked up at a fast pace. Today being one of the few cities in Spain where you can find the biggest variety of Tapas going from traditional to molecular. I’ve been living in Barcelona for a few years now and tried a whole lot of Tapas bars. Here are, not in order of preference, my “10 must-try Tapas places” to experience on your next trip to Gaudi’s city! Some will need a reservation a few weeks in advance others are not taking any reservations. I’ll let you know all about it down here.
1. Cal Pep
Plaça de les Olles, 8, El Born district
This small, hidden traditional place is basically just a long bar behind which all the kitchen equipment is with its many cooks, a unique experience to sit at the bar and look upon your tapas being made right in front of you. Cal Pep is renowned for their high quality seafood tapas and also their tortilla de patata, which is by many believed to be the best in town! Each being made on order, this tortilla de patata has a leaky center which is an art to make to perfection like they do. The place is fairly small and crowded, it’s basically just a bar with about 15 stools but also in the back a small door brings you to a dungeon like small hidden room where they installed about 6-8 tables. If you want to experience the bar side you’ll need to show up early to get a place (open at 8pm), otherwise the line up can be quite long… no reservation needed. As for the restaurant in the back, it’s only on reservation. Book a month in advance if you want a place at the restaurant, both the bar and restaurant is a different but equally enjoyable experience. Let the waiters guide you through their degustation menu of the day, he’ll make a menu on the spot just for you, asking about your preferences and allergies in order to make some magic happen at your table. A great hidden place with a nice wine selection at the heart of Barcelona’s Born district!
2. Quimet & Quimet
Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25, Poble Sec district
This is another small Tapas bar, although this one has no kitchen nor chairs in sights, you’ll be eating standing up which is the traditional way to eat tapas. It serves Montaditos (check what this type of tapas is about here “all there is to know about Tapas”). This family business only use high quality conserve food for their toppings. The owner calls himself a chef without a kitchen and if you are lucky enough he’s going to invent some nice tapa on the spot for you. They have their own brown beer brewed and imported from Belgium and the sensational base of theirs is quite a secret of its own. I recommend the smoked salmon and cream cheese, the anchovies and piquillo, artichoke and caviar and king prawn ones they are simply divine! The place is always fully packed, like any good tapas place, so don’t be shy, squeeze in!
3. El Xampanyet / La Puntual
Carrer de Montcada, 22, Born district
Another rustic place own by the Esteve Family since 1929. This place has top notch quality products going from sardinas, stuffed peppers, tomato with cod, iberic ham, mini stuffed potatoes, etc. The star product of theirs is their anchovies! The place where any sceptic of anchovies will surely fall in love and changed their minds about these little fishes. A pure delight! The place is called after the “Champagne” style drink they make, Xampanyet, which you’ll see everyone with a retro large champagne glasses in the hand. Another popular and relatively small place, so be ready to squeeze in or if you are lucky enough get a small table (no reservations here). Most tapas are on display at the bar, although if you are adventurous just ask you waiter to surprise you, they do a good job at it! Just right next door there is a “Tapas restaurant” called Bodega La Puntual which is owned partly by the same Esteve family, they serve great Tapas as well and regional products, even oysters. For those of you who wants a more relaxed atmosphere and a table to sit after a long day, this is a great solution to get great tapas in a more spacious and comfortable setting.
Montcada, 29, Born district
This modern and upbeat Tapas place is perfect to find some nice “typical” dish from Catalonia region like “Coca de sardina” (typical olive oil bread with sardines), “Albondigas con sepia” (Cuttlefish meatballs), “Fideua negra de Sepia” (black vermicelli paella with squid), bomba de Barceloneta (a fried grounded meat stuffed potato ball served with an aioli and spicy romesco sauce). This place is interesting because they’ve turned traditional Catalan dishes into Tapas. A great way to experience Catalan cuisine! Keep some place for dessert, they serve a “out of this world” chocolate mousse with olive oil and sea salt that will blow you mind! Unlike the other Tapas bars above this one is more of a restaurant format where you’ll sit, whether at a table or at the long bar and choose from a menu. Plus it’s close by the Xampanyet, a perfect “bar hopping” duo to try, one being traditional and the other a modern Catalan style.
5. Bar del Pla
Carrer de Montcada, 2, Born district
They are the kings of Black ink croquetas, it’s a great way to experience this “unappreciated” cuttlefish ink… this black squid croqueta is surely going to convince some of you to upgrade to the full black paella called Arroz Negro. The Tapas are a beautiful mix of Spanish, Catalan and a touch of International/Asian flair. Part of the menu change with the seasons, so you’ll find new fresh seasonal products from the Santa Caterina market which is right next door. The owners are wine lovers and it shows in the wide wine selection. Plenty of choice “by the glass” to try, let them suggest you something, they know their wines! It’s a laid-back and charming atmosphere with an authentic Catalan flair with its hydraulic flooring and Catalan vault ceiling. Not exactly a “traditional” place but an eclectic one, it merges a flair of tradition and modern/creative cuisine. The Tapas to try would be the popular Croqueta de Calamar en su tinta (squid in its ink croqueta), La coca de Sardina, they have some great patatas bravas, a succulent and tender Secreto iberico (a slowly cooked, cut of the shoulder from famous black Iberic pork), or the Cola de Buey con foie (oxtail with foie) if you want to indulge in “a meaty” night!
6. The Euskal Etxea
Placeta de Montcada, 1, Born district
This is a “Basque” type of tapas called Pintxos (Euskara) or Pinchos (Spanish), which are stacked tapas on a piece of bread, most of the time, holding up by a toothpick. All displayed directly on the bar, here you’ll probably eat standing on the side of a small high table or get lucky and steel a high table or barrel to eat on. Simply pick up a plate at the bar and go ahead, choose whatever you desire, they all cost the same (1.80 Euros). Pinchos are meant to be picked up from its base and not by the toothpick. Some are tricky to figure out, but the person at the bar will help you figure it out. In the busy hours, many tapas comes directly from the kitchen, the waiter will walk around with plates filled with steaming hot tapas. Quite difficult to resist when a fuming chistorra or warm croquetas pass by. Because every Tapas should be accompany with a drink, here I would suggest two Basque highlights: whether a Txacoli, a light dry white wine or a hard cider (sidra). If you pass by on a sunday morning, you’ll see many Basque guys chanting and drinking in front of the restaurant, a nice way to experience the Basque traditions!
Parallel Avenue, 164, Eixample district
This place is a sensoriel experience that you’ll never forget, it tricks your mind in so many ways. It’s the famous “El Bulli” chef’s brother, Albert Adrià who owns the place, specialized in molecular and highly creative tapas. This place must be booked 3 months in advance, online only, so be sure to set a reminder 3 month before you come to Barcelona. These reservations can be tricky to get. Their “tapas degustation menu” is truly a fantastic experience to try, you’ll need a pretty penny for it (around 100 Euros), but it’s worth it in my opinion. An ultra modern place in every way!
No.. the name has nothing to do with Jamaica… although they have a big parrot in their logo… It’s shorts for the owner’s name, Jaime Cabot. This hidden bar in Barceloneta is open since 1955 and serves authentic, everyday life tapas. Being in the fisherman’s district, they do have especially great seafood tapas, try the chipironnes (fried mini squids) or any shellfish like razor clams (navajas). It’s also a well hidden secret from the tourist path, you’ll see a lot of locals enjoying this place. It’s got 2 locals, one next to the other, a bigger place with a small terrasse and a smaller one. Don’t worry they both serve the same tapas. It’s a fairly cheap, plus, if you want to try many tapas, they serve 1/2 portions of tapas. Great down to earth place!
9. La Pepita
Carrer de Còrsega, 343, in Gracia district
A modern little place in the periphery of the calm district of Gracia, which Barcelona’s residents call the “pueblo” or “village” within the city. It’s a modern and popular place with tourist and locals. You’ll get some great choice of “more elaborated” types of tapas, with a world flair like the Tacos de bonito with curry vinaigrette, great patatas bravas and smoky eggplant cake with goat cheese drizzled with honey or the must try “triptych” which is a surprise three tapas served in conserves (their signature dish). A fun, young, modern place to try!
10. Casa Alfonso
Carrer Roger de Lluria, 6, Eixample
A lovely old fashioned restaurant with succulent tapas and degustation plates (cheeses, sausages and cured meat). If you want to indulge in traditional tapas outside de “touristic districts” this is the place. The tapas to try in my opinion is the eggplant with goat cheese drizzled with honey and any of there delicious croquetas. Lovely and filled with character place!