With a demographic of local residents, hipsters, and not many tourists, Barcelona’s Poble-Sec district – otherwise known as the “dry city” – is definitely a must-do if you’re looking to travel Barcelona off the beaten path. Worried you’ll miss out on the city’s main attractions? The borough, near Montjuïc mountain, borders the popular Sant Antoni neighbourhood. It’s also a 15-minute walk from La Rambla, as well as a short drive away from La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. Read on to discover my personal gems in the Poble-Sec and its surroundings.
Where to brunch
Begin your culinary adventure by savouring a Barcelona-style brunch. Café Cometa is an eatery and contemporary art space where hipsters unite for smoothies and sandwiches. Don’t miss out on their brunch. I chose the dish that came with a boiled egg, homemade pita bread, Spanish ham (or smoked salmon), half an avocado, and fruit kebabs. I paired it with one of their in-house fruit juices and was set for the day. Taranna Café is also a great lunch and coffee spot that makes a top notch brunch. I always order their baked eggs with mushrooms and jamón. I even made sure to go back before catching my flight home on my last day!
What to see
Want to get an aerial 360-degree view of the Placa Espanya? Head over to the Centro comercial de Las Arenas and take the outdoor elevator (€1) to the top floor for the panoramic view. Next, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, a stunning building that resembles a cathedral on Montjuïc hill, is for both art (its interior) and architecture (its exterior) lovers alike. Once you climb the steps and reach the museum entrance, be sure to turn around to take in the view of the city from above. In the evening, sit by the lovely fountain at the foot of the imposing monument, and maybe you’ll catch a live performance.
Where to eat lunch
For lunch, head to Carrer de Blai, a bustling pedestrian-only street with open air terraces. Head over to Blai 9 and enjoy tasty traditional tapas that will only cost you €1.50 each at most! I spotted their buffet-style interior as I walked by and just had to go. Begin by having the barman take your drink order. Then, they’ll hand you a small plate so you can fill it up with unlimited tapas! At the end of your meal, the staff will count your tiny dish trays and charge you based on how many you consumed. Love patatas bravas? Crum is a “build it yourself” eatery that specializes in the Spanish staple. Choose from their suggested list or combine your potato cut of choice with your favourite sauce, and voilà!
Where to get coffee and dessert
For coffee and dessert, head over to Avenue Paral.lel, the area’s largest boulevard which separates the Poble-Sec and Sant Antoni. Café 365 is your typical bakery where the bread is always fresh and the coffee is always good. Patchwork Concept & Bar offers great lunch options (jamón sandwiches) and has a charming outdoor terrace overlooking the boulevard.
Federal Café is another popular hotspot among the locals with a gorgeous decor and lattes done right (I have yet to try their brunch). Still haven’t quenched your sweet tooth? La Donutería on Carrer del Parlament proves that the doughnut craze isn’t dead. Flavours change weekly and include apple maple bacon and chocolate cream with Matcha.
Where to shop
There aren’t many shopping spots in the area, but the small selection in Sant Antoni is enough to satisfy fashionistas and gift hunters. For ladies fashion, The Corner and MardeMar are where you can get that effortless beach-inspired look, with linen blouses, shorts, blanket scarves, and floppy hats. Men, visit Trait Store for the latest in hipster fashion (think Sandqvist, Herschel, and Fred Perry, among others).
Bebe-Té is for tea lovers, with brands like Harney and Sons, Revolution Tea, and the Victoria & Albert Museum’s mug collection. Finally, Llibreria Calders is for literature geeks, selling a mix of classic works in several languages, as well as books written by local authors.
Where to eat dinner
Dinner time is when Barcelona’s streets begin to come alive. Patios fill up quickly and tapas are served at lightning speed. La Xalada, La Chirusa, and Lando are all within a two-minute walking distance over in Sant Antoni and are delicious spots for tapas and traditional dishes. They also have great outdoor terraces.
Meat lovers, head to O Meu Lar for authentic Galician food. Don’t let the kitsch interior fool you – this family-run restaurant is serious about food. After a warm welcome from the owner and his staff, we begin our meal with Barcelona’s quintessential pan con tomate and fried squid. For our mains, we opt for their classic entrecôte served with potatoes. It was simple, yet the best meat I’ve ever had. Needless to say, we had no room left for dessert.
Couldn’t score a last minute reservation to Tickets? Neither could I, so I headed to Rías de Galicia right behind for an haute gamme culinary experience. I started with grilled scallops, served beautifully on top of their shells. For my main, I had wagyu beef which I cooked myself on a small grill! I seared the slices for a few seconds on each side and dressed them with an assortment of spices that accompanied the dish – delicious. I ended my fabulous meal with a strawberry and champagne green tea (yes, that’s a thing).
Where to play
Cabaret El Molino is the equivalent of Paris’ Moulin Rouge. Even if you don’t go in, a photo of the outside is mandatory! Just a few steps away, Sala Apolo is a concert hall that doubles as a nightclub for those who came to Barcelona to party.
What’s your favourite district in Barcelona? Let me know in the comments below!