Seemingly overnight, Barcelona became one of my favorite cities in the world.
My earliest memory of wanting to travel somewhere foreign dates back to elementary school. The details of why are lost to me, but I remember a strong desire to want to visit Spain. That interest only became stronger going into high school, and so when we had to declare a language to study, I, of course, chose Spanish.
It’s hard to believe I’ve visited 20-some countries before finally making my way to Spain.
As predicted, Spain was love at first sight.
Barcelona, a city with incredible architecture, golden beaches and an infectious energy. Even though it’s part of Spain’s mainland, Barcelona is the capital of the Catalonia region, an autonomous region that’s proud of their distinctive culture and history.
Incredible architecture (oh, Gaudi), golden beaches, delicious tapas, vibrant nightlife, fresh fruit juices, and winding alleys. It’s the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.
On our first morning in Barcelona, we woke up early and headed straight to Sagrada Familia.
Gaudi dedicated over 40 years of his life to the cathedral. Construction began in 1882 and although it is yet to be completed, millions visit each year. While there is no finish date confirmed, some say it could be complete by 2026.
It’s a truly incredible place- without question, the most impressive cathedral I’ve been to in Europe.
Post Sagrada, we walked to Granja Petitbo for breakfast. This place is so great- big, airy and lots of seating, including an eclectic yellow couch and tables with cushioned benches. I ordered the scrambled eggs and parmesan on crunchy toast with fresh orange juice and a frozen coffee- 10/10.
Ready for more Gaudi, we walked over to Casa Batlló, where we admired the outside, and then La Pedrera (Casa Milà).
Per Lonely Planet, La Pedrera is an undulating beast, another madcap Gaudí masterpiece, built in 1905–10 as a combined apartment and office block. Formally called Casa Milà, after the businessman who commissioned it, it is better known as La Pedrera because of its uneven grey stone facade, which ripples around the corner of Carrer de Provença.
The top-floor apartment, attic and roof is open to visitors. The roof is the most extraordinary element, with its giant chimney pots looking like multicoloured medieval knights.
Leaving La Pedrera, it was close to 1 pm. Weather wise, it was in the high 70s and pretty humid, so we decided to walk back to our Airbnb in the Gothic Quarter and take a short siesta.
Mid-afternoon, we awoke and walked to Nomad, a hipster coffee bar, around the corner from our Airbnb for a cold brew pick-me-up. In the mood for a snack, we wandered the Gothic Quarter until we came upon Xurreria Manuel San Roman.
Y’all. STUFFED CHURROS. We tried both the Nutella and salted caramel, and seriously enjoyed both. So insanely indulgent and delicious.
We walked around the winding streets of the Gothic Quarter a bit more before hopping on the metro to Barceloneta Beach. I’d heard the beach was perfect for strolling, and while we didn’t have our swimsuits, we enjoyed walking along the coastline, taking in the beach activity and swaying palms.
I’d booked an Airbnb experience for the evening- a wine tasting sunset sail. At the time of booking, I didn’t know I’d be joining a French bachelor party (they’d booked the other spots on the trip), and was a little apprehensive when I found out they’d be my fellow patrons, but ended up having a great time. Sailing ended up being one of my favorite things I did in Barcelona.
Over the course of four hours, we tried four local wines and cavas, and munched on locally produced snacks (Iberian ham, garlic olives, manchego and cheddar cheeses, and sausages). Watching the sun set over the city with a glass of rose in hand was pretty much literal perfection.
Post sail, I met up with my friend again and went to La Pepita in the Gracia neighborhood for tapas. The tapas were excellent- we tried the burrata, potatoes bravas, tomato bread, jamon, croquetas, calamari, and of course, sangria.
Ready for Friday night cocktails, we headed to Raim 1886, a cuban bar in the same neighborhood as La Pepita. Not quite ready to head home, we stopped in the nearby Bobby Gin (said to be the world’s best gin bar), for a few cocktails before calling it a night.
Spainards are known for their late evenings- we went back to our Airbnb at 1:30 am the night before, and felt like we were turning in early.
In the mood to sleep in, we had a leisurely morning at our Airbnb. Eventually, we left our apartment mid-morning to see the Arc de Triomphe (around the corner from where we were staying) before grabbing cold brew from Satan’s and wandering more of the Gothic Quarter.
On our way to grab a morning snack, we stopped in Placa Reial, one of the most beautiful plazas in Spain, near La Rambla.
We’d worked up quite an appetite from our morning walk, so we headed to La Boqueria, Europe’s largest market for fresh fruit juices, jamon, manchego and juicy stacks of watermelon. The market was so colorful and vibrant, I loved it.
We ended up sharing three different types of fruit juice from various vendors- mango coconut, watermelon and orange, and pineapple orange, all of which were muy delicioso.
Ready for a real meal, we walked to Federal Cafe for brunch. The cafe reminded me of my favorite haunts in New York and London, filled with locals having leisurely breakfasts. I ordered green juice and caramelised banana french toast.
We decided to have a slow brunch- reading while slowly sipping coffee and eating. While we were there, a thunderstorm rolled in. Federal Cafe has large, open windows at the front, which created an instant soothing sensation with the pouring rain.
We lingered here longer than we meant to, waiting for the storm to pass. Once the rain slowed, we walked to the Picasso Museum.
The museum is known for housing an extensive collection of the artist’s early work. I’m a huge Picasso fan, so spending time here, waiting out the rain, was quite lovely.
Next up, we went to Petrixtol for fresh fried churros and decadent hot chocolate. The churros con chocolate was good, but I preferred the stuffed churros we’d had on our first day.
We decided to head back to our Airbnb for a short nap before heading out for the night, and walked past Palau de la Música Catalana on our way. On a return trip to Barcelona, I’d love to see a concert at the Palau. The outside of the building is stunning- I can only imagine how magical the inside is when there’s a performance.
We’d planned on going to Park Guell at sunset, but I didn’t realise we needed to book tickets in advance. Because tickets were sold out for the day, we had to wait until 8:30 to enter when free entry opened up. While we waited, we explored the upper parts of the park. Seeing Park Guell was incredible- it exceeded all of my expectations.
Even though it was dusk, and some of the details were hard to see, there was no denying the park is an architectural masterpiece with great views of the city below. The whole experience felt very ‘Alice in Wonderland’. It’s fun to imagine Gaudi planning out and building the park- such a genius.
After the park, we were ravenous and headed directly to Paco Meralgo, a beautiful restaurant known for their seafood tapas. We loved everything we tried- the patatas bravas were perfectly crisp, buratta exceptionally creamy, and all of the seafood, from the seared clams to steamed mussels to ceviche to shrimp, was simple, but excellent. Everything we had was great, but my favorite dish was a side- the tomato and olive oil bread. So good.
Next, we walked to Lexington for more cava and mojitos. Vibe wise, Lexington reminded me of some bars I used to frequent in New York, but with Spanish flair.
We ended the night at another tapas bar, Cerveseria Catalana, which everyone told us had the best tapas in Barcelona. We ordered the jamon, paella, risotto, coquettes, Spanish omelet, blistered peppers, and a jug of sangria. Ridiculously good, another definite repeat on my next trip to Barcelona.
With the time nearing 1 am, and an early morning flight to Seville on the agenda, we headed back to our Airbnb.
I covered a lot of ground on my first trip to Barcelona, but already feel anxious to return and explore more. With flights so convenient from London, I’m sure I’ll make it back there soon enough.
Have you ever been to Barcelona? Did you fall for the city as hard as I did?