In the first instalment of our new City Breaks article series, we take a trip to Barcelona to suss out the very best places to eat, drink, explore and hangout.
What to do: MACBA
Barcelona’s Museum of Contemporary Art should be at the top of your to-do list, and for a number of good reasons. The building itself is one of the most striking examples of the city’s Modernist architecture, and – likewise - the exhibitions inside cover the very best of Catalonian art from the 1940s up to the present day.
Even if you can’t afford the entrance fee, it’s well worth heading down anyway - just pack a bag of beers, pitch up outside, and spend the afternoon amongst the skaters who occupy the square out front.
What to do: Explore El Raval
It’s a familiar story: El Raval was once one of Barcelona’s ‘no-go’ areas – until recently, when almost overnight it became by far its hippest and most desirable.
Of course, it’s easy to be cynical about this sort of change, and not without good reason - but the reality is that this process has brought with it a whole wealth of creativity, contemporary culture and innovation, as well as a whole load of opportunities for good eating and drinking. Spend the evening walking around the neighbourhood’s sprawling backstreets, where shiny new record shops, art galleries and burger joints rub shoulders with the same traditional tapas bars that have occupied the area for decades.
What to do: Parc de Collserola
Head to the hills and explore the Parc de Collserola: an epic expanse of woodland trails and steep peaks that offer unbeatable views over the city as well as a much-needed breath of fresh air. Get close-up views of Norman Foster’s iconic telecommunications tower and visit the strangely surreal Tibidabo Amusement Park – one of the oldest in the world, and practically unchanged since opening in 1899.
Where to eat: El Pacuchu (€)
This tiny Mexican taco spot is the ideal destination if you’re after a quick pit-stop meal or light evening bite over a round of cold ones.
The food is fresh, vibrant and packed with flavour: think pork belly tacos, fresh bowls of guacamole with homemade chips, and crispy quesadillas oozing with cheese and sour cream.
Add to this an extensive menu of beers, cocktails and spirits (including a particularly impressive range of Mezcals) and you’re pretty much set for the night. Just be sure to get down early.
Where to eat: Koku Kitchen (€)
Every city needs a spot like Koku Kitchen: a buzzing Ramen bar dealing in authentic food, good beer and great vibes.
The space is cool, communal and informal, becoming increasingly loud and animate as the restaurant fills inevitably to the brim with hungry diners.
The menu features a small but essential range of Ramen dishes – from miso and pork to tofu and mushroom – as well as delicious gyoza dumplings and a range of Japanese salads. Washed down with a local IPA or homemade lemonade, it’s the perfect fare for a quick bite with mates before heading out to explore the city’s nightlife. Tip!
Where to eat: Rasoterra (€€, V)
Rasoterra: an Italian word meaning ‘close to the ground’, and one that perfectly sums up the ethos of this charming Vegetarian haven in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter.
Tired vegetarian tropes (falafel and halloumi, anyone?) are nowhere to be seen here. Instead, Rasoterra serves creative takes on traditional Catalan cuisine, also incorporating influences from Italy and the Far East to create unique dishes with style and flair in abundance.
Always local, sustainable and organic, the menu changes regularly to incorporate the seasonal produce of Catalunya. Stand out dishes include twice-fried patatas bravas (the best of our trip by far); crisp, juicy croquettes filled with roasted summer vegetables; and an incredible watermelon shashimi, prepared days ahead so that the fruit breaks down and softens to a texture amazingly similar to tuna.
In a city that so often fails to accommodate for the herbivores amongst us, Rasoterra is a breath of fresh air - and just might provide the culinary highlight of your trip.