Eating and drinking our way around the best city on earth (apart from Liverpool obvs)
Barcelona has been top of my travel wish-list for years. Every single person I know who has visited has loved it. Even my Dad dubs it his favourite place in the world (other than the golf course). When it came to planning our summer holiday last year we researched plenty of European cities but nothing was coming close to Barcelona and so it was decided. Let’s not discuss how long it’s taken me to write this city guide, we went 6 months ago for reference…
After spending 5 days in the city I can confirm every rave review is completely justified. With enough to see and do (and eat) to warrant at least another dozen trips back, it literally has it all. Hot weather, a beach, aesthetic architecture and the best food I’ve ever eaten; I’d happily book a flight for tomorrow. For now though, here’s my guide to living it up in Barcelona…
Where to stay...
We looked at a LOT of hotels when we were in planning mode. We were going in early September which is still classed as peak time and everything was coming up as way out of our price range. The problem was we’d already booked our flights and I was starting to worry that we’d be camping out on the beach every night. Then we found Hostal Operamblas.
I have never stayed in a hostel in my life and they fill me with pictures of shared dorms, dirty showers and bunk beds so I wasn’t exactly thrilled at the prospect of setting up camp here. This place is basically a hotel. I think the only reason it’s not classed as one is because it offers no catering service (other than a nifty little vending machine in reception). A double room was spacious, clean and well decorated with a modern bathroom and more importantly when you’re in Spain in summer, air con.
In fact I’d go as far as to say this is one of the nicest places I’ve stayed in. You won’t find a more perfectly located place to stay either. Just off Las Ramblas, the main street of Barcelona, you’ll be right in the heart of all the action and yet the rooms were super peaceful and ideal for an afternoon siesta.
If you’re heading to Barcelona in summer then it’s definitely worth staying somewhere central. When we were there it was HOT and after walking around and exploring all morning, by about 3pm we were sweaty and tired meaning we’d head back to base camp for a shower and siesta before heading back out for tapas and sangria in the evening. Being so close to all the action meant we weren’t wasting money and time on Ubers or public transport in the heat.
As we stayed in central Barcelona we didn’t need to do much research about how to get about and ended up walking everywhere. Barcelona is that pretty that even if your destination isn’t round the corner, I’d still recommend walking in order to take it all in. In fact, often walking only added on a few minutes to the time than taking the metro. We walked a LOT of steps when we were there (wish I’d bothered to track them now) but I’m sure we must have been approaching a half marathon. Which was just as well because we had a lot of tapas to work off. So my top tip would be to make sure you pack your comfiest shoes, you’ll need ‘em.
Where to eat...
Alright here’s the good stuff. I have never eaten as well as I did during our 5 days in Barcelona. We ended up on a real gastronomic journey. Before we’d even left home I’d done my research on where to eat and armed with that, as well as plenty of recommendations from friends, meant our eating regime was planned to perfection.
For breakfast I knew I wanted to try Flax and Kale after seeing it in every city guide I read. With a menu brimming with healthy, vegan options in the most instagrammable setting of all, Flax and Kale was perfect for when we needed some serious fuel for a day of exploring. Their healthy bowls full of fruit and blue (!!) yoghurt went perfectly with one of the breakfast smoothies. Make sure you check out their bathrooms as well, ultimate interior goals.
Another breakfast option I had on my list was Milk. Tucked away in the Gothic Quarter this place was super cosy and as long as you don’t mind squeezing in next to strangers then the french toast with fruit compote was one of the best breakfasts that’s ever graced my lips. So good in fact that I didn’t even get a picture.
We also stumbled across Artisa after looking for somewhere to grab a quick coffee and croissant on our first day. Just off Las Ramblas I recommend grabbing a seat outside and watching the world go by, if you go early enough you can people watch the locals going about their morning routines.
We tended to go for a large breakfast to fuel us up for the day and then a good dinner, meaning we didn’t really need much lunch so my recommendations here are minimal. In fact actually I have none. One place you need to make sure you pay a visit to however is La Boqueria food market. On Las Ramblas, this place is full of food stalls selling everything from fresh seafood to sweets, croquettes and cured meats. There’s a great atmosphere to soak up as well, just be prepared for huge crowds.
You can’t visit Barcelona without sinking a hell of a lot of tapas. We found Cerveceria Alex and loved it so much we went back twice. I recommend the croquetes, patatas bravas (obviously) and padron peppers. Located in Placa Reial, a courtyard/square full of restaurants and bars, get a table outside and watch the various street entertainers as you eat.
On the subject of tapas we also headed to El Nacional, a luxury food hall just off the main shopping street. It’s tucked down a little alley and inside you’ll find multiple different restaurant options. With everything from a seafood restaurant to a champagne and caviar bar, this place was the definition of boujie. We sampled the tapas restaurant and along with copious amounts of sangria, it did not disappoint.
What to do...
Despite the heat we were determined to see as much of Barcelona as is humanly possible in 5 days. One of the first things we did was ‘hop on’ the hop on, hop off bus tour. We bought a ticket for around 40 euros that we could use for 48 hours. On the first day we actually just ended up doing the full tour which was a great way to get our bearings (and some all important breeze on the top deck!) It also came in handy on the second day to get us to and from La Sagrada Familia. Speaking of which…
You can’t pay a visit to Barcelona without taking in La Sagrada Familia. One of the most iconic buildings in the world, it was designed by Guadi himself and is still being finished. It’s a tourist trap of course but well worth battling the crowds to see, its stature and size is truly breathtaking. There are Guadi masterpieces all over the city and although we didn’t have chance to pay a visit, Park Guell is another Guadi masterpiece that should be on your list.
Despite being a thriving city, Barcelona also has a good beachfront and we spent a whole morning down on the shore, sunbathing and soaking up the rays. On your way to the beach take a wander through the port where you’ll find plenty of envy-inducing yachts to ogle as you go by.
Las Ramblas is the iconic street of Barcelona, full of street performers, stalls and cafes. Originally lined with flower stalls, you’ll still see a few as you make your way from one end to the other.
I can’t say I’m a cathedral fan girl but that being said, Barcelona’s offering was quite something. Barcelona Cathedral is a sight to behold and a stroll around inside is peaceful and a great way to escape the crowds. You can even head to the top for epic views across Barcelona.