This fall Jeff and I traveled to Spain with our friends Nate and Cara. Barcelona was our first stop and it was, without a doubt, my favorite city of the four we toured. The weather was hot, the food was incredible and the atmosphere was bustling! Here’s a bit more about our visit to Barcelona…
On our first night in the city we booked a food tour with Paul at Taste Barcelona. We had previously done a food tour on our last big trip to Eastern Europe in Prague, Czech Republic and loved the experience. Not only does it allow for you to experience local recommendations for food, drink and atmosphere, but it also is an excellent way to be introduced to the city. Booking the tour on the first night was absolutely on purpose because our guide walked us through four different historical neighborhoods giving us a summary of Barcelona’s history as we transitioned between restaurant locations. The food and wine were exceptional and the company was even better!
The next morning we hit the ground running and spent the day being tourists. We began with touring Casa Mila (or La Pedrera), the very famous Gaudi House. We were blown away. In all the architectural tours we’ve taken we’ve never seen anything quite like this. Gaudi believes that to be ‘original’ you must drawn inspiration from original design, meaning nature. While touring the house you can easily find bits and pieces of nature throughout the space. The museum portion of the building is very well maintained and run. We took the audio guided tour and all enjoyed it.
After the Casa Mila, we took a promenade down Barcelona’s main drag called Las Ramblas. Here you’ll find shopping, restaurants and all the tourists. Located not too fair off Las Ramblas is a fantastic food market, La Boqueria. If you’re hungry for quick bite, this is the place to go. They’ve got fresh everything - including all the seafood smells! The market is incredibly busy so be prepared for the crowds.
While in Barcelona we learned that Spaniards live their days on a slightly delayed schedule as we do in America. Breakfast is most often a simple cup of coffee and a croissant (my kind of breakfast!). Lunch is delayed until around 2pm and is their largest meal of the day and is likely eaten in courses: soup/salad, a larger main dish and followed by a dessert of some sort. And dinner, which is always lighter than lunch, usually consists of tapas, or an assortment of small plates that are shared with the table. Tapas are eaten anywhere between 9pm and 11pm. It took some adjustment on our side but by the end of our trip we had no problem eating giant portions of seafood pallela at 2pm.
That afternoon we booked tickets to see Sagrada Familla. This Catholic Cathedral was also designed by Gaudi and currently sits unfinished. Gaudi passed away before it could be finished and his work continues today under the collaboration of a number of designers and architects. The Cathedral had the most intense stainless windows I’ve ever seen. Gaudi designed them to play off the rising and setting sun and on that day the sun was shining full blast through those windows giving us the show of a lifetime. The Cathedral is also the final resting place of Gaudi, something we were able to see during our audio tour.
Later we hiked up to Park Guell for a fantastic view overlooking the city, but not before stopping at a bodega for some local wine and paper cups. There’s nothing like having no where to be, hanging out with good friends, drinking cheap red wine overlooking the city.
Later that night we took our tourist hats off and headed out for tapas. We retraced our steps from the night before to check out a place we had passed on our food tour, El Jardi. As Paul, our food tour guide, talked about the old hospital turned public library we were all completely distracted by the bustling outdoor bar/restaurant located just off the courtyard and agreed to make a mental note on our location so we could return. It was here that we ate the best Patatas Bravas of the trip. Patatas Bravas, a dish native to Spain, is fried potatoes with a red sauce. Sometimes spicy, sometimes mild. Sometimes white sauce instead of red sauce. Lets just say that by the end of our trip we were Patatas Bravas’d out after agreeing we’d try them at every place that had them on the menu.
Our final day in Barcelona was possibly my favorite simply because of how everything came today organically. Jeff does an incredible job of planning out our trips by booking tours and studying the pages of Rick Steves. But on the days he leaves open ended, such of this… this is where the real memories happen. On this day, Jeff slated ‘Rent Bikes and Beach Day.’ I was all smiled leaving the apartment and soaking up the 80 degree sunshine.
The day before while drinking wine out of our paper cups in Guell Park, Jeff read to us some Rick Steves facts about the city. He said in 1992 Barcelona hosted the Summer Olympics and that the Olympic Park was (as he pointed), “Just over there.” And so, that is where we biked!
We rented bikes for 10 eruos a piece for the day and off we went. We passed the track and the baseball field. We saw where then opening ceremonies where and the outside of the stadium. And then we happened upon the outdoor Olympic diving pools. Nate, who for some reason was on the opposite side of the street at the time shouted we needed to stop and check this out. We followed him through an opening in the concrete retaining wall separating the busy street from a clever little bar overlooking the surprisingly well maintained diving pools and a backdrop as breathtaking as the one from Park Guell. We ordered drinks (and Patatas Bravas) and soaked up life. PS - riding a bike as a grown adult just for fun is kinda awesome.
After that we biked back towards the beach but not before stopping along the way for some shopping. The street vendors are top notch there: knock off hand bags, sunglasses, Nike shoes and jewelry. We found four empty lounge chairs in front of one the many beach front bars. It wasn’t long after ordering cocktails and nachos that a women who spoke very little English (or Spanish for that matter) approached us offering 20 minute massages for 5 euros. She didn’t have to ask us twice. Money well spent!
We ended our time in Barcelona with a fancy dinner at PLA, a recommendation from both a friend back at home and Paul our food tour guide - it was a no brainer! And their recommendations did not disappoint. The atmosphere was stellar, the food was beautiful and the wine was the finishing touch! It was the perfect night cap to our time in Barcelona!
For more on Barcelona travel and what to see when you’re there, check out this article: 100 Things to do in Spain.