The best hot chocolate in Barcelona
Whenever I’m planning a trip, especially if it's somewhere I’ve not been before, my astoundingly in-depth planning for the trip consists of one simple thing: google the best places to eat. Googling before my trip to Barcelona brought up the best lots of advice on the best place to get hot chocolate. That sounded like the start of a great plan!
So, on the second morning of our trip I bounced at my travel companion, banned him from breakfast and told him we were going on a hot chocolate adventure. We hopped on the metro to Passeig de Gracia and wandered through the glorious streets towards the strangest mix of buildings. There is a block of three stunning, but completely different buildings, each designed by a different architect. The first building, on the corner, is Casa Lleó Morera, by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. It’s almost castle-like and very grand. Next door is Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí.
No visit to Barcelona is complete without seeing Gaudi’s designs - they fill the city with their weird and fascinating shapes. Casa Batlló, with it’s strange skull-like balconies supporting tall elegant windows, was restored by Antoni Gaudí in the early 1900s. It’s undulating shape has been compared to the back of a sleeping dragon and the mosaics covering the facade add to the reptilian feel of the building. it’s definitely one of the more eye-catching of his creations.
Finally there is Casa Amatller, a geometric and slightly forbidding building, designed by Joan Puig i Cadafalch. Puig was a contemporary of Gaudi’s who had a significant role in the development of Catalan institutions and designed many significant buildings in Barcelona, including this one for the Amatller chocolatier family
Barcelona has a deep rooted history in chocolate. If the universe was made of chocolate, Barcelona would be at the very centre of it. The history of chocolate in Europe actually began in Barcelona, when Christopher Columbus arrived home and presented King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella with a boat load of curiosities from the New World – among them, cacao beans. The beans were mistaken for a type of nut and more or less ignored for almost thirty years. Until conquistador Hernando Cortes returned from the Aztec empire he’d conquered with the recipe for a chocolate drink. Chocolate became an instant hit. Before long, Chocolates Amatller began crafting the first chocolate delicacies. so yes, the hot chocolate were we’re looking for was inside this amazing house made for the premier chocolate family in Barcelona.
Enough of me chattering about architecture and history. I’m sure that you’re really here for the hot chocolate. We certainly were, although the time we spent ooh-ing and ahh-ing outside in the sunshine was time well spent and much enjoyed.
We thought that we were in the wrong place at first. The cafe is right at the back of the building and the house looked a little deserted as we first entered. We wandered through a very elegant entrance hall with a staircase that looked perfect for gliding down in a long dress (yes - I said gliding not sliding, although it did have a bannister that looked very good for sliding down). A little further in we found the shop and right behind it a beautiful cafe with a small, serene courtyard garden.
The cafe was amazing! Hot chocolate was being made in a special machine fitted into the counter, where it was kept slowly swirling until someone ordered. There was a tall tap to pump the chocolate into a jug. and from there it was slowly poured into delicate pink cups.
You’d think that hot chocolate wouldn’t be so good in a country where the climate generally encourages the drinking of ice cold beer, but you’d be wrong. Spanish hot chocolate is deliciously thick and rich. The scent of it fills your senses as you walk into the cafe and whispers to you enticingly. The texture is smooth and creamy and amazing. Definitely one of those things that makes you eyes close in pleasure when you take your first sip.
We paired our drinks with a rich crumbly cheesecake and a slice of chocolate cake that was as light as air, yet packed full of flavour. Perfect!
The staff at Casa Amatller must have know we were planning to visit, as the cafe chalkboard had a cute Star Wars message on it that day. My friend is a total Star Wars addict. I think you can just about make out the chalkboard message in one of the photos at the top of this post. We ate outside in the garden surrounded by spring flowers and the sound of birds singing. Probably half of the people around us were locals catching up with each other over a late breakfast. The rest were a wonderful mix of nationalities delighting in the garden and the wonderful tastes, just as we were doing that morning. It was a lovely and relaxing way to start our day before we disappeared off into the city.
The most wonderful thing about the cafe in Casa Amattler is that it is still used everyday and stands as a monument to the family who built the house it is in – the finest purveyor of chocolate that Spain has ever seen. And when you site there drinking delicious hot chocolate and nibbling on cake, you get to savour just a little bit of the history of this beautiful building.
For chocolate-lovers and lovers of architecture alike, no trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to Casa Amatller.
Trust me, you won’t regret it