I am on a train. Two suitcases, three backpacks and a ukulele, and I’m out of Barcelona for good. My journey has started. My lifelong dream of being a full-time traveler has finally started. But, boy, wouldn’t I be lying if I didn’t say it is with a pinch of nostalgia that I’ve left this magical town.
The first time I visited Barcelona, I didn’t like it at all. I had just gone ashore from a trip to Majorca, and I was so seasick I hadn’t slept a wink. We walked up the Ramblas at 6 in the morning and I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. We only had the time to reach Plaça Catalunya and it seemed just a huge commercial square without a soul or personality. Then we went underground and right to the train station back to the south.
A couple of years later, though, my then boyfriend moved there to pursue his master’s degree, so I began to visit more often and fell head over heels for the modernist architecture, the swing gatherings in little squares, the quaint restaurants and hipster cafes, the numerous art galleries, theaters and concert halls, the live music at bars, the hundreds of old bookstores, the labyrinthine medieval quartiers, the farmer and antiques markets, the musicians at parks and subways and streets, the fact that nobody even noticed when I dyed my hair pink and purple and blue, and please stop me now because I could go on and on and on for ages.
Wait, no, don’t stop me quite yet. I was just about to get to the very reason for this post: Barcelona’s multiculturality. I fell in love with the city also thanks to the fact that I could taste almost any country within a 30-minute subway ride radius. So much, I moved there, where I lived and thrived for over four years. And today I want to share with you my best-liked, in case you ever find yourself hungry in the only city in the world where I have ever thought I could settle down.
Please understand that I am in no way sponsored by any of the restaurants I am including in this list; I am just giving away this information out of the pure kindness of my heart (and in the hopes they stumble upon this post somehow and offer me a free meal or something, ahem!). You can find the link to the restaurants in their names.
La Biga, Clot. My latest discovery! Excellent and pretty authentic Italian pizza. My heartfelt recommendation, the Stracciatela: their homemade natural tomato sauce, fresh basil and burrata. Simple, yet superb.
- Pros: inexpensive pizzas, super-friendly staff.
- Cons: the place is very small, although they have a nice terrace.
- To do nearby: Sagrada Familia and Sant Pau Recinte Modernista are a 20-minute walk away, so that you don’t feel guilty about all that delicious cheese!
Mic Sopars, Gràcia. We were two, asked for the meat fondue and the cheese fondue to share. It was way too much food, but totally worth the extra gym session the next week.
- Pros: they are not shy with the ingredients.
- Cons: the decor and music could use some help. Also, it is the less affordable place listed here.
- To do nearby: Gràcia is a vibrant area, just enjoy the ambiance of its little squares, or maybe visit Gaudí’s house Casa Vicens.
Marrakech, Sants. My favorite Moroccan dish is lamb with plums, and theirs (see the picture) is magnificent. However, when I tried the vegetable cous-cous I just cried happy tears.
- Pros: daily menu, very affordable.
- Cons: the only thing I can think of is that the tables were kind of small and the glasses could use some updating, but I don’t really care for that sort of stuff.
- To do nearby: Sants is a very familiar borough sprinkled with plazas. You can go to the Espanya Industrial park or to the Sants market in the morning, and you’ll get an unexpected small town feeling.
Moti Mahal, El Raval. Well, if it’s good enough for Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart it sure is good enough for me! Its walls are decorated with all the celebrities that have eaten there, and there are quite a few. But, what’s more important: they have a lamb with mango sauce to die for.
- Pros: huge place, great for big parties.
- Cons: at first sight, you probably wouldn’t choose this restaurant. From the outside, it looks like a garage, but then it has a huge underground dining area.
- To do nearby: just wander the little streets, do some people watching, maybe have a stroll in the Boqueria market, the Güell Palace or the Liceu Opera House. But please, please, please, whatever you do, don’t miss El Jardí, the old Santa Creu Hospital. It’s a charming oasis of quiet and culture.
VIETNAM / TAIWAN
Bao Bao, Sants. My favorite baos here are the Confucius and the Ho Chi Minh, but they sure have a great selection to choose from. I have tried many, many baos in the city, absolutely none to my satisfaction except for Bao Bao’s.
- Pros: great vibe, nice decor, young feeling. Street food without the downsides of eating on the streets.
- Cons: it’s kind of in right now, so it’s usually crowded.
- To do nearby: come on, we’ve already been here! Okay, Sants is also a short walk away from the mall Arenas, which has amazing views of Plaça Espanya, Montjuïc and the Joan Miró Park.
Chen Ji, Sant Pere. The main clientele of this place is actually Chinese, that must account for something, right? Very affordable and generous dishes. I guess that’s why they spare the website but, believe me, it is a nice experience.
- Pros: a taste of authenticity, hectic and real.
- Cons: just that. Don’t expect anything fancy, and it’s usually crowded and very hot in the summer.
- To do nearby: have a nice walk along the Ciutadella Park and go up to Arc de Triomph. Live music and other artistic forms are always in place, it is a cheerful and bohemian area.
Ramen Dining Yu, Eixample Dreta. Believe me, Japan is a very special place for me, so I can get insufferably picky when it comes to my ramen and sushi; but their soy ramen and halibut aburi nigiri definitely are what I will have for my last meal.
- Pros: everything.
- Con: none. Sorry, not very objective here.
- To do nearby: the Universitat de Barcelona is a beautiful building and its cloisters and gardens are for everyone to see. One of my favorite streets is close-by to: Enric Granados. Also, you can go the other direction and visit Gaudí’s houses Casa Milá and Casa Batlló.
Sil´s Cakes American Pastry, Gràcia. This is a take-away place, but I would be happy eating those decadent cakes sitting on the sidewalk if needed. Brace yourself for a sugar rush!
- Pros: huge assortment of cakes and cookies, some of them classic, many very original.
- Cons: calories, calories everywhere.
- To do nearby: when you’re done with Gaudí and the little squares, go to carrer de Asturies and Carrer Gran de Gràcia for amazing little boutiques and beautiful architecture. Or, if you feel like burning away all those carbs, Parc Güell can be considered to be at walking distance.
Sorry about the lack of pictures of most of the places, so I put picture of beautiful places nearby instead. In my defence, this can only be a sign of how busy I was enjoying my meals instead of capturing them. Also, I’ve noticed how Latin America and Oceania are missing, and Africa is highly underrepresented. Anyhow, as my mom says: «It is good to always have a reason to come back.»
I hope this tour around the world without leaving Barcelona proves to be useful for you some day. Now, it is my turn to leave Barcelona and go around the world, for good. Stay hungry!