Time of Year: Mid June
Must Bring: A camera to capture the colorful, vibrant city. A bathing suit in case you want to head down to play at the playa. A saucy outfit for a night out.
Accommodations: Another great city for Airbnb. I recommend staying in or near the Las Ramblas area. Airbnb tip for Europe – add washer as an amenity filter. Doing this typically gets you more modern spots. There are also plenty of amazing hotel options that appeal to all different price points. I just haven’t had the pleasure of staying at one yet 🙂
While I was having my wild study abroad days in Hong Kong, half of my friends were doing the same in Barcelona. I would scroll through their FB albums of colorful buildings, daily beach trips, goblets of wine, platters of tapas and sweaty nightclubs. Fast forward 10 years and I find myself en route to this electric city ready to relive my friends’ glory days. You can immediately feel the energy radiating from the locals and tourists alike traveling around the busy streets, eating and drinking and going late into the night. I get why it’s many peoples’ favorite European city and now wish I came to visit sooner. Like, maybe in college where I wouldn’t be the oldest person at Opium Lounge. Who am I kidding – age ain’t nothing but a number, baby!
One of my favorite things about Barcelona is their daily timeline. None of that rise and grind stuff that makes you feel like a horrible tourist if you’re not in line at the nearest Basilica by 8am. As someone who’s not a morning person, I was thrilled to discover that the rising and grinding truly did not start until about 10-11am. Lazy mornings, leisurely touristy activities, a late lunch, stroll through the Gothic quarter, a siesta, a shot of espresso then dinner around 9-10pm – I could get used to this schedule.
I only explored a sliver of the wonders Barcelona has to offer. Let me know if you’ve been to any of the spots I mentioned or please share your own suggestions! Here’s my list:
Botafumeiro – Full transparency – it’s a pricey meal but SO worth it, in my opinion. Botafumeiro has a lively atmosphere that should be reserved for your most special night of your visit. The servers were very friendly and made us feel entirely comfortable as we went to town on our perfectly cooked fresh seafood platter– bib and buttery hands aren’t always the most graceful look. When you walk in the first thing you see are enormous Iberico ham legs hanging on display. Had to order it as I am sucker for window shopping. I’m glad I did as it was some of the best we had in Barcelona. End the meal with wild strawberries and homemade whip cream and vanilla ice cream. A bottle of champagne was a perfect pairing to the meal!
Restaurant Sant Joan – Great spot to truly feel like a local and eat some rustic Catalonian food. The menu changes daily so you may have to do the awkward pointing thing and ask “what’s that” if you don’t speak the language. There’s a warm familiar feeling at Sant Joan that makes you feel like you’re at a relative’s (one that you like) – maybe because if you peak into the kitchen there are two women who look like they’re cooking every dish with some T.L.C. I had some incredible veal and gazpacho. If they had had them at the time, I would have gotten the artichokes – everyone raves about them!
Arume Restaurant – Trendy dinner spot with modern twists on local dishes. Restaurant was filled with seemingly cool people getting a start on their night out. Great cocktails. Uncle Walters’ ceviche, the octopus and the duck paella were standouts! Reservation recommended.
Bar Del Pla – Tapas bar with my favorite tomato bread! In Barcelona, this is toasted bread with a light olive oil/tomato sauce spread on top of it. It’s dreamy. BTW, the US has completely skewed my perception of tapas bars. Usually if you order tapas here you receive a tiny niblet made for a mouse that you and and the rest of the table share. $100+ later you’ve each had 10 niblets and are kind of full, I guess. In Barcelona, a tapas order is more what we would call a pretty decent sized appetizer, sometimes even an entree. So just be aware of that before you order 10 tapas in Barcelona and have no idea what you’ve done. Tons of fun things to try here. This place often has a wait.
Tapeo Born – Great tapas and beer spot located in El Born with endless options of vegetables, meat and fish!
Carpe Diem Lounge – Great place for drinks and a fun night out. Fun ambiance both at the inside lounge and on the outside patio. Photo below is me hauling 3 foot long sandwiches home after Carpe Diem which usually indicates general happiness.
Espit Chupitos – This is one of those it’s so bad it’s good places to pregame, especially if you’re on a budget and can still persevere through a hangover. Has over 100 shots all with crazy names for about 2 euros – I think there’s one named Esther. There are multiple locations but I linked the one I heard is most popular.
Palau de la Musica Catalana – This theater, covered in colorful mosaics and tiles, is beautiful. Wear your cutest outfit to take photos as you weave through the mosaic pillars – feed the gram! I would highly recommend going to the ticket booth the first day and getting tickets to a show so you can see the inside of the concert hall. It is very unique and cool. We saw the guitar trio and flamenco show which was awesome.
Hospital De Sant Pau – Our Airbnb host told us we must go visit the hospital. This was an unusual suggestion until he told us that it is no longer functional and was turned into a museum because it’s history and unique architecture. It was one of my favorite buildings to visit in Spain. Albeit, there was some old hospital creepiness but the majority of it was mitigated by the bright mosaics and tiles everywhere. This seemingly under-visited building is designed by the same architect as the Palace of Catalan Music.
Casa Battlo – probably one of the most photographed sites in Barcelona. I didn’t go inside but definitely worth passing by to marvel at the details of another of Mr. Gaudis’ colorful projects.
Ciutadella Park – Really pretty buzzing park. Make sure to check out the giant mammoth statue!
La Sagrada Familia – the famous basilica in Barcelona designed by Gaudi! Go while the sun is up so you can get the most of the beautiful stained glass windows.
Cathedral of Barcelona – Did you even go to Europe if you didn’t do some basilica hopping? This is a beautiful cathedral with access to the roof via a tiny old elevator. Maybe not for those with a fear of tight spaces. There was a lot of construction when we were there but the roof views were still worth it!
Park Guell – Big beautiful public park designed by Gaudi. Go early to avoid crowds and the high heat of the day.
Picasso Museum – So many Picasso pieces I have never seen before. One of my favorite museums. Must get tickets in advance for your time slot.
Dali Theatre-Museum – If you’ve made it as far as Barcelona you might as well make it a little further and take a day trip to Figueres to visit the Salvador Dali museum. You can take a train or rent a car for the day. The drive out is very scenic with sprawling green fields.
Aiguamolls de l’Emporda -If you’ve made it as far as Figueres, and you have a car, you might as well explore a little of the country side. This is a beautiful Nature Preserve that lets you see tons of unique (to me) birds, deer and cattle. If you take a longer walk you can take a path down to the beach.