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Where To Find the Best Tapas in Barcelona

October 16, 2023
Barcelona tapas

Eating tapas is one of the best ways to enjoy food on any trip to Spain. And of course, you want to try the very best as you explore the beautiful city of Barcelona.

This guide will help you find the best tapas in Barcelona and explain what you should look for. But first, let’s talk about what tapas are.

How tapas came to be

The word tapas comes from the Spanish verb “tapar,” which means “to cover.” Originally, bar owners would give their customers thin slices of bread, ham, or cheese with their order of wine or beer. The purpose was to cover their glasses with the bread to prevent any dust, dirt or flies from falling into the glass.

Vodka and tapas at a bar in Spain

With time, the bar keepers had a better idea. A plain slice of bread or salami was boring, so why not make them into appetizing little snacks which the customers would enjoy with their drinks and, at the same time, entice them to have more drinks. And tapas were born.

In Spain, we love to go to cafes and bars all day long to have a little bite to eat, a drink, and to meet with their friends. When you’re here, you’ll want to do the same.

Originally, tapas were a rather modest affair, such as bread with a slice of ham or cheese, olives and anchovies in oil or vinegar, or a spoonful of Russian salad. But as the bars and cafes grew more elegant, the tapas grew up too, becoming full-fledged gourmet snacks.

a typical tapas bar in Spain

I’ve seen tapas with lobster and even caviar. These luxury tapas are accompanied with champagne or the ever popular cava (basically the Spanish equivalent of champagne).

Hungry yet? Here’s where you need to eat tapas when you’re in town.

1. Eat tapas with a local

Tapas toast

The secret is to not go to just one place but to sample a few — that’s the heart of the tapas tradition. Our tapas food tour does exactly that, taking you to a variety of unique places to try some of the area’s best tapas while highlighting the history and legends of these classic Spanish dishes.

As a bonus, you’ll get to explore the picturesque streets of La Barceloneta, a waterfront neighborhood that needs to be on every Barcelona bucket list.

And of course, you’ll have a local leading the way to share all of this city’s flavorful secrets.

2. Palomino

Palomino is a treat for connoisseurs of Spanish tapas, and it’s one of the big stops on our tapas tour. 

If you go on your own, don’t skip their meticulously crafted vermouth, an embodiment of Spanish tradition infused with aromatic herbs and spices. You’ve also got to try the traditional Spanish croquettes: exquisite orbs of creamy, crisped perfection. 

However, their renowned patatas bravas are what really steal the show. These crispy, golden potatoes bathed in a delectably spicy tomato sauce redefine the art of indulgence. 

Revel in the melding of flavors and the atmosphere that envelops you, making every visit a memorable experience.

3. La Boqueria

Fruit Shop Barcelona

Barcelona’s most popular market might not be what first leaps to mind when you think “tapas,” but it has some great counters where you can grab a bite. And if you want to pick up some groceries and do your tapas more DIY back at your hotel or rental with friends, that’s an option too.

There are plenty of excellent tapas stalls in La Boqueria. My favorites are El Quim and Bar Central, and my preferred tapa is gambas al ajillo — shrimps in sizzling hot oil with garlic and parsley

4. El Nacional

Another Barcelona favorite for tapas is the restaurant El Nacional, just off Paseo de Gracia and not far from La Boqueria. A cross between a museum and a food emporium, this is actually four restaurants in one with different sections, among them one dedicated to tapas. 

The history of this restaurant is interesting as it was a car dealership, a bicycle  factory, a theater, a shop, and even a hospital during the Spanish Civil War. Wrought iron car parts and sculptures hang from the ceiling making this place unique as do the lavish green plants and flower pots.

5. La Bombeta

This bar and restaurant is a true insider tip. I only know about it because a local Barcelona friend took me there and what fun it was! 

La Bombeta is located in Carrer de la Machinista in La Barceloneta and in Passeig Joan Borbó near the port and isn’t easy to find. Best take a taxi and then watch out for a long line in front of a red and blue low building and you know you have arrived.

The specialty of this place is a huge spicy meatball wrapped in a soft bun that’s big enough to share. There are all kinds of tapas and delicious seafood too. No reservations, hence the lines. 

The owner comes out, distributes numbers, and entertains his waiting clients with magic and card tricks.

Nobody speaks English, but it’s not necessary — they understand what you want perfectly: the famous meat bombs! House wine, bottled and draft beer are on offer, and you may have to share a table.

6. Bar del Pla

bar del pla

Bar del Pla is your typical tapas bar. Located in the middle of the Born district, not far from the Picasso Museum, you can combine a nice taste of tapas and a few glasses of local wine with treating yourself to a bit of culture and modern art. 

Their tapas are unpretentious but imaginative, but no lobster or caviar. Instead they have mushrooms in a delicious sauce that you’ll want to sop up with your bread until the last drop.

It’s a cozy place, but not cramped, and you’ll find yourself wanting to linger. Go ahead.

7. Jai-Ca

In the heart of La Barceloneta, Jai-Ca is a culinary haven that encapsulates the essence of Catalan tapas culture. The restaurant, always a favorite on our tapas food tour, has a casual, rustic charm thanks to its aged wooden beams and cozy, intimate atmosphere.

Upon entering, you’ll be greeted with the hum of conversation and the savory scent of Spanish delicacies sizzling in the kitchen. The menu at Jai-Ca boasts an array of tantalizing tapas, ranging from grilled sardines to Iberian ham croquettes. On our tour, we try the Spanish tortilla with Catalan tomato bread (aka pa amb tomàquet), some seafood, and their famous padrón peppers.

Whatever you order, each dish is a celebration of traditional Spanish flavors, prepared with a touch of artistry that elevates them to culinary masterpieces. As you savor each bite and sip of local wine, you’ll find yourself immersed in the vibrant tapestry of Barcelona’s gastronomic heritage.

8. Palosanto in Raval

Now we move to my favorite part of Barcelona, except for perhaps the Gothic Quarter — the Raval district! (This tapas bar is actually in the Gothic Quarter as well. You’ll find it in Plaça George Orwell.)

Here, the tapas bar Palosanto reflects the vibe of this district, which is edgy and cool. It has amazing food, and it’s totally Instagrammable.

Raval is full of character, history, and life. If you’re up for getting to know a little of its dark past, join us on our Raval Walking Tour.

Palosanto is located on Rambla de Raval so you can stop for a bite to eat and a glass of wine or vermouth to recharge after your walk.

The bar is narrow and quirky, with street art on the walls so you also have plenty to look at.

What is especially good here is a tapa or pincho of tortilla de patatas and the patatas bravas.

9. La Cova Fumada

This is another rather rustic bar in Barceloneta, popular with locals who work in or by the port.

La Cova Fumada features wrought iron and marble tables, and a specialty on its menu is salted cod. It also is a sort of competition to La Bombeta as it is hotly disputed who invented the meatball known as “la bomba,” which is also served here. 

Why don’t you go and try which one is better?

10. Taller de Tapas

As the name indicates, this place is all about tapas. Taller de Tapas has three locations, but the newest to check out is right off La Rambla de Catalunya, so you can combine shopping, sightseeing and delicious food all within a short stroll. Even better, their kitchen is open around the clock, so whenever the tapas mood strikes, you can swing by.

This place is a bit more contemporary and classy than many of the other bars on this list. They can accommodate special events, and the setting is a bit more upscale from the usual corner tapas bar.

11. Violeta

Another favorite from our tapas tour, Violeta is a natural wine bar offering a relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere and a great selection of vino (as you’d expect).

Locals and travelers alike gather here to savor the star attractions: platters of succulent anchovies and briny olives that perfectly complement their impressive wine collection. It’s the kind of place where you can unwind, chat with friends, and let the evening flow, one delightful glass at a time.

12. Contracorrent Bar

Who wouldn’t be curious to try out a bar that is called “against the tide”? And this tiny tapas establishment located in Calle Ribes is indeed different.

Contracorrent Bar is small and has no printed menu. Daily offerings are scribbled on a chalkboard, and the food is fresh and imaginative. And it’s best accompanied with great natural local wines or, if you’d rather, a cold beer.

How to eat tapas in Barcelona

Tapas are basically a finger food, so you’ll eat them with your hands or sometimes a small fork. The bread is for dipping into those savory juices, so feel free to sop them up — no one will give you the side-eye.

Toothpicks are often on the side to help pick up the little morsels, and sometimes they’re even counted at the end to calculate the bill.

You might hear people talking about pinchos toi. Don’t be confused. Pinchos are similar to tapas. Hoever, pinchos are a bit smaller and, as the name indicates, held together with toothpicks. If you fancy a real pinchos overload, make your way to Carrer de Blai in El Poble-Sec. Along this long street, you’ll find one tapas (or pinchos) bar after another.

Both pinchos and tapas are made fresh, so you can expect a mouthful of flavor even if the bite is small.

Time for tapas

If all of this has you pretty hungry, sign up for our Barceloneta tapas tour and we promise to show you a good time and fill you up. We can accommodate those eating vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free, so don’t let your diet limit you. The flavors of Barcelona — and tapas — are calling.