Good food and drinks are essential to Catalan culture, so it’s no surprise that Barcelona is home to so many historical restaurants and bars. They usually, however, cannot be found in the tourist-packed places in the city, but rather in their historic neighborhoods where, in order to find them, one has to walk through the narrow, cobbled streets. These special places are rich in history, dating as far back as the 18th century. Having aged well and endured changes of many kinds, from wars to economic strife, these four unique restaurants are worth giving a try.
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Els 4 Gats, “The Four Cats” in English, is a cafe famous for being a hot spot for famous artists at the turn of the 20th century. Pablo Picasso, Antoni Gaudí, and Julio González, among others, went to the cafe located in the historical Casa Marti building built in 1896 by the architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch. The original 4 Gats was open between 1897 and 1903, but its short life and the atmosphere it produced influenced art and literature from people who visited all the way until 1978 when it was reopened. The building was then refurbished and restored to its original look in the late 1980s. In terms of food, 4 Gats uses the freshest meats and fish with a garden variety of fresh vegetables and fruits to make incredible dishes to make us feel as if we were back in time eating the same foods Gaudi did while designing his famous Sagrada Familia.
Fonda Can Culleretes
Fonda Can Culleretes, the oldest restaurant in the city, opened in 1786. Its history is showcased on the walls in photographs and drawings of the famous people who have dined here in the past, giving diners a glimpse into the various eras the restaurant has made it through. Since 1958, the ownership has been in the hands of the Agut family, who have kept the tradition alive today in 2017. Can Culleretes serves fine Catalan and Spanish cuisine such as paella, roasted pork and duck, and traditional cannelloni with a bottle of the best wine from Spain’s vineyards. Book your reservation online and feast on the foods while sitting next to a photo of Spain’s old aristocrats and royals, legendary writers and painters, or even a living movie star or singer.
Quimet & Quimet
Since 1914, this little tapas bar, owned and run by several generations of the same family, has been tucked away in the Poble Sec neighborhood. Quimet & Quimet is famous for its alcohol bottle-lined walls in a space that is standing-room only. First, it was about the simplest of appetizers with some vermouth and other spirits; now, it has evolved in its tapas making. It is arguably the best tapas bar in the city as evidenced by its longevity. Its extensive menu has thirty different montaditos, a tapa that comes on a tiny loaf of baked bread. Take that with a few sips of their spirits and feel refreshed. Between entering, ordering, eating, and leaving, it will take no more than 15 minutes, so take a walk down for a quick bite in a special place.
El Xampanyet is another one of those hidden spots down the alley from the Picasso Museum, known and named for its homemade sparkling wine. With blue-tiled walls, antiques, marbled tables, and a zinc bar, El Xampanyet is an incredible fusion of the early 20th-century history and the modern. Arrive early before it gets packed in the evening and try a glass of their famous Cava. It’s a place locals love to come and speak with visitors, especially those coming from the museum across the street. It isn’t a tourist place, however, but feels very local like the kind of place where everybody knows your name.
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Hidden in Barcelona’s oldest areas are some of its most intimate bars and restaurants with a story or ten to tell. The mood in the rooms ranges from energetic to simple. A touch of class sits behind each bar, on every wall, and even on the ceiling. Taste buds water for tapas and drinks foreign to first-timers in Barcelona. Come on inside to hear, feel, and taste what generations of Barcelonians have known to be a hidden secret in their city.
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