Spain’s second-largest city is crawling with innovative eateries and so-cool tapas joints, but it can be difficult for newcomers to separate the best from the rest. Need a little help tracking down the can’t-miss spots? We have a few suggestions.
The Scoop: Situated in the seriously hip ‘ville of Gracia, this tiny tapas bar is equal parts old school and eclectic. The decor may be Victorian chic — antiques and floral tapestries adorn every surface — but the friendly staff and trendsetting patrons are decidedly modern.
The Food: Timeline combines traditional tapas with a slew of innovative ideas. The spicy patatas bravas always hit the spot, but try the boquerones with pan con tomate if you’re looking for something slightly lighter. Don’t forget to check out the weekly bar specials and weekend brunches.
If You Go: Grab one of the board games scattered around the room to play a few rounds while you sip one of the best mojitos in town.
The Scoop: This latest excursion from Ferran and Albert Adria — the brothers behind the famous El Bulli — pairs the duo’s gastronomic innovations with an endearingly wacky sense of style. Go for the food, but stay for the vibrant carnival theme.
The Food: Along with New York’s WD-50, El Bulli is often considered to be the restaurant that sparked the molecular gastronomy craze, and Tickets carries on in that tradition. You’ll find off-the-wall dishes like a sugar-crusted cotton candy tree and playful air baguette, but more substantial delights like tuna belly and five-way oysters are just as thrilling.
If You Go: Don’t expect to get a table without a reservation. Tickets is routinely booked solid months in advance, so you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to experience this renowned spot. Once you’ve put together your trip with American Express vacations, make a beeline for the eatery’s online reservation system.
Les Quinze Nits
The Scoop: Perched on a shady edge of the Placa Reial, this oft-touristy restaurant is all about location. When you want to indulge in a laid-back afternoon meal directly adjacent to one of the city’s most stunning sights, Les Quinze Nits is the place to go.
The Food: Simple Mediterranean dishes like paella, tortilla and herb-flecked chicken rule the scene here. For the best experience, order the menu del dia; you’ll get three well-portioned courses and a decanter of good wine for surprisingly cheap.
If You Go: Wait for a table on the patio. Dining afuera is the single best way to soak up the Placa Reial’s majesty.
Quimet i Quimet
The Scoop: There’s a reason travel guides swear by this tapas bar. Located just off the Avinguda del Parallel, Quimet i Quimet is something of a Barcelona institution. Bottles of wine line the walls, and local patrons pack every inch of available space.
The Food: Catalan classics like tin-preserved conservas are popular, and no trip to Barcelona is complete without sampling these seafood delicacies. Pintxos and montaditos are just as delicious, however, and dishes like olive pate put an extra twist on a Mediterranean classic.
If You Go: Make this your first stop of the evening. Though Quimet i Quimet is most fun when it’s busy, you’ll want to show up early to avoid the most intense crowds.