Barcelona has been a place I wanted to go to for a long time. I pictured tan bodies, beautiful beaches and endless cocktails. I had no idea it was WAY more than just the beach. In fact, during our time here we spent much more of it exploring historic Barcelona than the beaches. Between Greek, Roman and Spanish history, beautiful and interesting architecture, friendly people, fantastic tapas (yum), and an energetic atmosphere – we more than enjoyed our time in Barcelona.
How We Got There and Around
From Bordeaux we took an early morning train, stopping only once to change trains. We arrived in Barcelona around 12:30. We figured out that Taxi’s are pretty cheap in Barcelona, especially split with three people – so we took a taxi to our AirBnB.
Around Barcelona we took the metro and the bus (only once) to get around. We ended up buying a ten pack of one-way tickets that can be used on the metro and bus, and that worked out perfect for us.
On our way out of Barcelona to the airport, we took a taxi again, which cost us only a few dollars more than it would have on the metro.
Where We Stayed
Our apartment was near the La Rambla area of Barcelona and was comfortable enough. Turns out, Barcelona is a huge skateboarding city and of course right outside our apartment is the Museum of Modern Art, which has apparently become a skating mecca in Barcelona. For 20+ hours a day, there was skateboarding. It was also incredibly hot during our stay, so we enjoyed time near the air conditioning unit, which sadly was only in the living room and didn’t make it to our bedrooms. Other than the loud noise at all hours of the day, the apartment was comfortable and clean.
Our Favorite Foods & Drinks
Tapas, Tapas, Tapas! You come to Barcelona to share food with friends and family – thus, Tapas is a popular choice. It can be challenging, especially since I don’t eat beef and other meat products, to pick foods we can share – but we managed and found quite a few items we really enjoyed:
Fried Potatoes – this was something we ordered with every meal, and funny enough each restaurant served them differently. From cold potatoes smeared with mayo (like a potato salad), to crunchy served with aioli, and our favorite – served with pico de gallo – we enjoyed the wide variety the restaurants took with this “simple” dish.
Steamed Mussels – we pretty much ate this every night and loved it. It is pretty much on every menu.
Fresh Fruit Juice – at the market the popular item was buying a freshly made juice, so duh, we had to try it. Suzanne did strawberry mango, and I got banana coconut – delicious!
What We Did
Mercado de La Boqueria – This huge market sells everything from fresh seafood, meats, produce, chocolates and more. We enjoyed walking around and of course trying some freshly made juice.
Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi – This church is from the 14th century. Most of the church has been rebuilt including the beautiful rose stain glass, after anarchists set fire to the church in 1936. One of the prized possessions of the church was a thorn from the crown of Jesus, however, after the 1936 raid, it went missing.
Cathedral of Barcelona – This beautiful church was built in the 13th-14th century. One of my favorite features is the gargoyles on the outside, based on real and mythical creatures. When we visited, the cloister was closed, which is disappointing since geese live inside. We also took a tour on the roof, giving us a spectacular view of Barcelona!
MUHBA Temple d’August – The Barcelona City History Museum (MUHBA) runs this site, and it’s free. This site was once a Roman temple of worship for Emperor Augustus. The ruins were discovered later and consist of just a few columns. It was very cool to see, and made me just want to visit Rome even more.
Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya & Plaça Sant Jaume – This historic building is one of the few medieval government buildings in Europe, still being used as a government building. It currently holds the offices for the President of Generalitat de Catalunya. The building is located in the Plaça Sant Jaume square – which also has the City Hall building located there too.
Plaza de George Orwell – This square is named after the famous writer George Orwell, who lived in Barcelona for a time and was involved with the Spanish Civil War. The plaza is located in the famous Gothic Quarter, and has plenty of restaurants.
Plaça Reial – This Square is near La Rambla and is known for its nightlife. We didn’t visit it at night, but did notice a lot of clubs in the square. I particularly liked the fountain and the palm trees.
Güell Palace – A name that shows up often in Barcelona is Antoni Gaudí – the famous architect. Gaudí’s designs (which you will see lots below) are unique, fun, and quirky. This particular mansion was designed by Gaudí and is quite weird (in my opinion).
Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar – This church was built in the 14th century, and sadly was closed during by the time we got to it. But similar to other churches in Barcelona, the exterior is quite remarkable.
Ciutadella Park – This city park is quite lovely and is home to the Zoo. The park has a lake with rental boats, and quite the beautiful fountain. Throughout the park there are several statues, and at the edge is the Castle of the Three Dragons (which is currently being renovated).
Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona – This arch was built in 1888 as the grand entrance to the 1888 Barcelona World Fair, sitting just outside the Ciutadella Park. The red brick feature is a favorite of mine. The arch is much smaller than the Arc de Triumph in Paris.
Caso Lleó Morera, Casa Amatller, Casa Batlló & Casa Milà – All of these buildings are famous for their beautiful yet distinctive architecture – and all located on the same street within walking distance. Gaudí designed the last two, Casa Batlló & Casa Milà.
Plaça de Catalunya – A grand plaza where old city meets new city. The plaza is home to art displays, fountains and thousands of pigeons.
Jardines del Palacio de Pedralbes – This was once the home of the Spanish Royal family when they visited Barcelona, today it is a ceramic museum. The home is located in a lush green city park.
Finca Güell – Gaudí designed this pavilion, even though it’s not much today. Today, guests can visit the gatehouse and stables that were designed by Gaudí. Really, the most impressive feature is the gate – the dragon gate.
Park Güell – This park is located on Carmel hill (which is quite a hike) is designed by Gaudí. We didn’t realize that some portions of the park required a paid ticket, which was sold out by the time we got there. In all honesty, we were so hot and dehydrated it was probably for the best we made it a short visit (2 hours) and get back to AC. Even though we didn’t get the paid ticket, we saw a lot of the park, including Gaudí’s builings.
The Magic Fountain Show of Montjuïc – Situated below the National Art Museum is the Montjuïc fountains. Every night they put on a light show paired with music. As silly as it sounds, it was actually quite fun. Suzanne and I were amazed that we were able to get so close to the fountain (as there had to have been over 1,000 people there), and then quickly realized that we were in the wet zone. Oh well, it was so hot it felt good. The show lasts about 20 minutes and overall is a lot of fun.
La Sagrada Família – This church has been under construction since 1882, with the expected completion date in 2026. During Gaudí’s lifetime, he had a major part of designing this church. At first glance, this church is a bit of shock. As we walked around, the church has different features making it quite interesting to look at.
La Barceloneta & Beach – This district is known for its beach life, a place where cruise ships dock and the infamous W Hotel building. We were able to dip our toes in the water, walk along the beach, browse the shops, enjoy sangria and people watch. I learned quickly that bikini tops were optional at this beach – women of all ages and sizes participated. This area was a bit more expensive, so we didn’t stay too long. I was also surprised at how rocky the shoreline was, making it a bit of a painful walk.
We LOVED Barcelona and can see us returning, especially on a cruise ship perhaps. Spain was fantastic, and I can’t wait to return and explore more!
This concludes our International Adventures (for now), time to head back to Springfield, Virginia!