Did you know? Friends find reviews that are two sentences or more the most helpful.
Disbarat has charm. It was once an ice store for the local area evident from the wood cupboards that line the wall in this and many other Barcelona bars. Now it has a charcoal grill where they serve up chargrilled pigs cheeks, steaks, chicken and wonderful rosemary oil brushed rabbit, served with homemade chips or grilled vegetables.
The food is Catalan rather than Spanish and if the grill isn't what you fancy there are salads, cold cuts, broad beans with ham or 'tostados', toasted bread with toppings. The house vermouth and wine are very good for the low price.
If you arrive early and they haven't quite opened be sure to pop into Hibernian Books, the second hand English bookstore across the road.
The Mercat Fira de Belcaire, or 'Mercat de Encants' as it's more commonly known, has just moved from its previous home of over 80 years to a partly covered, shiny ceilinged new location a short distance away. What could have been a failed move and a sanitised version of its former self has breathed new life into this market without losing any of its vibrancy or charm. Rub shoulders with other shoppers browsing and scrambling for cheap clothes and shoes, homeware, second hand items of every type imaginable sold off the floor, books, furniture and the quality food units on the top level. Open Monday, Weds, Friday and Saturday 9am - 8pm.
N.A.P, short for Neapolitan Authentic Pizza, could have been plucked straight out of the city of its name, as could many of the clientele. The menu of pizzas is relatively short, with a few specials every day, all tinged from the wood-fired oven, slightly sloppy in the middle and topped with quality mozzarella and fresh ingredients. They do a couple of starters, the melanzane parmigiana being definitely one to try and a couple of desserts. The menu is simple, the prices are low and you always have to queue unless you're there at doors open.
You'll have to wander out of the centre to find Bangkok Cafe, a small, sometimes difficult to contact Thai restaurant in the Sants neighbourhood. The dishes are spicy, aromatic, ultra fresh and the beer is 'Chang'. It's also tucked on a street of something pretty rare in this built up city, two storey houses. Be sure to try the chicken satay with the moreish peanut sauce and the duck red curry.
The original and still the best in the surge in second hand and vintage markets that have hit Barcelona in recent years. Held once a month next to the maritime museum at Drassanes, sellers and buyers flock to convert "one man's garbage into another man's gold". There are interesting finds and bargains to be had, amongst which I count brand new shoes, tent, pasta maker and a fully functioning TV in my finds. Always fun browsing and always all walks of life enjoying the hunt for a treasure.
Rekons is the perfect spot for great budget eating in these cash strapped times. Argentinian owned, they serve up a wide selection of empanadas (puff pastry pies stuffed with assorted fillings), huge salads and sandwiches and great coffee and cake. Their empanada stuffed with minced meat, pumpkin and topped with brown sugar, or the potatoes topped with four cheeses or boiled ham are unmissable. Portions are large, prices are small.
Baluard's is a master bakery. Modern, bright and piled high with the best in artesan bread and displays of luscious cakes and pastries. There is frequently a queue out of the door here, yet while away the time watching their dough prove in the refrigerated store, their bakers shape the yeasty masses or pull hot loaves out of the wood-stoked oven. It makes you desperate to throw on a floury apron and get stuck in.
Trying to get to eat at La Cova Fumada is difficult enough. Not because it's some 3 star Michelin place, but because it's hardly ever open. When it is though you eat cosied up to locals taking early evening tapas and beers. If you like your places fancy this isn't for you. If you like your wine poured from a plastic bottle (filled from a barrel) by a family member in a slightly grubby apron, your food fresh and your atmospheres electric then it is. At it's best on Saturday mornings. Try the 'bombas', balls of bread-crumbed mashed potatoes filled with mince meat and a spicy sauce or the always excellent mackerel. Don't try and pay with card, this is cash only.
Perched above the city in the Horta neighbourhood is the Labyrinth Park, one of the oldest parks in the city dating back to the 18th century. Technically a maze rather than a labyrinth, it nonetheless provides much entertainment and a beautiful peaceful setting for an afternoon stroll or picnic. Beyond the labyrinth there are also the manicured gardens, neoclassical architecture and glimpses of view down across the city to enjoy.
The Raval neighbourhood is lively and sleeps for only a few hours. The Barceló is smack in the centre of the action and although its gaudy interior may be off-putting for some, it is a great base for sightseeing, enjoying the nightlife of the local bars and the recently opened Filmoteca cinema on its doorstep. Situated on the promenade cutting through Raval it is also the perfect spot for a rooftop cocktail and a 360 degree view over the city.
In the heart of the Gothic area of the city and in a fantastic central location sits the Neri hotel. But beyond these benefits it also boasts a high quality, interesting restaurant perfect for those who like their lighting dimmed and their food delicious. The hotel also backs onto the church and peaceful square of Plaça Sant Neri, which still bears the scars of an incendiary bomb which exploded there in a 1938 bombing raid that was one of the worst the city experienced.
If you make it to the castle on Montjuic then you must reward yourself with a beer and cool off in the shade of pine trees. Tucked away behind the castle on the container port side, there's La Caseta del Migdia, an all year round, outdoor bar where the beer is cold, the music is soulful and the deck chairs just lend you to relaxing. Food is served in the form of BBQ chicken or sausage with salad and bread or crèpes, nothing to write home about but not bad either, if a little overpriced. But it's the location and rest that´s the star here. There are nearby public picnic tables if you'd rather have a drink and then go picnic with your own food. The best spot in Barcelona to watch the sun go down too.
Make the climb up Montjuic, either by cable car or with a leisurely but steep walk through the vast and charming gardens of the park and you will be rewarded with a key part of Barcelona history and stunning views. The walls of Montjuic castle could tell many tales, particularly from the civil war period where many on the Republican side were imprisoned and shot. Yet the castle also affords you a magnificent vista of the sprawl of the city, the distant hills leading into the Catalan interior and the bustle of the ports and shipping below. Free.