Barcelona City Guide
Located in northeastern Spain near to the French border, Barcelona claims a rich history dating back to Roman times. Its strategic Mediterranean location made it a thriving trade hub and has over the centuries witnessed Moorish, Gothic, and Catalan influences, shaping its unique culture and architecture. The city’s geography features the iconic Montjuïc mountain, picturesque coastline along the Balearic Sea, and a vibrant urban core. Barcelona’s year-round temperatures make it an easy place for runners, cyclists and swimmers to make the most of training.
To make the most of this Barcelona city guide for endurance athletes, note a few patterns and features. Facilities are broken into categories according to their running, cycling or swimming focus, with a separate section highlighting quality gym facilities in Barcelona. Finally, the Sleeping & Eating section towards the end of the guide provides an insight into good places for sleeping and fuelling during your time in Barcelona. A full directory of Google Map-linked addresses are found in the Directory section.
Orientation & Logistics
Barcelona is nestled into a geographic sweet spot, with the water of the Balearic Sea lapping at its shores to the east, and the Sierra de Collserola mountains cradling it from the north and west. It’s one of the rare cities in the world where you can go on a mountain hike, and find yourself lying on the beach less than an hour later.
The city angles from the southwest to the northeast, with the fortress and mountain of Montjuïc representing somewhat of a southern border, and the Besòs River cutting off the city to the north. As a city that goes back to the Roman empire, its neighborhoods are varied and have accumulated many different identities over the years. That said, its most popular neighborhoods tend to be clustered closer to the sea.
It makes sense to start with perhaps the most well-known of all neighborhoods in Barcelona, El Barri Gòthic. This gothic quarter of the city is a maze of narrow corridors, filled with surprise courtyards, medieval-style archways, and remnants of Roman ruins. Because of its somber beauty, it has become dominated by tourists, but early in the morning is quite peaceful, and if you look hard enough, there are still good little wine bars and shops to be found. El Born, just to the north, is somewhat of an extension of El Barri Gòthic, particularly because it’s where the gothic, 14th-century Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar is located. Some of the best cocktail bars are found here, as well as the Picasso Museum, and other lesser-known art museums. To the south of El Barri Gòthic is another of Barcelona’s most popular neighborhoods, El Raval. The streets are still narrow, but it doesn’t feel as ancient as its neighbor. It’s got a bit of an edge, particularly later at night, but it’s where many of the city’s old bars are, as well as plenty of impressive works of graffiti. Heading further south of El Raval, in the shadow of Montjuïc, is El Poble-Sec, a neighborhood that can change from utter silence to raucousness with the turn of a corner. It’s home to the best place to eat pintxos in the city.
Most visitors will also at some point find themselves alongside Barceloneta, a peninsular neighborhood that borders the beach and an inland marina. But in its heart, it has a number of excellent bodegas and old-time tapas bars, and its thin blocks are peaceful places to walk around amidst the colorful clotheslines swinging in the sea breeze.
Far from Barceloneta, on the north side of the Parc de la Ciutadella, is the more modern El Poblenou. You might say it’s the city’s hipster area, with many cafes, community workspaces, and innovation labs. It’s also home to the hard-to-miss Torre Glòries. With plenty of space, far fewer tourists, lots of hotels, and easy beach access, it’s a great place to stay to get to know a different part of Barcelona.
Moving further inland to the neighborhood of L’Eixample, Barcelona’s famous grid system becomes prominent, with wide sidewalks, green space, and courtyards within most city blocks. The neighborhood of L’Eixample is quite large and hard to define, but the sub-neighborhood of Dreta L’Eixample is at the center of it all. Here you’ll find Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Batlló and Casa Milà, Plaça de Catalunya, a wide stretch of the Diagonal, and many of the city’s best hotels. Just to the north of L’Eixample is the neighborhood of Gràcia. An excellent place to stay for quaint wine bars and fine dining, it’s a bit quieter than some of the neighborhoods mentioned above. Gaudí’s famous Parc Güell acts as a sort of pinnacle of the neighborhood.
While most visitors miss anything to the north or west of Gràcia, there are still some areas worth mentioning. Sarrià-Sant Gervasi is a large neighborhood that slopes upwards towards the mountain peaks overlooking the city. It’s quite residential and is therefore quieter, but it’s a great place to ride and run hills, has many local restaurants, and offers easy access to the Carretera de les Aigües, the best running trail in Barcelona. Horta, a neighborhood in the northern reaches of the city, also boasts access to spectacular viewpoints, the well-manicured Parc del Laberint D’Horta, and some wonderful tapas bars at its southern edge.
In a city with so many sites to see, places to eat, and overall exploration to be done, it’s no wonder the city has one of the best public transit systems in Europe. The Barcelona metro, operated by the TMB (Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona), is efficient, easy to navigate, and most often, during peak hours you’ll almost never have to wait longer than five minutes for a train. The best way to get around is to get a timed Hola Barcelona travel card, which will give you access to the subway system, regional trains (which go to the main airport), buses, and even funiculars and trams throughout the city. Just purchase an unlimited card, with options ranging from two to five days, and you’ll be free to roam.
In Barcelona, the lifestyle is decidedly Mediterranean, with its laid-back pace, less rigid view of time, the taking of siestas, emphasis on simple yet delicious ingredients, spending time outside, and a prioritization of family. Its climate is also Mediterranean, with warm summers and mild winters summing things up nicely. The weather in Barcelona is about as conducive to outdoor living and exercise as any in the world. Sure, it does get hot in the summer, but that’s splitting hairs. Rarely is it cloudy, sparingly does it rain, and aside from having to wear a light coat in the winter months, you won’t find yourself cold.
To throw some numbers behind this, during the hottest month of the year (August), the average high temperature sits near 29 degrees Celsius (or 85 Fahrenheit), while the average high temp in the coldest winter months is approximately 14 degrees Celsius (57 Fahrenheit). If there are to be extreme weather events, it’s likely to skew hot, as heat waves, particularly in recent years, can push temps north of 38 degrees Celsius (100 Fahrenheit). That said, it’s much more tolerable than much of inland and Southern Spain, as the sea air generally keeps things from getting too oppressive.
The city sees an average of just 55 days of rain throughout the year, with the best odds of seeing rain in the winter months, giving any visitor favorable odds of basking in the sunshine on any visit to Barcelona. The last time there was notable snowfall in the city was in 2010, and it was such a freak occurrence that it became a day of legend. So you can bank on leaving your snow pants at home.
Daylight is prominent in the summer, with the sun rising around 6:15 a.m. and setting close to 9:30 p.m. during the solstice. During the depths of winter, albeit a mild one, sunshine is more limited, with a late sunrise at approximately 8:15 a.m. and a sunset at 5:30 p.m.
Simply put, Barcelona has every terrain a runner could possibly need. Whether you’re a track fiend, a hill monster, or a solitary trail runner, the city provides. The beach, the mountains, and the sports clubs, not to mention the fandom of endurance sports, all work together to give runners an atmosphere to improve their fitness or simply enjoy the city on two fast-moving feet.
Starting out with the oval office, one of the best in the city is the Estadi Municipal Joan Serrahima, located conveniently next to some of the city’s best pools, below the upward slope of Montjuïc. Daily entry will cost you just €7 for access to one of Barcelona’s longest-standing tracks, which has been around since 1969. Its hours are typically from 8:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Saturdays, with Sundays and holidays closed. Within the municipal sporting complex of Montjuïc, the Pau Negre track is also accessible Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and weekends from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Prices may change, so check with the front desk at the nearby CEM Piscines Bernat Picornell pool (or send an email) to purchase a one-time entry pass.
Any article covering running in Barcelona must cover one of the most spectacular city running routes in the world, the Carretera de les Aigües. This paved and packed dirt trail lines the upper reaches of the Sierra de Collserola mountains that overlook the entire city, winding in and out of the mountain valleys, providing ever-expansive views as you take each turn. While technically 10 kilometers long, it can be extended in numerous directions, with dirt offshoots lining the path, which are perfect for getting in some more technical trail running, and even better vantage points.
The stretch along the waterfront, ranging from the W Hotel at the tip of Barceloneta, down to the end of Llevant Beach, is undoubtedly the most popular in the city, as you’ll see a measly few feet of elevation gain over an uninterrupted stretch of four kilometers. If you’re looking for a spot to break out a hard tempo run, or just a leisurely easy run, this is a great place to do it. The only downside is that in the evening after throngs of people have left the beach, the path can become a bit sandy.
The Diagonal, as the name suggests, is an avenue that slices the city diagonally, and much of it is lined with bike and pedestrian lanes. At approximately 10 kilometers long, it’s a nice run to tackle in its entirety. It starts near one of the prettiest gardens in the city, the Parc de Cervantes, and runs on a downward slope all the way to the edge of the water, near the Parc del Fòrum.
The Parc de la Ciutadella is better suited for easy running, given the number of people and the many turns, but it can be a peaceful place to run, with its gardens, fountains, and trees. The trails are mostly packed dirt, so it’ll give your knees a break from pounding the pavement.
For some longer stretches of running, a bit further afield from the heart of the city, there are opportunities on the two rivers that hug the edges of Barcelona. To the north, there are flat waterfront paths along both sides of the Besòs River, with the northernmost path tracing the edge of the river for over seven miles. To the south, close to the airport, there’s a long trail of mostly crushed gravel, that starts in the Llobregat River Delta and far to the north. Parc del Riu Llobegrat acts as a decent starting point.
It’s really quite easy to run hills in Barcelona, given it’s been built up into the slope of the Collserola mountains. Any of the roads that lead up to the Carretera Aigües are bound to have you winded after just a few seconds. A local favorite for hill sprints is the steep stretch along Parc de les Aigües, next to the Alfons X metro stop. Nearby, there’s both Parc del Carmel and Parc del Guinardó, where there are single-track dirt trails that take runners and hikers to intra-city peaks with 360-degree views.
The free-standing Montjuïc provides ample opportunities to run hills as well. Simply start from Plaça d’Espanya, at the base of the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, or from anywhere in El Poble-Sec, and work your way up. There are winding roads, dirt trails, zig-zagging paths in the botanical gardens, and even stairs climbing up to the Olympic Park. Montjuïc castle crowns the mountain’s highest point, and its sea and city views offer a pleasant reward for anyone who tackled the climb on foot.
If you’re looking to race, Barcelona has a few signature races, including the Zurich Barcelona Marathon and the eDreams Barcelona Half Marathon, both of which feature flat, fast courses around the city’s most iconic sites. La Cursa El Corte Inglés is also one of the city’s most popular races, and its 1994 finisher count of over 109,000 remains one of the largest races in world history. Barcelona also hosts the full-length Ironman Barcelona, and Challenge Barcelona for shorter triathlon distances.
Spend any time on the beach, particularly in the mornings and evenings, you’ll see that Barcelona has a strong contingent of running groups. First up is Midnight Runners Barcelona, which leads runs on Mondays and Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m., heading out from a coworking space in El Poble-Sec and frequently finishing with a drink at a local bar, as most good run clubs do. Barcelona Casual Runners hosts multiple runs per week, including a Monday run at 7:00 p.m. that starts at the Montjuïc fountain, and a Tuesday run at 7:30 p.m. that starts at the Parc de la Ciutadella. For runners that prefer the morning hours, Yepalo Sunrise Runners head out at 7:30 a.m. most Wednesdays and Fridays from the Barceloneta beach, often finishing with a dip in the water.
Although “Natació” translates to swimming, the Club Natació Catalunya facility (more on this club later) has a running group that meets every Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at the club. Training includes drills, speed work, resistance training, and more. Given its location in the Horta neighborhood, you’re sure to see some hill work as well.
We’ve all seen the idyllic montages of the likes of Jan Frodeno, Mark Cavendish, or even Lance Armstrong, peddling effortlessly through the nearby Girona countryside. But Girona deserves its own guide, so this will focus mostly on Barcelona proper.
To fully grasp the accessibility of bike lanes in Barcelona, take a look at this interactive map from the city, which distinguishes between city bike lanes that line streets, versus traffic-free cycling trails. It’s also useful for planning a cycling tour of Barcelona. The well-worn waterfront running path and the Diagonal are also suited to scenic, leisurely riding.
Perhaps the best place to explore on two wheels is the massive Parc Natural de la Serra de Collserola that sits just behind Barcelona, which is teeming with endless trail combinations. Some are highly technical and some are flat and smooth, though most are dirt trails. Check out this interactive map of some of the most used trails within the park, to get a gauge of what’s out there and plan your own cycling excursion. The common outer loop of the Collserola is approximately 40 miles long, with plenty of winding roads, a few thousand feet of elevation gain, and of course both stellar city and mountain views.
For some road riding, just outside of the city cyclists can head north, hugging the water to the city of Badalona before cutting a loop around the winding roads that surround the Parc de la Serralada de Marina. Otherwise, continue along to Mataró, which is about 30 kilometers from the city, along a mostly flat route.
The same path that takes runners along the Llobregat River to the south of the city makes for some nice gravel biking, as the trail extends for quite a ways north. If you’re looking for an epic ride, roads follow the contours of the river, all the way to the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, famous for its rock formations and mountain vistas. The starting point of the route dictates the full distance of the ride from Barcelona, but an out-and-back will have you covering at least 60 miles.
A favorite ride in the city is the climb up to the Carretera de les Aigües, starting from the Tibidabo metro stop in Sant Gervasi. Head up Avinguda del Tibidabo as it winds steeply, turning onto Carrer de Manuel Arnús, which will get you to the Aigües trail. Another easily accessible city climb is to start at the Parc de la Primavera in El Poble-Sec and wind your way up the mountain, starting with a long climb up Avinguda de Miramar.
Riding in the Collserola features plenty of climbs, so you don’t have to go looking too hard for them there. Though more commonly cycled in southern Spain, closer to Málaga, the famed N-340 transnational highway can be ridden out from Barcelona. The stretch from the Llobregat River to the town of Ordal covers 10 miles, with about 1,500 feet of elevation gain, with some steep climbs along the way that are popular with cyclists.
For group rides, start with the CVCC. Not only is it an excellent name for a cycling group, but the Croissant Victim Cycling Club is welcoming to newcomers. Follow their Strava page for upcoming rides, but they typically host a 6:00 p.m. “Dusks of Gravel” ride, which departs from Plaça Karl Marx in the La Guineueta neighborhood, up in the higher elevations of the city, near Horta. These rides, where the pace can get spicy, most often take place on sections of the Carretera de les Aigües, so it’s a good way to familiarize yourself if you’re new to that trail. And of course, rides finish at bakeries.
For more frequent meetups, the Barcelona Road Cycling Group hosts group rides every Tuesday evening at 6:15 p.m., a coffee ride at 7:15 a.m. every Thursday, and Friday afternoon rides, usually around 4:00 p.m. Be prepared to come with a helmet, lights, and proper cycling shoes, as the group takes safety seriously.
You can even test your mettle at an Olympic event, track cycling, at the Barcelona Pista Track Club. Located at the Horta Miquel Poblet Velodrome, the club hosts open “Velo-Day” hours on Saturdays from 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., where for just €20 you can give the track a whirl. Given most people don’t own track bikes, they provide rentals. Just be sure to fill out the registration form on their website ahead of time, as spots are limited for the obvious safety reasons.
There are a couple of places to rent bikes while in Barcelona. The first of which is from Velodrom, near Gràcia just off the Diagonal, where you can rent road and gravel bikes that are in “perfect condition” for €70 per day. You can also rent some high-quality Canyon wheels from Terra Bike Tours, located in the heart of Dreta L’Eixample. Prices depend on the type of bike (though you’ll be hard-pressed to find one for less than €50 for a single day), and there is quite a wide variety, from gravel to full-suspension mountain bikes to aluminum and carbon road bikes. Conveniently, for a better daily rate you can also rent for multiple days at a time, and you can rent a GPS, saddle bag, and helmet. The shop can also provide expert advice on route design and offer private tours if you’d like to have some company.
, one of the premier bike shops in the city, offers bike demos for €45 per day. All bikes are Orbea, of course, but there’s a nice variety of road and mountain options. It was once known for having a beloved cycling cafe, but it appears to have recently closed down. BCN
As a last heads up, particularly as it relates to casual riding, visitors can’t use the Bicing ride-sharing network, as it’s reserved for locals only.
While finding places to swim in many cities can be like finding a needle in a haystack, it is a very different story in Barcelona. The city was transformed in 1992 when it hosted the Olympic games, and its most iconic shot in the lead-up to the games was that of Tracey Miles diving into a pool, with the Sagrada Familia artfully in the background. Given the plethora of places to get in some laps in Barcelona, it remains an emblematic shot to this day.
Starting with the pool that was home to said photograph, Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc and its breathtaking, Olympic views are still available for swimming in its 25-meter pool for just about €7. However, it’s often used for open swimming without lane demarcation, so getting in a proper lap swim can be difficult at times. It’s also only open from early June to early September, so to enjoy the pool you’ll have to come at the right time.
However, further up the mountain in the sprawling Olympic park complex, is Piscines Bernat Picornell, which boasts both an indoor and an outdoor pool. According to its current timetable, the 50-meter outdoor pool is open from April to October, and the indoor pool is open year-round, which you can access by purchasing a day pass, most recently running about €14 for adults. If you need to let it all hang out while you swim, there are in fact nudist hours at the pool, typically late Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. If that’s not your thing, it’s best to confirm the schedule before heading to the pool.
If heading all the way up Montjuïc seems less convenient, head down to Barceloneta, where there’s not only the beach, but also one of the city’s premier clubs. Midway down the length of the Barceloneta peninsula is Club Natació Atlètic de Barceloneta. This club has two 25-meter outdoor pools, a 25-meter indoor pool, an indoor cycling studio, weight rooms, and paddle tennis courts, and that doesn’t even cover all the amenities. “Timely” entry, as it’s referred to, is an option for visitors and costs €14 for adults. But keep in mind that entry is subject to capacity limits, so having a backup plan is a good idea.
Not to be confused with the former club, there’s also Club Natació Catalunya (CNC), located a stone’s throw from Parc Güell in the Horta neighborhood. This pool has an indoor and outdoor pool, both 25 meters long, and they are open year-round. Day passes are available for €14.
The Sant Gervasi-Galvany neighborhood, just north of the L’Eixample, has a women’s-only club with an indoor pool, called Piscines Santaló. One-time entry costs €13, or you can also pay €30 for the week.
At Claror gym, and specifically, the Can Caralleu location, a neighborhood located on the city’s hilly slopes next to Sant Gervasi, you can get a trial day pass for €10, where you’ll be able to use the indoor and outdoor pools. Hours change by day of the week and time of year, and there can be aqua fitness classes, so be sure to check their website for updated hours.
Llac Can Dragó, the largest pool in the city, must also be mentioned. This massive pool located in the northern Nou Barris district is so big that it’s nicknamed “the lake.” The outdoor pool is open from June to September, but the enormous Eurofitness complex that it’s a part of is open year-round, and day passes are available at the front desk. The facility includes an indoor pool, untold numbers of fitness classes, cycling studios, and a restaurant.
And if you need to get used to the buoyancy of saltwater for an upcoming triathlon, Barcelona has ample opportunity as well. With nearly four kilometers of easily accessible beaches, getting in some open-water swim time is quite easy. If you’re looking for a bit more protection than the wide open bay, there’s the Piscines del Besòs, a section on the northern coast of the city that’s protected by blocks of concrete that calm the water. It’s the perfect place to get reacclimatized to open-water swimming, without the difficult choppiness of the open sea.
For group swimming, one of the most prominent in the city is Radikal Swim. To jump in for a group swim, head to their website and select the “daily radikal” option for €15. If you do not have a swim buoy, you may also be required to purchase one in order to join. The group is headquartered at the Barcelona International Sailing Center in Parc del Fòrum, right along the water at the end of the Diagonal. They typically swim on Saturday mornings, and even host longer swim events over the course of the year.
And should you find yourself in Barcelona towards the end of the year, you can take part in, or at least witness, one of the most adored athletic events in the city. The Copa Nadal swim race is a 200-meter-long race that takes place every Christmas Day. It’s known as the oldest open-water race in Spain, going all the way back to 1907. You’ll see plenty of costumes and quite a few Santa hats at this festive event. Here’s a highlight video to witness some of the 2021 edition.
In Barcelona, you never have to worry about a gym membership blowing your budget. Along the waterfront, there are a series of “gimnàs a l’aire lliure,” or outdoor gyms that are free and open for everyone to use. The setting is picturesque, and a workout is easily paired with a swim or a run along the beach. There aren’t free weights of course, but there are good workouts to be had with a few pull-up bars, dip bars, and sit-up benches.
For more well-equipped gyms, there are plenty. Many of the larger municipal fitness centers that have pools listed above also have gyms that are quite nice, and well equipped with free-weights, including Piscines Bernat Picornell, CNAB, CNC, Can Dragó, and the Claro club does as well.
If you’re looking for a privately-run, accessible, affordable gym, give BCN Fitness a try. For just €7 for a day pass, you get access to all of the free weights and machines, as well as classes like pilates, dance, and indoor cycling. If you’re in town for longer than a few days and would like to hit the gym regularly, a monthly pass is going to be more economical, at just €18 per month.
Another affordable option is VivaGym, which conveniently has locations scattered throughout the city. For €10, you’ll have access to treadmills, free weights, and fitness classes like yoga, Zumba, and core, in addition to many others depending on the location.
CrossFit enthusiasts also do not need to take time off while visiting Barcelona, as the city has many nice gyms. One of the better-renowned gyms is CrossFit Poblenou. Unsurprisingly, the spaciousness of the neighborhood is conducive to a large workout studio, and for €20, drop-ins can simply work out on their own during open hours, or access many of the club’s classes that include mobility, gymnastics, cardio endurance, and kettlebells, amongst others.
Sleeping & Eating
When you ask anyone to name their favorite part of visiting Barcelona, you’re likely to hear something related to food and drink. There’s always fresh seafood, vineyards that produce world-famous cava sit in the city’s backyard, and it has a deep culinary tradition that’s essential to the identity of the city. Whether you’re looking to nosh on some simple fried potatoes, explore the heights of molecular gastronomy, or somewhere in between, Barcelona does it all well.
But the day must start with coffee. Or a cortado or café con leche. It’s well known that coffee simply tastes better after a ride, sitting in your bike shorts, with your helmet still on. And Barcelona isn’t deficient of places to do so. It’s a Mediterranean, European city after all, with outdoor cafes on every block. Yet there are a select few places that are frequented by cyclists and catered to them as well. The low-hanging fruit of this list is Bicioci Bike Café, located in Gràcia. As the name suggests (meaning “bike” in Italian), the cafe is bike-themed, with walls lined by cycling kits, old wheels, and vintage photos. In L’Eixample, just two blocks from Casa Baitlló, is Eroica Caffè Barcelona, the first permanent outpost from the Eroica company. Eroica is named after the annual vintage cycling event in Siena, Italy, but as a company, it now hosts rides and bike celebrations paired with fine food and drink all over the world. The cafe is filled with kits, and almost always cyclists, and is a welcome place for anyone stopping for a pre or post-ride cup of coffee. And there’s of course, On Y Va. With multiple locations across the city, there are plenty of chances to peddle by, but your odds of running into fellow cyclists are perhaps best at the Sant Gervasi and Sarria locations. The specialty coffee roaster has expanded over the years, but still hosts its annual 180km group ride to Puigcerdà.
If you’re looking for coffee that’s a bit less cycling-themed, there are other unique places to check out as well. In El Poblenou, which is filled with freelance workers and shared workspaces, Skye Coffee fits right in. Coffee is served out of an old Citröen van, in the middle of the light and airy Pasaje Montoya coworking space. For a little more intimate, darker feel, head to 14 De La Rosa, which is admittedly more of a cocktail bar, as it specializes in sherry. However, they serve great coffee, and its timeless feel that’s enhanced by jazz music, tiny chairs, and bow-tied bartenders, makes for the perfect place to ponder alone or catch up with a friend. Oma Barcelona is more coffee-focused, but also has its own distinct character. Its open, yet narrow structure makes the customers feel as if they’re behind the counter as the barista brews up specialty coffee drinks. The owners of Oma Bistro wanted to design a place that broke down any barrier between customer and barista, which they’ve clearly accomplished.
If you finish up a ride, swim, or a hard run on the beach and are in immediate need of calories, look no further than Bo de B, a small sandwich shop on the edge of El Barri Gòtic and Barceloneta. The ordering style is like any deli counter, where you simply point and say what you’d like on your bocadillo, but the ingredients are fresh, the sizes substantial, and you can take it out to eat in the sunshine of the nearby marina. Bo de B is also famous for its patatas bravas, which make for the perfect accompaniment.
There are some quintessential dining experiences to be had while in Barcelona. One of them is bellying up to the counter in a fresh food market, enjoying a cold beer with some tapas amidst the vibrant smells and sounds. You could do this at Mercado de La Boqueria, as there are plenty of options, and it’s not returned to its cheek-to-jowl crowds of 2019. But the constant bumps from tourist backpacks while you’re sipping your San Miguel can be unpleasant. Instead, head to the nearby Mercat de Sant Antoni, or Mercat de la Barceloneta, where the atmosphere is more palatable, and the food is just as delicious.
Another, perhaps more uniquely Catalan experience, is taking part in a calçotada, or at least indulging at a restaurant that serves up calçots. Calçots are a type of green onion that is packed tight and charred over flaming open grills. Once the charred layer is peeled off, they’re traditionally dipped in romesco sauce. One of the best places in the city is Can Martí, which lies up the slope of the Sierra de Collserola, directly above the Carretera Aigües. Not only does the restaurant offer sweeping views of the cityscape and sea, but it offers the feel of an al-fresco farmhouse blended with a fine dining establishment. And the best way to enjoy a meal at Can Martí is to order some wine and drink out of a porrón, which is a traditional Catalan wine pitcher that is made for pouring directly into your mouth, ideally while holding it as far away as possible. So don’t wear a white shirt. One important caveat is that calçots are in season during the winter, so don’t expect to see it on the menu if you show up during the summer months.
Sticking with the Catalan theme, Bar Muy Buenas, located in the heart of El Raval, is made for getting acquainted with Catalan food and drink. The restaurant, despite its relatively uncreative name, serves up a variety of beautiful Catalan wines, traditional dishes like cannelloni or fricandó, and less commonly seen liquors like Anís del Mono and Ratafia.
And while pintxos are native to the Basque region rather than Catalonia, pintxos-hopping is another must-have dining experience while in Barcelona. Pintxos are typically one or two-bite dishes, often served on a skewer, and prominently displayed atop the bar. No individual restaurant recommendation is necessary here, and in fact, it might be antithetical, as the whole idea is to get a bite (literally) from one place and move on to the next. Head to Carrer de Blai, a car-free street in El Poble-Sec, and sip and eat your way up and down the seemingly endless array of pintxo bars.
Talk to a local in Barcelona and you’re likely to get a variety of different answers to the question “What is the best place to get tapas.” And you’d be well-suited to investigate each response throughout the city. But one of the most popular responses is likely to be La Esquinica, in the northern part of the city, far from the tourist neighborhoods. This bustling restaurant has been serving up some of the best tapas in the city since 1972, when it became famous for its patatas bravas and its walls adorned with accent pieces from the Aragon region of Spain. There’s also La Cova Fumada, located within Barceloneta’s gastronomic goldmine area that surrounds Plaça del Poeta Boscà. This tiny, unmarked tapas bar going back to 1944, allegedly created the “bomba de la Barceloneta,” which has become a city-wide staple on tapas menus. The phrase “no-frills” is drastically overused, but no, this place has no frills, only great food.
It is well worth the longer trek up to the El Turó de la Peira neighborhood for La Esquinica or the ride to the far southeast corner of the L4 metro line to La Cova Fumada. But if you’re looking for tapas somewhere closer to where most hotels are, Bar La Plata and Bormuth will work just as well. Perfect for the indecisive eater, the former has been operating since 1945, and serves just four tapas dishes. The latter, Bormuth, is a cozy, brick-lined spot located in the heart of El Born.
Quimet y Quimet will often come up alongside any Google search about essential restaurants in Barcelona, and it’s well deserved. It’s a pint-sized bar that’s been serving tapas, wine, and other small dishes for over 100 years. It has hundreds of bottles of wine and vermouth on its walls. It was visited by Anthony Bourdain during his No Reservations episode. For those reasons, there’s almost always a line, so be prepared to wait.
Barcelona is not in fact the home, or original home at least, of paella. But as long as you avoid the paella restaurants that line La Rambla that are favored by tourists donning sangria-stained t-shirts, there is absolutely good paella to be found. For some of the best, in a beautiful setting, head to Martínez for views of the harbor from the hillside of Montjuïc, live music, and paella done right.
And while eating well in Barcelona by no means necessitates paying top-dollar, the city also has the ability to reach into the stratosphere of fine dining. The mastermind behind El Bulli, legendary chef Ferran Adrià has his prints all over the city, with no better example than Disfrutar. Rated as the second-best restaurant in the world in 2023, Disfrutar is a tasting menu experience that pushes the limits of culinary possibility, and it’s run by a trio of El Bulli alumni.
The beauty of Barcelona’s drinking scene is that it spans nearly every style that a visitor could be looking for, from the highest of high-end, to the simple watering holes. As of October 2023, the city claimed an impressive two of the top four cocktail bars in the world, in Bon Appetit’s annual listing. Coming in at number one and number four respectively, were Sips and Paradiso. Since those two have received plenty of press as of late, it’s worth highlighting some other places to get a drink.
Boadas Cocktails just off of La Rambla has been serving up cocktails since 1933, and it has the feel of an old-time jazz bar. With veteran, talented bartenders, and a laid-back atmosphere it’s a great place to sip a stiff drink. For a more contemporary cocktail experience, FOCO in Gràcia has created a collaborative atmosphere that brings together fashion, music, and innovative drinks. They bring together artists, cooks, and other bars throughout the city, and are constantly creating new concoctions and twists on classics. Boca Chica in L’Eixample offers a blend of old and new, with its interior giving off the appearance of an old mansion illuminated by candlelight, walls lined with mirrors and old artwork, alongside a DJ booth and some of the city’s best drinks.
When you head to Noxe, on the 26th floor of the W Hotel, you’re paying for the view. The hotel stands alone at the tip of the southern pier of the city, providing nearly 360-degree views. The crowd can get a bit stuffy with people trying too hard to impress their dates, and the food isn’t anything to write home about, but there’s no better place to sip a cocktail during sunset.
Good, and often affordable, wine is plentiful in Barcelona, but there are a few places that really do things well. Gràcia has Bar Salvatge, an intimate, somewhat whimsical space known for its natural wines. Orvay of El Born is a bare, simple space designed with a look akin to an underground wine cellar. And Bar Brutal, also of El Born, is a cozy space that’s also known for delicious small bites. So pick from any of these, and dive into some Catalan specialties, like Sumoll, Priorat, and of course, the ubiquitous Cava.
You’ll see plenty of people in Barcelona drinking either San Miguel or Estrella Dam, and those are just fine. But beer that’s a step above can still be found. On the inner edge of Barceloneta, Cervecería Vaso de Oro has been around for decades. Shelves are filled with beer steins to put you in the beer-drinking mood, and after watching the bartenders pour their house-brewed beer into tall glasses until it’s foamy and overflowing, you’ll already be thinking about that second glass. In Gràcia, La Rovira doesn’t brew its own beer, but it showcases a wide variety of craft beers from all over Spain, with both cans and taps to choose from.
And of course, there are bodegas, pillars of Barcelona’s culinary and social identity. Bodegas are, in simplistic terms, small bars and cellars that serve wine, vermouth, and small snacks in an intimate setting. Although there aren’t as many as there used to be, the old ones that have stuck around carry on an important legacy. Bodegas are the perfect place to start out, spend, or finish an evening while sipping Barcelona’s favored vermouth alongside a plate of cured anchovies and olives. If you find yourself in El Born, head to El Xampanyet. If you’re in Barceloneta, try Bodega Fermin. And up in Gràcia, Bodega Marín is also a wise choice.
Barcelona has its wine, is known for vermouth, has received press about its good G & T’s (gin and tonics), but it also has a history with absinthe. For a drink that takes you back in time, head to Bar Marsella, fittingly in the edgier El Raval neighborhood. This bar opened 200 years ago and has since been serving up absinthe the traditional way with a spoon, sugar cube, and bottle of water (dissolving the sugar into the absinthe will make this potent drink more palatable). It seems little changed since it was frequented by the likes of Dalí, Picasso, and Hemingway, and its decor and color give it the appearance of a sepia picture.
Barcelona is also known as a place to party till dawn while listening and dancing to music. While it’s advised to stay away from the study-abroad-filled nightclubs that line the city’s beaches (unless you happen to be studying abroad), there seems to be a club for everyone. Razzmatazz in El Poblenou, is one of the biggest venues, with a capacity that can host a few thousand people and multiple rooms. Each night has a different theme, with Fridays in the “Human” room skewing towards deep house and rave music, and Wednesdays in “El Dirty” leaning into pop hits, for example. Sidecar is a much more intimate, subterranean club, located just off La Rambla, where you’re more likely to see some guitars on stage and hear punk and rock music. Sala Apolo, made famous for its “Nasty Mondays,” is a huge space with different genres featured every night of the week, located in El Poble-Sec. And for the most diminutive of all, is a tiny bar/music venue where local artists are featured, with a living-room hootenanny feel.
Given Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in all of Europe, there can be an overwhelming number of hotel options to choose from. You’ll find many of the city’s best hotels clustered on the edge of L’Eixample, including Casa Bonay, a boutique hotel filled with lush greenery and light colors, and a beautiful rooftop terrace. A bit further to the north, and a slight step up in price, is Sir Victor, with a luxe rooftop pool and priceless views of the nearby Casa Milà. For one of the gaudiest (classic Barcelona pun) hotels in the city, El Palace Barcelona looks as if it could be inside the Palace of Versailles, with its ornate decor and Roman baths, and its restaurant Zafra is run by another El Bulli alum.
But there are also nice hotels to be found outside of L’Eixample. In El Poblenou, there’s The Hoxton, one of the hottest new hotels in the city with its simple yet elegant design, large rooftop pool, and well-renowned taqueria. Across the city in El Poble-Sec lies Hotel Brummell, a small 20-room hotel with a minimalist stone and steel design, a popular sauna, and best of all, a Tuesday running club up the hills of Montjuïc. And if you’d like to get as close to the Carretera de les Aigües as possible, there’s Hotel Mirlo alongside Avinguda del Tibidabo. It’s built out of an old mansion, with sprawling views, a vibrant garden, and some rooms even have private saunas.
For a much more affordable housing option, go with Generator Hostel Barcelona. The Barcelona branch of this hostel chain lies conveniently on the edge of L’Eixample and Gràcia, has wide open balconies, frequent social events, and has both private and shared rooms.
Estadi Municipal Joan Serrahima: +34 934 23 33 92
Pau Negre Track: (no phone)
Horta Miquel Poblet Velodrome: +34 930 09 74 37
Velodrom Barcelona: +34 937 68 23 73
Terra Bike Tours: +34 934 16 08 05
Orbea Campus Barcelona: +34 932 18 81 78
Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc: +34 681 90 77 03
Piscines Bernat Picornell: +34 934 23 40 41
Club Natació Atlètic de Barceloneta: +34 932 21 00 10
Club Natació Catalunya: +34 932 13 43 44
Piscines Santaló: +34 932 02 17 60
Claro Can Caralleu: +34 932 03 78 74
Eurofitness Can Dragó: +34 932 76 04 80
BCN Fitness: +34 934 88 33 12
CrossFit PobleNou: +34 931 62 06 40
Bicioci Bike Café: +34 934 58 20 44
Eroica Caffè: +34 934 76 51 49
On Y Va (Sarria): (no phone)
Sky Coffee: (no phone)
14 De La Rosa: (no phone)
Oma Barcelona: +34 932 09 72 55
Bo de B: +34 936 67 49 45
Mercado de La Boqueria: +34 934 13 23 03
Mercat de Sant Antoni: +34 934 26 35 21
Mercat de la Barceloneta: +34 934 13 23 04
Bar Muy Beunas: +34 938 07 28 57
Can Martí: +34 934 06 91 95
La Esquinica: +34 933 58 25 19
La Cova Fumada: +34 932 21 40 61
Bar La Plata: +34 61 164 76 88
Bormuth: +34 933 10 21 86
Quimet Y Quimet: +34 934 42 31 42
Martínez: +34 931 06 60 52
Fonda Pepa: +34 932 07 22 53
La Paradeta: +34 935 34 45 67
Disfrutar: +34 933 48 68 96
Sips: +34 619 64 14 02
Paradiso: (no phone)
Boadas Cocktails: +34 933 18 95 92
FOCO: (no phone)
Boca Chica: +34 934 67 51 49
Noxe: +34 932 95 28 00
Bar Salvatge: +34 932 52 97 67
Orvay: +34 938 32 45 04
Bar Brutal: +34 933 19 98 81
Cervesería Vaso de Oro: +34 933 19 30 98
La Rovira: +34 934 63 87 88
El Xampanyet: +34 933 19 70 03
Bodega Fermín: +34 931 12 43 03
Bodega Marín: +34 690 70 16 16
Bar Marsella: (no phone)
Razzmatazz: +34 933 20 82 00
Sidecar: +34 933 17 76 66
Sala Apolo: +34 934 41 40 01
Heliogàbal: (no phone)
Casa Bonay: +34 935 45 80 70
Sir Victor: +34 932 71 12 44
El Palace Hotel: +34 935 10 11 30
The Hoxton Poblenou: +34 932 71 72 22
Hotel Brummell: +34 931 25 86 22
Hotel Mirlo: +34 931 42 59 29
Generator Hostel Barcelona: +34 932 20 03 77
Thanks to professional running coach Sam Renikoff for this guide. Learn more about Sam in this interview.