I’ve taken you through stop 1 of my European adventure, Madrid, so now on to stop two…the maravilloso Barcelona, Spain. (FYI maravilloso is Spanish for wonderful.) I heard from so many people that Barcelona was an amazing city and that I would love it. All of those people were right! It’s energetic, modern, yet still full of history and old world culture, beautiful and full of things to do, no matter what your interests might be. Unlike Madrid, I felt less like a part of true Spanish culture in Barcelona, as it has more tourists and more people speaking English, but I still felt like I was a world away. Everything in Europe is so old, it just amazes me, and Barcelona is no stranger to old (and beautiful) architecture.
It’s hard to tell you my favorite things to do in Barcelona, but for the sake of not wanting you to have to read 10 pages of things to see and do (we were busy), I will narrow it down and share with you the highlights. Before I do that, I just want to back up what I said for Madrid…don’t be shy, be a tourist. I recommend taking the double-decker tour bus, as it is honestly the best way to see everything, especially in Barcelona, which is expansive.
1. Park Guell
You likely have seen the Dr. Suess-like buildings that architect Antoni Gaudi is famous for, but he did more than design amazing structures. He was a man who thought outside the box. He came up with the concept for Park Guell in 1900 and it was to be a planned community to get citizens outside the hustle and bustle of the city. While it never fully took off, it is an absolutely gorgeous park and such a symbol of what Gaudi was all about…nature and natural elements. It’s amazing to see all of his mosaic tile work. Also at this park, you can see my favorite building in Barcelona, Gaudi’s house in Park Guell (the pink building below), as well as the world’s longest bench (which is ergonomically designed). Plus, you have stunning panoramic views of Barcelona from this park high above the city center. [Side note: Buy your tickets in advance to avoid lines and possibility of tickets being sold out.]
2. Basilica De La Sagrada Familia
Before I bore you with more Gaudi background, let me just tell you about his finest creation, La Sagrada Familia. This is one of the most impressive and stunning churches I have ever seen. It is a gorgeous whitish/grey concrete, which is the perfect canvas for all of the magical colors from the stained glass, creating the most beautiful glow throughout the church. To put this place into perspective, you should know it first went under construction in the 1880’s, and it won’t be completed until 2026, so you can imagine how detailed and stunning it is. The pictures can speak for themselves! [Side note: Buy your tickets in advance to avoid lines and possibility of tickets being sold out. We did and it was perfect. Also, be sure to take a tower tour. So fun, and terrifying, to descend the tower.]
3. The Food
Barcelona has food options galore. I can’t say I had a bad meal in this city, but I did have a few favorites out of all those good ones. We tended to eat breakfast and dinner, with just a snack or cocktail in between, so my favorites will start your day or end it.
- You know the hit song “Cake By The Ocean?” Well, you won’t be able to get that out of your head after a breakfast at Brunch & Cake By The Sea. Delicious food, with lots of healthy options. I had the acai bowl and the gluten free pancake. Well, some of it. Be warned…large portions!
- I love acai bowls and seek out good ones, all over the world I guess! I found a pretty amazing one at a little juicer and cafe in the El Born neighborhood. Teresa’s had several yummy bowl options, as well as a wall full of different freshly pressed juices. For any fellow gluten free feasters, Teresa’s has a lot of yummy options. Donuts, muffins, cookies, etc.
- El Nacional is not just a place to go for a meal, but rather for a full dining experience. It is one building that houses 4 separate culinary areas, as well as several bars. It is just as gorgeous inside as it is out. Definitely a must for dinner while in Barcelona!
- For a more casual meal, but equally as tasty, try La Central. They have such unusual burgers…think toppings like apple jam, toasted sunflower seeds and blueberry confit. I recommend each person in your group picking a different burger then sharing. Best way to try out several burgers. (For any gluten free folks like me, we got our burgers bunless and they were still amazing.)
4. El Born
This is the district of the city that we stayed in and we LOVED it. It’s a prime location within walking distance to the beach, hundreds of restaurants and shops of all kinds. It is also one of the oldest districts of Barcelona, which adds to its appeal. You can spend hours meandering through small cobble-stone streets with little mom & pop shops and eateries. It’s easy to get lost here, so make sure you take a map and know your starting intersection. If your a Chicagoan and as obsessed with the tapas from Cafe BaBaReeba as I am…check out Tapadu for bacon wrapped dates and champagne sangria.
5. The Beach
I was so excited to finally be at the sea! The beaches in Barcelona, and really those all over Europe, are so different than American beaches. While they are pretty much all jam-packed in summer, you don’t feel that way. People are respectful of your space and relatively quiet. The water is warm and so salty you float almost instantly. The people watching is pretty priceless too! We chose Barceloneta Beach which was within walking distance of our Airbnb. (Great way to go by the way!) If you are looking for a diversion from the beach head to the W Hotel for excellent drinks, food options and great panoramic beach views.
Alright, if you have been to Barcelona, I’ve got to know, what were your favorites?!
Signed with Style,