TOP 5 FOR BARCELONA
- Tour the Sagrada Familia. Your life will be changed.
- Wander Las Ramblas & the Boqueria (market) – just keep your hands on your wallet.
- Head up to the Olympic park for great views of the city and numerous museums to visit.
- Walk around the Gaudi park in the sunshine.
- Try some Paella – but for heaven’s sake ask your hotel concierge or somebody local where to go. Don’t go anywhere tourists are accumulating.
RECOMMENDED MUSEUMS & SITES
- National Catalunyan Museum
- Joan Miro Museum
- Picasso Museum
- Sagrada Familia Museum (behind the cathedral)
- The Patio
CRAZY STUPID LOVE. Is all I can say about this city. I love love LOVE it. But it’s a crazy place. And a little bit silly. And sometimes makes you do silly things. But all in good fun 🙂 My first time to Barcelona we arrived via train, and the second time via Ryanair from Marrakesh. Ryanair is a fantastic resource for the cheap traveller- it cost 40 euros for a flight Marrakesh-Barcelona, all tax included! While there are no perks like free soft drinks or pretzels, and seating is based on who can run to the plane fastest, I’m willing to ignore those insignificant details. For a short-haul flight it’s perfectly fine. But be warned – all extras, including baggage, you will be charged for.
The second time arriving in Barcelona, a city I had previously spent two weeks, felt like coming home. Everything just feels right with the world. We checked into our hotel, The Patio, which was a GEM. I had done a fair amount of research online before the trip and based on many glowing reviews on trip advisor, we settled on http://www.thepatiobcn.com/ 72 euros per night bought us a beautiful room, attached bathroom, gorgeous sitting room and secluded rooftop patio, and breakfast each morning in the dining room. Between getting to the airport, the flight, navigating the Barcelona airport, the metro, and checking in, it was suddenly 5:30 PM and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. Soooooo…. a little hungry to say the least. Our lovely hostess offered to walk us to a local restaurant her and her husband frequented, and a place that apparently many local taxi drivers go for a good meal. We walked into the small, unassuming restaurant around 6 PM- which in Spanish time is somewhere in the black hole- a few hours since lunch and at least 4 hours until normal sane Spanish people would eat dinner. Regardless, the bartender took pity on us and agreed to make the Menu de Dia (Meal of the Day) for us at this ungodly supper hour. The Menu de Dia included 3 courses each, and a bottle of wine for the table for 10 euros a person! Nutso! I had octopus salad for my first course, and my friend had a baked gorgonzola gnocchi. For the main I had a really lovely white fish the was bathed in a rich mushroom cream sauce and accompanied by fries. My friend had a traditional Spanish dish, pig “knuckle”, which appeared to actually be the knee of a pig. For dessert we both had the “house tart”- after speaking to our B&B hostess later on it is a very common dish in Spain, in which leftover pieces of cake from whatever is lying around are pressed into a pan and soaked in cream, then baked. Somewhat like a more cohesive bread pudding. The chef also has license to apparently add whatever other ingredients he wants- orange zest, chocolate, raisins, etc. Ours included chocolate much to my delight. And given my love of using random leftovers, I was very pleased with the idea of this dessert in general 🙂 Waste not want not!
Definitely make it a priority to visit the Sagrada Familia- my favorite building in the world. It literally knocks the breath out of me, particularly seeing it in person the first time. The vision of Gaudi and his incredibly unique design and construction is astounding. Every column, every tiny carving, every piece of glass, all is based on natural forms and fits together to create absolute perfection. I could go on for hours, but the cathedral museum does a much better job.
Next up – Las Ramblas. Incredibly touristy, crazy, and full of pick-pockets, but not to be missed. It is a site to behold, and while your eyes take it all in keep your hands firmly on your money. The end of the street spills onto the water, and now would be a perfect time to grab an icy cold beer or crisp white wine. Also very cool is the Boqueria – midway down Las Ramblas, this local market sells a great variety of fruit, vegetables, meats, breads, souvenirs, and includes several bars and restaurants near the back which are just so much fun to eat at. Crowd it at the counter, perch on a stool, and order while watching the people go by. Highly entertaining 🙂 And the mussels weren’t bad either.
A very worthwhile trek is the Olympic Park- the metro will take you there, or if you’re feeling energetic, you can rent a city bike from numerous locations around the cit and hoof it up the hill on your own power. Perched on the hillside, it offers endless walking and jogging paths, tree-filled gardens, and sweeping views of the city. It is also host to several of the city’s numerous museums – with a little planning ahead you can hit one of the free museum nights. We did this, and while it’s very wallet-friendly expect mammoth crowds. We couldn’t bring ourselves to wait in line at the Miro Museum (two hours long) but we did go to the National Catalunyan Museum, with a huge collection of Renaissance, Modern, and historical Spanish art. You could spend days there, so you’ll have to pick and choose what to see. A must at the end is to sit on the steps in front of the museum and watch the water fountain/light show.
Other great places: The Picasso Museum, with a good overview of his time spent in Barcelona and the works he did at that time. The Gaudi park will guide you through the surreal colorful world of the unbelievably talented architect & artist.
After a long day, walk back to your lovely B&B – perhaps with a bottle of Spanish wine to enjoy on the Patio 🙂