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Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

Barcelona contains some of the best-preserved medieval structures in Europe, as well as a wealth of imaginative contemporary buildings. The Passeig de Gràcia is lined with ritzy boutiques and fanciful modernist architecture. Nearby, Park Güell is an enchanting park created by Antoni Gaudí, the eccentric ...

Barcelona contains some of the best-preserved medieval structures in Europe, as well as a wealth of imaginative contemporary buildings. The Passeig de Gràcia is lined with ritzy boutiques and fanciful modernist architecture. Nearby, Park Güell is an enchanting park created by Antoni Gaudí, the eccentric genius behind the extraordinary Sagrada Família (Church of the Holy Family) in the Eixample district. La Rambla is an exuberant tree-lined promenade dotted with animated outdoor cafés, tapas bars and flower stalls.

 The high season can be insufferably crowded nowadays, especially when huge cruise ships fill the harbor. I prefer to visit during the shoulder seasons, in April-May or September-October.

Read the Harper Way Barcelona City Guide

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in Barcelona

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.

Best Restaurants in Barcelona

Chef Carles Abellán trained alongside Ferran Adrià before opening this restaurant with its steel beams and dark wood tables. Experience his clever cooking as part of a 10-course tasting menu inspired by the cuisine of Catalonia, Andalusia, Asia, Italy and America. Expect dishes such as marinated sardines with balsamic vinegar, blood sausage layered with mashed potatoes, black rice with aioli, and curry-scented banana soup.

Carrer de Comerç 24 Barcelona US$60

After becoming one of the most famous chefs in the world with his restaurant elBulli (now closed), Ferran Adrià has opened this high-concept tapas bar with a cracked white-tile floor and a showbiz-themed décor. The modern Spanish tapas are excellent and may include dishes like tuna belly with salmon eggs and green-apple bread, grilled quail with honey and mint, and rabbit ribs with foamy garlic mayonnaise. However, it is noisy, and service can be uneven. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Avinguda del Paral-lel 164 Barcelona US$75.

Overlooking a quiet square in El Poblenou, one of the city’s larger districts, this restaurant is much loved by the locals, who flock here for dishes such as duck foie gras in salt crust with truffle and tarragon; Iberian pork with broccoli cream; salt cod with romesco sauce (tomatoes, garlic and almonds) accompanied by creamed spinach; and a chocolate honeycomb-and-lemon cloud with a touch of lime and rosemary honey. Be sure to try the delicious white Priorat Catalonian wines.

Plaça de Prim 1 Barcelona US$70.

Chef Jordi Esteve won a Michelin star for his contemporary Catalan cooking at this calm, elegant dining room. Dishes such as lobster salad with shiitake mushrooms and a mandarin orange dressing, and grilled squid and artichokes with a honey sauce show off his style. 

Carrer de València 28 Barcelona US$100.

Conveniently located in the central Eixample neighborhood, this attractive modern tapas bar takes reservations, and most of its staff speak English. Try the rich assortment of Iberian sausages; cod fritters; fresh prawns with garlic sauce; oxtail stew with potatoes; and deep-fried baby squid.

Calle Muntaner 171 Barcelona US$50.

Chef Jordi Cruz was the youngest Spanish chef ever to win a Michelin star, at the restaurant Estany Clar. In this sleek and stylish space, Cruz, a culinary celebrity in Catalonia, showcases local produce in dishes such as dried tomatoes with grilled sardines, garlic confit and chargrilled bread; pine nuts “carbonara” with egg yolk and truffle; and sea bass with caviar, buttered potatoes and Bataks berries.

Avenida Tibidabo 1 Barcelona Prix fixe menus, US$150 and US$185.

In December 2014, three chefs who had previously worked at the celebrated elBulli came together to create a wonderful new restaurant. Reflecting the surrounding neighborhood, the interior of this Michelin-starred restaurant brings together a delightful interplay of wrought elements and ceramics, all brightly illuminated through skylights. As you would expect, the menu is full of an ever-changing array of inventive dishes. Look for such creations as the red mullet with pork belly and eggplant gnocchi; dashi semolina with sea urchin; macaroni carbonara; and razor clams with seaweed in salt. Disfrutar is Spanish for “to enjoy,” and that is just what this stylish restaurant inspires in its guests. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Carrer de Villarroel 163 Barcelona Tasting menus, US$115-US$160.

This Catalan take on a French bistrot à vins, or a bistro specializing in wines, reflects Barcelona’s obsession with design. A high-tech interior allows patrons to peruse some 3,600 available bottles on a computer screen. The list includes everything from local Priorat wines to French Condrieu and Italian Chianti, and there are also wines from California, Lebanon, South Africa and England. The menu is wine-friendly and runs to tempting small-plate dishes, such as prawn carpaccio with lemon and basil, along with substantial main courses like charbroiled entrecôte in a Béarnaise sauce with crunchy potatoes. Closed Sunday, dinner only Saturday and Monday.

Carrer de la Diputació 249 Barcelona US$60.

Chef Jordi Artal grew up in Canada before returning to his parents’ native Catalonia and opening this excellent restaurant with low-lit contemporary décor. Artal uses only the finest local produce to create seasonal dishes that are beautifully presented, such as pork belly with sweet potato purée and grilled spice bread, shrimp and carrots with mustard and licorice, and sea bream with green-bean broth and roasted tomatoes, all of which we enjoyed at our most recent meal. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Carrer d'Aribau 58 Barcelona Prix fixe menus, US$110 and US$130.
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