PRB CITY GUIDE: BARCELONA, SPAIN

March 23, 2018

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It’s been 6 months since my last Euro-confession. And by Euro I mean Spain and by confession I mean – dying to go back. All of the wine and croquettas people.

While it’s taken me awhile to get through all the photos and filter through the endless lists in my phone of places visited – I’ve finally pulled it all together in a Barcelona travel guide for the ages. Madrid to follow – but should you need some quick recos there’s always the city guide page.

After a trip in June to all of the Baltic States, we decided Spain was next on the list. Partially because we had never been and also because it was warm *af as NYC was in the heart of fall. Our week long trip afforded us 4 full days in Barcelona and it felt like a lifetime – there was so much to see but other than Montserrat and maybe some time on the beach, we did everything on our list.

The city itself is totally walkable. You’ll absolutely get your steps in and you’ll want to be out on the city streets – it’s where you’ll feel Barcelona’s vibrancy and energy. Although a cab up the hill to Parc Guell is highly recommended, whoa the hills!

The airport is fairly easy and taking a cab to your hotel is absolutely the preferred method. It takes about 20 minutes and coming in through the countryside really adds to the anticipation when you hit Barca’s city limits. So, future travellers should you be planning a trip soon, here’s the best of what to see, where to stay and 100% where to eat when you’re in “Gaudi’s City.”

The beaches of Barcelona!

 

The Bari Gotic

STAY //

Now according to my Apple watch – we covered about 18,000 steps a day. So it’s up to you how aggressive you’d want to be seeing everything in Barcelona. We did it in 4 days but pending your level of vacation chill I’d give it almost a week. We stayed on the Gran Via de la Corts which was a great central location. About a block from the Placa de Catalunya and Las Ramblas and Passeig de Gracia (the 5th ave of Barca) we could walk everywhere. Even at night a stroll down to dinner in the Bari Gotic (Gothic Quarter) was easy.

El Palace Barcelona

Our boutique hotel, The Hotel Gran Via, was the perfect boutique with great suites, and a nice terrace on the second floor. At 4PM they put out tea and light fare so often times we’d skip lunch and power through the afternoon and then “wine” down at the hotel. The perfect pause after a day of touring.

Another hotel we looked into and after seeing it in person will absolutely try to stay at next time is the El Palace Barcelona. About two blocks farther down Gran Via still centrally located but oh so worth the gram!

Gaudi’s Casa Batllo – Apartments on the Passeig De Gracia

 

SEE //

Like any Euro city, Barcelona has been built up over centuries around the Bari Gotic – e.g. “old town” or the Latin Quarter. I love these areas because it often feels like a time machine and if you get a good guide (or in our case Rick Steves’ walking tour book) there’s so many stories about the area. Also in this area is where the “Catalunyan government” buildings are. I use that term loosely because we happened to be in the city as Catalonia tried to succeed from Spain, voted on the refferendum and also were coming out for mass demonstrations in the streets. It was amazing and so exciting to see such passion and nationalism. Other neighborhoods to explore include El Raval and El Born both rich with history, sites and great Tapas!

Now for the good stuff! Here’s my hit list from Barcelona with a tips/tricks on what to see and do:

PLAN AHEAD FOR:

  1. Parc Guell: A Gaudi and Google photo icon, what really makes Parc Guell is the park around it. The site itself was cool but not worth more than about 30 minutes. Oh, and absolutely buy your tickets ahead!
  2. La Segrada Famillia: The Gaudi masterpeice of Barcelona – this place is unreal, HUGE and is worth the few Euro to do the audio tour.
  3. Palau Nacional: I spent about 4 hours in here – there’s so many installations, exhibits and interesting things to see. I would recommend going at around 10AM and staying for lunch on the patio.

La Segrada Famillia

The National Museo

Parc Guell

WALK:

  1. Down Las Ramblas – This is Barcelona’s Broadway. I loved everything about the tree lined street, the architecture and the interspersed history. Also make sure to take a pit stop at La Mercat Boqueria – the most amazing outdoor market.
  2. Through El Raval –  if you’re walking down Las Ramblas – you’re already here! Take a detour to Placa Reail for an afternoon cocktail in a wide open square. Make it to the bottom to see Columbus’ statue and make sure to check out Palau Guell along the way.
  3. Around the Bari Gotic – Two not to miss churches are Basilicia de Santa Maria and The Cathedral of Barcelona – unreal facades and often street performers outside with some dueling guitars!

“Oh Hai!”

Churches throughout the Bari Gotic

Las Ramblas

 

Las Ramblas

SEE/DO:

  1. The Port Cable Car – There are two so make sure you take the one that goes down to the port instead of from Monjuic. The one down to the port will give you the most amazing views of the Mediterranean and Barcelona’s famed beaches.
  2. Visit Camp Nou – Home to FC Barcelona – while I didn’t get to this one – it’s absolutely on my list when I go back. It’s supposedly pretty amazing!
  3. Montjuic – We had this planned for our last day but sadly we had our day cut short due to city protests making it hard to get to the airport. We heard the city on the hill was a must see with it’s old palaces and art museum and it’s famous fountains.
  4. Sant Sebastià Beach – The beach of Barcelona! Spend some time down towards the iconic W hotel and sunbathe!
  5. Tibidabo – Another hillside a short train ride away with a killer castle on the top!
  6. Placa d’Espanya – Right in front of the National Gallery – you can see it from all angles and also a killer view from the National Gallery’s roof.

The Port Cable Car

The Placa Reail

EAT // All the croquettas and wine! I didn’t have a bad meal the entire time I was in Barcelona. From recommendations of neighborhood places from friends to a few deep dives on other’s blogs – we had fabulous meals everywhere.

Obviously, all the tapas and places like Sensi Bistro in the Bari Gotic were great for a little date night out. We walked from our hotel at night old town which was such a cool experience because there would be guitarists and flamenco dancers in the old cobblestone streets. The walkways are so tight and the buidlings close that the sound echos making setting the coolest mood. It felt like quintessential Spain.

Other places like El Nacionale which is like an Eataly in NYC, has great restaurants peppered among a bustling market with LOTS of great Spanish wine. It’s tucked away off the Passeig De Gracia but absolutely worth the visit.

Also around the city are great local tapas spots like Tapas 24 quick in and out and from what I could tell the closest we ever got to fast food in Barcelona. The best tapas to order: croquettas, anything with manchego or chorizo, Iberico ham and always the house red wine!

Should you be wanting something quick for lunch and find yourself in the Bari Gotic, do not miss the outdoor dining at Mercat de Santa Caterina. There are lunch tapas and if you sit around 2PM, great wine and sunshine! Also back along Las Ramblas, Mercat De La Boqueria has some great quick options or one of their many juices – everything from coconut to watermelon, guava and others for just 1 or 2 euro. Some other good lunch spots in Eixample – Granja Pettibo, Alsur Cafe. In El Raval – Federal Cafe and Trópico.

La Mercat De Boqueria

Wine at El Nacional with my favorite guy/travel buddy.

A FEW THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW:

Subway’s are cheap and a great way to get to La Segrada Famillia or straight down to the beach – otherwise, walk everywhere!

Taxi’s are available at stands around the city, don’t hail one – it’s like Rome in that way. Insider Tip: Take a cab up to Parc Guell. There’s no real easy way to get there since there’s no subway access beyond the foothills.

Travel with a really small bag close to you, pickpockets are everywhere, especially in the Placas and down Las Ramblas.

//// FOR MORE CITY GUIDES HEAD HERE ////

Have questions? E-mail me: Lauren@PRBlonde.com

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