“Barcelona… the city that Anthony Bourdain of No Reservations described as “the most exciting place to eat in the Western world”.
The perfect day in Barcelona would fall in late September, when the stinging heat gives way to long barmy nights. Barcelona is the only global city with access to incredible beaches via public transport (Sydney and Rio de Janeiro also come to mind), so a morning swim at Playa de la Mar Bella is obligatory.
Breakfast in Spain does not hold the same status as it does in the UK (Full English) or Latin America (Calentado), but a slice of melon draped with jamon, some fresh mato cheese with honey and the caffeine kick of a cortado is a nice way to start the day.
Shops and galleries begin opening at 10am in Barcelona so a visit to the Picasso Museum, the Ferran Adrià & El Bulli exhibition and Roca Gallery will easily fill a few hours and have you thinking about lunch.
My favourite restaurant in Spain does not serve the best food but the atmosphere is second to none. Els Quatre Gats (c/ Montsió, 3) has a history dating back to 1800s and was a favourite of Gaudí, Picasso and Hemingway and when sitting in this beautiful space, adorned by vintage photos and some of Picasso’s paintings, you can easily find yourself helping these three initiate the global Modernism movement. Try their affordable daily menu including dishes such as Esqueixada, creamed Catalan spinach with raisins and pine nuts, chicken poached in sherry vinegar and olive oil with grapes and the best Crema Catalana in Barcelona.
Situated in the middle of El Gotico, a perfect way to walk off lunch is to wander the labyrinth-like streets and visit some amazing cathedrals such Santa Eulàlia and Santa María del Mar. The Gothic architecture provides an amazing contrast to the colours and curves of Gaudí.
Late afternoon calls for a cool drink and horchata is one of my favourites, naturally made out of chufas (tiger nuts) and there is nowhere better to enjoy this than at one of the original horchata bar in Gràcia, Gelateria Asturies, (on the corner of c/ Torrent de l’Olla and c/ Astúries). Wander Gràcia and enjoy the bohemian atmosphere together with the designer boutiques and local markets and make your way to Plaça del Sol. The afternoon sun bathes this beautiful square in golden light and it is a perfect place to appreciate the relaxed, happy and social Spanish culture.
Skip the siesta and walk up to Parc Güell, my favourite spot in Barcelona. Bring a bottle of cava and some glasses and enjoy one of the best views in Barcelona sitting on the beautiful mosaic seats designed by Gaudí.
Stay in Gràcia for a house-made vermouth at the Bodega El Tano (c/ Bruniquer, 30), try Asturian cider and constantly-changing pintxos at Gasterea (c/ Verdi, 39) then find your way to one of the gelato options in Plaça de la Revolució for flavours like cinnamon, rosemary and turron.
The night begins after 11pm in Barcelona and there is no shortage of places to try – clubs play house and techno, discos play euro-trash, Latin anthems and 80s and 90s classics, bars are always full of great live acts and, for a change of pace, Palau Catalana has regular world-class classical guitar and vocal performances.
As you make your way back home after dancing the night away, find yourself some hot churros from the various vans that do their best business after 3am.”
Joel is a chef who grew up in New Zealand and Australia. Following in the footsteps of his great-grandfather, Papa Serra, he now lives in Barcelona and runs Barcelona Culinary Adventures, where he combines history, culture, food and wine in market tours, cooking classes, wine tasting and private dining experiences. You can follow the adventures of Papa Serra Jr. on either Facebook or Twitter.
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