On the eastern coast of the peninsula of Spain, resting on the Balearic Sea, lies one of the most comprehensive cities in Europe. Barcelona has it all. Beautiful beaches, rich history, abundant culture, delicious and affordable food, amenable weather, an easy subway system, and simple transportation to and from the airport. I have been to Barcelona at least 5 times over the last 15 years, including just this past week and I have concluded that it is a city I could very happily live in!
These Are a Few of My Favorite Things
Explore with Steel Donkey Bike Tours – When I arrive in a city, I like to do a bike tour on Day 1. It gives you a great sense of the area, you can cover a lot of ground, and then you still have the chance to return to the places you want to see more of later in the week. I have been on many bike tours, in many cities, and Steel Donkey is one of the better ones. Small groups, personalized attention and educated guides make for a fun 4 hours of Barcelona exploration!
Visit Gaudì’s La Pedrera at night – I have done this night tour more than once over the past 10 years and I always recommend it to others as a great way to see Casa Mila. On this tour, you have the opportunity to learn about the building, see the rooftop (which is amazing and cannot be seen from the street), enjoy a light show, and end the evening with a glass of cava. Bonus – time the tour with sunset for a great view of the city including the Sagrada Familia.
Drink a cappuccino on the steps of the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). Housed in the National Palace of Montjüic, MNAC is Barcelona’s main art museum and sits prominently atop a hill at the end of the very regal Avinguda de la Reina María Christina. Staring out at the Venetian columns and overlooking the city, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view to behold at any time of day. Frequently your view will be accompanied by a local musician serenading the crowd, and from April until September, you may even get a glimpse of the fabulous Montjüic Fountain light show in Plaza d’Espanya. The museum itself isn’t bad either.
Explore the neighborhood of El Born – Tucked away behind the Gothic Quarter, El Born is my favorite neighborhood in Barcelona. I was lucky enough to spend almost 3 weeks in a little apartment there with my kids a few years back, and we loved so many things about it. The meandering cobblestone streets, the unique little boutiques, the terrific restaurants, the proximity to Barcelona beaches, and Ciutadella Park – especially on Sundays. When I was there last week, my friend Kimberly and I had an amazing meal of fresh and delicious tapas at Taller de Tapas Argenteria.
Try a Scavenger Hunt – If you’ve ever read my blog before, you know by now, I love a good scavenger hunt. Our guide from Steel Donkey Bike Tours told us about this fun fact and we think it will make for a great scavenger hunt idea. In 2015, Barcelona’s City Council passed a program designed to preserve long standing Barcelona shops that are being threatened by the pressures of increased rents and incoming multinational franchises. Thirty two of these shops were awarded the highest level of protection which guarantees the preservation of both exterior and interior assets. Each of the 32 shops are marked by a plaque on the sidewalk like the one in front of this amazing fruit and nut store near the Picasso Museum called Casa Gispert. This place is like a museum inside and is the only place around that still roasts their own nuts on the premises. Even if you don’t do the scavenger hunt, we recommend you find this shop. We stumbled upon several others during our exploration as well. Make it a goal to find all 32 on your next trip! Hint: Several are located in the Ciutat Vella.
Experience the whimsy of Parc Güell – Parc Güell makes my list of favorites but only barely… and mostly because I remember the days when you didn’t need a timed ticket just to see the tiny cordoned off section of the park (La Zona Regulada) that shows the undeniably amazing work of Gaudí. And when you didn’t have to wait in line just to get the privilege of taking a photo in front of one of Gaudí’s Hansel & Gretel like gatehouses. Alas, none of that is possible anymore as hordes of tourists line up year round just to see the Parc. You need a timed ticket for entry into La Zona Regulada – time it to coincide with the sunset for an even better experience.
Eat Palmeras – preferably the chocolate covered ones. I have been spending time in Spain since my high school days and always look forward to these sweet and flaky pastries shaped like scrolls or palm trees. When I studied in Madrid in university, I ate a Palmera every single day! Last week I found one that was modeled after a NY black and white cookie – covered half in regular chocolate and half in white chocolate. Yum!
Visit Altair Bookstore – this place is defnitely worth a visit if you love travel as much as I do. Located on Gran Vía de les Corts Catalanes, this two story bookshop and cafe has everything a traveler could ever want. From general guidebooks to specialized guides, to coffee table books, to a plethora of maps, this store has it all. My favorite was the “old school” message board for travelers looking for an adventure buddy.