If there’s one thing I’ve learned through traveling, it’s that you can tell a lot about a city based on it’s culture surrounding eating and drinking.
Discovering popular, locally-owned bars and restaurants is the best, most universal way for anyone—no matter who you are or where you come from—to connect with a city and experience it as locals do.
Spain’s tapas culture turns any mealtime into a memorable social gathering, bringing people together over a variety of small plates and glasses of wine. We had an absolute blast experiencing Barcelona through a variety of cafes, bodegas, pintxo bars and market places—and they were too good not to share with the world.
Stampi Café – Gràcia Neighborhood
As I described it in my Barcelona Travel Diaries Post: “The Vila de Gràcia is a beautiful, artistic district—a bit off the beaten tourist path—known for it’s good food, trendy bars and a lively, yet laid-back, alternative atmosphere.” More simply put: this neighborhood is an absolute gold mine for foodies like me.
We stumbled upon Stampi Café in the Gràcia neighborhood by accident and it ended up being a highlight of our trip. We were drawn in by the cute and quirky atmosphere, but stayed for the spectacular specialty cocktails and warm, friendly service.
Their cocktail menu consisted of a unique variety of drinks that immediately intrigued us. I ordered a “Porn Star Martini” that was made with vodka, passionfruit, lime juice, vanilla syrup and cava and it was arguably one of the best cocktails I’ve ever had.
The presentation of the drinks alone was 10/10 – each one specially and artfully crafted, topped with picture-perfect finishing touches in the form of fruit garnishes, flowers, bamboo straws, roasted mini-marshmallows, etc. Even the vessels they were served in were uniquely matched for the drink it carried; Out of the six cocktails we ordered, not a single one of the cups/glasses were the same. Each time we ordered, we were excited to see what we were going to get and each time, our expectations were exceeded.
Address: Carrer del Planeta, 41, 08012 Barcelona
Price: €8-9 per cocktail
Bodega la Tinaja – El Born
If you’re looking for an authentic Spanish tapas experience, Bodega la Tinaja is a soulful, hidden gem that offers quality food and a cozy environment for a decent price
Located just around the corner from Passeig del Born, dining at La Tinaja is an intimate affair from the moment you walk in; The stone walls and archways make you feel like you’re in an ancient wine cellar, lined with pots, plates and, of course, bottles of wine.
You can’t go wrong ordering a meat and/or cheese platter; the bread, that comes with oil, garlic and fresh tomatoes; or the chorizo!
I recommend stopping here for a glass of wine and a few tapas before heading out to your next destination, as this is the Spanish way. Get here early (around 7-8 PM) if you want to be sure to get a table!
Address: Carrer de l’Esparteria, 9, 08003 Barcelona
ALAIRE Terrace Bar – Passeig de Gràcia
Okay, this pick isn’t *quite* on track with being a local, hidden gem—BUT, I’m a huge sucker for a rooftop bar and I couldn’t resist including it. There’s something about experiencing a city from above, while sipping a drink, that never fails to appeal to me. Not to mention doing so with stunning views of the Sagrada Familia in the distance.
If you find yourself strolling down the Passeig de Gràcia in need of an overpriced drink, a stop at Alaire Terrace Bar, located in Hotel Condes de Barcelona, is worth it for the views alone. It was free to enter and pretty quiet when we went during the day, but it was giving off nightclub vibes, so I imagine it comes alive in the night.
Address: Hotel Condes de Barcelona, Passeig de Gràcia, 73, 08008 Barcelona
Price: €14-15 per cocktail / €5-8 per beer
Irati Taverna Basca – Gothic District
When in northern Spain, pintxos (pronounced “peen-chos”) are a must! Served open-face on small slices of bread, these tapa-like small plates are typical of the La Rioja, Cantabria, Asturias, Basque country and Navarra regions.
This was our first pintxo experience, so we walked in without knowing exactly what to expect. The bartender was extremely kind, helpful and patient, teaching us how to properly eat pintxos as the Spaniards do. Here’s what we learned:
1 – The pintxos of the day line the bar and, as soon as the bartender gives you a plate, you’re free to load it up yourself with as many as you want.
2 – They are almost all €2, but there might be a few options that are more expensive. If you’re on a budget, make sure you know what you’re grabbing beforehand!
3 – If you’re there just for the pintxos, eat standing up at the bar. The tables are for the full dining experience.
4 – The pintxos on the bar are the “cold” options. If you wait a bit, they will bring around yummy “hot” selections, as well!
5 – Once you’re done, hand your plate over and the bartender will charge you based on how many toothpicks are left on your plate.
For as close to La Rambla as it is, Irati Taverna Basca offers a surprisingly quaint and authentic atmosphere with top-notch service and food. If you pop in and don’t see anything you love, try again the next day for a fresh selection!
Address: Carrer del Cardenal Casañas, 17, 08002 Barcelona
Price: €2-3 per pintxo
La Concepció Market – Eixample District
Every city in Spain has a central marketplace. For Barcelona, it’s La Boqueria market. Although I DO recommend making a stop to witness the madness of La Boqueria, packed with hundreds of tourists buzzing about from stall to stall, it can be overwhelming.
If you’re wanting to track down a more authentic, local marketplace, stop by La Concepció! It’s much lesser-known and offers a lovely market experience at a much slower pace. You can browse the stalls, chat with the vendors and purchase fresh produce, meat, bread, wine, etc. at your leisure without feeling like you’ll be pickpocketed at any moment.
Why mention a market on my Barcelona guide to eating and drinking like a local? Because Spanish markets are often where you can find some of the best tapas, sold by small food vendors inside. Once you’re done browsing, stop for a quick bite to eat or a drink at Bar Manuel. It’s nothing fancy, and you will likely be the only tourist sitting at the bar, but the food will not disappoint.
Lastly, be sure to check out Flores Navarro, the cute, local flower shop near the entrance!
Address: Carrer d’Aragó, 313, 317, 08009 Barcelona
I hope to continue adding to this list each time I go back to Barcelona. Do you have any local Barça favs? Have you tried any of these spots that I listed? Comment and let me know!