When I visited Spain last year, I tasted several different types of cookies that were baked by nuns. It’s not uncommon for different convents to specialize in different baked goods. In fact, it’s a tradition that has been going on for centuries, so in many cities and large towns you can find shops that specialize in this type of treat. Caelum is one of those places, and I visited it on my more recent trip to Barcelona. It’s a charming cafe in the heart of old-town Barcelona that specializes in baked goods and confections made by nuns from all across the country. The selection wasn’t limited just to cookies, but featured fudge, tarts, candies, cakes and – most importantly – lots of chocolate.
Caelum’s specialty is rich hot chocolate. Theirs is made with purely nun-produced chocolate and, as you might guess, tasted heavenly. You can buy boxed products to take home, each bearing the name of the sisters who produced it, but you can also dine in the cafe itself and choose treats from a beautiful dessert buffet that they have set up. The prices were reasonable, everything was delicious (especially the hot chocolate!) and the place had a great atmosphere.
The pastries and hot chocolate that they sell at Caelum certainly make it worth a visit, but the shop has one other feature that is worth going out of your way to see. It is built on top of a medieval Jewish bath, and a beautiful seating area has been set up in the historic basement, which was part of the baths. This space is what gives Caelum its character and ambiance. The stone walls and vaulted ceilings are beautiful and make the space very romantic.
When you visit, browse around the shop on the ground floor then head to the back corner of the store and climb down the steep staircase to access the bathhouse cafe. You’ll order drinks – hot chocolate, coffee or one of many teas – and then head to the buffet to pick out your pastries. The helpful staff will try to describe what everything is, but you can’t go wrong with any of the choices – which is a good thing, because they all look tempting. If Caelum were near me, this is exactly the type of place that I’d like to go for dessert and a “date night” and it’s definitely a place to put on your short list (if just to try the nun hot chocolate and see the basement) if you’re in Barcelona.
Carrer de la Palla 8
Barri Gòtic, Barcelona 08002