I recently spent a long weekend in Barcelona. It was at least my 5th trip to the city – it’s one of my favourite destinations. I compiled the tips below a while back for visiting friends and colleagues. I thought I’d share them first, then share the tips I got from friends for this most recent visit and then finally let everyone know what we actually did and offer some reviews of what’s hot and what’s not in this eternally changing city!
My top tourist attractions
- Mercat san Josep – on the Ramblas. Check out the jamon, fish and local cheeses. Get there before 4pm. Yum!
- Institut d’Estudis Catalanas, c/del Carme 47 in the Barrio Chino. Beautiful cloistered building featuring Andalusian-style mosaic. It’s like something straight out of ‘The Angel’s Game’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. There’s a park nearby for a spot of guidebook consultation and contemplation.
- La Seu, Barcelona Cathedral in the Barrí Gòtic. Featuring geese and turtles in the interior.
- Parc Güell
- Sagrada Familia. Another Gaudí masterpiece, begun in 1882 and not yet finished. Always busy, but worth seeing even if you can’t be bothered to queue!
- Teatre National de Catalunya, Plaça de les Arts. Fantastic over the top architecture. Tours available.
Not that easy to get to but really worth it for the fantastic Gaudí mosaics and views of the city. Not to be missed!
What Barcelona does best…..
- Architecture– not just Gaudí’s modernism, but also the gothic, the modern and the downright crazy.
- Pan amb tomaquet, the Catalan alternative to bread and butter is delicious at any time of day – smear garlic and Mallorcan tomatoes on crispy ciabatta-style bread and top with olive oil and sea salt. Perfect for breakfast, lunch and dinner!
- Continual renewal – Barcelona is the hippest of Spanish cities and never stops still. The new gerkin-style building above the Olympic district is already old hat.
- Football – as important to Catalans as politics and fine food. Take your pick from superteam FC Barcelona (tickets harder to come by, but the Camp Nou stadium is open daily for visitors) and Espanyol, the formerly pro-Franco team who play in their stadium on the Montjuïc hill. Tickets are available from the Tourist Information Centre on Plaça Catlunya.
Bars (check out subsequent posts for more!)
- Boadas cocktelería – c/Tallers 1, off the Ramblas. Small old-style spirits and cocktail bar. Crowded (bit thankfully no longer smoky), but a bit of old Barcelona
- El Xampanyet – c/Montada, 22. In the neighborhood of the Picasso Museum, which features lovely courtyards and little boutiques to explore. Stop of for a cava and some tapas to refuel your energy.
Eating in Barcelona
Vellpoblenou – Fresh, local produce prepared in the Catalonian style. Not very central, but a mecca to good food for the residents of this area, who know better than to seek out quality in the tourist traps of the Barceloneta.
c/Rossello cafeteria – If you look hard enough, you’ll find plenty such local establishments without airs or graces (and with plenty of football on the telly!). Check out this cafeteria-style local tapas bar in the Eixample, just east of the Hosptial. Unassuming, much cheaper than the touristy tapas bars around the Plaça Catlunya, you’ll need a bit of Spanish and a tolerance of Spanish sport and soap operas. Try out the sherry in the barrels behind the bar! A good place to grab a bite before hitting the clubs hidden around this area.
Ría de Mera – There are plenty of Galician restaurants in the Eixample district, but this one is a good one, serving delicious Galician seafood, hams and wines, just in case you get bored of all things Catalan! (address: Carrer del Consell de Cent 299)
Can culleteres – Hardcore Catalan cuisine in the oldest restaurant in Barcelona. For those who like a lot of protein on their plate! http://www.culleretes.com
Accomodation in Barcelona
Consider renting an apartment. Flats are often cheaper than hotels, especially for groups. Cocoon offer modern, renovated, high spec apartments in various districts of the city.
Top tip: Watch your pockets and your handbag. It’s sad but true – Barcelona is rife with pickpockets.
What are your favourite places in Barcelona? What would you recommend?
(c) Lynn Sheppard