I’ve been in search of Barcelona’s best tapas bars for the best part of a decade and have developed my own set of criteria…
For me, a good tapas bar should be unpretentious and informal, a place to eat well but simply.
I want to feel comfortable and welcome, whether I’m popping in alone for a glass of wine and some olives at the bar or for a full-on feast with a group of big spenders.
I want warm and efficient service, but nothing too hoity-toity. I want to see the staff laughing together and mucking around behind the bar, pouring themselves glasses of beer and smoking cigarettes on the doorstep.
A good tapas bar should feel like an extension of your own home and its staff should feel like family.
So here, my amigos, in no particular order, is a small selection of my personal favourite tapas bars in Barcelona – perfect at any time of day or night, and on any budget.
Nou Can Codina (Gràcia) ~ One of My ‘Top 3’ Tapas Bars
Dating back to 1931, Can Codina is one of the oldest tapas bars in Gràcia and one of my ‘top 3’ casual tapas bars in Barcelona.
The décor remains unchanged: customers still perch on rickety old wooden chairs and dine at chunky marble tables. The huge granite bar is stocked with a fantastic selection of craft beers from Catalan brewers and boutique wines from local bodegas.
The dishes are fresh and offer outstanding value for money. Order traditional tapas like crispy croquetas, sizzling botifarra morcilla (spicy blood sausage), and patatas bravas. Try the ‘cargols’ (snails) if you’re feeling a little more adventurous.
Tapas Tip: The bargain €9.90 menú del día is an absolute steal.
Address: Carrer del Torrent de l’Olla, 20, 08012
Nearest Metro: Fontana or Diagonal
Pepa Pla (Eixample) ~ Creative Tapas & Natural Wines
Located on the trendy Carrer Aribau, which you could easily spend a whole day and night on (especially at the cocktail bars), this is one of the many fabled sister restaurants of Bar del Pla and one of the best places I’ve ever eaten.
It’s by no means a traditional tapas bar and you won’t find the classics on the menu, but you will find interesting Mediterranean plates that are perfect for sharing – pepped up with fresh herbs from their urban garden. I still have dreams about the fresh mackerel with crunchy fennel.
I also highly recommend the excellent natural wines, which are poured by a refreshingly unpretentious team of experienced sommeliers. A winning combination.
Tapas Tip: With lots of veggie and fish options, Pepa Pla is a great option for vegetarians and pescetarians.
Address: Carrer d’Aribau, 41, 08011
Nearest Metro: Universitat
Bar Tomàs (Sant Gervasi) ~ Barcelona’s Best Patatas Bravas
Opened in 1913, this legendary tapas bar is famed for serving the very best ‘patatas bravas’ (Spain’s emblematic spicy potatoes) in Barcelona.
I’d be inclined to agree: the potatoes here are cut more like chunky British chips than Spain’s cubed patatas and topped with a dollop of garlic-laden aioli and spicy tomato salsa. They really hit the spot when paired with a couple of ice-cold cañas (draught beer served in frosty tankards).
Tapas Tip: Be sure to order a few other tapas from the bar or go full beast mode with one of the rustic ‘platos combinados’ (mixed plates), such as the Catalan botifarra sausage with potatoes and fried eggs.
Address: Carrer Major de Sarrià, 49, 08017
Nearest Metro: Maria Cristina
Els Sortidors del Parlament (Sant Antoni) ~ Neighbourhood Vibes
One of my favourite spots on the cool-but-casual Carrer Parlament, Els Sortidors is housed in an old motorcycle mechanic’s workshop. This cavernous space is packed to the hilt with bulging wine barrels and shelves stacked with wine, craft beer and delicatessens from every corner of Spain.
Grab a stool and perch at one of the old wine barrel tables to indulge in a banquet of gourmet Spanish cheeses, cold cuts and olives. Do as the locals do and stretch out the afternoon until nightfall. Then you can quite legitimately repeat the experience all over again for dinner.
Tapas Tip: Don’t miss their excellent ‘ensaladia rusa’ (Russian salad), a classic Spanish potato salad with carrots, peas, apples, celery, onion, and mayo. And definitely cross the street for dessert at Sirvent, and/or pop next door for craft beer at Barna Brew!
Address: Carrer del Parlament, 53, 08015
Nearest Metro: Sant Antoni
Gasterea (Gràcia)~ Basque Pintxos & Txakoli
My favourite type of tapas are ‘pintxos’ from the Basque Country, little slices of bread with delicious toppings spiked on top with a toothpick. And Gasterea is my favourite place to eat them in Barcelona.
Located on the perpetually-bustling Carrer de Verdi this is the place for traditional pintxos like ‘Gildas’ (skewers with pickled peppers, olives, and anchovies), ‘morcilla’ (black sausage) with a quail’s egg, and grilled ‘brochetas de gambas’ (prawn skewers) with garlic. For the full Basque experience, pair your pintxos with a few glasses of ‘txakoli’, a sort of slightly sparkling white wine, or try some traditional Basque cider.
How to order pintxos: The pintxos are displayed on the bar and you simply point out which ones you’d like. The staff will pop them on a plate for you. Keep the toothpicks so the staff know how many to bill you for before you leave.
Tapas Tip: Every now and again a waiter will come bursting through the kitchen doors with a huge plate of freshly-made pintxos and walk around offering them out – be sure to grab a few while they’re hot (but note that they’re not free)!
Address: Carrer de Verdi, 39, 08012
Nearest Metro: Fontana
Elisabets (Raval) ~ No-Nonsense Classic Tapas
Traditional Spanish restaurants are no-nonsense affairs. They’re not about fancy interior design or overly fluffy customer service. No, they’re about generous portions of hearty fare at equally generous prices. And that’s exactly what Elisabets offers.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, the decor clearly hasn’t been touched since it opened in 1962, but step inside and you’ll find swells of regulars hunched over steaming bowls of wild boar stew and popping ‘pimientos de Padrón’ (pan fried peppers) into their mouths between greedy glugs of beer.
Don’t miss the highly addictive ‘choricitos’, which are little spicy sausages cooked in cider, and the ‘patatas rabiatas’ (chunky fried potatoes topped with a spicy bolognese salsa).
Tapas Tip: Grab one of the cosy stained-glass booths out back and order the set ‘menú del día’ for a bargain 3-course lunch.
Address: Carrer d’Elisabets, 2, 08001
Nearest Metro: Universitat
La Plata (Gotico) ~ Small is Beautiful
Founded in 1945, this unassuming little bar is a local favourite and a stalwart of the Gothic Quarter. It was also graced by the presence of my hero and yours, Anthony Bourdain, who popped in not so very long ago with his film crew.
Unlike most tapas bars in Barcelona, Bar La Plata only offers four dishes: ensalada de tomate con cebolla y olivas (a zesty tomato salad with onions and olives), montaditos de anchoas (anchovies served on a slice of fresh bread), butifarra (a type of Catalan sausage) and the star dish, pescadito frito (deep-fried sardines – I like to eat them whole, heads, tails and all).
Tapas Tip: La Plata is a great place to try drinking from a traditional wine porrón: a sort of glass bottle with a long spout that allow you to pour vino directly into your mouth.
Address: Carrer de la Mercè, 28, 08002
Nearest Metro: Jaume I
Bar del Pla (Born) ~ Wine Not
Nuzzled between the palaces that line the 12th century Carrer Montcada, this bustling tapas and wine bar is located on what would have been Medieval Barcelona’s most prestigious street. It’s also one of the most popular tapas bars in Barcelona, so be sure to book ahead.
The tapas are a mix of traditional flavours and more creative combinations. Order the thinly-sliced raw mushrooms dressed with parmesan shavings, sliced strawberries and a mint and wasabi vinaigrette, and don’t miss the croquetas and patatas bravas.
The staff are all experienced wine sommeliers and stock some 100 different Spanish wines at one time – definitely sample a number of the organic and biodynamic varieties.
Tapas Tip: Bar del Pla is located just a few footsteps away from the Picasso Museum, making it the perfect place to debrief after your surrealist sojourn.
Address: Carrer de Montcada, 2, 08003
Nearest Metro: Jaume I
El Sifó d’en Garriga (Eixample) ~ Healthy Tapas Near Passeig de Gràcia
Just steps off busy Passeig de Gràcia, this suave-but-casual cafe and tapas bar is a rose among many tourist-trapping thorns – a treat at any time of day. The made-to-order sandwiches and healthy tapas dishes draw on ultra high-quality ingredients, with interesting combinations that you won’t find elsewhere.
Don’t miss the green pea hummus with mint, or the potato salad with smoked Cantabrian sardines. Sip organic wines, Catalan craft beers and creative cocktails. The coffee’s great too.
Tapas Tip: Next door, La Cuina d’en Garriga is El Sifó’s older sister restaurant and is a throughly romantic space in which to explore hearty Catalan cooking. Ask Helena, the gracious owner, for recommendations and she will ensure you leave with a big grin on your Chevy Chase.
Address: Carrer Consell de Cent, 308, 08007
Nearest Metro: Passeig de Gràcia
Cova Fumada (Barceloneta) ~ A Tapas Institution
Blink and you’ll miss it – there’s not even a sign outside this famous tapas bar. Frankly, it’s not the most inviting looking place. But the traditional tapas and fresh seafood here are as authentic as it gets.
It opened in the 1940s to feed the local fishermen and dockworkers and is still run by the same family today. There isn’t an actual menu, but Josep María and Magí Sole, the grandchildren of founder Maria Pla, will happily to reel off a list of recommendations based on whatever came in fresh that morning.
Tapas Tip: The house special tapas is the bomba, a meat-and-potato croquette invented right here by Maria Pla during the Spanish Civil War to resemble the little hand grenades that local anarchists liked to lob around the streets of Barceloneta. Don’t worry if you can’t get in as there are tons of great tapas bars and restaurants in Barceloneta (by the beach).
Address: Carrer del Baluart, 56, 08003
Nearest Metro: Barceloneta
Vermut i a la Gàbia (Sants) ~ Sunday Vibes
This is my local tapas bar, a casual little bodega in my beloved Plaça d’Osca. The menu features bodega classics like tinned mussels, cockles and anchovies, as well as gourmet croquettas and the best ensaladia rusia (Spain’s classic potato salad with hunks of quality tuna) in Barcelona. There are some great wines to choose from and the vermouth is always a good way to star the day.
Tip: The sunny terrace out in the square is one of the most coveted spots in Sants. Don’t worry if you can’t get in – there are plenty of great places to eat and drink in Sants.
Address: Plaça d’Osca, 7, 08014 Barcelona
Nearest Metro: Placa de Sants
Bodega La Puntual (Born) ~ Classic Catalan Tapas
A tribute to the joys of traditional Spanish tapas. Legs of Iberian jamón hang from the ceiling and shelves buckle under the weight of gourmet tins of preserved shellfish.
Get your appetite going with gourmet olives hand stuffed with anchovies (the traditional way), pickled mussels and fresh oysters. This is classic ‘vermuteria’ fare and will go down perfectly with one of the many varieties of local vermouth (or vino). Must-try tapas include the‘tortilla de patatas’, Spain’s signature potato omelette, which is lovingly made-to-order (another rarity in Barcelona) and the classic Catalan ‘trinxat de la Cerdanya’, a sort of fried potato, cabbage and pork patty adorned with a fried egg.
Top Tip: One of the two owners, Joan Carles Ninou, also owns the legendary El Xampanyet next door. It can be a little overrun with tourists at times, but it’s definitely worth elbowing your way in for a glass or two of the sparkling house cava.
Address: Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003
Nearest Metro: Jaume I
Quimet i Quimet (Poblesec ) ~ Standing Room Only
Elbow your way into this tiny wine shop-cum-tapas bar to gorge on gourmet ‘montaditos’ – little hunks of bread topped with delectably creative flavour combinations.
It’s currently run by the fourth generation of the Quimet family, who continue to offer a selective and high quality array of products. Don’t miss the house vermouth!
Tapas Tip: Quimet i Quimet specialises in artisanal conservas, such as pickled partridges, gourmet olives, anchovies and sardines. Be sure to ask for recommendations!
Address: Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25, 08004 Barcelona
Blai 9 (Poblesec) ~ Creative Tapas on Carrer Blai
Carrer Blai’s famous pintxo bars are known for being cheap and cheerful, but they’re not exactly known for their quality and creativity. At Blai 9, however, owners Oscar and Simone do things differently.
Huge platters line the bar, where you can choose toothpick-spiked bites like chorizo and potato pancakes with poached quail eggs, and mini Angus burgers with havarti cheese, caramelised onions and mustard. Prices start at just €2 for a pintxo and drink (the vermouth’s great), making it an affordable place to while away an afternoon exploring new flavours. The international crowd make it a fun place to hang at any time of day.
Tapas Tip: The different coloured toothpicks show the various prices – check out the blackboards to see the price of each colour is before piling up your plate.
Address: Carrer de Blai 9, 08004
Nearest Metro: Poble Sec
La Alcoba Azul (Gotico) ~ Medieval Stone & Candle Light
Not really a tapas bar in the traditional sense, but I like it a lot and want to include it anyway as it’s somewhere that I like to go on a regular basis. Hidden away in El Call (the Jewish part of the Gothic Quarter), this unfathomably ancient bar is brought to life with Medieval stone walls, creaky wooden floorboards and the hypnotic glow of flickering candlelight.
There are plenty of great tapas to choose from, but I recommend the ‘tostas’, toasted bread adorned with all sorts of beautiful ingredients. Try the duck tostada with red cabbage and apple sauce, or the marinated mackerel with cherries, basil, garlic and almonds. They have a great wine list too, and the cocktails are stellar.
Tapas Tip: Also be sure to pop next door to Zona d’Ombra – my favourite wine bar in Barcelona.
Address: Carrer de Sant Domènec del Call, 14, 08002
Nearest Metro: Jaume I
Want more great tapas bars in Barcelona?