Locals' Guide to Barcelona
In Barcelona, a capital of Mediterranean culture, cool, and incredible food, we asked nine plugged-in locals to tell us about their favorite restaurants, galleries, shops, and more.
The Production Designer: Antxón Gómez
Pedro Almodóvar’s cinematic magic owes much to the visuals of his longtime art director and production designer Antxón Gómez, whose Almodóvar credits range from the current hit, Broken Embraces, to 1999’s All About My Mother, which was set in Barcelona. “This city is a mosaic,” he says. “Sun, art, design, history, food, with the backdrop of soft hills and the sea.” In the 1980’s, Gómez helped launch such iconic nightspots as the now-defunct Zig Zag Bar, Barcelona’s first real design bar, and the legendary club Otto Zutz (drinks for two $28). These days, he might also be spotted at the chic Mon Key Club at Hotel Omm (drinks for two $30), dapper in clothes and accessories from the Outpost or Muntaner 385. Among his favorite Barcelona attractions: rambles in the Gaudí-designed Parc Güell and tapas at the crowded counter of Cal Pep (lunch for two $88).
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Photographed at Parc Güell.
Suit, shirt, and belt by Ermenegildo Zegna.--->
The Gallerist: Natalia Foguet
Contemporary art dealer Natalia Foguet is a patriot of her neighborhood, Gràcia, where her eclectic Galería Safia has been showing the work of emerging international artists for over a decade. “Gràcia has preserved a small-town vibe,” she says, and is full of pedestrian lanes and small plazas where old-world vermouth bodegas like Vermutería del Tano (drinks for two $15) coexist with boho-chic shops like the fashion boutique Naftalina (34/93-237-2567). She also recommends the whimsical traditional toys at Bateau Lune and stylish haircuts at Anthony Llobet Salon, which is staffed with multilingual, London-trained stylists.
The Director: Pau Miró
Thirty-five-year-old playwright and director Pau Miró is a rising star on Spain’s theater scene. Jirafas (the last installmenst of his Trilogía de lo Animal, a tragicomic trilogy with absurdist overtones) was performed at Sala Beckett and is set in the Raval neighborhood, which inspires his work with its “charged urban cocktail” of hipness and seediness. Miró often shares a leather booth at Bar Raval (drinks for two $18) with theater and film people, and says he loves the personal service at Discos Castelló, part of “a disappearing breed” of truly independent music shops. He also recommends the stationery store Paperam, “one of those shops that transport you back in time.”
Photographed at Sala Beckett.
Sweater by Hermès; T-shirt, Theory; jeans, Levi’s; sneakers, Converse.--->
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The Entrepreneur: Helena Garriga
A Catalonia-born graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City, Helena Garriga has worked for the likes of Moschino and Jean Paul Gaultier. Now she’s a curator of edibles, assembling the choicest local and international foodstuffs at her new shop, La Cuina d’en Garriga. The sweet-savory pan-con-tomate bonbons at La Cuina come from pastry artist Carles Mampel of Bubó; the buttery bread loaves studded with dried fruits and nuts are from Forn Baluard. Garriga also loves the seafood and rice dishes at the neo-traditional El Suquet de l’Almirall (dinner for two $83) and the eclectic cuisine served around the communal table at the arty yet homey Tapioles 53 (prix fixe dinner for two $104). Her pick for the best picnic spot? The saltwater swimming pool overlooking the Mediterranean at the new Parc del Fòrum.
The Hotel Guru: Bel Natividad
With an unbeatable location on the Passeig de Gràcia, the new 98-room Mandarin Oriental (doubles from $756) is the city’s most high-profile hotel opening in some time. The hotel’s communications director is Bel Natividad, a Barcelona native who has her finger on the city’s style pulse. For “one-of-a-kind, handmade” leather tops and pants, she recommends Eden Lun, while Complementos Carmina Rotger is her source for earrings and necklaces. She loves strolling through the Galvany Market, where she picks up spinach-and-pine-nut coca (Catalan pizza) at the old-fashioned bakery Forn Roura and stocks up on cotton napkins of all colors and sizes at the MyDrap stand.
Photographed at Mandarin Oriental Barcelona.
Jacket, skirt, and sweater by Chanel; shoes, Sigerson Morrison Brown; earrings, Ippolita.--->
The Illustrator: Jordi Labanda
It’s hard to go far in Barcelona—or anywhere in Spain—without encountering the work of illustrator Jordi Labanda, whose glamorous, retro-tinged images can be seen on everything from stationery and T-shirts to Adidas ads. Originally from Uruguay, the prolific 42-year-old artist and fashion designer has resided in Barcelona since he was three: “My life here is balanced and calm yet perfectly modern,” he says. When he’s not drawing or traveling, Labanda might visit the Fundació Joan Miró museum, admire the Modernist serenity of the Pavelló Mies Van der Rohe, or stop for coffee at Els Quatre Gats (coffee for two $12). He also recommends the housewares at the high-concept En Línea Barcelona and the sharply edited couture collection at Jean-Pierre Bua. Labanda’s own products can be found at the emblematic design shop Vinçon and the Corte Inglés department store.
The Architect: Guida Ferrari
Architect, jewelry designer, cultural events organizer—and a swing dancer “addicted to shoes”—the 25-year-old Guida Ferrari exemplifies Barcelona’s creative spirit. Ferrari says she admires the Barcelona Contemporary Culture Center as much for its swaggering glass-clad façade as for the thought-provoking exhibitions inside, and adores Gaudí’s iconic Casa Batlló. On her shopping rounds, Ferrari checks out Iguapop Gallery, an art gallery that doubles as a hip clothing shop; peruses the footwear at Casas International; buys architecture and design books at Galería Ras; and prowls carrer Verdi, in the Gràcia neighborhood—“a one-street destination for young designers’ boutiques.”
Photographed at Casa Batlló. Coat by Peter Som; dress, Rebecca Taylor; pants, Joe’s Jeans; necklace, Susan Hanover Designs.--->
The Chefs: Sergio & Javier Torres
Barcelona-born twin chefs Javier and Sergio Torres recently opened Dos Cielos (dinner for two $210) to instant critical raves for their inventive riffs on Catalan food. On their days off, the brothers often eat breakfast at the legendary Pinotxo counter (breakfast for two $25) inside the Boqueria market. Run by another set of twin brothers, Xemei (dinner for two $110) is “a fun, funky Venetian spot with great music and fantastic squid-ink pasta.” For “renovated tradition,” it’s Via Veneto (dinner for two $213), a grand classic helmed by an exciting young chef, Carles Tejedor; and for super-fresh tapas, especially seafood, it’s Bar Mut (tapas for two $69).
The Casa Batlló was finished in 1907 and represents the best example of modernism from the beginning of the 20th century. The influence of the sea (some think Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea was an inspiration) is obvious in the façade that a famous Catalan critic called "an underwater cave." Please don’t miss the tour of the interiors.
Slide into a leather booth at this watering hole and you'll be immersed in the chatty camaraderie of the professors, writers, artists, and theater types who live nearby in the streets surrounding the Meseu d'Art Contemporani.
Suquet de l’Almirall
Known for its waterfront view, this Barceloneta port restaurant brings in ingredients fresh from the fish market, located a mere 100 meters away. Housed in a former shipyard, the restaurant's interior is filled with maritime novelties, but the outdoor seating is especially popular. A blackboard displays daily specials, which could include suquet, a traditional Catalan seafood stew; xató salad, made with curly endive and de-salted cod; and arròs negre, black rice. Wines are exclusively from Spain, and more than 200 selections are available; no bottle costs more than 50€.
Fundació Joan Miró
With its high ceilings, arches, and airy passages, this innovative building houses the world's largest collection of Miró's work plus British art, from 1945 to 1968-that is, postwar to Pop.
The well-edited boutique for men and women is stocked with the greatest runway hits from, among many others, Valentino, Alexander McQueen, and Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Design aficionados will appreciate the two-storied Vinçon. It carries furniture and decorative objects for every room—except the bedroom; that's around the corner at spin-off shop Tinçon.
Pied piper Pep Manubens has been pulling off culinary magic in this slender slot of a restaurant for the last quarter century. The formula is simple: squeeze through the door and enjoy a bottle of Albariño while you wait for some of the city’s best tapas. Pep and his staff are gifted at figuring out who’s next and which party fits where, and when your time comes, which it will (once they let you in, you’re on), you will soon understand why so many savvy foodies go through this process for a shot at Pep’s mouthwatering seafood served in small portions to share. The counter’s the place to be, with the burners six feet away, in the heat and excitement of the kitchen.
Outpost Natural Foods
Island visitors who desire a break from heavy, “touristy” foods frequently seek out this tin building to help stock the cupboards and fridges of their rental homes. Founded in 1987, the small health food store near downtown Kaunakakai carries island-grown fruit by the season (such as papayas from nearby Molokai) and an array of vegetables, herbs, cosmetics, and vitamins. For a quick healthy meal, the lunch counter in the back prepares midday meals to-go, like sandwiches, vegetarian lasagna with tofu and spinach, and fruit smoothies made with locally grown watermelon or bananas.
A Barcelona institution, Bar Pinotxo is located inside the Mercat de la Boqueria. This small tapas bar is owned and operated by Juanito Bayen. The cuisine is Catalan, and there is no menu; Juan or a server will simply spout off the day’s offerings. Pinotxo’s food has kept the restaurant in business for more than 50 years, and some offerings may include such traditional dishes as lamb stew, lentils, and chickpeas with botifarra, a Catalan white sausage. Dishes are complemented by the restaurant’s own sparkling wine, fittingly called Pinotxo.
Antxón Gómez launched this legendary club in the 1980's.
Mon Key Club
Catering to the city’s fashionable set, Muntaner 385 is an upscale men’s clothing store that stocks designer garments and accessories in an ultra-stylish, multilevel shop in the Eixample district. The store itself is almost entirely white, with beige marble accents, backlit shelves, rough-hewn wooden cubbies, and walls hung with a handful of black-and-white photographs. Garments range from tailored suits to casual plaid shirts, while accessories include snakeskin-patterned scarves, leather dress shoes, and tortoiseshell sunglasses. Tailoring services are available upon request.
Contemporary art dealer Natalia Foguet has been showing the work of emerging international artists for over a decade.
Vermutería del Tano
An old-world vermouth bodega on a small plaza.
The word naftalina translates to naphthalene, the active ingredient in mothballs. The name seems almost unfitting of this store in the Grácia neighborhood. The trendy retailer stands out from the surrounding shops with its selection of handmade, designer women’s clothing. The store sells a small collection of carefully crafted pieces that guarantee both quality and comfort. Items are hung on racks or displayed on mannequins in the store, which is exudes an upscale feel with dark floors and bright lighting.
This colorful Grácia store was founded by husband and wife Fabian and Anna, who moved to Barcelona from Paris. Bateau Lune is committed to selling toys and items that encourage children to use their imaginations and to learn. The store’s inventory includes natural wood toys, traditional toys, non-toxic toys, and organic toys. Bateau Lune also stocks a selection of music, books, and paper items, including postcards and calendars. Special events such as storytelling and puppet shows are frequently on the store’s calendar.
Anthony Llobet Salon
The salon is staffed with multilingual, London-trained stylists.
An important fixture in the Barcelona arts scene, Sala Beckett was founded by the Teatro Fronterizo group, which was highly influenced by Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. The venue stages performances of thought-provoking plays and fosters creative expression through a number of classes, seminars, and workshops on topics ranging from writing from personal experience to modifying the classics. The theater is an intimate venue; only 74 seats are available for each performance, providing theatergoers with an immersive experience not found at larger theaters.
Paperam is a paper shop located in the Raval neighborhood less than a five-minute walk from La Boqueria market. The store sells a variety of colorful papers, pens, and stationary and provides photocopying and faxing services. It also houses a bookbinding workshop. Technicians use digital finishing, as well classical techniques, including binding by hand and antique book presses. Books created in the shop range from bound university theses to journals covered with handcrafted leather and titled with gold stamping. The shop also repairs antique books.
Discos Castelló is an independent record store located in the Raval neighborhood. Established in the 1930’s, the shop is one of the oldest on Tallers Street, which is lined with stores selling music of all kinds. The company is now a local chain with multiple branches specializing in different musical genres. This flagship location focuses on pop-rock, although vinyl and CD’s in other genres are also available. The staff keeps the checkout counters stocked with flyers and pamphlets about upcoming concerts and music festivals.
La Cuina d’en Garriga
A Catalonia-born graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City, Helena Garriga has worked for the likes of Moschino and Jean Paul Gaultier. Now she’s a curator of edibles, assembling the choicest local and international foodstuffs at her new shop. The sweet-savory pan-con-tomate bonbons at La Cuina come from pastry artist Carles Mampel of Bubó; the buttery bread loaves studded with dried fruits and nuts are from Forn Baluard.
Pick up the sweet-savory pan-con-tomate bonbons from Willy Wonka–like pâtissier Carles Mampel.
Stock up on buttery bread loaves studded with dried fruits and nuts.
Do the prefix dinenr of eclectic cuisine served around the communal table at the arty yet homey spot.
Parc del Fòrum
Picnic around the saltwater swimming pool overlooking the Mediterranean.
Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona
Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola oversaw the conversion of this midcentury bank building (at the main intersection of Barcelona’s elegant Eixample district) to a luxurious Mandarin outpost in late 2009. Urquiola’s décor—in both the common areas and the hotel’s 98 smallish rooms—is a harmonious marriage of clean-lined modernity with Mandarin group’s signature Asian style (modular white-leather furniture accented with black-lacquer tables and ceramics; brushed steel and glass side-by-side with gauzy screens and delicate metal latticework). If design’s your bag, stroll down Passeig de Gràcia to admire two of Gaudí’s most famous Art Nouveau buildings, Casa Milà “La Pedrera” and Casa Battló.
Founded in 1999 by the husband and wife design duo Xavi Gali and Cris Roca, this Barcelona boutique stocks fur, silk, cashmere, and leather pieces. Garments hang from racks inset throughout this minimalist showroom, which only produces 50-60 pieces annually. Custom furrier pieces are crafted for clients around the world, who visit the atelier by appointment. Canine couture is also available. In 2002, Eden Lun made some of its pieces available at select department stores.
Complementos Carmina Rotger
With more than 30 years of experience in the jewelry industry, Carmina Rotger is Barcelona’s top authority on accessories, and her shop is a go-to destination for the finest in designer baubles. Representing such well-known labels as Giorgio Armani, Mala Malachi, and Christian Lacroix, the inventory might include anything from feminine, bow-shaped earrings to chunky metallic cuffs and long strands of glass beads. Rotger and her staff even provide personalized design services for customers who need assistance in coordinating their accessories with their outfits. In recent years, the store also expanded its collection to include handbags and belts.
This famed farmers’ and fishmongers’ market in the Sant Gervasi district offers shoppers everything from fresh asparagus and eggs to filet mignon and arugula. Fixed stalls lined with crushed ice offer fish and seafood hailing from Galicia or the Mediterranean. Since 1927, this brick, dome-covered artistic landmark has seen droves of shoppers venture through its four large arches. The land for this property was procured from the Count of Galvany and the market is noted as one of Barcelona’s most beautiful municipal markets. A home delivery service is available.
Pick up spinach-and-pine-nut coca (Catalan pizza) at this old-fashioned bakery.
The stand is full of cotton napkins of all colors and sizes.
Pavellon Mies van der Rohe
Originally designed and built by German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe for the 1929 International Exposition, the Pabellon Mies van der Rohe is known as one of the first examples of 20th century architecture and is arguably one of the most influential buildings of the last century. Famous for its sleek, simple lines and fine materials like marble and travertine, defining characteristics of Mies van der Rohe’s work, the original building was dismantled after the exposition. In 1983, the Fundació Mies van der Rohe was established to advocate the reconstruction of the building, which was completed in 1986.
Els Quatre Gats
Since 1897, Els Quatre Gats (“The Four Cats”) has served many purposes: pub, café, hostel, cabaret, and restaurant. Located on the ground floor of a Josep Puig I Cadaflach-designed building, this space was a rumored haunt of artist Pablo Picasso. It was shut down in the early 1900’s due to debt, but reopened in 1989 under the tutelage of several restaurateurs. Now, this dimly lit modernist bar, café, and restaurant clad with antique chandeliers serves lingering guests over coffee, rich cream desserts, and dishes like baby squid with Andalusian bacon.
En Línea Barcelona
Founded by Javier Serra in 1987, En Línea Barcelona is one of the city’s most prestigious furniture and interior design stores. The store sells items from such high end designers as Knoll, Louis Poulsen, and Maxalto. Items for sale are artfully displayed throughout the store’s expansive space on Carrer Còrsega, lending the feel of walking through a series of professionally designed rooms. In addition to selling upscale home furnishings, En Línea Barcelona also offers professional design and interior decorating services.
For one-stop shopping, Corte Ingles sells everything from maternity wear to marcona almonds. Located on the main square of Plaza Catalunya, this Spanish institution, founded in 1934, boasts nine floors of retail goods, including a supermarket, pharmacy and travel agency. Reminiscent of Macy’s or Walmart in the United States, this Spanish mega-store sells every imaginable household good. For budget travelers, frequent sales make this an economic spot to stock up on groceries or souvenirs. Its top-floor cafeteria offers panoramic views of Barcelona.
Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona
The Contemporary Culture Center of Barcelona is one of the city’s most prominent exhibition centers. Located in the Raval district, the CCCB organizes a variety of exhibits and special events, including film showings, panel discussions, and festivals that focus on the importance of urban culture. Through its exhibits and holdings, the center hopes to encourage a public dialogue about urban living and current affairs. Exhibits on display have focused on such topics as September 11, the Hispanic image, and art and the city in the 21st century.
This venue is closed.
Located on the Ramblas, Casas Internacional is one of Barcelona’s most popular vendors of designer footwear. The store’s inventory is mostly Italian and includes styles for both men and women. Stilettos, low heels, and round toed styles line the store’s walls and eye catching window displays. The exclusive, national and international offerings have made Casas Internacional popular with well-to-do tourists and the fashionable Barcelona set. In addition to designer footwear, the store also sells high end handbags and accessories.
The unique space at Ras, constructed from concrete and cast iron, serves a three-fold purpose: it is part exhibition space, part bookstore, and part gallery. An upscale, visual feast for the eyes, Ras is elegantly whitewashed with red rectangles accenting the floor and works of art carefully displayed on the walls. The shelves are filled with coffee table books on a range of arts-related topics, including photography, architecture, and fashion. Fully committed to the arts, Ras actively supports established and emerging national and international artists.
Barcelona-born twin chefs Javier and Sergio Torres recently opened Dos Cielos to instant critical raves for their inventive riffs on Catalan food.
Mercat de la Boqueria
One of Spain’s oldest and largest markets, the Mercat de la Boqueria is located just off La Rambla in a cavernous, iron-framed hall. Originating as an open-air market in 1217, the Boqueria now contains more than 200 stalls selling everything from fresh and candied fruits to artisan cheeses, grilled chorizo, handmade chocolate truffles, and freshly squeezed juices in flavors like kiwi-pineapple and blackberry-banana. Select vendors and tapas bars also sell ready-to-eat dishes like chicken empanadas and patatas bravas (fried potatoes). An on-site cooking school hosts occasional classes, which include a brief demonstration followed by a tasting.
This small restaurant near Montjuc transports diners to Venice with its authentic Italian fare. The menu includes homemade pastas, seafood, including cuttlefish and scallops, and classic Italian desserts like tiramisu. Xemei’s dining room is intimate; small tables are positioned closely, and art covers the walls. The restaurant has an open kitchen, providing diners with a glimpse at the activity behind the scenes. Terrace seating is available and is a popular alternative to the dining room when the weather is pleasant.
A fine-dining institution since 1967, Via Veneto uses fresh ingredients from the Mediterranean coast in its authentic Catalan cuisine. Helmed by the father-and-son team of José and Pedro Monje, the restaurant's interior is elegant, with Jacquard fabrics, heavy drapery, and jewel-toned accents. The menu includes dishes like Galician lobster tartare, pork belly confit, and tagliolini with eggs and black truffles. The restaurant is also known for its extensive wine list; the cellar houses more than 10,000 bottles.
This L'Eixample tavern is known for its Gallic seafood tapas. Situated on the crossroads of Paseo de Gracia and Diagonal, the restaurant packs in crowds for small plates such as cantabrico, Bay of Biscay anchovies with crusty bread; slow-cooked pork neck with sea cucumbers; and empedrado, a salted cod salad. The design is decidedly French, with marble-toped counters and brass glass fixtures. Shelves of wine line the walls, and several Spanish selections are available by the glass. Reservations are a must at Bar Mut. Patio seating is available, but can be noisy at this well-trafficked intersection.