I spent a quick three days in February 2015 in Barcelona, my first trip to Spain. Here are the notes I gathered on the things I wanted to see, do, and, of course, eat, with my post-trip commentary.
As usual for the field notes, I sort attractions by District where I can (because doesn’t that make it so much easier when you’re there and trying to figure out where to go next?). Coding: Bold italics mean I’ve been and would recommend going. Italics mean I’ve been, and thought it should remain on the list. Plain text: Some place I’ve heard about that sounded worth checking out, but I haven’t had a chance to go in person (yet!).
What am I missing?! Your suggestions are more than welcome!
Foods I want to eat in Barcelona
- Pan amb tomaquet (tomato bread). Important to ask around for a recommendation. While I did try a sort of bruschetta, I’m not sure if this was pan amb tomaquet or not.
- Churros, (traditionally, i.e. in the morning, fresh and with dipping chocolate (e.g. from Chok, just off La Rambla. Tip: you want these fresh, and, preferably, warm too.
- Crema Catalana, like crème brûlée, but the custard is flavoured with citrus rind and cinnamon.
- Cava. Oh I love my cava!
- Something from a granja (a milk bar / 1920s modernist chocolate shop).
- Arbequina olives. I don’t like olives, but maybe these peppery ones will convince me? If not, I know I’ll like the buttery, slightly fruit olive oil. Post script: as far as olives go, these were delicious. But … they were still olives.
- Local almonds. Supposedly almonds we normally eat don’t actually taste like real almonds. These do. Report: I have to say that these almonds, served warm, were fabulous and incredibly addictive.
- Patatas bravas. Famous tapas dish of thickly sliced fried potatoes served with spicy tomato sauce and aioli. This was not so delicious, imho.
- Jamon serrano. I don’t eat pork, but everyone tells me that this is even better than prosciutto. It was delicious! See below for the sandwich I tried. Completely worth breaking my pork-fast for.
- Zarzuela de mariscos a la catalana. Barcelona’s signature fish stew. Sadly, I didn’t eat at a resto serving this. I must go back!!
Gothic Quarter / Ciutat Vella/ Barri Gòtic
Good for strolling, medieval buildings, narrow streets. Good strolling streets: Carrer Sant Sever, Banys Nous (antique shops).
- Mercado de la Boqueria. La Ramblas 91. Good breakfast / lunch kiosks: El Quim, Bar Pintxo (best counter bar that chefs like, including Ferran Adrià. No menu, ask for specials and inspect the platters. Go early or they’ll run out. Stall (peseta) 91 … which I looked for but could not find).
- Restaurants near la Boqueria:
- La Fonda. Carrer Jerusalem 3. Med menu, elegant, modern, ingredients from La Boqueria. Lunch set menu 15E. I’m leaving this one on the list as a warming. This place has become too popular with tourists and the quality, at least judging by my dinner there, has gone down hill. Skip it.
- Fona de España. Inside Hotel España, Carrer Sant Pau 9. Ornate modernist dining room by Domenech i Muntaner, who also designed UNESCO Hospital de la Santa Creu I de Sant Paul. Lunch 27E.
- Bohèmic. Career de Manso 42, Sant Antoni. Small bistro, low-cost menu but some of the most creative cuisine in the city. Chef Francesc Gimeno. Patatas bravas famous.
- Palau Güell. Carrer Nou de la Rambla 3-5, 700 m from our hotel. November to March 10 am to 5:30, last entry 4:30 pm. Closed Mondays. Gaudi. UNESCO. The private residence of Gaudi’s patron Count Güell. Symbolizes rising from poor beginnings (ground floor) to wealth (opulence of 20 sculptural chimneys). Doorways have initials E and G. A beautiful building! The organ music is a real treat too. This would be a good first Gaudi stop.
- Plaça Reial: Gaudi’s first commissioned work for the city. Lampposts with dragon-headed serpents wrapped around pole. On the weekends there are stamp- and coin-sellers here; and during my February 8 visit, a street festival with dancers, bands and costumed giants! Fantastic people watching too.
- Barcelona Cathedral. Near Plaça Nova (600 m from our hotel). On Sundays, people come to the big square near the Barcelona Cathedral to dance Sardanas, the Catalan traditional folk dance. What a site to see — a square full of dancers in the sun with a live band on the steps! This is also a prime spot for Festival LlumBCN — the city’s festival of light.
- Palau de la Música Catalana. Near Via Laietana on Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt, 700 m from our hotel. UNESCO. Designed by Lluis Domenech i Montaner. Concert hall. Modernista style. Interior is beautiful too.
- Museu d’Història de la Ciutat. Roman ruins.
- Mercat de Santa Caterina. A real market near Palau de la Música Catalana.
- Remains of the Roman temple of Augustus near where the Cardo and Decumanus streets converge.
- Call Jueu / Girona. Jewish quarter. Near Plaça de Sant Jaume. Narrow streets good for wandering.
- Roman Barcino archeological remains. Below Plaça del Rei.
- Plaça de Saint Felip Neri. Behind the Cathedral, with its own baroque church. Lots of narrow streets surround.
- Plaça Catalunya. Pretty square, good for people watching.
- Two Albert Adrià restaurants a block south of Plaça de Catalunya
- Bodega 1900. Carrer de Tamarit 91.Casual bar.
- Tickets. Ave del Paral-lel 164. Block south of. Across the street from Bodega 1900. Circus decor adventurous tapas. Albert Adrià.
- Caramba Tapas Restaurant and Cocktails. Carrer de la Cera 57. 1 km from hotel. Recommended.
- Chok, just off the Rambla, for fresh churros in the morning.
Eixample and Gràcia Districts
Best shopping and restaurants plus three key Gaudi buldings. Walk Passeig de Gràcia which connects Plaça de Catalunya.
Beautiful walking street: Enrique Granados Street, many small good restaurants here too.
Just NE of Eixample is the Gràcia District, popular with students and artists. Was a village until the late 1800s. 15 minute walk from Plaça Catalunya. Lots of squares with outdoor cafés. Verdi Street is nice for walking. Great nightlife.
The week-long La Festa street party takes place here in August.
- Passeig de Gràcia. Ideal walking street.
- Casa Batlló. Gaudi. UNESCO. 43 Passeig de Gràcia. “House of bones”. I ran out of time to look at th interior, which I hear is a riot of colour.
- La Pedrera (Casa Milà). Gaudi. UNESCO. 92 Passeig de Gràcia. A study on curves and arches (there are no straight lines), and sculpture and pillars to avoid load-bearing walls. Walk through an apartment and see how light enters the building. Bizarre chimney pots on the roof. Exhibits on Gaudi, great views from the rooftop. Tickets 20.5E day, 27E to skip queues, 30E guided night tour. Can buy online in advance. Winter daily 9 am – 6:30 pm (last entry 6pm), night tours winter Wednesday to Saturday English 19:30 and 21:00. A marvel of a building! You probably don’t need the guided tour, the audio guide (include in rates) is informative.
- Restaurants near Passig de Gràcia (especially Career Aragó, between de Gràcia and Carrer Paul Claris):
- Tapas 24. Carrer de la Diputació 269. Very popular for tapas. “Chef Carles Abellan brings El Bulli chops” (Where to Eat Around the World). Open morning to midnight. Recommended: heuvos estrellados con chorizo (eggs, fried potatoes, sausage); truffle-laced ham and cheese sandwich (I happily broke my pork-fast for this!), chocolate ganache spread on bread with Maldon salt, foie gras burger.
- La Rita. Carrer Aragó 279. 3-course lunch 10.40E, including bread, wine and water. Popular with local office workers.
- Madrid-Barcelona. Carrer Aragó 284. Traditional Spanish café. 15E.
- Divinus. Passeig de Gràcia 28. Med menu, 3 choices app, main and dessert for 10.50E.
- Roca Moo. In Hotel Omm off Passeig de Gràcia. Carrer del Rosselló 265. Roca Bar has street food style tapas. Higher end.
- Restaurant Angle. In the Cram Hotel. Carrer de Aribau 54. Chef Jordi Cruz has 2 Michelin stars (at ABaC in Sarrià Sant Gervasi, below). Higher end.
- A bit further away:
- La Flauta. Carrer de Balmes 164. Higher end recommended tapas.
- Morrysom. Calle Girona 162. Recommended tapas.
- Restaurant Fermí Puig. Career del Balmes 175, Sant Gervasi-Santaló. Chef owned famous Drolma resto. Catalan and global flavours. Try Brick de Gambas app — shrimp in phyllo spiced with ras el harnout spice. Telegraph recommended.
- Speakeasy. Carrer d’Aribau 162. In an old warehouse. Cocktails and tapas.
- Still a bit further, onthewayto Park Güell:
- Les Tres a la Cuina Carrer Sant Lluis 35, 08912. Metro Joanic. Globe trotting menu changes daily. Superb weekend brunches. Tiny. Highly recommended.
- Basilica de la Familia Sagrada. Gaudi’s unfinished church, “a melted sand castle frozen in mid-creation”. UNESCO. Best to buy tickets in advance. A tour inside is very beneficial. October to March daily 9am to 6pm (crypt 9am-10am and 6pm-9pm). Tour with guide or audioguide (75 min), interior, exterior and towers 24E (19.50 w/o towers). Gaudi is buried in the crypt. Morning light is on the towers. This building is simply amazing. Weird, wonderful, beautiful and with architectural techniques never tried before, and many never tried since. The building is slated to, finally, be finished in 2026.
- Hospital de la Santa Creu I de Sant Paul. By Lluis Doménech i Montaner. UNESCO. After seeing the Basilica, just up the pedestrian street, this beautiful UNESCO building isn’t so impressive. But, the walk up is nice and it is worth a peak.
- Restaurants near by:
- Alkimia. Carrer de la Indústria 79. “Cerebral, off-beat takes on regional dishes” by Chef Jordi Vilà.
- Seafood restaurant La Paradeta (Passage SImo 18).
- Another Gràcia District restaurant: Origen 99.9%. Pg del Born 4. Lunch or dinner set menu 17E featuring dishes from across Catalonia. Also in EL Born District.
El Born / El Ravel Districts
Less busy but trendy and bohemian, many tapas restaurants and bars. arty shops, cozy restaurants, narrow twisting streets. Carrer Moncada may be the city’s most charming street. Princess Street has nice shops and restaurants.
- Picasso Museum. Moncada 15-23,oppositeCarrer de la Barra de Ferro. In a courtyard,whichcan be difficult to find, and Google Maps doesn’t work that well with the surrounding buildings). “One of the largest and most impressive collections of Picasso’s work; can easily fill a half day”. (Report: I’m a Picasso fan, but I can’t say I was overly impressed with this museum … it is interesting to see the little drawings Picassodida a child and a teenager, and to see how his work evolved, but there are few of his iconic pieces here. If you’re pressed for time, don’t feel guilty for skipping it). Best to book in advance in peak season to skip the lines. Use the entrance 50 m to the right of the main entrance with pre-purchased tickets. Jan to June 2015: includes a B&W photography exhibition by David Daniel Duncan or Picasso and his life. No photos allowed. 14 E, 7.50E concession. Closed Mondays. Tuesdays to Sundays 9am to 7pm. Free Thursdays (and open later) and Sundays starting at 3:00.
- Santa Maria del Mar. Plaça de Santa Maria, 1.3 km from hotel, near Picasso museum. Gothic church, architectural perfection.
- Lunch nearby at restaurant Picasso frequented: Els Quatro Gats (up a tight alleyway from main street). Named after Catalan saying “where there are 4 cats there are no people”, and playing on idea that Picasso and his 3 friends who hung out here were starving artists.
- El Born Centre Cultural. Open archaeological site showing the Barcelona of 1700 in a covered building.
- Santa Maria del Mar church.
- Origen 99.9%. Pg del Born 4. Lunch or dinner set menu 17E featuring dishes from across Catalonia.
- Case Perris. Plaça Commercial. Spice and nut shop.
Barceloneta District plus further along the coast
The port, and the working class district along the coast.
- Walk along the sea and take a pit stop at a traditional seafood joint.
- Ride the cable car from St Sebastian tower to the Montjüic mountain for spectacular views.
- Castell de Montjuïc. Views from city. 17th century fortress and execution spot. Garden.
- Catalan National Arts Museum, housed in the Palau Nacional in Parc de Montjuïc. Best collection of Romanesque and Gothic paintings and sculpture. Closed Mondays.
- Fundació Joan Miró. Museum. Winter Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 – 19:00, later Thursdays. Sundays 10:00 – 14:30. Closed Mondays. 11E. Can buy online. Included in Articket (6 Barcelona art cents for 30E). Reach by bus or funicular from Parel-lel metro station.
- Restaurante Set (7) Portes. Passeig Isabel II 14. 1pm-1am. Many famous people have dined here since its opening in 1836. Has 7 entrances, hence the name. Picasso and his parents lived in th building when they first arrived in 1895. Reputation for best ingredients in brilliant preparations. Generous zarzuela (fish soup, with lots of lobster).
- Restaurante Pakta: Carrer Lleida 5, Poble Sec. Japanese Peruvian hybrid with a 35 course degustation menu. Ferran and Albert Adrìa.
- La Mar Salada: excellent paella with chunks of lobster and razor clams.
- Can Maño. Carrer del Baluard 12. Modest seafood place, local favourite, can be line-ups.
- Quimet & Quimet. Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes 25. (1.6 km from our hotel). Tapas bar, very popular. Recommended: bacalao, mojama (shaved dried tuna), Tou dels Tillers cheese, mussels with tomato jam. Quimet beer.
- Sagàs Pagesos, Cuiners & Co. Pia de Palau 13. Rustic-chic dining room. Organic ingredients from the farm of the chef/owner Oriol Roviera. Globally inspired menu.
- Can Majó. Almirante Aixada 23, near the promenade. Excellent zarzuela. Book ahead for an outdoor table with harbour views.
Sarrià Sant Gervasi District
- Park Güell. Carrer d’Olot. Winter daily 8:30 am to 6 pm., ticketed and non-ticketed areas. Gaudi. UNESCO. Weirdest city park ever. High above the city for good views. Report: While there are pretty views down to the sea, and some interesting architectural treats in this park, I was disappointed after what I’d read about it. If you need some green space, certainly visit the free areas, and if you’re there buy a ticket to see the Gaudi-designed patio, staircases, and columns. But you’ll likely need to take a taxi here and back, and if you’re pressed for time, it isn’t a huge loss to skip it.
- Casa Vicens. House at 24 Carrer Carolines, 2 km from Park Güell. UNESCO. Gaudi. Private building closed to visitors; just look at from outside (spectacular green and white tiles, ridged corners to avoid austere look). Marigold-inspired. Indian, Japanese, Moorish influences. Gaudi’s first major commission.
- Torre Bellesguard Tower. Gaudi. Neo-Gothic house with viaduct. Good views of the city (“bell esguard”). Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 3 pm. Closed Mondays.
- Restaurant a bit further, on the way to back to Passig de Gràcia: Les Tres a la Cuina Carrer Sant Lluis 35, 08912. Metro Joanic. Globe trotting menu changes daily. Superb weekend brunches. Tiny. Highly recommended.
- Restaurant 2 km west of Park Güell: ABaC Restaurant and Hotel. 1 Avinguda del Tibidabo. A super chic boutique hotel and 2 star Michelin restaurant by chef Jordi Cruz. Deconstructed neo-Catalan cuisine. His slightly cheaper place is Restaurant Angle, in the Cram Hotel in Eixample (above).
Other districts of interest
- Take a blue tram (tram via blau) to Tibidabo, the hilltop with a church and closed historic amusement park; views overlooking the city. On a clear day may be able to see Mallorca in the Med.
- Sants Montjuic. National museum of Catalonia. Free first Sunday month. Great views from terrace too.
- Crypt of the church at the Colònia Güell. Gaudi. UNESCO. In the village of Santa Coloma de Cervelló near Barcelona.
- An hour away by car: take a cable car to Montserrat, a monastery cleaved into a mountain
- Many museums are free on Sundays … which can mean crowds. Many are closed Mondays.
- Almost every attraction you need a ticket for sells only timed tickets — meaning you need to plan your arrival time within about 15 minutes. Wonderful if you’re planning to hit just one or two museums. Not so easy if you’re trying to see a bunch in a short time and have no idea for much time you’ll need and want to spend in and around each attraction. You can safely plan for one morning and one afternoon attraction, perhaps more if you’re quick.
- A T-10 ticket gives 10 rides on the bus, metro and trains within city limits, and you can use it to get to and from the airport.
- The Articket and Carcelona Card can provide savings.
- The Corte Ingles department store, Plaça Catalunya, has free maps in the gift section (ground floor, past the Barç jerseys, just ask for one).
- Many shops close at midday.
- Only tourists eat at 8pm. Dinner starts at 9 or 10.
- Pickpockets are experts here. Be very very careful, particularly in crowds.
- Gaudi does not rhyme with “howdy”, but is properly pronounced “gau-DEE”.
- Eating, recommended by location unknown:
- Catalana. Higher end tapas.
- La Xampanyeria. Cheap tapas and cava.
- 100 Montaditos. Sandwich chain, excellent prices Wednesdays and Sundays.
- A few other Gaudi-designed buildings in the city: the Church of Colonia Güell; Güell Pavilions and Casa Vicens.
Other advice for what to see, do and eat? Are there any inaccuracies in what I’ve reported above? Comments welcome!