Our 5 top contemporary Catalan restaurants in Barcelona

Sometime around the start of this century, Catalan chef Ferran Adria ended 500 years of French dominance at the leading edge of gastronomy, shifting the setting south of the Pyrenees to Catalunya. This took place at the now legendary El Bulli in Les Roses in northern Catalunya.

Adria’s seminal “techno-emotional gastronomy” experimented with previously untried techniques and flavour combinations. Adria would close his restaurant for 6 months each year to concentrate on perfecting his art and developing new ideas and techniques.

Sadly El Bulli closed in 2011 but its influence is here to stay it would seem. Adria’s style of cooking has become the inspiration for many of the world’s leading restaurants.

But above all, many former Ell Bulli employees are now working in Barcelona so if you never made it to El Bulli you can still experience it at these restaurants. Barcelona is bursting with hip restaurants so there is plenty of choice; we have selected some of our favourites for you here.

Gelonch

Namesake chef Robert Gelonch learned his trade at El Bulli and at Gaig (another highly reputable Catalan restaurant). His restaurant is nestled away in a part of the Eixample Dreta near Passeig Sant Joan.

Gelonch is clearly a graduate of the El Bulli academy! His cooking is filled with new techniques and technologies and there’s plenty of cleverness in his dishes as well as some eccentricities in the form of his pequeñas locuras (small pieces of madness) such as oysters in “gin and tonic” and cuttlefish noodles tossed together in a deconstructed pesto.

Moo

Located in the ultra hip design hotel ‘Hotel Omm’, just off Passeig de Gràcia. The hotels features interiors by top Spanish interior designer Patricia Urquiola and Moo also stands at the cutting edge of Spanish creativity.

The restaurant serves modern creations featuring unusual flavour combinations that draw from traditional Catalan cuisine. The tasting menus are a treat, allowing diners to choose from seasonal, gourmet or vegetarian creative options paired with wine. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2012.

Els Cinc Sentits

Chef Jordi Artal is one chef who did not come up through the ranks of El Bulli. In fact he has no training as a chef at all, a fact which is sure to amaze anyone who eats here. Artal is half Canadian and was born in Toronto and raised in Barcelona.

His restaurant Els Cinc Sentits (the 5 senses) has been named one of the 6 best restaurants in Spain, and continues the growing trend of restaurants offering tasting menus.

Artal works with suppliers from around Catalunya and Spain to source local and seasonal ingredients. Diners can sample from a complex menu that included tapas, starters, fish, meats, cheeses and desserts.

Embat

Embat was one of the first restaurants in Barcelona involved in “bistro-mania”, whereby small eateries offer interesting and creative cooking (modern but rooted in Catalan tradition) at reasonable prices.

During the day they offer a modern spin on traditional dishes with ingredients such as snails and pigs trotters making an appearance. In the evening they get more funky in the kitchen. Specialities include as presa ibérica (shoulder of Iberian pork) with roast tomatoes, or cuttlefish meatballs with crayfish and potatoes.

The owners, Santiago Rebés and Fidel Puig describe their fair as “honest, personal and accessible to all”. Who are we to disagree?

Hisop

Tucked away in a tiny, sparely decorated space just over the Diagonal in the Eixample Esquerra headed up by two enthusiastic young chefs, Oriol Ivern i Guillem Pla.

As with much modern Catalan cooking, many dishes are creative takes on traditional Catalan recipes but using modern techniques.
Hisop is arguably the best value of the city’s really creative restaurants, and its several-course tasting menu is still only 52 euros. Well worth a visit!

Enoteca

Enoteca is in the Port Olímpic. As with Moo, many of Barcelona’s high-end restaurants are opening in five-star hotels. Head chef Paco Pérez was already well established when he took his post at Enoteca in the Hotel Arts, having worked for many years on the Costa Brava. No surprise then that he is a big proponent of local seafood. Pérez’s dishes are clean and bright and allow single ingredients to shine.

Bon profit!

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Barcelona – a city of music

Barcelona is a leading international music destination. Music has always played a key part in the history of this city and its many festivos; this is a city which loves to party and knows how to live well, even by Spanish standards.

Since Barcelona was totally regenerated in 1992 when it hosted the Olympic Games it has become a well established ‘cool city’ with its popularity growing thanks to sites such as Las Ramblas, the Sagrada Familia, the cities beaches, and FC Barcelona and the Camp Nou. Thanks to this popularity the city has attracted a number of large new international music festivals such as Sonar and Primavera Sound. But Barcelona offer music to suit all tastes, not just young ravers. The city has a long Jazz tradition, as well as of course traditional Catalan music, and the Spanish Flamenco music bought to Catalunya by immigrants from southern Spain.

Below are the key musical happenings that come to Barcelona each year:

Primavera Sound

Pulling punters from all over the world, the sound of Primavera Sound celebrates the arrival of spring in Barcelona in late May or early June. Musical styles at Primavera Sound include alternative, indie, electronic, pop, hip hop, dance, metal, jazz and experimental music.

Primavera Sound is one of the largest and most important alternative music festivals in the world. In 2013 large names such as Metz, Blur, the Beach House, the XX and Dead Can Dance played to a crowd of over 100,000.

Festival Grec

The Festival Grec is an entertainment festival run throughout the summer by the Ajuntament, Barcelona’s city council. It takes its name from the Greek style open-air theatre the Teatre Grec on Montjuïc that is a venue for many events. Other interesting cultural landmarks in the city such as the Miró Museum and the MACBA Museum of Contemporary Art are also used.

The Festival Grec has offered seriously famous names over the years and ticket prices are cheap – the likes of Miles Davis, Pat Metheny, Lou Reed, B.B. King and Bob Dylan have played here.

Sonar
Sonar is at the cutting edge of electronic music and place in Sao Paulo and Tokyo as well as Barcelona. Musical styles such as techno, house, drum and bass and hip hop are represented.

In 2013 the line up included such names as New Order, The Roots, Laurent Garnier, Fatboy Slim, Richie Hawtin, Lana Del Rey to name just a few.
Sónar By Day takes place at the Centre of Contemporary Culture (CCCB) and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) in the Raval District next to Las Ramblas, while Sónar by Night takes place the city centre.

Festes de Gràcia

The Festes de Gracia are an 8-day long street party which take place in August. Music figures very centrally (and is played 24 hours a day!), with many free concerts as well as plenty of eating, drinking, dancing and Catalan traditions such as Geants (giant mannequins with a person inside), Castellers (human pyramids) and correfocs (street firework display).

As well as these festivities the whole neighbourhood is decorated. Each street is decorated by its residents, in much the same way as Carnivals feature costumes.

Barcelona Acció Musical (BAM)

The BAM (Barcelona Acció Musical) takes place each year during the Festes de la Merce in September. The free concerts offered usually include jazz and singer-songwriters; this is the main event of so Barcelona (Barcelona Sound).

Festival L’Hora del Jazz 2012

Also taking place in September is the Festival L’Hora del Jazz, with free concerts every Sunday at in Plaza de la Vila de Gràcia and Plaza Sant Joan de Vilafranca del Penedès.

Barcelona International Jazz Festival

Jazz is an exceedingly popular in Barcelona and the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona (Barcelona international Jazz Festival) embraces all from bebop to gospel.

Jazz greats such as Chick Corea, Bebo Valdés, Al Green, Herbie Hancock, Caetano Veloso and Katie Melua have played here in the past.
Barcelona International Jazz Festival usually takes place in October.

LEM Festival

LEM is a festival of experimental music and multi-media art. Lasting over a month, it takes place in the hip Gràcia district in October. Its line up is predominantly electronica but you can also hear some jazz and rock, and it is generally free to attend the concerts.

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When is the best time of year to visit Barcelona?

Barcelona needs little introduction as a popular holiday destination. The spectacles of Las Ramblas, FC Barcelona, Gaudi and the beaches have put the city firmly on the map.

The cities hot Mediterranean climate is a major factor in its popularity – Barcelona enjoys year round sunshine and warmth, very low rainfall and a very mild winter.

Peak season for tourism is the summer when the city and its beaches are thronging with visitors. But without doubt Barcelona is a city with year round appeal. Visiting the city outside of the summer is any equally rewarding experience and you will find the streets are less choked, museums queues are shorter, accommodation is more readily available and cheaper, and the sun is still shining.

Obviously the best time to visit depends on what you want to get out of your visit. If you are not a beach person and want to visit the Picasso and Miró Museums then there is no need to come in summer.

To make life easier for you and help you decide when is the best time of year to plan your trip to Barcelona we have created a breakdown of activities, events and goings on in the city season by season.

Spring

Spring is a popular time to visit Barcelona with visitors from the Northern Hemisphere, especially Scandinavia and Northern Europe. As winter and darkness hangs on in these countries spring comes early in Barcelona where spring is underway and the sun shining from April onwards.

Events in Barcelona in spring

Summer

Barcelona has an incredible buzz come the summer months and it is a joyous time of year. As mentioned before, this can make it a little too busy for some. Come August the cities own inhabitants up and leave for the cool of the Costa Brava or the Pyrenees leaving the city to the tourists.

Events in Barcelona in summer

Autumn

Autumn is a mellow season in Barcelona. The cities inhabitants breathe a sigh of relief as the heat slackens from mid September. But the weather stays nice through October and even into November, with cooler evenings.

Events in Barcelona in autumn

Winter

Winter in Barcelona is as mild a winter as you can find anywhere in Europe. This is a really nice time of year in the city, especially through November and December when cold of any kind is exceedingly rare and eating outdoors is still no problem. Catalan Christmas has many wonderful traditions to explore and this is a highly festive time of year.

Events in Barcelona in winter

If you are coming to Barcelona remember that an apartment in Barcelona is an affordable option at any time of year as well as comfortable and convenient

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Fun times at Primavera Sound 2013 in Barcelona

At the end of May, Primavera Sound 2013 returns to Barcelona, this time for its 12th year. The event focuses on independent music, performers that have played here in previous years include: Lou Reed, The White Stripes, Primal Scream, New Order, Iggy and the Stooges, Pulp, The Petshop Boys, Motörhead, The Smashing Pumpkins, Portishead, My Bloody Valentine and Neil Young. Last year more than 100,000 part-goers attended, making the Primavera Sound Festival one of the most important alternative music festivals in the world and the biggest in Spain.

Alternative, indie, electronic, pop, hip hop, dance, folk, jazz, metal and experimental music are among the genres that are included in the festival. The tradition of amazing line ups continues in 2013 with Metz, Blur, the Beach House, the XX and Dead Can Dance confirmed as playing.

This year the festival takes place from May 22nd to May the 26th, and as in previous years, Primavera Sound will be held at the Parc del Fòrum leisure site in the Diagonal Mar area. If you can’t spend 80 euros on a day ticket, take heart as the festival this year will include two free concerts called ‘Primavera a la Ciutat’, schedules to take place near Arc de Triomf on the first and last days of the festival.

Primavera Sound’s main stage is situated in the vast Parc del Fòrum, an incredible setting with the Mediterranean sea for a backdrop, as if the music did not guarantee an amazing atmosphere!

Further Info

The Primavera Sound website contains all the practical information you might need. Remember that although open-air, Primavera Sound is not a camping festival. This is a very poplar event which takes place right at the beginning of the peak tourist season in Barcelona so it is never too soon to book up your accommodation. Hotels tend to increase their prices for events such as Primavera Sound, and become booked up very far in advance. But a rental apartment is a good affordable option, especially for groups. We offer rental apartments near to the Parc del Fòrum, in Poble Nou.

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Diada de Sant Jordi – what is it all about?

La Diada de Sant Jordi is Barcelona’s unique version of Valentine’s Day. Catalan Sant Jordi celebrations are ancient, dating back centuries to the middle ages. In the Catalan version of the myth he slays a dragon and rescues a princess, and a rose is said to have blossomed from the creature’s blood (the very same red rose that is the symbol of England).

From this was born the tradition of women receiving roses on Sant Jordi which persists to this day. As anyone who is in Barcelona on the 23rd of April can tell you, Barcelona’s streets and plazas are a sea of red rose flower stalls and by the evening you’re unlikely to see a woman in the city without a rose in her hand.

However Sant Jordi has evolved to include the tradition of giving books, all thanks to the business verve of one Catalan bookseller, a certain Vincent Claver Andres. In 1923 he noticed that St George’s Day coincided with the almost simultaneous deaths of two literary greats William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, both of whom passed away on the 23rd of April 1616. So he came up with the idea of women reciprocating their roses with a book as a gift for then men in their life.

This is why on the Dia de Sant Jordi and you’ll find Barcelona crammed with book stalls, some 10% of Catalonia’s annual book sales happen on this one day!

Apart from gift giving, Sant Jordi is a celebration of Catalan national identity. The red and gold Catalan flag is hung all across the city, and in Plaça de Sant Jaume you can watch and even partake in the sardana, the Catalan national dance.

Though it is not a public holiday but a regular work day, Saint Jordi has a happy festive atmosphere that is almost like a carnival, the streets come alive with people out and about and enjoying the spring sunshine.

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The Feria de Abril in Barcelona

The concept of a ‘Fería de Abril’ or ‘April Fair’ has its roots in the province of Andalucía where it is associated with the capital, Seville. In the post-war years however many Andaluces emigrated to Barcelona, and in 1971 set up their own version of the Feria de Abril de Sevilla as a reminder of home.

Since the 1970s the Barcelona feria de abril has grown to become the second-largest Spring Fair in Spain. As one would expect from this is a colourful and exciting week when Barcelona’s Andalusians relish the chance to celebrate the arrival of spring and revel in the exuberant traditions of southern Spain.

Southern Spaniards as well as Catalan people and visitors arrive in throngs to join in the revelry made up of singing, dancing and of course eating and drinking! Sherry and cold cañas flow freely and are accompanied of course by traditional Spanish paella.

One of the main features of the Feria de Abril are casitas, meaning “little houses”. In fact small marquees, these are set up erected in the Fòrum area of Diagonal Mar. Each casita is operated by a different organisation and these range from political parties to sporting or cultural groups. Every year there are at least 70 such casitas operating at the fería, all filled with revellers eating, dancing and celebrating the Andaluz way of life.

One key difference between the Barcelona and Seville festivals is that the casitas in Barcelona are open to for everyone to venture inside, try some traditional food and drink, and enjoy the flamenco shows. You can even join in if you feel brave!

Another fun feature of the Feria de Abril is a huge fairground complete with a Ferris wheel overlooking the Mediterranean. Candy floss and popcorn abound as do traditional the fairground favourites shooting galleries and dodgems.

But overall it is the atmosphere here that makes this a truly special event. The weather at this time of year is delightful and puts everyone in a partying mood, and the fería is an inclusive family affair where you will find several generations taking part. Traditional costumes add colour and truly make for a fun and flamboyant atmosphere!

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Mozart’s Requiem Concert 2013

Classical music lovers coming to Barcelona will not want to miss the chance to see his requiem live at the Barcelona Auditori. Mozart composed the Requièm Mass in D minor in Vienna in 1791 and it remained unfinished at his death.

On Monday the 25th of March the Orquestra de Cambra de l’Empordà (OCE) and Coral Polifònica de Puig-Reig bring this wonderful piece of music to the Auditori in Barcelona.

To reach the auditori catch the purple line (L2) to Monumental metro station or else a number 10 or 6 bus from the centre.

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Barcelona Restaurant Week 2013

Barcelona and Catalunya are famed for their gastronomy, restaurants such as Ferran Adria’s Ell Bulli or the brothers Roca’s El Celler de Can Roca in Girona have held places one and two respectively in the prestigious San Pellegrino Top 10 Restaurants Award.

If these luminaries seem a bit over budget for your trip then you would do well consider the twice annual Barcelona Restaurant Week, which in spring runs from Friday the 8th of March to Sunday the 17th of March 2013. Around 35 of Barcelona’s top restaurants, including some Michelin starred restaurants (if the French influence is your thing) offer a fixed price menu so that everyone can afford to enjoy some of the best food in the city.

The 2013 menu price is set at €24 plus a 1€ donation for charity. Sales tax is not included though, so the full menu price is €25 plus 10% IVA/VAT. But €27.50 is little to pay for fine food in Barcelona, even without drinks.

The concept of a week of affordable dining in top city restaurants first originated in New York in 1992. Since then the idea has since spread to over 100 cities worldwide, including Madrid, Seville and Barcelona in Spain.

See a list of participating restaurants here (in Spanish).

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Saint Patrick’s Day in Barcelona

For all our Irish customer’s and as well as all those who enjoy the craic, we have selected our pick of events for celebrating Saint Patrick’s Day in Barcelona.

St Patrick’s Stand up comedy show

To celebrate St Patrick’s day the Guinness Laughter Lounge are bringing international Stand Up Comedians to Barcelona. Leading the line up will be Andrew Stanley, TV presenter/Comedian of hit Irish TV series ‘I dare ya’ who is guaranteed to bring the ‘craic’ to Barcelona.

Having performed worldwide at the Montreal, Australian and Edinburgh Comedy Festivals and becoming a regular fixture on the Kilkenny Cat Laughs Calendar, Andrew Stanley is one of the top comics working the Worldwide Comedy Circuit today.

So if you want to join in the fun get yourself down to Calle Portal Nou 30 at 9pm on the 15th. Entrance is 15 euros.

St Patrick’s Drink Beer & Celebrate Weekend Party

If you are looking for somewhere to serve you a pint of Guinness (or two!) this Saint Patrick’s Day then Flaherty’s Irish Bar in Barcelona is a great place to head place to head. Flaherty’s will be holding a two day party over the weekend of the 16th and 17th featuring live music and Irish food as well as “Lots of Guinness, great craic and lots of free gifts!”

Located just next to Las Ramblas and a stone’s throw from the sea, Flaherty’s is found at Carrer Joaquim Xirau i Palau 08002 Barcelona

Kitty’s St. Patrick’s Street Party

But don’t just limit yourself to one venue. What is probably the biggest St. Patrick Day party in Barcelona takes place on Saturday the 16th March 2013 at Kitty O’Shea’s Irish pub. Kitty’s organise a St. Patrick’s day street party on the Rambla de carrer de Numancia every year with pipers, Irish dancing, Irish music and more. This year the street party takes place on Saturday the 16th March from 11:00.

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Springtime activities in Barcelona for 2013

Spring is a great time of year to visit. While the cold and wet outstay their welcome in the north of Europe the temperature in Barcelona is warm and the sun is shining.

Barcelona’s spring climate is perfect – warm and sunny it is not yet too uncomfortably hot. It’s perfect for strolling along Las Ramblas or by the sea, or for eating fresh local seafood in the sunshine on one of Barcelona’s many terraces.

Barcelona is warming up, so we compiled a list of activities to enjoy outdoors in Barcelona.

Easter 24-31 March – known locally as Semana Santa (holy week). Witness processions throughout the city and the blessing of the palms on diumenge de rams (Palm Sunday), when people flock to the cathedral carrying palm fronds. Try the famous local Easter cake, La Mona de Pascua.

La Diada de Sant Jordi 23 April – Sant Jordi (Saint George’s day) is a romantic occasion celebrating Catalonia’s patron saint. Couples exchange gifts and traditionally the men give women a rose while women give men a book.

Spanish Formula One Grand Prix 2013 10-12 May – Formula One in Barcelona is a treat for motor racing fans, come and watch the race at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo just 30 minutes from Barcelona.

Night at the Museum – this event is now running in cities all over the world. The museums and popular attractions taking part offer free entry from 7pm until 1am on Saturday the18th of May. Some museums involved include the Picasso Museum, MNAC, La Pedrera, the Cosmocaixa science museum and the CCCB.

Flamenco Ciutat Vella 19-22 May – a quintessential event, the Old Town’s flamenco festival, takes place from the 1 with singers, guitarists and dancers from across the spectrum of flamenco styles. (CCCB, C/Montalegre 5, Raval; 93 306 41 00; www.flamencociutatvella.com)

Festa Major de Nou Barris 21-30 May – one of Barcelona’s liveliest festes major (neighbourhood parties), with castellers (human castles), correfocs (mobile firework displays) and free concerts. (Nou Barris; www.bcn.cat/noubarris)

Primavera Sound 22 May-26 May – probably requires little in the way of introduction. Primavera Sound 2013 is set to rock the spot once more with a line up including Blur, My Bloody Valentine, Wu-Tang Clan, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and the Jesus and Mary Chain playing in outdoor venues across Barcelona.

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