In this world there are 2 types of people: the ones who love coffee and the ones that don’t. Are you one of the 1.200 million of people that love coffee? Then Barcelona is your city. But ordering this black magic beverage is tricky. Double meaning words, jargon and different regional specialties can be the nightmare of even the most dedicated coffee fanatics. Add Catalan language to the equation and you’re lost.
So if you don’t want to spend your days in a Starbucks (more than 15 shops in Barcelona), keep close to you this general guide and tips on how to order coffee in Barcelona.
Café solo literally means “only coffee” and it is what you will get if you simply whisper the word “café”. If well done, all you should expect is a 30 milliliter shot of espresso, thick, bitter, full of aroma and with a thin layer of dark brown foam on top.
- Where: Cafe de la Opera – Close to the Gran Teatre del Liceu Opera House. History in pure essence just in the middle of the Rambla. Let time drift away while you enjoy a coffee between its Modernista (Catalan Art Noveau) decoration and think about its famous visitors that range from dethroned kings to anarchists plotting on how to destroy the neighbor Opera house.
Café con Leche (coffee with milk)
Or Cafè amb Llet in Catalan. Or coffee with milk in English. Only two ingredients served in a big cup (200 ml). Or in a glass, if you add the words “en vaso” to your order. If not specified it will be 1:1 ratio and served really hot.
- Where: Café de la Pedrera – beautifully situated at the first floor of one of the houses designed by Gaudí in Barcelona with huge windows overlooking Paseo de Gracia. The perfect place to watch and be watched.
The word cortado is the past participle of the Spanish verb cortar (to cut). So a cortado in any coffee shop of Spain, is not a macchiato or a small coffee with milk. A real cortado – tallat in Catalan – is a slightly longer but strong espresso with a splash of hot milk (not more than a finger’s width).
- Where: Café Zurich – More than 140 years situated in the very heart of Barcelona (Plaza Catalunya) has made The Zurich the cafe par excellence of the city of Barcelona. It’s much more than a café or an excellent meeting point, it’s an emblematic establishment of the city that has chronicled different periods and resisted huge urban changes conserving it’s spirit and appearance.
Need something to wake you up fast? Then go for a “short coffee” (that’s the literal translation for Café Corto). The same coffee dosage but concentrated in 15 milliliters of water. Extra dose of caffeine directly to your brains.
- Where: La Cafeteria del Palau: The Palau de la Música was declared World Heritage by UNESCO in 1997. It’s a concert hall with an ecclectic program ranging from Mozart to Diana Krall, but it is also an opportunity to taste a coffee in an unique scene. Red brick columns sustain a wonderful green tiled ceiling designed by Domenech i Montaner – 100% pure Modernisme!
Can’t live without your drip coffee? Then go straight to the counter and ask for an Americano. One dosage of coffee for 2 (or more) of water served in a large cup.
Where: Caelum In a wonderful location – The Gothic Quarter is maybe one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city – you will find this small cafe and shop. A visit to this shop is an absolute must as Caelum sells pastries made in some of the numerous monasteries in Spain (you’ll see that nuns are excellent bakers!) and the peaceful atmosphere of the place is somehow related to that. This is the place to enjoy a good coffee and reward yourself with something sweet while reading a book.
Two espressos in one cup. For those mornings that you need to extra wake up after a night out in Barcelona.
Where: Granja Viader is one of the oldest and most traditional cafes in Barcelona. First established in 1870 as a creamery, you can still enjoy one of the customs that I hope never goes out of style. Treating yourself to a breakfast or an afternoon snack ordering a ‘suizo’ – sweet thick drinking chocolate topped with unsweetened whipped cream accompanied, if you like, with “churros”. The place is simply charming.
Used to be really in fashion but maybe today it’s moment has gone. The drink combines a short espresso with brandy, rum, anisette or even whisky with a ratio of 3:1.
Where: Cafeteria del Ateneu – This space has an exclusive twist that makes it so recommendable. The Ateneu Barcelonés has reserved entrance for members. So you’ll either have to enroll as associate, assist to one of the many writing courses organized by them or wait until an “open door” day (April 23 for example) to enjoy one of the most charming and cute interior garden of Barcelona and a beautiful art noveau library.
If you ask for a café bombón (bonbon) you will be rewarded with a small cristal glass with a mixture of dark bitter coffee and condensed milk. It’s a very sweet way to get your caffeine dose down.
Where: Café Salambó – It has become a local landmark in Gràcia and it’s always a safe bet. It’s worth a visit just to experience its spacious interior made up of wood, or it’s two pool tables or it’s cozy atmosphere. Off the tourist trail although in heart of Gracia area with great little shops and cafes all around.
Café Irlandés (Irish Coffee) is as simple as mixing with the right proportions, coffee, Irish whiskey, sugar and cream. So, what’s the difference between a Spanish Irish Coffee from any other Irish Coffee in the world? A good Café Irlandes should be served with 3 visible layers: bottom layer of whiskey, a separate coffee layer, and a layer of cream on top.
Where: Slice of Life Coffee Bar – Near Mercat de Santa Caterina, this comfortable, cozy and off track coffee shop is ideal for an afternoon coffee break.
Literally a “miserable coffee”. How would you name a beverage made of Decaff coffee, low fat milk and sweetener? Yes healthy could be a good name too but then irony would have no space in our lives
Tired of reading? Well, this was only an introduction to coffee and Barcelona. Let our readers know your tips and experiences on how to order coffe in Barcelona in the comments.