The word tapa harks back to the days when these small dishes meant for sharing had to be covered with a “tapa,” or lid, to protect them from the swarms of flies that inhabited the dive bars that served them. These days, Barcelona’s tapas scene has evolved into a sophisticated culinary movement, with many of the city’s top chefs applying their talents to these bite-size tidbits. We’ve selected Barcelona’s best tapas bars here—from the old-school neighborhood dives to the market food counters, and those run by big-name Michelin-star chefs.
Despite featuring in pretty much every foodie guide to Barcelona ever written, Bar Cañete has deservedly maintained its reputation as a local joint. If you come early, you may be surrounded by tourists, but at Spanish dinner time (10 p.m.), most of your fellow diners will be speaking Catalan. Tapas are the thing to order here, in as great a quantity as your stomach and wallet will allow (all washed down with a local bottle from the extensive wine list).
Jai-Ca is all about eating until you burst—and then eating some more. This is the place to go if you like the idea of gorging on giant plates of fried seafood tapas: three different kinds of fried squid (chocos, calamares, or chipirones), fried anchovies (boquerones), whitebait (pescaditos), steamed mussels and clams, and grilled razor clams. If you’re not into seafood, the spicy bomba (fried, meat-filled potato ball), is another best-seller.
Bar del Pla
If you ask a group of Barcelonians to name their favorite tapas bars, one spot that will come up over and over again is Bar de Pla. And for good reason; it’s one of a few places that has managed to nail the mix of friendly service, high-quality, affordable food, good wine, and a laid-back atmosphere. The cooking is seasonal and fresh, so it’s worth checking out the daily specials in addition to bestsellers like the squid-ink croquettes, the mushroom carpaccio with wasabi vinaigrette, and the Iberian pork blade.
You won’t be offered a menu at Cal Pep, a cramped and slightly dingy tapas bar, so you’ll need to give your server a fair bit of freedom with your order. Top dishes here include the Spanish omelet with chorizo sausage (arguably the best tortilla in the city), the tuna tartare, the grilled monkfish, the whole grilled squid, the baby squid and chickpea casserole, as well as any specials of the day.
Quimet y Quimet
Quimet y Quimet opened as a wine bar in 1914 and has gradually evolved into its immensely popular current form under the ownership of four devoted generations of Quimets. In addition to its wines, the bar is most famous for its fantastic array of conservas (preserves in tins or jars) and montaditos (small, open-faced, canapé-style sandwiches). Don’t miss the brie, red pepper, artichoke, and caviar montadito, or the razor clam conservas.
Lolita Tapería is owned by Joan Martínez, a former colleague of famous Barcelona chef Ferran Adrià. So while the menu features all the traditional tapas dishes (anchovies, fried eggplant with honey, spicy patatas bravas, and knockout ham croquettes), the quality is quite different than what you’d find in your average neighborhood tapas bar. In addition to the classics, don’t miss the incredible truffle “bikini” (or ham-and-cheese toastie) or mouthwatering mini-hamburger.
El Quim de la Boqueria
El Quim has the kind of privileged setting no amount of money in the world could ever buy. Situated in the middle of Barcelona’s emblematic La Boqueria, it doesn’t need to create its own ambience, surrounded as it is by the flavors, colors, and buzz of one of Europe’s most iconic food markets. All the produce is sourced from within La Boqueria itself, and if that isn’t a testament to its quality, what is? Kick things off with some fresh anchovies bathed in oil and vinegar, followed by the house special of fried eggs with baby squid.
One of Barcelona’s best wine bars, Can Cisa specializes in natural wines. It’s got a comfortable, inviting vibe, with a long communal table and an entire wall of industrial-steel wine cages that house just a portion of the more than 700 selections on the encyclopedic menu. You’ll be able to sample fare from the attached Bar Brutal, which serves some of the most eclectic food in the city—so come hungry.
You’ll find El Xampanyet down one of the narrow, pedestrianized streets of Barcelona’s El Borne neighborhood, just around the corner from Picasso Museum. Despite its touristy location, it continues to uphold all the traditions of an old-school bar, with its blue-tiled walls and marble tables, and its no-reservations, no-website, no-nonsense approach to food and drink. The bar, which specializes in its namesake sparkling wine, is always crowded, and you’ll have to jostle to find standing room.
Bar Pinotxo, with its modest food counter and handful of stools, has been serving breakfast and lunch to hungry Catalans since it opened in 1940. It joins El Quim de la Boqueria as one of the must-visit stops for any food-lover in the iconic La Boqueria market. There’s really no better place to order a traditional Catalan meal than here, surrounded by all the sights and sounds that come with this legendary “gastronomic temple,” in the words of Ferran Adrià, Barcelona’s most famous Michelin-starred chef.
Michelin-starred chef Carles Abellan’s Tapas 24 has been pulling in crowds ever since it first opened in 2007. His signature tapas include chicken croquettes, runny scrambled eggs (huevos estrellados), and the unbelievable truffle “bikini” (ham-and-cheese toastie). Don’t be surprised if you end up ordering a second round of everything. Although the joint is featured in all the Barcelona guidebooks—and is therefore full of visitors from every corner of the globe—you can time your visit so you won’t be jostling tourists for a seat.
Dos Pebrots is the second restaurant by Albert Raurich, former head chef at Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli; he earned a Michelin star for his Spanish-Japanese fusion food at Dos Palillos before turning his hand to Mediterranean fare here. Calling Dos Pebrots a tapas bar doesn’t really do it justice. Although the menu of roasted sweet peppers, grilled mussels, and Iberian hams may look standard at first glance, Raurich takes things to a whole new level. No wonder local restaurant obsessives can’t stop raving about this place.
Bar Ramón is one of only a handful of truly local Barcelona restaurants that have managed to stand the test of time. Ramón Estalella opened it in 1939 and these days his grandchildren, brother-sister pair Yolanda and David, are busy keeping his legacy alive. You’ll find classic tapas like patatas bravas (fried potatoes served with spicy tomato sauce) and croquettes, as well as house specials like steak with foie gras, char-grilled octopus, and rabbit ribs.
Don’t be tricked into thinking that Pepa Pla is a wine bar that also happens to serve snacks; the food here is seriously good. That will come as no surprise when you learn that it’s the new little sister of Bar del Pla—one of Barcelona’s best-loved tapas bars. Make sure you order the lemon-marinated duck magret, the mushrooms with strawberries and wasabi vinaigrette, and the octopus sandwich. There’s also a great list of natural wines.
La Cova Fumada
La Cova Fumada has kept up all the time-honored traditions of tapas before they became trendy, with a menu scrawled on a discolored blackboard, an old-school counter displaying cold dishes, and a stream of still-steaming hot plates emerging from the kitchen. The bar is most famous for its “bomba” (deep-fried ball of potato and spicy meat), so don’t even think about leaving without trying one. Most of the other classics are seafood dishes: mussels, octopus, squid, salted cod, and grilled sardines.