View of the city from the Nativity Tower of Sagrada Familia as taken by my iPhone
After Madrid, Barcelona is the second most populous city in Spain. It is also the most populated metropolitan area on the Mediterranean Sea. As a coastal city, it features beautiful beaches and serves as an important port. As such, it is also a primary port of departure for Mediterranean cruises. Of course; there is plenty of fresh seafood in the city, especially the seafood paella in the neighborhood of Barceloneta. In addition, the architecture of the city has a large influence from the late, great Antoni Gaudí. His most famous work, the basilica Sagrada Familia, sits in the middle of the city and has still not been completed after a century and a half. Moreover, Barcelona is an international, modern city. Visitors will be able to find all types of peoples and cuisines in the city. It reminded of a smaller New York although cleaner and with a more modern, efficient mass transit system and a Spanish flavor. Since Barcelona was the Spanish city that felt most similar to New York for me, I actually enjoyed the other cities more but mainly because I want to get away from the big city feel when I go on vacation. Nonetheless, Barcelona is generally one of the favorite cities in Spain for tourists. I certainly enjoyed it a lot.
Barcelona was the last stop during a family trip to Spain although it was the second to last destination for me since I missed Madrid and flew back to it after Barcelona. We flew to Barcelona from Granada and I flew back to Madrid. Both flights were short. El Prat Airport is a humungous, state of the art airport.
- Works by Antoni Gaudí
Sagrada Familia (Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain)
Sagrada Familia means holy family. It is designated by the Catholic Church as a basilica. The distinction from a cathedral is that a cathedral must be the seat of a bishop. Sagrada Familia is Antoni Gaudi’s masterpiece that is 150 years in the making and still not finished. Accordingly, his vision has endured the test of time and inspired many other gifted architects to continue his work. A total of 18 towers have been planned but only 8 of them have been finished. The completion is projected for 2026, which is a hundred years after the death of its original architect Gaudí. The basilica is intended to showcase the connection between the human and the divine. In addition, there is a clear fusion of human and nature. The exterior, especially the towers, look like hive spires. Sagrada Familia is also a monument dedicated to telling the story of Jesus. The three facades highlight a different, key moment in Jesus’s life: birth, death, and glory [everlasting life]. Although construction began well after the Middle Ages, Gaudí opted to go back to the architecture from that time, Gothic, instead of the more recent Renaissance influences.
The exterior and interior architecture are incredible. The audio guides also explain the various stories that different sculptures and designs throughout the structure tell. My favorite part of Sagrada Familia is taking an elevator up to the top of the Nativity Tower. The elevator goes up for 50 meters (164 feet). Then, visitors walk up the spiral staircase to the top. Moreover, there is no elevator back down so you need to walk the narrow spiral staircase back down to the ground floor. There are warnings for pregnant women or individuals afraid of heights. In all honesty, it is an optical illusion and does not present a real danger of falling out a window. Moreover, the walls are narrowly apart. Accordingly, the narrow walls are tight and feel like they squeeze onto you. Nonetheless, it is a valid warning to the faint of heart. For visitors that make the short trek up to the top of the tower, they are rewarded with stunning, beautiful views of the city below them. In my opinion, it was the best view of the city. For me, Sagrada Familia is definitely the highlight of Barcelona. I highly recommend it. In addition, definitely book your tickets to reserve an entry time ahead of time. Naturally, it is an extremely busy attraction.
Chill Bar (Carrer de Provença, 424, 08025 Barcelona, Spain)
If you are looking for food around Sagrada Familia, Chill Bar is a solid gastropub and a block from the basilica. I definitely recommend the Chili con carne, Cajun yogurt salsa nachos. They were very good. For my entrée, I ordered a burger: the “Gourmet”. The burger is a generous size. The beef is lean. There is also goat cheese on the burger. It is definitely hit or miss depending on your tastes. For me, it was definitely different. However, I felt indifferent to it in terms of taste. Overall, the food did not blow me away but it was very good. It was a good spot for lunch after we spent a couple hours touring Sagrada Familia.
- Park Güell
It is a park with gardens and architecture designed by Antoni Gaudí. The park sits on top of Carmel Hill, which is a part of the Collserola mountain range. The main section of the park is the Monumental Core, which requires paid admission. You can purchase tickets ahead of time to enter during a designated 30 minute window. Naturally, the Monumental Core is where the beautiful attractions are located. The architecture of the buildings and stone structures are unique and surreal with bright, lively colors. I felt like I was walking through a fictional world like a scene from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or Alice in Wonderland. Moreover, the park has a distinct fusion between its manmade structures and nature. For example, there is a walkway with stone pillars that are holding up the ground and vegetation above it. The pillars appear like tree roots coming out of the ground. Until you get closer for a better look, you may think they are natural.
Since the park sits on top of a hill in a mountain range, it also provides great views of the city. As you stand above the city, you will see the Sagrada Familia in the middle below and the Mediterranean Sea in the distance. Outside of the Monumental Core, there are also a couple of viewpoints you can take a short walk to for views. However, you cannot re-enter the Core after you leave it. Each viewpoint is a short 10 minute walk up from the center of the Monument Core but in opposite directions:
Mirador de Joan Sales (Camí de Can Móra, 1, 08023 Barcelona, Spain)
It is right above the northeast east corner of Park Güell. It provides one of the best views of the city. Since it sits at a higher elevation, I personally think it offers a better view of the city than the lookout points below at Park Güell. However, Park Güell still offers more photogenic pictures since visitors can include the colorful buildings, within the premises, in their photos with the city behind it.
Turó de las tres Creus (Av. del Coll del Portell, 72I, 08024 Barcelona, Spain)
It is on the northwest end of the Park Güell. The name means hill of the three crosses. Obviously, there are three crosses. In terms of views of the city, they are decent but the view of the main part of the city [e.g. Sagrada Familia] is obstructed. Your view of the southern part of the city is clear but it is not nearly as scenic. For this reason, this spot is certainly not a must see.
It is very easy to take mass transit to Park Güell. It took us approximately 30 minutes on the bus to go to the park and the stop was right across from the entrance. On the way back, we took a downhill walk to the underground metro to take it back into the heart of the city.
- Casa Battlo (Passeig de Gràcia, 43, 08007 Barcelona, Spain) & Casa Milà (Provença, 261-265, 08008 Barcelona, Spain)
Casa Battlo and Casa Milà are two houses in the middle of the city that were designed by Gaudí. Similar to his other works, they are colorful and uniquely beautiful. Moreover, they are conveniently four blocks apart if you want to see them both. While you can take tours and go inside both, we opted to just admire the pretty exteriors from the street.
- Other Points of Interest
1. La Barceloneta
It is a triangular neighborhood that sticks out right into the Mediterranean Sea. Of course, it is renowned for its beautiful beach. Since I visited in November, there was not many people on it. In the summer, it would have been packed. Nevertheless, the walk down the beach was enjoyable and pretty. The rest of the neighborhood has a beach town feel. Moreover, definitely try the paella in Barceloneta. It is known for being the best place in the city for it.
Barraca (Passeig Marítim de la Barceloneta, 1, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)
It is one of the more famous restaurants in Barceloneta for paella. I ordered the paealla with chicken pork chop, beans, mussels, squid, artichokes, and sausage. Not surprisingly, it was phenomenal. The rice was perfectly charred and crisp on the bottom. The seafood was very fresh. Mussels and calamari dominated the dish. Similar to the rice, the calamari had a tasty char to it. Next, the chicken was tender and moist. The couple pieces of pork chop were good. The one piece of sausage was good too. In addition, definitely get some bread so you can dip it in the olive oil at the table. The oil was awesome. The main dining area is on the second floor. Try for a window seat because it has a beachfront view. I was also confused when I got to Barraca. There is a small door that leads up the stairs to the second floor. I confused the restaurant next to it for Barraca at first.
- La Rambla
It is a 1.2 km (0.7 mile) street lined by trees. La Rambla is the most well-known shopping area in Barcelona. Stores and shops run along the street. The promenade also has outdoor seating for the restaurants along the strip and kiosks for food, souvenirs, etc. Of course, it is very touristy. Generally, the prices will be higher. There are plenty of other places in the city to shop so I am not entirely sure if it is worth it to shop at La Rambla. Nevertheless, it is definitely worth walking through to experience. It is a street you can walk through to get to the Mercat de la Boquerial and the Gothic Quarter.
- Mercat de la BoqueriaI
The market is right off of La Rambla. It is the most famous farmer’s market in Barcelona. Of course, there are plenty of options: paella, seafood, cured meats, fruits, candy, ice cream, etc. Definitely walk around the market before you make a decision on what you want to eat. I definitely recommend Kiosko Universal. If you are walking through the main entrance, the stall is all the way to the left at the end. The seafood is absolutely stellar. I ordered a sea bass. Naturally, it was very fresh. Moreover, it was perfectly pan fried and seared with olive oil and pesto. The dish came with fries. Kiosko Universal was definitely one of the best meals I had in Barcelona.
At the market, I also sampled cured meats. One of the kiosks let me try a piece of sausage. It was awesome but I did not want to purchase and eat three, packaged full sized sausage links. I wish it sold slices of the sausages in a snack size. Instead, I bought a paper cone of iberico ham that was available or 5 Euros. During my trip to Spain, I was trying hard to find iberico ham that blew me away. Unfortunately, I did not and concluded that there are just better cured meats in the world (e.g. prosciutto). Regardless, the ham is a decent snack in the market. Nonetheless, the sausages are better. I also recommend getting a smoothie at one of the fruit stands. There are many different mixes of smoothies available. My favorite ones include berries. I ordered one when I entered the market and a second on my way out of it. Definitely walk around to find the best deal. In particular, the stands in the front at the entrance are much more expensive. I found a stand that sold smoothies for 1 Euro.
- Gothic Quarter
The Quarter is home to the old city of Barcelona. It features medieval, Gothic architecture. There are also old basilicas and cathedrals. The streets are narrow and the roads end abruptly. The tight streets and illogical layout are due to the fact that the old city was built and designed well before the existence of automobiles. For these reasons, the Quarter is a bit dark and a maze. It is easy to get lost walking around. Nonetheless, it is a unique experience and a must do in Barcelona.
Churreria Laietana (Via Laietana, 46, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)
It is a very popular hole in the wall shop for churros with chocolate. The churros had an immaculate, golden crisp dough. The chocolate was perfect and very hot. Moreover, it was rich but not too sweet. Unfortunately, I did not know it was the norm to the drink all of the chocolate at the time I ate there. Accordingly, I ignorantly feared it was odd to do so. Do not make the same mistake as me. The chocolate is so good. While San Gines in Madrid is more famous for churros, I actually thought Churreria Laietana had the best churros that I ate in Spain.
Hoffman Pastelería (Carrer dels Flassaders, 44, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)
It is a bakery with very good croissants. They were flaky and buttery. I ordered a chocolate one with chocolate cream filling inside. On the other hand, I thought the hype around the croissants did not match the substance. In my opinion, the cream in the middle is the unique aspect that wow most visitors. While it is good, I have eaten croissants with tastier paste or cream inside. Accordingly, it is a nice bakery to stop by for croissants but not a must try in my opinion.
- Parc de la Ciutadella
It is a pretty city park just west of Barceloneta. I entered through the Arc de Triomf. It is a beautiful, red arch that was built by architect Josep Vilaseca I Casanovas as the gate to the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. It leads into the Passeig de Lluís Companys, which is a gorgeous promenade with rows of trees that line each side. The promenade leads into the park. It is a good park to walk around. The main attraction is the fountain in the north part of the park. It features a large, multilevel pool with sculptures and stairs that lead to an impressive arch at the top. There is also a zoo at the east end of the park. I would not say Parc de la Ciutadella is a must do but it was an enjoyable stop on my way to Barceloneta.
Barcelona is a major port. Cruise ships embark from Port Vell for a lot of Mediterranean cruises. Accordingly, it has a scenic waterfront. On the eastern edge of the Gothic quarter, there is a walking and running promenade that stretches south from Barceloneta. Along the way; visitors will get views of the Mediterranean, many sailboats in dock in the marina, and the city with the mountains behind it. There is also the Rambla de Mar, which is a shopping mall on a small strip of land that extends into the harbor. The waterfront is definitely a good spot for a walk in Barcelona.
- Food in Eixample District
Eixample is the district immediately west of the old city of Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter. The Sagrada Familia is at the north part of the district. We stayed at Vale Apartments (Carrer de València, 191, 08011 Barcelona, Spain), which was more in the middle of the district. It was a 30 minute walk from Sagrada Familia and a 20 minute walk from La Rambla. If you are looking for a place to stay in Barcelona, I definitely recommend Vale. The apartments are modern, clean, and spacious. It was good value for 8 people. In addition, I liked the convenience of the option to have a key for the apartment via an app on my phone. The front desk was also incredibly helpful with recommendations for the city and arranging transportation to and from the airport.
While there is definitely great food options throughout the city, there were certainly excellent food in the area around our apartment.
- Buenos Aires Grill Restaurant (Carrer de València, 189, 08011 Barcelona, Spain)
It is a legitimately great steakhouse. The wine connoisseur was very friendly and hospitable in going over the wine menu. We had an awesome red wine from Argentina. A unique aspect of the wine is that it was made from grapes that were grown on the side of a mountain. It was unique and wonderful. For an appetizer, we ordered the guacamole. The guacamole was smooth with a citrus aftertaste. Of course, the main event was the steaks. Our waiter brought over a tray of raw meat to help us make our choices. I went with the ribeye. It came out as a perfect medium rare. The meat was tender and melts in your mouth. On the other hand, I thought there was way too much sour cream on my potato. After dinner, we were given complimentary, small dinner drinks that included cava and vodka. However, the alcohol content was small so we could not really taste it. The drink tasted more like a smoothie. Overall, Buenos Aires had great food and great service. It was the perfect restaurant for us to celebrate our last night in Barcelona.
- Bosque Palermo (08011, Carrer de València, 163, 08011 Barcelona, Spain)
It is a solid restaurant for seafood. We started with salads and the tuna in them were very good. Of course, it has seafood paella on the menu. It included prawns, mussels, and clams. It was not as good as the restaurant I had in Barceloneta but it was decent. The rice could have been less watery and the bottom could have been charred more. However, I still thought it was very good. Naturally, the seafood was very fresh and delicious. One paella was not enough for 8 people so we ordered a second one. Unfortunately, they rushed it and it was very watery. We should have ordered two from the start so they had plenty of time to cook both. Next, the fish was very good too. We ordered two: sea bass and turbot. The sea bass was perfect. It was tender and pan seared with olive oil and pesto. In regards to turbot, it was a little odd. It had a kind of rubbery texture. It was not bad but not my taste.
- Cerveseria Catalana (Carrer de Mallorca, 236, 08008 Barcelona, Spain)
We went to this restaurant because it was open late and we were hunting for late night drinks and tapas. We ordered some wine, chorizo on sourdough bread, and churros con chocolate. The chorizo was excellent cured meat. The bread was very good. The churros were great and some of the best we had in Spain. They were thin, crispy golden sticks with hints of sugar. Of course, the chocolate was great. We would definitely go again for late night cravings in Barcelona or a full dinner. We were definitely impressed.
- Mostassa (Carrer de Mallorca, 194, 08036 Barcelona, Spain)
It is a very good spot for brunch. Our party all enjoyed our food, especially the egg dishes. I ordered the eggs benedict with pastrami. The eggs were poached well. They ooze out over the dish when you break them. In regards to the pastrami, the meat is leaner and drier than the fattier version that I eat in the United States. Accordingly, it was probably healthier but not as tasty. The platter came with potatoes, which were seasoned well. Moreover, it came with a side salad. I also ordered a jasmine tea. It was very good. I definitely recommend Mostassa for good food and a casual brunch experience.
- Restaurant Corea Haninjung (Carrer d’Aribau, 32, 08011 Barcelona, Spain)
My brother’s in laws are Korean. They were craving some good Korean food by the end of their trip to Spain. They approved Corea Haninjung as authentic Korean food. The sides that arrive before the meal were good and had variety: kimchi, fried fish, turnips, bok choy. Next, the bibimpbap was solid. In addition, tofu soup is one of my favorite Korean dishes. It was good at Corea Haninjung. It had a kick but was not too spicy. In addition, the buglolgi beef was very good. Finally, the jap chae[ vermicelli/ glass noodles] was my favorite. It also had a real kick to it. Nothing blew me away but nothing disappointed me. It was definitely a great place for Korean food in Barcelona.
- Foc i oli (Carrer d’Aribau, 91, 08036 Barcelona, Spain)
If you are looking for a great burger, I recommend Foc I oli. I ordered the El Chivito. It featured thin pieces of lean steak. It was not too heavy and I was full afterwards. In addition to the meat, there was gouda cheese, red peppers, and bacon. However, I could not really taste the bacon with the other flavors. The combination of mayonnaise, salad dressing, and caramelized onions provided the burger’s unique flavor. The onions especially made it explode with flavor. Moreover, I ordered a side of patatas fritas. There was a sweetness to them. I prefer my traditionally salty dishes to be salty. Nonetheless, the fritas were unique and good.
Foc I oli is a hole in the wall type place with limited seating. As such, it can only accommodate small parties.
- Xurreria San Roman (Carrer del Consell de Cent, 211, 08011 Barcelona, Spain)
I had mixed feelings about the churros at Xurreria San Roman. I ordered a churro with chocolate filling. On one hand, the filing was incredible. It was either Nutella or tasted exactly like it. On the other hand, the dough of the churro tasted a little soggy. I am not entirely sure how much time elapsed between the time they were made and the time I ordered them. However, I imagine they need to be made ahead of time with the chocolate filling inside. Accordingly, I assume the dough will get soft and soggy over time. I prefer the churro dough to be crispy and a little crunchy. Nevertheless, it was still enjoyable and the filing was great.
As an international city with everything, Barcelona unsurprisingly has a very representative coffee scene. There are definitely standouts among the coffee shops I tried.
- SlowMov (08006, Carrer de Luis Antúnez, 18, 08006 Barcelona, Spain)
The winner for the best latte I had in Spain goes to SlowMov. It had the perfect thickness and texture. The microfoam on top had minimal bubbles and was perfectly smooth. Moreover, the latte art was great. The layer below the top was watery but the drink was generally smooth and rich with coffee taste afterwards. It was close to perfection. I also love coffee shops that have clear cups like SlowMov. It allows you to see the beauty of the entire drink from top to bottom before you consume it.
- Onna (Carrer de Santa Teresa, 1, 08012 Barcelona, Spain)
The latte was rich and smooth with no hint of bitterness. It had a great creamy, milky flavor. The microfoam was stellar. The milk was not as thick as other lattes I tried in Spain. Accordingly, it was pretty close to the perfect texture. Moreover, the art was exceptional and my favorite latte art in Spain. Antoni Gaudi would have been proud.
- Nømad Coffee (Passatge Sert, 12, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)
It has multiple locations throughout the city. Its main location is on a beautiful, slightly hidden street. I had a great latte there. There was no bitterness. The microfoam on top of the drink was perfect: rich and smooth. There were very few bubbles. On the other hand, the second layer was watery but the rest of the drink was smooth.Although the art was not as good as the other drinks I saw, it was fine.
- Satan’s Coffee Coffee (Carrer de l’Arc de Sant Ramon del Call, 11, 08002 Barcelona, Spain)
I had a little trouble finding this coffee shop in the Gothic Quarter as the streets either have sharp turns or end abruptly. When I got there, the confusing journey was worth it because the flat white was amazing. It was very rich and smooth. The mircofoam was very thick with lots of milk. It was definitely one of the thickest flat whites or lattes I have ever had. I actually like the drinks thick so I was fine with it. However, I could see how others may think it was too thick. The extra milk dilutes the coffee taste a little. The texture and thickness was also consistent from top to bottom. Moreover, there was no hint of bitterness. The latte art was also top notch. On the other hand, I was so impressed that I made a second trip. I should have stopped while I was ahead. I went back to try the cold brew. Unfortunately, I was not a fan. The drink was sour and a little bitter. It was not my taste.
- Cafe El Magnífico (Carrer de l’Argenteria, 64, 08003 Barcelona, Spain)
It is another good coffee shop in the Gothic Quarter. The latte was very thick and smooth on top. However, it became less thick and more watery as I moved from the top towards the bottom. Nonetheless, the latte was overall rich with no hint of bitterness. The art could have been better but there was no issue with the taste. The drink came with a chocolate. It is a grab and go shop so there was no place to sit down.
- Black Remedy (Carrer de la Ciutat, 5, 08002 Barcelona, Spain)
I had mixed feelings about this coffee shop. First, the barista made no attempt to create smooth microfoam or draw latte art. Instead, he simply dumped a slop of crap [milk] on top of the drink like a chain would (i.e. Starbucks). On the other hand, the drink did taste rich and smooth with great texture under the disaster on top. Accordingly, the shop should just omit the mess on top from its drinks if it does not want to utilize micofoam to draw latte art. In addition, the latte was the most expensive latte I had in Spain. However, it was because it was also the largest latte I had. Nonetheless, it just means there is a lot more milk since lattes all have the same two espresso shots.
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