Maybe it’s the fresh air, maybe it’s the smell of the grass and the trees or maybe our senses are more alert, but it seems to us that when we eat outdoors, food just tastes better. And Barcelona, blessed as it is with so many sunny days, a municipal market in every neighborhood, a growing number of gourmet food stores and many excellent traditional food shops and stalls, is a great city to spread out a picnic blanket for an alfresco feast.
To enjoy a good meal under the blue sky, you can choose from more than 80 different green spaces: small cozy urban gardens like La Maternitat or Jaume Vicéns i Vivens; urban parks like the sparkling Parc de Ciutadella or the lovely Horta’s Leberynth; bigger areas of Mediterranean forest just outside the city, like Collserola or Montjuic; or one of the nine beaches along the more than 4 kilometers of Barcelona coast.
Between all the food options and picnic spots, there are infinite combinations, but we have some favorite itineraries.
El Parc de la Ciutadella is perhaps the best known for spontaneous or planned picnics. This big urban park, made for the Universal Exhibitions of 1888, has a small lake within it as well as geological and zoological museums, the beautiful greenhouses Invernacle and Umbracle and the zoo close by. There are numerous areas where one can lie in the grass under the shade of magnolias, linden or plane trees, and on weekends the park is full of families and groups of friends. It’s also easy to get to from la dreta de l’Eixample (the right side of Eixample) and El Born.
Not far away, on the other side of Ronda Litoral, is the beach, with Somorrostro, La Barceloneta and Nova Icaria beaches integrated into the area. But if you’re willing to walk one or two more kilometers or you have a bike, you can reach beaches that are a bit less urbanized, such as Bogatell and La Mar Bella, where there are also stretches of green grass and shade under pines behind the beach, still within sight of the sea.
In both cases, you can start your picnic shopping in the neighborhood markets. Santa Caterina is bigger, with more options than that of Barceloneta, but you can find good food in both. Our recommendation is to combine the best of the markets with other special products from neighborhood stores.
For bread, the immediate choice is Forn La Torna, which has two locations in Santa Caterina, one inside the market and other on the street behind (Geralt el Pellicer 12). If you prefer a more sophisticated, organic loaf, made using very slow fermentation and many different grains, you can go to Barcelona-Reykjavik (Princesa 16). Not far away, there’s the small Forn Vilamala (Carrer Agullers 14), the traditional option, which has been making bread with long fermentations in their old stone oven since 1925. We highly recommend buying their amazing coca de crema for dessert.
To buy cheese and cold cuts you need a good xarcutería. Carles i Mari in the market offers good Catalan artisanal cheeses, manchegos and a few French and Italian options, as well as acorn-fed Iberian ham, fuet and lomo. Outside the market, there’s a third-generation, family-run granja (Geralt el Pellicer 6), or farm store, that sells cured meats (fuet, llonganissa and chorizo) they produced themselves in Camprodón, a village in the Pyrenees. They also have artisan Catalan cheeses, like garrotxa. For the most gourmet choice, you can go to La Teca de Vila Viniteca (Agullers 7), where they have more than a hundred Spanish artisan cheeses and excellent Joselito and Maldonado acorn-fed Iberian ham, in addition to all kind of other products (olive oil, pastas, spices, chocolates, etc.).
You can pick up tomatoes or other fresh veg at La Teca or the market. For cured and pickled produce, such as olives or marinated anchovies – perfect for vermut – there are three pickle stalls in the market.
Takeaway options abound. In the market, you could pick up some esqueixada, the refreshing cured cod salad with peppers, as well as fritters and croquettes at Eladio. Rafols offers reasonably priced rice dishes, fideuá, spinach with raisins, chicken, fricandó of beef with mushrooms or meatballs. A small shop just outside the market, on Geralt el Pellicer, also has similar specialties.
The local favorite for takeaway is Pim Pam Plats (Carrer del Rec 8), a modern version of the old-school llegums cuits shop, with a wide selection of prepared foods, including the picnic classic, tortilla de patatas, and a combination of different Mediterranean pastas, rice and salads.
All this shopping is sure to make you thirsty. For good wine or cava, look to La Vila Viniteca, where the knowledgeable staff can advise you on the best bottles to complement your picnic basket. But if you prefer to check out other parts of el Born, head to Bodega Maestrazgo (Carrer de Sant Pere Més Baix 90) for bulk wine or vermut, drawn straight from wooden barrels. Other interesting options for wine in that area are Magatzem Escolá (Carrer Comercial 13) and Born Selecció (Passeig del Born 34).
Last but not least, dessert. If you happen to have a cooler, you might pick up some artisan gelato at La Campana (Carrer Princesa 36 or Flassaders 15). There’s also the wonderful Hofmann Cooking School pastry shop (Flassaders 44), where you can get some of its famous tea cookies or filled croissants – the flavors elevated, of course, when eaten while your feet are on grass.
Editor’s note: It’s Picnic Week at Culinary Backstreets, and in this week’s dispatches, our contributors write about their favorite places to eat outdoors as well as the best nearby shops to fill a picnic basket.
Published on July 14, 2016