Nothing is more desirable in Barcelona than that perfectly-sun-splashed table on the tiny terrace in the charming plaça that seems perpetually occupied. It may not seem like it, but people do eventually pay their bill and leave, you just must be patient. In the summer—and most of the rest of the year— “terrace culture” in Barcelona is in full-swing, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks available outdoors all over the city—from sidewalk seating to hidden gardens and grand, palm tree-lined avenues. Terraces can sometimes be reserved (and, if so, it should be taken as a sign that these reservations are highly recommended), and eating on them usually carries a small fee (10% up-charge is standard). Summer along the Mediterranean is too nice to dine indoors, so claim a seat at any one of these 10 Bars and Restaurants and prepare yourself for pleasure “al aire libre.” You may never eat inside again.
With their own garden of organic produce since 2009 (including tomatoes, squash blossoms, rainbow carrots, sunchokes, and fennel), a prime location in Barceloneta’s Plaça del Mar, and a simple dedication to offering the highest quality food at the best price, it’s no mystery why Kaiku’s sunny, seaside terrace is packed all summer long.
Sitting just 200 metres from Barcelona’s llotja (fishing dock), and not offering customer’s the best, freshest Spanish seafood would be a crime. Luckily, Kaiku aims to please by freshness-dating their fish and seafood and consistently gearing their offerings to the season. Even though it is marked by a faded green awning and it’s wedged between a scooter rental shop and a franchise café, Kaiku (meaning “bowl” in the Basque language) is a surprisingly fine restaurant; and with unobstructed views of the sea, scenic seating here nearly always require a reservation. Only open for lunch (unless you have a large party willing book a group dinner) and closed on Mondays, the weekend at midday is a perfect time to experience the unique and flavorful house specialties like “smoked rice” (a smoky, chargrilled octopus paella), rice with wild mushrooms, monkfish carpaccio, and beef with shaved foie gras and basil. Don’t let the paper tablecloths fool you, Kaiku is sure to impress! (photo by Oriol Lladó)
At the core of Barcelona’s ever-changing and wonderfully colorful neighborhood of El Raval is the Rambla del Raval, a long, wide, pedestrian promenade lined with palm trees, cafés and restaurants. Prior to the 1992 Olympics, this plot of land was a sprawling lot of squatter camps and makeshift housing; so, among many other “beautification” projects undertaken by the city during that time period, Barcelona’s City Hall got to work cleaning up a neighborhood that had fallen largely into disrepair. The debate over whether this change was beneficial melts away as we enjoy a leisurely midday meal on the terrace of this gastro-haven.
Their ideology (and name), Suculent, revolves around the notion of slowly soaking up every last bit of love and flavor from the food. Both a play on the word “succulent” and the Catalan saying “sucar lent” (dipping bread in sauce slowly), Suculent offers both refined and rustic preparations. What’s not to love about a mouth-watering menu that includes roasted bone marrow, braised oxtail, sautéed cow tongue with wild mushrooms, foie gras, grilled octopus, smoked sardines, grilled oysters with jamón, and cod snout with snails? And what could make this “nose-to-tail” feast even better? Enjoying it all with a paired glass of wine as a breeze ruffles the tablecloths and you take in the colorful crowd that flows up and down this famous, but non-touristy, promenade just five minutes from Las Ramblas of Barcelona. (photo by Suculent)
One of the most coveted outdoor lunch spots in the ever-hipper Barcelona neighborhood of Sant Antoni, El Jabalí is an establishment near and dear to the hearts of generations of Barcelonès locals. The name El Jabalí, meaning “The Wild Boar,” is quirky and memorable, but doesn’t seem to fit the elegant Art Deco decor and the vibrant bouquets of fresh flowers that spring eternal from vases placed throughout the emblematic dining room. With a selection of classic tapas, and open from morning until late night, this is an ideal spot for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The “Ensaladilla Rusa”, or Russian Salad, of confit tuna, cooked ham, potatoes, carrots, peas, and mayonnaise is especially excellent; a perfect example of how this old school tapas should be done.
Launched in 1958, El Jabalí was established by a family that, at the time, also ran a butcher/delicatessen inside of the nearby Mercat de Sant Antoni (now under construction and soon to be restored to it’s 19th century glory by 2016). The family, by the name of García, brought their love and expertise in Jamón Ibérico to the dining public. To this day, the owners make regular trips west to the famous region of Salamanca (D.O Guijuelo), and south to Huelva (D.O Huelva) to sample and purchase the best Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (acorn-fed Iberian ham) directly from the producers. El Jabalí’s terrace is always in high demand, and though situated on the corner of a relatively busy Barcelona avenue, the potted plants and canvas canopy lend a sense of separation from bustling city life, allowing diners to pleasantly lunch late into the afternoon.
One of the only bar/restaurants in the Plaça de la Vila de Gràcia that isn’t needlessly over-priced, Las Euras is an unassuming tapas bar and café with a simple terrace that offers unbeatable front row seats to the goings and comings of this Barcelona neighborhood’s principal meeting spot. Plaça de la Vila is the starting point of nearly all major events in this eclectic barrio (once its own town), with the “Torre del Rellotge” clock tower—built in 1870— standing 33.5 meters (110 ft.) tall serving as a landmark and meeting beacon in the center of this large square.
The a la carte menu of tapas, salads, and “main dishes” of Las Euras is as typical as you can get, with crispy fried baby squid, snails in tomato sauce, grilled cuttlefish, fresh tomato salad with confit tuna loin, and plump anchovies in vinegar coming highly recommended. This terrace is nearly always full, but if you wait long enough, hovering nearby, you can snag a spot as other diners depart. Don’t be shy about grabbing a table before the previous occupant’s coffee cups have even cooled. If you hesitate, your seat is likely to be usurped.
Sarrià is a Barcelona neighborhood that few visitors experience. Formerly its own little town, until the 1920s when it was annexed into the city, Sarrìa is one of the richest and most expensive enclaves of Barcelona. A quiet, beautiful place populated by families and dotted with universities, this uptown (literally) part of the city is full of great restaurants (though, not for the budget-conscious). One restaurant that stands out for elegant iterations of classic and modern Catalan dishes done in smaller, tapas format (and also for their gorgeous interior courtyard and garden) is Vivanda, a restaurant with more than 30 years of history and a “Bib Gourmand” recognition from the Michelin Guide.
Chef Jordi Vilà, of one-Michelin-star Barcelona restaurant Alkimia, took the reigns at Vivanda in 2009. A new perspective and more restrained portion size have made the food at Vivanda exceptional, with famous home-style dishes like cap i pota (stewed calf’s head and feet) presented as less viscous and far lighter on the palate than their authentic predecessor. Dressed in a light ravigote sauce (a warm French vinaigrette), the tender meat is mixed with cubes of cooked potato and topped with a soft-boiled egg and a light mayonnaise. Much like many restaurants in Barcelona, Vivanda strays a bit East with seemingly obligatory dishes such as “Wok of Vegetables,” which should probably be left for the Asian noodle bars. The menu at Vivanda is quite large, changes seasonally, and offers enough variety that you could easily order many small dishes—including classic tapas, patés and terrines— and share all with your dining companions to maximize the tasting experience. Reservations are highly recommended for the garden terrace; a meal indoors at Vivanda just wouldn’t be the same. (photo by Vivanda)
Not for those looking to “dine,” but a perfect place to meet friends in the late afternoon and evening to drink beer and simple cocktails, or to take in an art film or exhibition, the Antic Teatre is literally a hidden garden, shielded from one of the drabber and danker streets in Barcelona’s El Born by a high wall and heavy doors. When closed, you’d never see it, but when the wide doors of the “Old Theater” open, you’re ushered up a short flight of stairs into an open-air patio full of chatting students and energetic foreigners, sipping glasses of cheap draft beer under strings of lights amidst the bushes and trees that fill this welcoming courtyard.
With a program each month of short documentaries, art films, poetry readings, and live cabarets, this entertaining locality lives up to its name. Nearly all of these events and exhibitions are in Catalan, though even if you don’t understand the language, you are bound to get a very real look into the alternative art scene that is forever thriving among the cadres of creative Barcelona audio-visual and performance experimenters. Shows aren’t every day, and usually only last an hour or two. If you arrive at these times, you will likely be asked to pay a small entrance fee. Otherwise, this lovely terrace is free for all to enjoy!
It may not catch you eye in passing, but the good places hardly ever do. Atril is an interesting mix of local and foreign flavors, with a nice selection of wine, pleasant prices, and a nice terrace with candles by night and street musicians by day, in the small Plaça Sant Cugat at the heart of Barcelona’s El Born.
Portions are generous and so is the service, and diners can pick between classics tapas such as “patatas brava” (which are excellent at Atril) and “pimientos de Padrón,” or get outside the comfort zone for something unique like the kangaroo steak with foie gras, the quinoa salad, or the smoky eggplant with polenta. A mix of classic Spanish, Catalan, French, and Latin food offers your group plenty of options that can please every palate.
Open daily with continuous kitchen service from lunch through dinner, Atril offers both a prix fixe midday menu, and an “American-style” Sunday brunch (American-style meaning eggs, drinks, etc.; a more common Spanish breakfast is quite pastry-centric). Choosing from poached eggs with salmon and spinach, chicken club sandwich with a fried egg, a ham, gruyere, and spinach quiche, or “fish and chips” rewards you with a tasty, simple meal to be enjoyed at your leisure. What else would you be doing on a Sunday in Barcelona?
A famously popular spot along the Barceloneta beach, Santa Marta is a relaxed spot for a meal or drink when the summer sun gets just a bit too intense. Retire to the terrace of Santa Marta, choose sun or shade, and pick from simple fare like nachos, salads, pizzas, tapas, and “aperitivo” essentials like olive, potato chips, anchovies, and vermouth. While not as “picture-perfect” as the xiringuito that line the beach, Santa Marta is not pretentious or expensive, and it’s very popular. After midday the terrace falls into shade as the sun dips behind adjacent buildings, so get there early and soak it up!
As a (big) fan of the refreshingly bitter and light “Aperol Spritz” cocktail (3 parts sparkingly wine, 2 parts Aperol, and a splash of soda water), I can attest that Santa Marta makes a great one. A lesser-known fact about this beach bar is that they also sells this Italian aperitif to-go in oversized, beach-legal plastic cups for around €4. These drinks are big and to put a smile on your face; but beware, they also make it far too easy to put off all responsibilities for another day and allow “a few hours at the beach” to stretch on into an all-day affair! (photo by Nuria)
Quiche, pastries, salad, sandwiches, and Wi-Fi have made Bliss a go-to café for mid-week work sessions and late Saturday lunches. Just a couple blocks from the central Plaça Sant Jaume, Bliss is a small establishment with an equally small terrace of just a handful of tables, around the corner, in the quiet plaça de Sant Just; a meeting place for leisure and trade since the Middle Ages.
With good service and an average-priced “menu of the day” (3-course prix fixe meal), Bliss is a great pit stop while exploring Barcelona that doesn’t require too much fuss or thought to enjoy a pleasant meal in a relaxing setting, surrounded by the ancient history and charming stone edifices of Barcelona’s Gothic quarter.
Some restaurants are at the whim of trends, seasonal business, and tourist demands, but Café de L’Acadèmia is not one of them. Though this brick and timber dining room is nearly always packed with an even mix of tourists and locals (and politicos from the city hall just around the corner), Cafè de L’Acaèmia upholds its dedication to classic Catalan cuisine of the highest caliber.
With limited space in an already in-demand plaça (the same plaça used by Bliss cafe, mentioned previously), the terrace of this charming restaurant at the heart of the Gothic quarter is a neat bunch of tables, corralled together under white umbrellas bordering an iconic medieval fountain from the 14th century—the Fuente de Sant Just, the oldest of its kind in Barcelona. On summer nights, this terrace (closed in winter) is fit for the movies, with ice buckets of crisp white wine and flickering candlelight setting the mood as couples and friends eat, drink, and chat long into the evening. Famous for ultra classic dishes that blend Mediterranean cuisine with an obvious French influence like esqueixada de bacalao (salt cod salad), roasted chicken, black truffle and foie gras grilled sandwiches, monkfish with asparagus, duck in orange sauce, whole-roasted dorado, grilled rib-eye, roasted leg of lamb, roasted vegetables with blood sausage, cod snout with chickpeas, and more, it’s hard for a food lover to quibble with this superb and unapologetically-Catalan menu. During lunch time, a prix fixe menu for €10-€15 is available and is a perfectly delicious way to pass an afternoon.