Do you know what the best kind of travel is? Surprise travel!
Those of you who know me in real life will know that this summer I made a very adult decision to forego a holiday and focus on work and DIY. (Also I did travel for almost four months last year….) BUT all this changed when we realised we could squeeze in a little weekend trip to Barcelona.
Barcelona is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit forever. I love a city break and one in the sun with plenty of tiled Gaudi goodness meant Barcelona had been in the travel scrapbook for quite a long time.
We were there for just three nights but well and truly covered the whole city on foot, checking out the sights, drinking Estrella and cava in cute square cafes and eating all the tapas.
Where we stayed
We stayed at the Praktik Bakery in the Eixample district. Whenever we do city breaks we really like to be able to walk everywhere but also be able to have a more locals based district on our doorstep for drinks and dinner in the evening. This location ticked both of these boxes being on the doorstep of Gracia with its winding streets as well as the Eixample district having it’s own fair share of bars and restaurants. It was also super easy to head down to Placa Catalunya and then into the gothic district as well as only a 15/20 minute walk from the Sagrada Familia. The Gracia district was really lovely to be based near. Although it still has tourists it feels more like a locals neighbourhood. We were there when the locals were beginning to prep for the Fiesta de Gracia, a neighbourhood wide street party and festival with amazing installations being made in the streets by local residents. I’d definitely love to visit when the festival is actually happening.
The hotel itself is based above a bakery, what more could you want than waking up knowing there is fresh bread and pastries being baked downstairs? Breakfast is well worth paying for as you get a full buffet of numerous types of bread and pastries as well meats and cheeses.
The decor was gorgeous, all white with the most gorgeous tiles in the bathroom. Floor to ceiling windows/juliet balcony doors meant there was plenty of natural light and air con meant we slept perfectly in the august Barcelona heat.
What we saw
Sagrada Familia – One of the main reasons I have always wanted to go to Barcelona is probably the most obvious one, The Sagrada Familia. It’s hard to escape the dominance of this building on the city, it is just huge and towers over everything around it. The pure craftsmanship inside and out was breathtaking and even more impressive than I thought it would be. We visited first thing on Saturday morning and it’s well worth getting up early to be in the first group let in because then you can experience the beauty of the interiors with as few people in there as possible.
I was prepared for the beauty of the external structure as this is what you usually see in travel articles but I’d never really given any thought to the interior. This is what really took my breath away. The sheer size of the building is apparent when you’re inside it and because of the intricacies of construction there is very little to obscure the view all the way up to the roof. The light is incredible and the glass work just amazing. I’m not going to lie I have easily thirty photos purely of the light streaming through the stained glass and onto the stone work. Hand’s down one of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited.
Park Guell – One of the other key Gaudi sites in Barcelona, up on a hill to the north of city which not only houses amazing Gaudi architecture but also affords views across the city to the sea. You can visit a lot of the park for free but to enter the historic centre of it there is an entrance fee. It’s definitely worth it though as the tile work is stunning and the park has a lovely feel as you wander around it. Just be prepared for the hike up the hill to get there!
Castell de Montjuic and the Montjuic Park – although we climbed up this hill on the hottest day we were in Barcelona it was well worth it for the views back over the city. The Castle itself is not necessarily the most interesting but it’s vantage point high above the city is perfect for views of the city and cruise ships. If you fancy visiting the castle then head over after 3pm on Sunday when it’s free to get in. The park that wraps around the hill is lovely for a wander around and includes the botanic gardens and an art museum as well. The western part of the park was home to the Olympics when Barcelona hosted and there are also lots of buildings left from the 1929 Great Universal Exhibition as well as the magic fountain which often has shows in the evening. We walked up to the castle and then treated ourselves to a cable car back down which is a great way to see a different vantage point of the city
Explore the Gothic Quarter – there is nothing I enjoy more on holiday than wandering through little streets discovering street performers, squares with outdoor cafes for a cool beer and little boutiques to hunt in. The gothic quarter ticked this box for me. The streets around Placa de St Josep Oriol were perfect for that and the square itself hosts an art market every weekend
Park de la Ciutadella – one of the main parks in Barcelona to the east of the City and holding the offices of the Parliament of Catalunya. We enjoyed having a wander around here on Saturday morning as a change from wandering through the streets of Barcelona itself. Houses some interesting buildings, a boating lake and an amazing fountain. I loved the old palm house which has an amazing faded grandeur with huge palms, empty glass windows and gorgeous tiles. It would be an amazing setting for a photo shoot.
Mercat de la Boqueria – finally no trip to Barcelona is complete without having a wander through its famous food market. Head there to discover every sort of food imaginable, just keep an eye on your bag and stall holders who don’t want photos taken!
We walked down The Ramblas once but wasn’t really anything we were interested. To me that area and the Placa Catalunya were the equivalent to Oxford Circus and isn’t really what I look for when travelling. We had researched the aquarium as a possible visit in case we ended up with a rainy day while in the city but this was a definite no once I remembered that the aquarium owners are also involved in dolphinariums. Just a little reminder to always do your research into where your visiting to check it sits with your personal beliefs.
Where we ate and drank
Food is a huge part of travel for me. I love food and discovering new flavours and dishes, so being in a place where tapas and small plates is the norm was amazing because I could just go crazy on everything. My favourite discovery? A cold Estrella washing down fresh tomatoes and garlic rubbed onto bread. Not bruschetta, more like its softer cousin. Delicious!
L’Enric – Eixample district – we discovered this restaurant/tapas bar by doing the classic holiday wander around the streets until something takes your fancy and were not disappointed. Really good tapas with good portion sizes and delicious wine and cava. Definitely try the la bomba de la barceloneta which were amazing croquettes and the aubergine and spinach rolls with honey and goats cheese were lovely.
Amelie – Gracia district – this lovely little restaurant in Placa de la Vila de Gracia had the feeling of a local eatery. We sat in the square and enjoyed tapas and traditional seafood dishes
Cadaques – Gracia district – actually the neighbour of Amelie, we sat on the square again and here enjoyed the atmosphere of the neighbourhood getting ready for the Fiesta de Gracia while enjoying steak with roasted green peppers
1881 Per Sagardi – Barceloneta/Harbour – hidden away on the roof of the Museum of Catalan History is a super swish bar with views across the harbour to Castell Montjuic and back across the city. Not necessarily the most authentic Barcelona bar its a gorgeous spot for a couple of beers up and away from the hustle and bustle and street hawkers of Barceloneta
Other than that it was beers and cava in little bars with seats on the streets that happened to take our fancy. There are so many amazing places to eat in Barcelona that I think as long as you stay away from the tourist traps of Las Ramblas you really can’t go wrong
Did a long weekend in Barcelona disappoint? No and I’m definitely up for going back and exploring even more. Have you been? What were your favourite parts of Barcelona?