Last month CateyLou and I traveled to Barcelona, Spain. It was our first trip to Spain and we had an amazing time; great food (including Cal Pep and Tickets) and great wine (La Vinya Del Senyor) in a beautiful city on the Mediterranean. What could be better? After the jump is a recap of our trip, complete with pictures and travel tips for visiting Barcelona.
One of the most famous attractions in Barcelona is Le Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. La Boqueria is an open air food market and is located directly off La Rambla, a main street in the heart of Barcelona and a tourist attraction in itself. We ended up stopping by La Boqueria on several occasions during our trip but found it most enjoyable during the morning. Most of the food is of the takeaway variety (unless you want to snack on some fresh fruits/veggies or jamon iberico – and who am I to judge) and there aren’t many bakeries (much to CateyLou’s chagrin), but there are a few small restaurants inside the market. Our favorite was El Quim de la Boqueria. The vegetable frittata and the house breakfast sandwich (pork belly, egg and asparagus) were personal favorites and both were very reasonable (less than 5e respectively). And if you thought having breakfast at El Quim would have deterred us from eating delicious homemade churros later in the morning…well you’re new to the blog.
In addition to food-based attractions, we also took in some culture. La Sagrada Familia is very impressive in person. Sure, it’d be nice if they got their act together and finished it (I mean, it’s been 80 years…), but it’s easily one of the most unique sites we have ever seen. But watch out for the crowds – the line to get in was wrapped around the block. We also really enjoyed spending some time at Park Guell. The views of the city are spectacular and there’s plenty to walk around and discover. Bring some comfy shoes as the best views are atop a few sets of uneven stairs.
We split up our stay in two parts in order to see as much of the city as possible. For the first few days we stayed in the center of Barcelona on Passeig de Gracia. Passeig de Gracia is home to many high end shops and cafes. It is also centrally located between Park Guell, La Sagrada Familia, and La Rambla/Gothic Quarter (short cab ride or a 20-25 minute walk to all three). The only real downside of this area is that it had very little nightlife. Midway through our trip we moved to the Hotel Arts which is right on the beach (hard to believe a city this bustling is also located right on the water). The beach front and the tiny town of Barcelonetta are definitely worth exploring – I’d imagine this is especially true during the warmer months.
Now how about some tips. First, we recommend leaving Barcelona on Sunday if possible. Most of the shops and better restaurants are closed on Sunday as the city seems to take the day off. Museums are free, but if you prefer gambas to Gaudi you might get frustrated. However, if you do happen to be in Barcelona on a Sunday, make sure to stop by Cerveceria el Vaso Oro in Barcelonetta. If you are able to snag a bar stool (it was packed for lunch, mostly with locals - probably because everywhere else was closed), the food is great and the atmosphere is uniquely Spanish. We really enjoyed the steak and seared peppers and the patatas bravas. Also, special shout-out to CateyLou who used pan con tomato, steak, and manchego to build a tapas-cheesesteak.
For American tourists the city’s late-to-bed-late-to-rise mentality really exacerbates jet-lag. CateyLou and I woke up early the first two mornings of our trip only to find that the only store open was Starbucks (not even McDonalds was open – and I really wanted that McJamon). This explains why most Barcelonians don’t eat dinner until 10:00 pm. Also, similar to our experience with other cities in Europe, the hours of stores and restaurants are unpredictable. Periodic closures in the middle of the day are common and some of the most revered tapas restaurants are closed on Saturday night (such as Cal Pep and Quimet y Quimet, an Anthony Bourdain favorite).
As far as prices go, beer and wine were universally reasonable – the house bottle of wine was less than a glass at most New York establishments, La Vinya del Senyor had numerous bottles available for under 30e, and maybe most surprisingly some glasses at the Mandarin Oriental bar were less than 10 bucks.
Lastly, we have to give you standard warning about pick-pocketers in Barcelona. We luckily had no problems, but we were also extremely vigilant. CateyLou actually bought a new purse to carry at night because it was more secure than her normal clutches. She also lobbied hard for me to wear a money belt, but I resisted.
There are so many amazing things to see and do in Barcelona and we know we only scratched the surface! But we absolutely loved our weekend and did Barca our way .