Oh Barcelona! How I love you. I must admit, I was a bit nervous about Barcelona because we had so many mixed reviews. Some people loved it and others said it wasn’t their favourite so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But Barcelona captured my heart pretty much the moment I stepped off the plane. It was the perfect first stop in our 10-day trip to Spain. It was easy to navigate, so much to see, do and eat and had a great cool vibe.
Must dos and eats
- Sagrada Familia and Gaudi’s other works across the city
- La Rambla and Boqueria market for the fresh produce
- Try a food tour to enjoy the city and its neighbourhoods in a different way
We arrived into Barcelona from Paris late evening and took the airport-city bus to our accommodation, which was convenient, cheap and quick. After meeting our wonderful host, who gave us a ton of great recommendations for places to eat, we got settled in and headed out to dinner. Since it was after 9pm, we didn’t venture too far, settling for one of our host-recommended tapas bars – Lolita. Cute place, with great music and friendly wait staff. We sat at the bar, got some cold beers and tried some well-known favourites like the potato bravas and croquettas and some new things we discovered like the bomba and crispy bread with tomato and olive oil (more on that later). The whole meal was outstanding and the perfect way to start our vacation in Barcelona.
Most of the reason we were in Spain was because we knew we would love the food. And what better way to discover the food in a city than to go on a food tour! We went with Devour Barcelona ($65 per head, 4 hours, 9 stops) since a friend recommended it to us. The stops on the tour were a mix of markets, tapas bars and home-style food shops and we learned a lot about Catalan food and the neighbourhood.
Cava – a sparkling wine like Champagne, produced locally, delicious and way cheaper than Champagne #winning
Bomba de Patatas – a deep fried ball filled with minced meat and potato with a deliciously spiced tomato sauce.
Pan con Tomate – On one of our pit stops, we even learned to make our very own appetiser – the crispy bread with tomato and olive oil that we tried at Lolita the night before. Turns out, the Spanish don’t like wasting stale bread, so they bake it, rub it with some garlic and olive oil and then rub it with a tomato. So good!
Coffee – Perfect way to end our delicious food tour. In Spain, one does not simply say ‘un café’ (a coffee) being specific is key to avoid disappointment. Check this helpful guide by Devour Madrid.
Part of why we loved this food tour so much was that we got to walk around the neighbourhood, learn about the culture and festivals and a bit of Catalan history. Both Jens and I loved the food tour and it’s definitely something we’d recommend – great way to see and learn about vibrant Barcelona.
No trip to Barcelona is complete without visiting Gaudi’s works! On our food tour, we walked by Casa Vicens, Gaudi’s first big commissioned projects and could see his signature detailing straight away. At the end of our tour, our way home went past Casa Batllo and we admired that from all angles, choosing not to go inside.
We walked back to our apartment for a short siesta (as is the way in Spain) then made our way to dinner. We were lucky there were so many great places to eat in our neighbourhood itself, we chose Bodega 1900, and decided to leave the choices to the chef. We tasted 5-6 different plates of food with some delicious fresh fish, stuffed olives, croquettes and washed it all down with Cava and local beer. Perfect end to our delicious day.
After we grabbed some delicious Jamón sandwiches (another lesson from our food tour), orange juice and café con leches at a local café, we took the metro to Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s famous masterpiece that’s been under construction since 1882 and has an estimated finish date of 2030 (!). It was the only time we needed to get the metro anywhere and we found it pretty easy to navigate and purchase tickets (which were only €1.70 each).
There’s just nothing quite like the Sagrada Familia. From the front, it looks like sand is dripping down the castle and as you look closer, you see the complexity and the detailing that has gone into the building. Lines at the Sagrada are extremely long, so I’d recommend buying tickets online. Make sure you walk all around it as well, from the outside to really admire the structure.
We jumped back on the metro towards La Rambla and Boqueria market. This is quite a touristy end of town and there are tons of little restaurants on the street with menus with pictures. Best to avoid them. Instead head into the huge Boqueria market, which supplies fresh produce to most of Barcelona. Get yourself cups of fresh fruit, juices and beautiful seafood and crispy goodies and find a spot to just sit and watch people walk around (one of my very favourite things to do).
Before heading out to dinner on our last night, we stopped by the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc that has a performance with lights and music every half-hour from Thursdays to Sundays. I love this sort of thing and the location is perfect for great views of the city and the sunset. What better way to spend our last night in this amazing city.
After, we discovered a little tapas bar called Pinchos that was like a sushi train for Spanish bites. All the Pinchos were 1€ each, you grab the items you want and they count up the sticks at the end. They count the toothpick/skewers at the end and you pay for the number of pinchos you ate. We left happy and full and so grateful to have this opportunity to discover Barcelona.
Top 3 tips
- Barcelona was pretty easy to see on foot. We walked everywhere. But there’s also bikes for hire, so definitely hire one
- Good, cheap food, beer and Cava (that delicious sparkling wine that tastes like Champagne but is about half the price because it doesn’t have the pretentiousness attached to Champagne) is everywhere. Avoid places that have menus with photos of food, paella is not local to the region and crunchy bread with tomatoes, garlic and olive oil is the best appetiser!
- We don’t speak any Spanish and really, really wished we did. People in Barcelona were so friendly and loved a good chat and we would have loved to be able to make conversation with them. So, if you can learn some basic Spanish before you go!
Itinerary Summary – 3 Nights, 2 Days
- Breakfast a local cafe
- Sagrada Familia
- La Rambla and Boqueria market
- Siesta at the beach
- Get mesmerised by the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
- Dinner at Pinchos
- Wake up early and leave to your next destination (Madrid)
- Regret not having spent a couple more days