Today’s post comes from Laura who got in touch to share her recent trip to Barcelona. The Catalan capital is one of my favourite European cities so I was only too happy to oblige. Over to Laura…
It’s hard to believe that pre the Olympics being held in Barcelona in 1992 it was considered just a another port town – look at it now: Weekend breaks of all kinds are taking advantage of the sun, sea, culture and alfresco/red wine lifestyle that is the British dream (or at least mine).
The beauty of Barcelona for a few days away is in its ease – easy to get to, easy to navigate, either on foot or on the metro and easy to simply BE there. All the major budget airlines fly to El Prat, the main airport and with a superb variety of accommodation you can suit your own budget.
Barcelona is a beautiful, get lost in the streets, eat the food, swim in the sea, drink the drinks and live like a local city. I defy anyone to not fall in love with it.
On my last visit I stayed at Hotel Praktik Vinoteca in Eixample so just north of the main tourist areas. This is a fab budget hotel; stylish, comfortable and with wine on arrival. As the name suggests they are wine experts and you can fully indulge all your grape based beverage needs here. There’s plenty of places to eat and drink around this hotel and if craft beer is your thing try Garage, a cool locals bar. There’s plenty of shopping well within walking distance but more importantly so is Casa Batllo, a Gaudi designed apartment block that is stunning. A dragon inspired roof works (in the Spanish sunlight) it seems. Definitely somewhere I’d stay again. If you want to really treat yourself then try The Wat Port Vell, overlooking the sea but a bit of a schlep from the Barcelona I want to experience. Casa Bonay is a relatively new boutique hotel also in Eixample; it has beautifully designed interiors and is full of those little touches that make a stay memorable. Of course there is always the variety of Airbnb choices and Barcelona, as in any city nowadays, has some ace choices.
Barcelona is infinitely walkable, if for no other reason than the streets being so flippin’ pretty. The abundance of cafes/bars also mean that tired feet can rest at any given time with a few tapas dishes and an aperol spritz or sangria to refresh you (you can tell I went in August can’t you?). Fortunately, if chillier, a Catalan coffee is equally rejuvenating and available. I would highly recommend mooching round the areas of El Raval, El Born and the gothic quarter – the most stunning buildings and such atmosphere in the narrow streets with heaven sent bakeries and washing drying everywhere, opening up onto gorgeous squares. El Raval is my favourite area and is right next to another must visit – La Boqueria market. Here you can really see authentic Catalan life though in summer get there early as it’s a tourist hotspot with it being just off Las Ramblas. Las Ramblas is unavoidable and worth a wander but no longer feels authentic when so full of tourist tat (good for a souvenir magnet/tea towel/t-shirt though). Culture oozes from the pores of this city and a big part of that artistic heritage is Antoni Gaudi, you can’t not go and see his unfinished cathedral masterpiece the Sagrada Familia, book your tickets online to avoid the queues and marvel at the incredible outside and serenely calm but crazy interior. Follow this with a trip to Park Guell, the Gaudi designed public park with stunning views over the city and out to sea. Of course you’ll be going to the beach when the city sits right on it so stroll through Parc de la Ciutadella and then along Barceloneta Promenade to Port Vell and pick your lottery win yacht… For another Barcelona view head up to Montjuic on the funicular or cable car if you’re good with heights. I’m a bit pathetic so funicular for me but either way it’s worth the effort. Stay for the fountain show, all colours, lights, music and serious photo opportunities.
This could be just a list of restaurants, cafes and tapas bars and their addresses such is the choice and quality but one of the loveliest things about Barcelona is, as you explore, you stumble across places that draw you in with their warmth and charm. However, try to avoid places that have people outside inviting you in. As a general rule the food isn’t as good and you’ll be paying over the odds. Some places charge a terrace charge but generally I find it’s worth it for the views and people watching. So, I’m just going to recommend a few places and leave the rest to chance – let’s start with breakfast: Brunch and Cake is so tasty and has the most beautiful presentation I’ve ever seen, how can you make pancakes look that pretty? The menu is not only delicious but also healthy so you can feel no guilt (nor should you) when you move onto ice cream later. I could eat here every day. For lunch head over to El Nacional not far from Placa De Catalunya. It calls itself a ‘multi culinary establishment’ and you can choose from four areas and bars to eat and drink. It’s big, sociable and great quality. Once you’ve walked off (more walking -theme here!) that then a gorgeous place for your evening meal is El Laurel. This was a stumble across find on my first visit to Barcelona and I go back every time, it’s got the most amazing empanadas, friendly owners and great atmosphere. You come away feeling part of the family! Obviously after all that savoury food you’ll need some ice cream to satisfy your sweet tooth… Eyescream and Friends is a quirky, beautifully designed ice cream parlour that looks and tastes ace. It’s by the sea too.
Have any of you enjoyed the sun, sea and sights Barcelona has to offer? What were your favourite things to do in the Catalan capital?