We were lucky enough to attend a wedding a few weekends ago in the heart of Catalonia. However, you can’t go to Spain without dropping in on Barcelona first. It had been a dream to visit this place for years. We only had a day spare, but it was just enough time to taste the splendours of this creative Mediterranean city, steeped in history. We arrived at midnight, checked into a hostel and spent the next day exploring.
As luck would have it, the weather was splendidly sunny! We wandered down the old cobbled streets towards the Arc de Triomf, where palm trees lined the wide pathways and people strolled about in the sun, eating ice creams. We were on the hunt for some good churros and it was not long before we found it. Valor was recommended to us by the hostel owner. It is conveniently located next to the old cathedral, but it is tucked away a bit, so you might miss it if you were not looking for it. We ordered Churros with chocolate dipping sauce– we probably should have shared! We ended up with two mountains of this deep fried speciality, plus two large mugs of thick chocolate sauce. Needless to say, we managed to polish it all off!
The next logical stop was the Catedral de Barcelona. This magical building was constructed largely in the 14th century, though the neo-Gothic facade we see today was added much later. Free to enter, the interior of the building is equally as impressive. I particularly enjoyed the inner courtyard, complete with fountain and greenery.
Next, we wandered aimlessly down the narrow cobble stoned alleys of the Gothic Quarter and Old Town, soaking in the history and admiring all the quaint shops. With more time here, I would have spent a good deal of money shopping!
Luckily, the ocean was calling – we continued our walk down to the beach, where people were sun bathing, swimming and enjoying the Summer weather. Feeling parched, we decided to buy a 10-ticket train pass, which enabled both of us to take up to ten trips on the subway. What’s more, the train was air-conditioned, which offered us some much needed relief from the burning sun!
We decided to take a visit to the well-appraised Sagrada Família. This famous church, designed by Anotoni Gaudi, is a masterpiece, though unfortunately the building was covered in scaffolding on our arrival, so it was not quite as spectacular as usual. Furthermore, we were unable to go inside, as all the timed tickets were booked out and would not be available until much later in the afternoon. So, if you have your heart set on going inside (and I’m told it is well-worth the costly entrance fee), make sure you book online or arrive super early.
Instead, we decided to find some lunch. Again, we listened to our hostel manager and took a train to a well-reviewed tapas bar called Ciudad Condal. We arrived in a busy period and only had to wait five minutes for a table. The glass display cabinets were brimming with seafood and paella, amongst other dishes. We sat down to our table before a rather enthusiastic waiter came by. We asked for two glasses of sangria, but it only came by the jug – so of course we got the jug! This proved to be quite interesting when we were viewing inside a Gaudi building later in the afternoon!
We also asked the waiter about the vegetarian options – before you knew it, he had ordered us everything on the menu! Our table was laden with marinated asparagus and mushrooms, fried eggplant, Tortilla de Patata (a potato omelette), salted green peppers and fried potatoes with aioli sauce. We finished off the meal with a Crema Catalana before stumbling back out into the Summer heat, ready to continue our sightseeing tour.
Not far away, we came upon two more Gaudi buildings – Casa Balltó and Casa Milà. Both privately owned establishments, they make a lot of money through tourism – entrance is expensive, at 20 euros per person. However, I did not want to leave Barcelona without exploring one of these majestic buildings. We chose Casa Balltó and walked into this organic building with high hopes. It did not disappoint – nothing in this building was straight. The curved wooden doorways, gently moulded door handles, circular rooms and colourful tiles made it feel as though we had walked into a kind of dreamland!
The audio guide was quite clever, in that it operated as a smartphone – you could hold the camera up to the room and it would remove all tourists from the screen, as well as displaying old furniture. As we climbed higher, we admired the pretty shades of blue tiles that stretched up the centre of the building. At the very top, curved chimneys are covered in colourful mosaic flowers, the roof curves a bit like the spine of a dragon and there is a beautiful view over the Barcelona rooftops.
Our last stop was Mercata de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. Situated in La Rambla, these bustling food markets are packed with delicious feasts. We purchased some paella for the onwards journey. It was almost dark, we were tired and we had a bus to catch. But Barcelona had been good to us and these memories would last forever.
Have you got any interesting stories to tell from Barcelona? I would love some more recommendations for next time!