Barcelona is Catalunya’s capital and one of world’s most popular tourist destinations. Barcelona is cosmopolitan and modern city that changed drastically as a result of the 1992 Olympic Games, which the city hosted. After the Games, Barcelona became one of the most important cities in Europe, but before 1992, what is now a beautiful port city was surrounded dismal industrial piers that made it a grey and uninviting place. With the Olympics, the city was, as the inhabitants of Barcelona say, “opened up to the sea”, meaning the ugly piers were replaced by beautiful beaches. When visiting Barcelona today, it’s still hard to believe that the lovely coastline was once a dirty port. Economically speaking, the city really began to take off in tourism, and it now consistently ranks among the top three tourist destinations in the world. Between the months of January and August of 2006, Barcelona welcomed close to 5 million tourists.
Bars and restaurants are abundant in Barcelona. And the word abundant is really an understatement: each street houses so many restaurants and bars that it would take years to try them all. A decade ago, Barcelona didn’t have much of an offering for dining out, as Catalan culture in that time was more about eating at home. Now this has radically changed, and it’s quite typical to see the trendier restaurants overflowing during the week and on weekends it may be hard to get a table at some of the better establishments. The great thing about Barcelona is that the culinary gamma is wide and there are restaurants of every variety and for every budget.
Restaurants, and especially bars (closer to what we know as coffee shops than bars), occupy and important and privileged spot in the lifestyle of Barcelona’s residents. The street plays a primary role in Catalan culture, and alternating work with time spent in bars is very common in Catalunya and the rest of Spain. Barcelona’s inhabitants break up the monotony of daily life and decompress at bars and lounges, which are often the best place to get to know everyone in the neighborhood.
Barcelona may not be able to compete with, say, New York or London in the culinary diversity department, but what can be said of the city is that it combines an amazing number of traditional restaurants with avant-garde establishments. One can find the most traditional Catalan cuisine at very affordable prices, and the more humble restaurants even offer “menús del día” , which, surprisingly, can set you back a mere 10 euros per person — dessert, wine and coffee included. Don’t discount these restaurants just because they’re cheap. It’s often these places where you’ll find a Catalan granny in the kitchen, which often means you are getting the most traditional Catalan cuisine money can buy. Then, on the flip side, this is the region that is home to some of the world’s most innovative restaurants, among them Jean Luc Figueres and El Gaig, which offer some of the most creative dishes you’ll find in all of Europe.
Now that you’ve had a taste of what Barcelona has to offer, next we’ll explore the city’s various neighborhoods and their culinary offerings:
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