The Best of Beautiful Barcelona
When mentioning Barcelona, many are familiar with Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, with it’s soaring sandcastle-like facade, and interior reminiscent of an enchanted forest. It’s been a work in progress since 1882, and is scheduled to be completed in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death.
And Parc Guell, Gaudi’s failed residential project, equally enchanting, with its colorful mosaic work, fanciful architecture and panoramic views of the city, is also a must-visit.
Of course, there’s the Barcelona beach scene, full of kilometers of bare bellies and breasts (yes, it is legal to go topless here).
La Rambla, with it’s famous La Boqueria Market is a foodie paradise…
But the best of Barcelona, in my book, are the little neighborhoods that used to be villages in and of themselves, before being sucked up into the city, like Born and Gracia, which have a flavor and character all their own…
Where mainstream Barcelona has become a raging torrent of humanity, especially in July and August…
…these little bergs not only have personality, but also more affordable prices, and many fewer tourist crowds. Apparently in the summer, each neighborhood has a kind of block party, a different one every week. These kind of experiences are a good reason to check sites like Air B&B for accommodations, if you prefer to get a feel for the real city, vs the tourist experience you get when staying at a hotel. For a much cheaper price tag you can get a centrally located room with a view!
For 10 euro you can purchase a T10 card, with 10 metro rides, and go explore some of these neighborhood regions. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Make sure you take time to just wander. The streets are full of fanciful graffiti, street performers, and those selling colorful souvenirs.
What else does Barcelona have to offer? The fancy landmark hotel W, whose half-moon shaped architecture is visible from anywhere along the shore, is worth a visit – I just checked in to see what the lobby was like while on a beach walk, and ended up getting pulled into a birthday party for a guy in a group from Australia and the UK.
There are also plenty of museums to choose from: the elegant mansion cum art museum, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, up on a hill with waterfall fountains pouring down, and room after room of amazing art…
…including the religious, the surreal, the old and the new.
Picasso and Miro have their own museums in Barcelona…
…and if you’re looking for something a little more earthy, there’s even a museum of hemp!
You can stroll past the harbor full of impressive yachts, and tilt your head back to see Columbus keeping watch. Or take the gondola for a bird’s eye view.
And of course, there’s the requisite castle, Montjuic, a 17th century hilltop fortress and former prison, if you’re up for a climb and more great views…
Go out at night, yes, late at night – things don’t really get started until 10pm or later. Unlike in the US, restaurants don’t even open until 7 or 8, and most people aren’t thinking of dinner until around 9. Or 10. Or midnight. You’ll see families with toddlers in the middle of the night out strolling to the parks.
Music doesn’t get started until 10pm or later, and many places stay active until 5am. Too late for me, but I did catch the first set at a flamenco bar, a tiny basement-like place, which happened to be hidden in the red light district.
Someone I met in New Zealand, who lives in Bulgaria but is from the UK wrote to tell me of a tapas place not to miss, although he couldn’t tell me the location. Luckily, I stumbled upon it, right before it opened, as apparently El Xampanyet is so popular, people sit outside the garage-like door just waiting for it to open in order to get a table. I not only enjoyed great tapas and house-made Cava, but also the company of my next-table neighbors from Sweden, and a group on the other side from Austin, Texas and Alabama! Not to mention my adorable, attentive waiter. Meeting people and maintaining connections all over the world are things I love about travel!
A good friend of mine from California was brave enough to follow her dreams and take a translation course in Spain, then decided to stay and teach English. Jenni was a delight to spend time with – we hadn’t seen each other in 3 years, and she showed me around to some lesser known places in the region.
Sitges is a cool little beach town, a short train ride away from busy Barcelona. Not that Sitges isn’t busy, but it’s not the millions-of-bodies-packed-into-a-city busy that is Barcelona. We went on a rainy, heavy gray cloud-studded day, only to have the sun come out and brighten our world after lunch – the best of both worlds. Time to savor the local seafood cuisine while the skies unloaded their wet burden, and then time to soak up the sun and splash in the waves as well. You can even shop on the beach.
We also took a train and went wine tasting! Having both worked at wineries in Napa, and being wine lovers, this was a special treat. From small boutique Recaredo, where we enjoyed a seated tasting…
…to huge producer Freixenet, where we boarded a Disneyesque ride on our tour, we tasted some of Spain’s great sparkling cavas and rich reds.
And don’t forget to go chocolate tasting!
So wander and get lost, by train, bus, bicycle, subway or on foot, eat, drink and discover the best of beautiful Barcelona for yourself!!