Recommended bars and gastronomic shops in Barcelona City center
Barcelona, the best places for a gourmet walk through El Born and Gothic Quarter
This post was contributed by David Peris
It’s May in Barcelona and it dawns a sunny day. One of those days that encourages anyone to leave the house in bright-colored shirt and sunglasses. It’s early and I decide to go to El Born district to rediscover it yet again. Without a doubt, one of my favorite neighborhoods in the Catalan capital. A good distance away from the busy Ramblas district and out of danger from the pushy crowds of tourists, I find myself with the need for tranquillity and being able to eat and shop without elbowing my way through the Boquería. Today, I leave behind the area of the Liceu and focus on a more peaceful area.
I have left my house in such a hurry that I haven´t yet had breakfast, but this is no problem for the first stop I have in mind. Bar Joan, inside the Mercat de Santa Caterina will be my first stop on my route. Coffee, zucchini tortilla sandwich, and a “bomba”, to help awaken your senses once you’ve had your first bite of this typical Catalan tapa with alioli and chilli spice. The tortilla sandwich leaves a sweet taste from the zucchini. A good start.
It is obligatory to take a stroll through the market to see the spectacular fish, buy fresh and quality products, or simply to take a walk down its wide and clean aisles. I sincerely recommend passing by OliSoliva where you can find a great variety of olive oils from all over Spain that you can also taste and get a great explanation. 100% recommended.
I leave the market to make my way towards the street Calle del General Álvarez de Castro on which I find Llegums Cuits almost at the end on the right. This store has a great selection of legumes, both dried and cooked.
It is said that it is typical for children to buy cones filled with chickpeas as an after-school snack. Personally, I have never seen this. I turn left and take the first alley on the right. The neighborhood has developed in the last few years from the immigrant communities and it is possible to find typical village bakeries next to halal butcher shops or exotic fruit stores. Anything goes for this neighborhood and multicultural city. And if you are close to one of the gems of this Catalan city, even better. Upon arriving at Calle Sant Pere Més Alt and turning to the left, I come across a huge crowd of tourists with their respective guides (either human or paper) admiring the building on the corner, surely a cultural stop on their “Barcelona tapas tour”. It is no other than the Palau de la Música Catalana, a masterpiece of Catalan modernism that still today leaves me astonished. I don’t even want to think about those who are seeing it for the first time.
I turn back towards Born by Via Laietana to return to the heart of Born. Another option would be to go in the opposite direction on Calle Sant Pere and visit the Museu de la Xocolata, where you can discover history from the perspective of this delicious sweet. It is worth entering even if just to breathe in the aroma of cocoa. But if you do choose to enter the museum, apart from discovering the history of the traditional “Monas de Pascua”, you can eat your entrance ticket, literally, because when you buy the entrance to the museum they give you a chocolate instead of a paper ticket. But today, as I have mentioned, I turn toward the heart of Born which is no other than the church of Santa María del Mar. A gothic-style church from the 14th century, it was funded by the dock workers and sailors, as opposed to the Cathedral built around the same time but associated with the nobility, monarchy, and the clergy. The residents of Born therefore built their own “Cathedral”. After a brief visit, I recommend visiting “La Botifarreria” on Calle Santa María. This business began more than a century ago as a delicatessen, but it was the current family that transformed it in the 50s to what it is today. Simply entering this place full of regional delicatessen is a pleasure for our noses and, if you make a purchase, a pleasure for our palate. Here, you can find all types of catalan butifarra sausage. The traditional, with apple and curry, mushrooms, goat cheese and a long etcetera. You can also buy different cured meats. My personal favorite is Xolis, although there are all kinds of chorizo, fuet, national and international cheeses. Oh, and this place is always full.
I exit the store to the right taking Calle Montcada and, after a few steps, I make a stop at a typical and legendary place of El Born and Barcelona, El Xampanyet. In this small bar decorated the same as it was decades ago, you will find one the most unique atmospheres of Barcelona where you can take it all in with a local wine like one from Priorat or one of the wineries of Penedés or even a cava or a rarity of its own production. A sparkling wine called xampanyet is the reason for the name of the bar. “Bueno, bonito y barato” as they say in Spanish. Afterwards, you can always choose to visit the Picasso Museum of Barcelona since it is located on the same street.
I turn left to enter the Gothic Quarter and have a well-deserved sweet. In this part of the city, I have discovered several things with the passage of time. One is that every time I come here, it gets increasingly difficult to walk through some of these streets due to the masses of people overflowing them. The second is that there do exist small hidden places that hide some gastronomic secrets.
Right between the Passeig de Colon and the Cathedral, I come across the ideal place for the young and not so young. A candy shop where visitors can see before their very eyes how they transform sugar into fun lollipops or strangely-shaped candies. Papabubble on Carrer Ample. But if you are not a fan of candy, and you prefer chocolate, I have just the place for you. La Bombonería Fargas on Carrer del Pí. It is located close to a famous delicatessen, La Pineda, that has been around since 1930 and in which you can have a glass of wine while tasting the products of the store, if you are still hungry that is.
And this is where I end my gourmet walk through the center of Barcelona. I hope that the selection of stops in El Born and the Gothic Quarter have been interesting for you. If you are left with wanting more, remember that you can enjoy different tours in the surroundings of Barcelona, like visiting wineries in Penedés, tapas, or a wine tasting course in Barcelona. There are so many good options to choose from!