Whatever Happened To Spain's El Bulli, The First World's Best Restaurant?

Under Spanish chef Ferran Adrià, El Bulli achieved legendary status as a restaurant. From game-changing foam dishes and molecular gastronomy to ice cream with a groundbreaking savory twist, El Bulli was at the forefront of culinary innovations. It also held three Michelin stars and had been awarded the "World's Best Restaurant" a record-setting five times. El Bulli was even one of the most sought-after reservations in the world, with more than 2 million requests for just 8,000 seats a year.

In 2011, however, Adrià announced that El Bulli would be closing its doors, which it did that July, despite being at the height of its fame. Adrià later told Eater, "We closed El Bulli because we had been searching for the limits around what a restaurant experience could be, Once we felt we could not go much further in this sense, we decided to close."

Then, in June 2023, just shy of 12 years after the restaurant served its last meal, it reopened as El Bulli 1846, a museum. According to Robb Report, Adrià told the Spanish newspaper El País, "It is a museum where we explain what El Bulli did to make it have the success it had and still has. A restaurant that marked a paradigm shift in western gastronomy."

Preserving a legacy

The 1846 in the museum's name refers to the number of dishes created in El Bulli during the time the restaurant was open, some of which have been reproduced as wax or plastic models in the nearly 43,000-square-foot space, which houses 69 exhibits, including photos and records.

The museum is open to the public from June to September; the rest of the time, it operates as a culinary laboratory focused on research and experimentation. Visits take around 2.5 hours and cover four different spaces, including an outdoor space and the space occupied by the former restaurant. A free multimedia guide is available to help visitors make the most of their visit on a self-guided tour. Unlike many museums, there is no café or restaurant on-site, though there is a museum gift shop. It's recommended that visitors book their tickets, which are available bundled with bus or train transfers or parking, in advance to avoid disappointment.