We once heard an urban legend about a drug operation burning outside the city of Barcelona, leaving the addictive drug fumes to be dispersed in the air across the city. Another version of this story is a Coca field burning outside the city, dispersing the Coca seeds in the air, giving everyone in the city a mysterious “high”. While these may very well be nothing but silly myths, there is without a doubt something very addictive about the city of Barcelona!
Whether it’s the people, the food and drink, the atmosphere or the beautiful sights, we fell in love with this city. Here are some of our travel notes and recommendations.
One of the most distinctly beautiful things about Barcelona is its architecture. Each building has its style – whether it’s art nouveau, art deco, or gothic architecture – old architecture sits alongside modern one and many buildings are decorated with street art. The architecture varies from one quarter of the city to the next and no two buildings are the same.
Santa Caterina Market, Gothic Quarter.
It’s intriguing to see how the scenery changes so dramatically when entering the Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter. The buildings here are much older, it is apparent that they have serious heritage, the streets are narrow and irregular and the boulangeries are to die for!
Neo-Gothic architecture at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross of Saint Eulalia.
We recommend visiting the Barri Gòtic Picasso museum, both for its beautiful architecture and for the art collection that tells the story of Picasso’s development as an artist.
Courtyard of the Picasso museum.
If modern art is what you’re after, visit MACBA, Barcelona’s museum of contemporary art which was designed by American architect Richard Meier.
The museum is located in El Raval, a neighborhood that used to be crime-infested but has in recent years become safe and hip. This area is covered in beautiful street art and cute little cafes and boutiques.
El Raval street art.
From Parc Guell to Casa Batllo, architect Antoni Gaudi designed some of the city’s most beautiful architecture.
Organic forms at Casa Milà.
The Segrada Familia, a UNESCO world heritage site, is particularly awe-inspiring.
As architects we can appreciate the grueling work that went into the level of detail and craftsmanship; the building truly is a masterpiece. However, one doesn’t have to be an architect, religious, or Christian, to experience the exciting beauty and enlightenment of the place.
The building seems to be under never-ending construction (Gaudi passed before the project was complete), which is understandable as not even modern technology can compare to Gaudi’s level of talent and creativity.
Although the lines for tickets and entry into the church are insane, we felt they were worth it! The Segrada Familia is inspiring, unexpected and spectacular.
Home to the botanical gardens, the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), Joan Miro museum and the site of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, this green hill offers the perfect locations for a picnic and beautiful views of the city.
Montjuic sclupture gardens.
We loved walking around the gardens and sitting on the stairs of the MNAC and taking in the view with a nice mojito.
Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).
Mojito at the Museu.
If you’re in the mood for some authentic Catalan music, the Palau de la Musica Catalana’s concerts are a must visit! The building is beautiful as well, quintessential art nouveau on the inside and the traditional facade was given a glass exterior.
When it comes to the local cuisine, the most important advice we could impart is to steer away from tourist traps! Those are most commonly found across La Rambla, the main boulevard leading to Barcelona’s port; these eateries are not only overpriced but also aren’t a good representation of the amazing Spanish and Catalan cuisine.
Our favorite places were the tiny tapas restaurants and cafes in the Gothic Quarter, and the more chic ones along Passeig de Gracia, which is a very chic shopping area as well. A great dish to try out is the traditional paella.
Qu Qu Tapas bar on Passeig de Gracia.
Sangria and tapas for lunch.
Another great idea for tasting an assortment of Barcelona delicacies is lunch at the Mercat de la Boqueria, the city’s biggest market, located on La Rambla. One can “hop” between the different stands and taste fresh cheeses, pastries and meat.
There’s plenty to try for dessert as well!
When in Spain, shop like the Spaniards! Spain is home to some of our favorite affordable retailers: Zara, Mango, Pull and Bear, Bershka. These stores can be found on nearly every street corner. Another local favorite that we just had to visit is the cool Desigual.
Our favorite shopping spots though are the cute little local boutiques selling unique designs by local designers.
Monjuic has local artisan shops with unique jewelry and home decorations.
A very Gaudian ring from one of Montjuic’s artisan shops.
Outside the city
If you’re looking to leave the city and explore the area, we recommend visiting Monserrat hill and Monserrat monastery, a beautiful monk mountain retreat about one hour northwest of Barcelona.
Another intriguing destination is the Salvadore Dali museum and theatre in Figueras, north of the city.
Our biggest recommendation, like in every big city, is to just walk around, explore and take everything in and “get lost” every once in a while. That is the best way to discover the city’s hidden gems, the ones that no travel guides can reveal! And if you do actually get lost, the locals are absolutely lovely.
Street performers on Portal de L’Angel.
What to wear
This time of year Barcelona has the perfect warm, yet breezy weather. We love walking around in flowy, easy breezy dresses and skirts, comfortable flats and a bag just big enough to hold a camera.
Loose fitting studded dress, golden-toed flats and Ray Bans.
Loose fitting checkered maxi dress and quilted leather flats.
If you’re more comfortable traveling in pants, colorful vibrant pieces and bold accessories will do the trick.
For evening we like to wear pretty cocktail dresses and big colorful jewelry that match the city’s vibrant energy.
Seafood paella and oversized jewelry.
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V & R