Yes, dear people of (what we hope is) late-Covid-pandemic-society, we conducted this thing months before the virus hit. It’s a piece we originally published in Vegan Good Life Magazine (issue 5, which is still available here) but since then, we have been developing some lockdown-longing to go back, Instead, we did our homework, read up a bit, and updated the piece remotely and now have it right here for you — maybe as a glimpse into our collective post-pandemic future of free travel?
The Explosive Growth of the Barcelona Vegan Scene
Right on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea lies a city pulsating with life and culture, packed to the brim with art and history. Knowing Barcelona from past trips, it came as a bit of a surprise for us that seemingly, the vegan scene must have been exploding in just a couple short years. What flew under the radar not that long ago, seemed to now have left a real mark on the offerings of the city and when we did our research on travel destinations to cover, we were flabbergasted to read of so many establishments with a plant-based menu in the Catalonian capital.
And so we decided to invest a couple of days and see for ourselves. Here it is, your utterly incomplete and very subjective guide for a long weekend in Barcelona.
Some Highlights You Must See (and Try)
Under normal circumstances, Barcelona has more than seven million tourists every year, which makes it one of the three most-visited cities of Europe. And rightfully so: First off, the cultural offerings are vast. Countless galleries, museums and architectural highlights are hidden away in the narrow streets of the Catalonian metropolis.
The historical old town ‘Barri Gòtic’ with its Gothic architecture is so charming it hurts a little and is home to touristic hotspots like La Catedral, the Placa del Rei, the city hall (‘Ajuntament’) and various other touristic hotspots.
“On nice days, you can get a good view of the ocean from up here.”
But there are so many more places in the city we fell in love with over the years. One of them definitely is the Fundació Joan Miró, the modern art museum dedicated to – suprise! – the life and work of one Joan Miró, right at the bottom of Montjuïc.
And while we’re at it, maybe take the cable car up the mountain, because (a) fun and (b) you’re closing in on another favorite of ours: The astonishingly deserted Olympic park, which has not yet become a major attraction to mainstream tourists. The view is spectacular. On nice days, you can oversee all of Barcelona and get a good view of the ocean, too.
Next up is Sagrada Familia, top 5 in virtually every single tourist guide to Barcelona ever written, but for good reason. The still unfinished Modernist church, designed by Antoni Gaudí and Parc Güell, the second big ‘Gaudí-attraction’ of the city, are indeed very touristy. But let’s face it, you just have to, at least once. Try to time your visit right to get past busloads of Germans in funny-looking hats.
Then for the architecture lovers in us, Pavelló Mies Van Der Rohe is a must-see and we’re still wondering why nobody asked us to move in. We’d be the perfect tenants.
“Watch your step or you might get run over. We speak from experience.”
We also enjoy hanging out in the sun in front of MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona), planned by US-American architect Richard Meier and located in ‘El Raval’ in the old town, mainly because of the spiritedness of the plaza in front of it. MACBA is always bustling with life, kids playing street soccer and a tremendous amount of skateboarders from all over the world are drawn here by the unique architecture of the place. But watch your step or you might get run over. We speak from experience.
Longing for a day at the beach? Say no more!
If you are, however, looking for a day at the beach, there are two options we found ideal, depending on what you’re in the mood for and what your time allows.
The more obvious one is Barceloneta, the neighborhood with the in-city beach, which can be crowded, but is so conveniently close to everything. We like to go in the mornings to start the day with a walk on the beach, because if you can, you kind of have to.
“Tapas are really just an excuse to order a glass or wine… or five.”
The second option and our favorite approach to a beach day is taking the tram along the coast up north to Sant Pol de Mar. Picturesque coastline and beautiful beaches await, frequented mostly by locals.
Three more tips for travelers that might come in handy:
- Many tapas, the traditional Spanish appetizers (which some say are just an excuse to get a glass of wine or five), are often vegan by default and can be found almost anywhere. Be it bread with tomato spreads, patatas bravas or roasted veggies, chances are all those dishes are made with loads of olive oil, garlic and salt — and that’s it. Enjoy!
- If you’re looking to rent an apartment or guest room, be aware that services like Airbnb are seen critical by many, as a lot of flats in the best quarters are rented out as empty-feeling, soulless tourist-only apartments — not at all what an Airbnb experience was originally meant to look like and if you, like us, want to stay in an actual flat of actual locals, careful research is key.
- Just a friendly reminder to watch your belongings, especially when walking down crowded streets like La Rambla — people approaching you with a map in hand asking for directions are probably after your wallet instead of your knowledge of the neighborhood. You have been warned!
Our Selection of the Best Vegan Spots in Town
And now, without further ado, here’s a rundown of our favorite vegan and vegan-friendly spots in the city.
Small but very charming all-vegan fashion store located in the Gracia district.
Carrying a fine selection of shoes, handbags and accessories including jewelry, accompanied by a smaller range of shirts and sweats, this tiny gem is well worth including when planning a stroll through the neighborhood. All-vegan bakery La Besneta is just around the corner, too, so…
Travessera De Gràcia 129
This cute little ‘hole-in-the-wall’-type restaurant has an all-vegan menu, offers raw options and big parts of the selection is gluten-free, as well. We came for the desserts, but stayed for the cheese platter, a fine spread of homemade cheese variations. So good!
Now our Swedish is a bit rusty, but as far as we know, Väcka translates to ‘awaken’ and yes, this place is woke!
Carrer De Séneca 4
Flax & Kale
One of three destinations of this small chain and a well-known address already, this stylishly furnished and suprisingly big restaurant with its beautiful rooftop terrace is an absolute must.
A very good breakfast offering and a very broad all-day menu that’s almost entirely vegan, packed with healthy, creative and delicious food awaits you. They have their own fermentation lab here!
Carrer Dels tallers 74b
A cute shop selling accessories, art pieces, clothing & beauty products, so oils, mists and all that jazz. Most products are made by local designers, artists and artisans, but the curated shop also offers a fine selection of pieces from international brands.
Come here to browse and rummage and have an eye out for their vegan-themed tote bags and accessories.
Carrer Del Peu De La Creu 25
Amazing: A completely vegan beauty salon with affiliated store, carrying a wide range of make up, lipsticks etc. The whole endeavor is run by a vegan hair & make up artist, which means you can book beauty treatments and make up consultancy here.
Definitely worth a visit!
Carrer De Santa Eugénia 16
All Vegan Barcelona
This small buffet-style restaurant formerly known as Vega Raw Organic is close to famous main boulevard La Rambla and offers typical Catalan dishes. A bit on the old-school-veganism side when it comes to interior and overall style, everything here is made in house and 100% vegan, very hearty and delicious. The selection is vast, so bring some appetite and don’t forget to save room for some ice cream.
Sells sausages, burgers and other organic, vegan groceries and products as well.
Carrer Del Pintor Fortuny 24
While not everything on the menu here is vegan, of course new-age vegans flock to this place due to our collective semi-religious adoration of whole green tea leaves. Word on the street is that this place sells “the best matcha cookies ever” and they have a vast menu of matcha-based drinks that even ventures into kombucha.
We know we’ll integrate this place in our daily morning ritual on our next stay.
BTW: It looks like most, if not all of their takeaway goods is in plastic cups, though, as is custom with a lot of places in the city, unfortunately. So if you’re into minimizing plastic waste, maybe a place you’d like to bring your reusable to.
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 488
Excellent Açai-bowls (but in a cup) to be had here! This place has the all-vegan, all-organic health vibes you’ve been craving for.
Serving healthy brekkie in three locations in the city, Oakberry is a Brazil-based worldwide chain with over 340 locations in 11 countries in total, so don’t expect local artisanal vibes. Here, too, seemingly all of their takeaway is in plastic, though according to their Instagram, all containers are bio-degradable.
Carrer del Baluard, 52
Plaça Del Sol, 15
Carrer De Sardenya, 340
This specialty coffee shop is deemed one of the best in the city and with three locations come varied offerings:
Their ‘Coffee Lab’ specializes in bringing you your daily hot bean juice fix.
The ‘Every Day’ is a coffee shop / gelato shop hybrid with a selection of vegan ice creams, affogatos and frappuccinos and their baked goods selection is also vegan in big parts (we’d say roughly 80%).
And then there’s ‘Frutas Selectas’, a small, coffee-corner-style shop where you can get coffee or buy ground beans for home and get an artisanal bread from a local bakery, too while you’re at it.
Passatge Sert 12
Career Joaquín Costa 26
Carrer de Pujades 95
A health-food joint with a pretty outlandish and awesome interior game, serving vegetarian and vegan options. We come here for the baked cauliflower, good hummus and their selection of vegan bowls.
Three locations in the city (and a bunch more in Madrid and Lisbon if you’re planning to go there, next.)
Rambla de Catalunya 3
Pla de Palau 11
C/ Tuset 4
Again, not a fully vegan location, but with many vegan options. Locals tell us you need to try the vegan börek with vegetables here. They also have a matcha power bar and tahini bread that are supposedly very good, so… we await your reports in the comments!
Passeig del Born 10
Vegan Junk Food Bar
The first international flagship by the Amsterdam-based disruptive restaurant chain and food brand is bringing the Dutch vegan junk food concept to the district of El Born, complete with the signature graffiti interior, black burger buns and pink neons.
If you’re in need of a solid hangover cure from a night out with a tad too much sangria or in search of a pizza feast with some dairy-free queso, this is your one-stop-shop. It’s not exactly local cuisine, but hey, food culture comes in all forms, shapes and sizes, no? (In this case, the size is XXL.)
Carrer de Manresa 4
Got more for us?
We want to keep this guide up to date, so if you’re a local or you have been to Barcelona recently and think we forgot the city’s best kept secret, make sure to share it in the comments.
Additionally, all on-location research and photography for this guide has obviously been conducted before the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020, so if any of the mentioned businesses had to shut down due to the pandemic, we’d like to know, mourn and update this doc. Let us know in the comments, we’d highly appreciate it. Thanks for your help!