Seemingly overnight, Barcelona became one of my favorite cities in the world.
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 Euro-getaway, or quick weekend trip if you’re already on the continent.
5 Reasons to Visit Beautiful Barcelona
Admire Gaudi’s Exquisite Building Design
My first morning in Barcelona, we woke up early and headed straight to Sagrada Familia. I was that excited to visit.
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.
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.
Indulge in Tapas & Churros
Tapas is a quintessential Spanish experience, and fresh fried churros dipped in decadent hot chocolate are a must.
On my first visit to Barcelona, I only had time to try tapas at a few spots, but loved:
- Paco Meralgo: 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.
- Cerveseria Catalana: Hailed as the best tapas in Barcelona, here we tried
the jamon, paella, risotto, coquettes, Spanish omelet and blistered peppers, topped off with a jug of Sangria. A definite repeat on a return to Barcelona, as well as a visit to sister restaurants, Vinitus and Ciudad Condal.
Irati Taverna Basca: Basque-style tapas (also known as pintxos) and great cava selection
- La Pepita: Ace tapas in the Gracia neighborhood- we tried the burrata, potatoes bravas, tomato bread, jamon, croquetas, calamari, and of course, sangria
And, was a fan of Petrixtol for their churros con chocolate, but much preferred to salted caramel and Nutella stuffed churros at Xurreria Manuel San Roman.
If you’re nearby Los Ramblas, don’t miss popping into La Boqueria, Europe’s largest market for fresh fruit juices, jamon, manchego and juicy stacks of watermelon. The market is so colorful and vibrant, it’s impossible not to love it. A great way to try bites on the go, and refresh with mango coconut or pineapple orange fresh-squeezed juices.
A few other recommendations for great eats & drinks in Barcelona:
- Federal Cafe: Best for brunch, the green juice and caramelised banana french toast are incredible. If it’s raining, try to get a table near the front windows- watching the pouring rain while you linger over breakfast is the ultimate
- Cafe Cometa: Hipster vibes, great lattes
- Granja Petibo: Classic Spanish breakfast in an airy cafe with lots of seating- spot the eclectic yellow couch. I ordered the scrambled eggs and parmesan on crunchy toast with fresh orange juice and a frozen coffee- 10/10
- Satan’s: Great cold brew
- Nomad: Classic hipster cafe, muted colors and plenty of plants
- Pastelerias Mauri: Great sidewalk cafe for people watching with great cappuccinos
- Brunch & Cake: Cute cafe with a delicious, ‘made for Instagram’ menu
- Horchateria Sirvent: Great to try the Mexican speciality, horchata
- El Nacional: 19th-century factor turned food hall, there’s something for everyone with an oyster bar, cocktail/beer/wine bar and four restaurants – don’t miss the verbally-announced tapas at La Taperia
- Lexington: Great for pre or post tapas cava. Swank like an upscale New York bar, but with Spanish flair
- Raim 1886: Cuban bar in the same neighborhood as La Pepita (great for post-dinner drinks)
- L’Anima del Vi: Excellent wine bar
- Dr. Stravinsky: Trendy cocktail bar
- Bobby Gin: Said to be the world’s best gin bar, great for a nightcap
- Terrassa Panoramica at Hotel Colon: Rooftop bar with great views of the Barcelona Cathedral, great for an early evening glass of cava
Drink Cava in Parc de la Cituadella or Picnic in Parc Guell
We’d planned on going to Parc Guell at sunset, but I didn’t realize we needed to book tickets in advance. Because tickets were sold out, we had to wait until free entry opened to explore upper parts of the park. Even though we didn’t get the full experience, it was still incredible.
At dusk, some of the details were hard to see- there’s no denying the park is an architectural masterpiece of stunning views of the city below. Whenever I return to Barcelona, a picnic lunch in Parc Guell is at the top of my list of things to do. The entire park feels very ‘Alice in Wonderland’, it’s a brilliant place to lounge in the sun, take in your surroundings, and munch some Spanish specialities (hello, manchego and jamón).
If you have great weather in Barcelona, grab some pastries (or another picnic) and a cava, and head to the massive Parc de la Ciutadella. Take note, public drinking is illegal in Barcelona, but if you’re discreet and only enjoying a glass or two (don’t go overboard), you’ll be fine and able to enjoy a sunshine tipple.
Go on a Wine Tasting Sunset Sail
A stroll along Barceloneta Beach should be part of any trip to Barcelona – it’s a sight to behold. Even if you don’t plan on swimming, walk along the coastline, taking in the buzzing beach activity and swaying palms.
As a treat to myself on the trip, 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 tad apprehensive when I found out they’d be my fellow patrons, but ended up having a great time. Sailing with them 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.
Wander the Gothic Quarter
After an afternoon siesta, one of my favorite things to do was wander the Gothic Quarter. It’s an old, preserved part of town with ornate details and hidden alleyways.
In this part of the city, I love wandering without an agenda – just strolling down different streets and seeing what turns up. After only wandering a few streets, you’ll see Barcelona has no shortage of beautiful buildings.
Have you ever been to Barcelona? Did you fall for the city as hard as I did?
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