Holy cow how is it already 2020? I feel like it was only yesterday we were starting 2019. I had so many things that I wanted to have already in the works for the start of the year but I’m definitely behind so keep an eye on my social media to keep up with the updates on what’s to come for Dollface Diaries. One of my goals will be to take a little bit more time for myself and to travel. I have always loved exploring new cities and countries and really want to keep the momentum of our holiday trip to Barcelona going. I think Barcelona might be my favorite city to date and I definitely want to go back to explore it more. There is so much beautiful architecture at every turn and the food is incredible. After spending eight days exploring the city I feel like I only scratched the surface of what Barcelona has to offer but there were some things I learned, places I saw and restaurants we tried that I think are crucial to any first-time visit to the city.
Things To See In Barcelona
Barcelona is home to such beautiful architecture, they have done a fantastic job of preserving the history around the city. From all the Gaudi buildings to the different cathedrals there is so much to see just walking around the different neighborhoods. We went at Christmas time and they even had special Christmas Markets set up with local artists.
Antoni Gaudí is an iconic Catalan architect and most of his work can be found sprinkled around Barcelona, he designed are mostly inspired by nature and his work is most unique and distinctive. There are 17 of Gaudi’s designs around Barcelona from parks, cathedrals, and mansions his designs are so recognizable and interesting. A couple of our favorites were Park Güell a park that originally was designed to be a community of homes all designed by Gaudi before the project lost funding. Now the city maintains the gardens and properties that were built as a park for people to visit. There is a fee to visit the beautiful iconic structures within the park but you can explore the gardens for free.
Of course, Sagrada Familia is a sight to behold. The intricate detailing around the perimeter of the building is truly incredible telling so many biblical stories. My family didn’t take the time to go inside but I’ve heard it’s absolutely beautiful. Go as early as possible or when the morning light streams through the beautiful glasswork to get the most of your experience.
Regardless of our somewhat unfortunate experience, having our car window broken Colonia Güell was a really cool experience. Just above the city of Barcelona, this textile community houses the Gaudí Crypt, you can walk the streets of this quiet community, see the history of how the textile industry kept this neighborhood in business and also experience where Gaudi got his start and was able to experiment with the techniques he would use in his most iconic work.
Finally, my favorite work was Casa Battló or Casa dels ossos (House of Bones) as the locals call it. This beauty can be found on Passeig de Gràcia in the Eixample district. The home has been turned into a museum dedicated to Gaudi and Modernism.
La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter
La Rambla is a 1.2-kilometer pedestrian street connecting Plaça de Catalunya in the center with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. There is lots of shopping and delicious restaurants sprinkled along the street and they even have artisans with booths set up selling local works. Along with La Rambla, the Gothic Quarter has narrow medieval streets filled with beautiful architecture, clubs, and tiny shops. We loved wandering up and down the streets looking in the shops and people watching.
Because we went at Christmas time they had many different markets set up throughout the city, including at the Segrada Familia. Unlike the Christmas Markets in Germany, these are set up and some go through Three Kings Day so make sure you check the dates of the markets before you go.
Day trip to Girona
If you’re looking to take a little trip outside the city my suggestion is a day trip exploring Girona. This medieval city is just a little bit north of Barcelona and is a great way to explore even more Spanish history, plus it is also where they filmed some iconic scenes in Game of Thrones for all you Kings Landing nerds.
Of course, I love a good day of shopping as well and Barcelona has some great spots to check out some UK stores as well as luxury brands. Head up to the Plaça de Catalunya where you can find the hub for all things shopping, Check out Arenas de Barcelona the ex-bullfighting arena turned shopping mall. There are plenty of high street shops as well as a 360 view of the city from the top. From Plaça de Catalunya then you can either take Passeig de Gracia and Portal del Angel for all your shopping needs.
Places to Eat in Barcelona
As a vegetarian (technically pescetarian) eating the local fare in other countries can be really difficult. When my family visited Germany a few years ago it was incredibly difficult for me to eat healthily and really eat much at all. But our time in Barcelona was a completely different experience. Not only were their vegetarian options on every menu but the varieties in restaurants around the city were incredible. We typically tried to stick with Spanish tapas but strolling the streets you can find really any type of cuisine you’re craving. Like I said we loved eating tapas though because we got to try local dishes and many of them. For all four of us, it was super cheap to eat and we never felt too full because the portions were small. My family loved the Patatas Bravas, potatoes wedges with a spicy cream-based sauce and the Padron Peppers, blistered mild peppers. I also really enjoyed the fresh fish options on most of the menus, and of course the Palle. Some of our favorite restaurants were:
El Xampanyet – a local gem, that is always packed but has delicious tapas
Tipo Tapa- this one was right around the corner from our Airbnb and we actually went there twice… I just couldn’t get enough of their ceviche
La Cava Cakery- Instagram worthy bakery with incredible cupcakes
Bar Oviso – great cocktails
El Pachuco – Mexican food in the El Raval District, great drinks next to Sant Pau Del Camp, dates back to the 1200s
The El Cot neighborhood had great restaurants everywhere. We also did a lot on our trip and would often get up early in the morning and walk the city my favorite breakfast was empanadas they would warm-up and a cup of coffee. It was a great savory breakfast option when I wasn’t feeling a sweet breakfast croissant.
Tips on Getting the Most Out of Barcelona
My family opted for a car for this trip to take some road trips out to the medieval cities and such but if you’re planning on only visiting Barcelona it is easy to strictly use public transportation. The train along with the Metro all go directly to the airport and the subway and bus system is really easy to navigate and cheap. Other than our day trip my family either walked or took the subway everywhere.
Another thing we learned is that boarding accommodations are incredibly cheap and I highly suggest getting an Airbnb to cut costs, food is also really cheap, stick with tapas-style (which is basically everywhere) and you can try all kinds of local cuisine for a great price without feeling overly full.
Finally, the Airbnb my parents booked didn’t have Wifi which forced us to look into wifi options and we learned about WifiVox. You can rent one of their portable wifi boxes by the day and use it anywhere. It really helped to navigate and allowed us to cut the cost of our international data charges through our phone provider.
If you’re heading to Barcelona this year make sure to brush up on your Spanish and be ready for an incredible visit from the food to the sights I couldn’t recommend exploring this beautiful city more.