El Nacional and La Boquera - Two 'must-visit' places for foodies
Barcelona has so many fabulous sights to offer that you can easily spend several days making your way from one sight to the other. The city is best explored on foot, ambling along the winding alleys of the emblematic Gothic Quarters, marvelling at the imagination of Gaudi’s fairytale buildings, or taking in a breath of fresh air in its many parks.
Museums beckon, as do art galleries, and trendy shops. One of my favourites is Las Arenas, a disused bull ring that was converted into a landmark shopping mall. There are also a wealth of designer boutiques to be found along Rambla de Cataluña or Paseo de Gracia.
After all that walking and sightseeing, you'll definitely be peckish, which is why you should do as the locals do and head for El Nacional, one of the most sought-out eateries in the city. With its central location, great food and extraordinary décor, you'll be in for a treat!
El Nacional - A stunning restaurant that never fails to impress...
El Nacional is difficult to find if you don't know what you're looking for. Set back from the bustling Passeig de Gràcia, you'll find this gem of a restaurant at the end of a small alley.
The first thing that will take you by surprise is its size. The restaurant is spread over a massive area, which helps lend a sense of grandeur. Dating from 1870, El Nacional has had many guises. Starting out as a café theatre, it subsequently served as a dye factory, a multi-brand car dealership, a textile factory , a centre for food distribution (during the Civil War) and finally, a car park.
Since 2014 El Nacional has become one of Barcelona’s most coveted restaurants, with a decoration that reflects the past as well as the Catalan style with vaulted ceilings, fine wood and glass from Galicia and ceramics and tiles from Valencia.
Wrought iron sculptures and lamps hang from the ceiling, posters and mirrors decorate the walls and green plants are everywhere.
The food at El Nacional
El Nacional’s ambition is to offer the best of Spanish food in a relaxing, yet entertaining environment. The vast space is divided into sections or islands, each offering a different speciality. Within the space, you’ll find four restaurants and four tapas bars, yet no table seats more than four guests to help ensure an intimate atmosphere.
Whatever you do, arrive with an empty stomach, because you will be tempted to taste each and every one of the delicious foods on offer! Within El Nacional, you'll find dedicated food and drink stations offering a variety of specialities, including La Taperia, La Paradeta (designed to look like an old kitchen and self-service), La Llotja (sea food), La Braseria (meat) and an oyster bar. I recommend that you start with the cocktail bar, then proceed to the fish and seafood counter, where you can enjoy five types of fresh oysters, if you so desire.
Next, head over to the meat bar, where meat is grilled in full sight and sliced to your specifications and accompanied with vegetables, rice or potatoes. Other options include hot and cold soups, hams, sausages and cheeses, mouth watering deserts and of course, a vast selection of the finest wines and beers.
After you've indulged in your meal, take time to view the artwork and the decorations within the restaurant. One of the things that makes El Nacional special is that it is meant to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, so you can fully enjoy the experience.
La Boqueria - Barcelona's oldest food market
If you want to know where all the delicacies offered in El Nacional herald from, you only have to walk a bit further down the road to La Boqueria, Barcelona’s oldest and most famous covered food market. Apart from the freshest produce brought here every day from all over the country, you'll also find exotic and tropical fruits and some Chinese, Indian and Turkish specialities. You'll also find a great variety of healthy and colourful smoothies, which are conveniently lined up at the entrance to get customers in the mood for some serious food shopping!
As if the fantastic foodie offering wasn't enough in itself, all this is grouped under and Art Deco wrought iron structure, in a similar style to El Nacional.
After enjoying a foodie feast at El Nacional and La Boqueria, your strength will be restored, ensuring you'll be in the mood to enjoy all of the attractions Barcelona has to offer.
For more information on Barcelona or Spain, visit:
If you enjoyed this feature, you might enjoy reading my other travel features:
Spotlight On: Bursa, Turkey
Spotlight On: Salzburg, Austria
Ready to book your escape to Barcelona? Check out the offers below from Booking.com:
We've rounded our favourite places to inspire your visit to Spain.