Barcelona, an ideal city to me. I can spend ages boasting about that city, simply because I’ve fallen in love with it. We spent a long weekend there in February 2015, and I knew for a fact it wouldn’t be my last trip there. Besides the fact that you can smell the sea as soon as you land there, Barcelona has a special easy-going vibe that one longs for when leaving the hectic city life of London.
It’s safe to say that the hotel you choose can have a huge effect on your entire stay, so I can admit that spending a couple of nights at the W in Barcelona just have made it even more special. As expected, their hospitality was impeccable, their breakfast was from the best 5-star hotel spreads I had ever seen and our room was simply perfect. We were offered a beautifully modern W-style room on the 23rd floor of the hotel, with a stunning view over the mediterranean sea and the city. The hotel is a 15 minute walk from the nearest metro station, but most of it is along the beach so I wouldn’t complain about that. We did most of our sightseeing by foot – as I still believe that that’s the best way to visit a city.
Before leaving to Barcelona, my colleague at work had sent me lots of great recommendations for places to eat, markets to visit and touristic sightseeing to do. We were lucky with the weather as it was chilly but sunny most of the time. As it was a packed weekend, I’ve divided my tips and suggestions into two parts: FOOD and SIGHTSEEING. Feel free to skip the one you aren’t interested in…
For breakfast, I won’t be able to recommend anything but the W breakfast because that’s all we had when we were there. It was super filling and that meant that we never really needed to stop for lunch.
However, I know most people are less ‘gourmand’ than myself and will probably have a normal breakfast portion and will want to have lunch at some point. Barcelona is all about the tapas, whether for lunch or dinner. On our first day, we sat at a nice tapas bar in el Mercat de Santa Caterina, and just ordered a bunch of little plates to share. The market was full of locals, unlike La Boqueria which is usually packed with tourists. I highly recommend passing by it, as it has a cool roof and it’s right next to the Barcelona Cathedral.
Another highly recommended tapas place is El Vaso de Oro , near Baceloneta. We tried their padron peppers, manchego cheese, patatas bravas, some delicious chorizo type sausage and a couple of skewers of pork. They’re very generous with their portions so go hungry! Most locals were drinking beer, but as usual, I enjoyed a delicious glass of crisp white wine.
Other tapas places and drinks places that were recommended to me are La Pepita, Cervezeria Moritz, 300 El Born, Santa Gula and Vermuteria Lou.
Other than tapas, we got to experience a great seafood dinner on our first night. The restaurant is called La Paradeta. Piece of advice: go with your most casual outfit because you’ll come out of there smelling of food, but trust me, it’s worth it! They don’t take reservations so go at least half an hour before opening time and queue. We waited for about 50 minutes but once we got in, we had forgotten about the wait. They don’t speak English and you just have to order by pointing. They have a counter of fresh seafood, which you order by the weight and then specify if you would like your fish, squid, prawns, lobster, octopus, etc, grilled or fried. I remember ordering grilled monkfish, fried squid, grilled baby octopus, salad, bread, as well as a bottle of white wine and paying €55 in total (for 2 people). It’s definitely worth it if you want a very casual dinner one night. After a long day of travelling and sightseeing, that seemed like the perfect option for us.
Obviously, La Sagrada Familia is a must visit when in Barcelona. I was reluctant to queue to go in but I am so glad we did it. I have a thing for cathedrals and visiting churches when I travel but that one was impressive to another level. The amount of detail and thought that has gone into that monument is mind blowing. Gaudi is simply a genius!
Another common tourist attraction is the Parc Guel, by the same architect as the Sagrada Familia. It has a lovely walk, as well as unusual landscape design. I think it’s worth a visit.
If you have an interest in architecture, then the Barcelona Pavilion, by Mies Van der Rohe is lovely. Mies is the person behind the famous Barcelona chairs we all see in the lobby of fancy buildings nowadays. It’s a very small pavilion and only requires 20 minutes to visit the whole place. What is truly impressive is that is was built in the 1920s.
Tividabo, a mountain in the north of Barcelona, has a stunning view over the city. I highly recommend taking the time to go up there. There’s a cute, but overpriced, tram that you can catch to make it to the top, and a lovely church to visit once you’re up there. To be honest, the view on its own makes the journey worth while. We also stopped for a drink and nibbles at a small bar called Mirablau, before heading back down to Barcelona. Since the tram doesn’t run very often and the weather was incredible, we walked back down, which was pretty easy since it was all downhill.
Barcelona stole my heart in many ways and I’m looking forward to my trip back there this year. The beach, the culture, the food, the people, the weather, the strolls, the shopping, it simply ticks all the boxes.