Isn’t it interesting how cities transmit certain energies? In New York, you can’t help but feel motivated, a little frenetic, and like you’re at the center of the world. Rome feels safe and cozy, yet cultured and grandiose. Barcelona is fun, hip, smart, casual yet chic. Relaxing and energizing at once.
My first trip was one of the best weekends of my life. I was there in the heat of July with my brother and one of my best friends. We walked until our feet ached (but these flats are seriously comfortable enough to walk in forever!) and laughed endlessly, telling stories while learning details about the city and each other.
My most recent trip was for a work conference, but I took evenings and an extra day to explore, and found Barcelona is just as enchanting when traveling alone.
I stayed in the gothic quarter, which is right in the heart of the city and I think the best spot to stay if you only have a few days. Last time I stayed closer to the Gracia neighborhood, which is beautiful and full of old, expensive houses and tree lined streets. Perfect for a more relaxing trip.
I love the gothic quarter (or barri gòtic) for it’s old, narrow, winding streets and open air cafes filled to the brim with people of all ages drinking wine late into the night. And I was impressed by the number of local shops featuring items made in Barcelona. It’s hipster without being annoying, so I guess that just makes it really cool. (Brooklyn could learn something).
It’s full of tourists, but still fun to walk down Las Ramblas once to take it in, and also to stop at the main market, Mercado de la Boqueria. (A less crowded and better market is Santa Catarina).
You also have to stop at La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell for the best of Gaudi’s designs, and make your way to a few other monuments as well. Sometimes we need to remember that tourist attractions are famous for a reason–they’re really amazing!
If you like Picasso (or even if you don’t) the Museo Picasso is really well done. My brother wanted to go and I went along, but ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would, especially the sections on Picasso’s earlier work and personal life.
There are many museums and points of interest you could fill up days with, and you should, but you should also take time to simply wander the city, admiring the architecture, boutiques, and smaller markets along the way. Lie on the beach, lose yourself in the many splendid gardens, eat as much seafood as you can, stuff yourself with churros, empanadas, Iberico de Bellota, and people watch. But that’s my advice for any city–walk and eat your way through it with eyes wide open all the way. 🙂
A few places I’ve particularly enjoyed for eating on my visits to Barcelona:
Els 4 Gats. Picasso, Gaudi, and famous writers gathered here for coffee and to listen to the piano back in the day. Not the best coffee I’ve ever had, but atmospheric and fun for the history.
Bar Tomas – Amazing patatas bravas and tapas in general.
El Quim – In the Boqueria market. Order the eggs with squid.
La Cova Fumada – A tiny place near the beach where fisherman used to gather. No sign, little atmosphere, but some of the best food in Barcelona. (Everything is good, but the bombas are famous here for a reason).
La Torna – Located in the Santa Catarina market, this place has incredible food.
7 Portes – Paella! This place seems touristy, and I guess it is. But I had enough locals tell me it was the best rice that I gave it a shot, and it was really, really good.
Arrosseria Xàtiva – Another great paella spot, featuring 28 rice dishes.
Bar La Palmera – Near Park Guell, this bar is amazing for seafood tapas.
Vila Viniteca – Great wine shop! (Montsant, Priorat, El Penedes, L’Emporda, and Terra Alta, are some Catalan regions, so you might want to try to find wine from any of those areas. Cava is also produced in Catalonia, and you should drink lots of it!)
Morro Fi – Once garage, now trendy bar. Order the house vermouth.
Bar L’Electricitat – Vermouth is famous in Barcelona, and Bar L’Electricitat is one of the best vermouth bars in the city. Try some of the canned seafood too.
Ideal Cocktail Bar – It’s all in the name. Vintage, fun, great cocktails, especially gin and tonics with a twist (cardamom, berries, etc.).
Quiment & Quimet – Very crowded, very fun. Great for drinking and tapas, just be prepared to be jostled and maybe end up drinking in the street.
Monvínic – One of the most extensive wine lists I’ve ever seen (more than 3,500 labels!). Enter, amazing sommeliers happy to help.
This list is nowhere near comprehensive! Just the places I’ve particularly liked, recommended by local friends and food writers. If you have anywhere else I should try on my next trip, please comment! I’m hoping to make another visit soon.
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Barcelona Travel Essentials