Of all the Spanish cities, Barcelona is the buzziest and the edgiest. Full of Gaudi’s inspired yet totally bizarre architecture, delicious tapas on every corner, and set at the edge of a beach that’s packed with people come summertime. It’s a super city for a long weekend, but you could easily spend weeks exploring the different neighborhoods. Today, we’ll share a starter guide with you, giving you just a taste that will pull you in for a longer visit.
Even without paying for tickets into the Parc Guell or the Sagrada Familia, it’s impossible to escape Antoni Gaudi’s architecture as you walk the streets of Barcelona. In some ways, it feels as if Gaudi is still ahead of our time, despite the fact that the church isn’t yet complete. There’s simply nothing like it in the world. If you have time to see only one of his masterpieces, make it to the Sagrada Familia. Book tickets online in advance (no need to print, you can just use your smart phone) for either early-mid morning or mid-late afternoon and then pray for a bright day. The Sagrada Familia is a holy place, even if you aren’t the least religious. The light streams through coloured glass and plays on the floor below.
While Gaudi’s architecture is the most obvious in the city, the Museo Picasso houses one of the largest collections of his work in the world. Arguably most interesting is the exhibit showing Picasso’s obvious progression from realist painter as young as 14, to the cubist works for which he is best known.
If you haven’t had your fill of Gaudi, take a metro ride, followed by a walk and escalator ride up to the Parc Guell. It’s best to go in the early morning or later evening to avoid the crowds that can mar the view out over the city.
Tapas abound in Barcelona, as you might expect, but make sure to order potatoes with lemon if you see it on the menu in any form. It’s a local dish and delicious. Keep in mind many places aren’t open on Sunday evenings. For intimate, local spots, try Betlem or Norte. Both have great style and branding, and the servers are extra friendly.
Night at El Nacional
At least one of your evenings in Barcelona should be spent at El Nacional, a large multi-restaurant space where you can taste cuisine from all over the Iberian peninsula. Aside from the food, the decor itself is worth an evening visit.
The Mercat de la Boqueria, the best-known farmers market in the city, can be painfully overcrowded with tourist groups, but here’s a trick. Nip to the back where locals sit at counters and order fresh tapas while people watching. You’ll escape the crowds while still soaking in the atmosphere.
Coffee at Mitte and Satan’s Coffee Corner
For me, knowing where the good coffee spots are dotted around a city is imperative when travelling. Mitte is is great for a mid-afternoon break from exploring. The whimsical decor and peaceful vibe is restorative. Satan’s Coffee Corner is a little more Americanized, serving flat whites alongside donuts and toast.