Weekend gateway in Barcelona
A few weeks ago, my girls (my best colleagues!) and I went on an Easter trip to Barcelona to enjoy some sun, tapas and quality time together. Visit wise we hadn't planned much but our interest were very clear: 2 of us wanted to party, 2 of us wanted to visit. Considering this focus, I think we managed quite well and that everyone was pleased!
We arrived in Barcelona around 8 PM on Friday, flying Ryanair, and headed to our apartment located in Gracia. I had never been to this neighborhood before but I must say it was a refreshing blend of calm and food. Restaurants and bars are legions in Gracia and if you would like to see a piece of quiet and local Barcelona, this might just be the right place for you...
..But Barcelona is so much more! This lively city has a lot to offer in terms of culture, art, food, quality of life, fun, architecture, sports even. Just wander the streets of a chosen neighborhood and keep your eyes open for something special: a street art, a vintage store, an ice-cream parlor, an antique shop, a statue, a performer or a stunning building might just be in front of you. Let yourself live and be amazed! I realize now that a typical mistake of travelers is to prepare in excess their trip, don't account for every minute, you will miss on truly special moments.
On my bucket list of things to see in Barcelona I had for sure (considering this isn't my first trip):
The Sagrada Familia
The historic neighboorhood
La Casa Mila
La Casa Batlló
I managed to see it all without missing out on the little pleasures, I wasn't running a marathon and could let myself live. This allowed me and the girls to find a bunch of good addresses that I will share with you!
The first stop that I will mention took place on the night of our arrival: we ate at La Bicicleta, a little restaurant in Gracia that serves excellent tapas! You will probably see this restaurant on TripAdvisor, well ranked, but it is also a place that locals love...And what locals love is usually pretty good! We ordered a few dishes to get in the Barcelona mood before heading to the second good address of that night: a gin bar called Elephanta. Rather small but very cozy, this bar has a long list of cocktails and a wide choice of gins, however you may have to wait for a seat > it is usually crowded!
La Bicicleta: Carrer de Verdi, 65, 08012 Barcelona, Spain
Elephanta: torrent d'en vidalet, 37, 08012 Barcelona, Spain
After a good night of rest, we headed on day 1 to La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter were we made our next stops, starting with El Quim that we discovered at La Boqueria. If you are a bit familiar with Barcelona, you will have heard of the covered market called La Boqueria, a fun stop for tourists where you can find a few gems: El Quim is one of them, Pinotxo is the other! Both kitchens offer great food however get ready to wait a while to get a seat...Unless you arrive extremely early. Now if you are lucky, you are in for a real treat!
Stopping at El Quim you can expect a bunch of well-known tapas as well as fish and sea food, all of them well mastered. If you are looking for a little something more, I would suggest to try Pinotxo and chat with Juanito, the soul of La Boqueria. He is absolutely lovely and serves delicious not so common dishes such as the pulpo and beans below. And if you want to snack on some fruits or have a refreshing juice, look around and pick a stall!
La Boqueria: La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
El Quim: Mercado de La Boqueria, La Rambla, 91, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Pinotxo: Mercado de La Boqueria, La Rambla, 91, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Wandering further into Barcelona, we ended up at La Barceloneta for some shopping (malls are open during Easter and offer discounts) before heading back to the Gothic Quarter to marvel at the beauty of the well preserved buildings and churches. Walking these ancient streets is a real delight despite the crowd and once you've seen the main highlights of the neighborhood, you can simply stroll the streets and take in everything you see... It really is an intricate mix of old and new!
For breaks, if you need one, strop at Café Tiana for a sangria and a focaccia or in one of the many other cafes and ice-cream shop from the Gothic Quarter! They are legions and usually healthy/vegan/bio/organic. Alsur Café is another good option is you want a good wifi and a Mango Tequila cocktail! Note that Barcelona has a policy on alcohol consumption (and of course the selling of alcohol) but if you feel like sipping on a mojito while visiting > ask for a mojito to go, bartenders usually accommodate you like they did below ;)
Café Tiana: Carrer dels Escudellers, 59, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Alsur Café: Carrer de Sant Pere Més Alt, 4, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
On the evening of day 1, we weren't sure where to eat until we bumped into a group of Englishmen who suggested Cantina Machito, a little Mexican place in Gracia. We didn't feel like going back into the city and we ended up enjoying plates of tacos and nachos! I am not a Mexican food expert but I can testify that everything was very tasty and served with generous portions of homemade fresh guacamole and melted cheese.
Cantina Machito: Carrer de Torrijos, 47, 08012 Barcelona, Spain
Day 2 was supposed to be about brunching and having fun, we had planned to visit a place called Timeline for brunch but it was closed on Easter Sunday. In the end, we found a little terrace, Bandarra, where we stopped to brunch. The menu is quite interesting I must say, really not what I expected though: calf tongue, deep fried squid, foie foam etc. I must admit we didn't venture into the weirdest options and tried to keep this brunch as "healthy" as possible despite all the fried/deep fried food we received in the past meals.
Bandarra: Carrer de Girona, 55, 08009 Barcelona, Spain
The fun part of the day came later with our visit of the Ribera where a pole dance teacher was giving a performance on silks. It was sunny and just lovely so we hung out there until it was time to head back to the apartment, taking an itinerary full of stunning buildings and facades. That evening was supposed to be all about partying and testing the best seafood restaurant of Barcelona! Around 9 PM we walked to La Paradeta for dinner. The concept is simple: you choose your fish and seafood as well as the cooking method, then you choose your drinks, pay and find yourself a table.... Food is Coming!
The food is fresh from the day and cooked on the spot and the seasoning is simple but perfect! We really wanted to try everything on the menu and ended up ordering a bit too much...It allowed us to make friends with the table next to ours though! The grand total was 96€ for everything you will see below, a bottle of wine, a few softs, salad, bread, sauces.
La Paradeta: Carrer Comercial, 7, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
The rest of the evening was spent visiting bars and clubs around El Born & El Gothic. We stopped at Sincopa which is supposed to be a "rock" bar. It looks quite cool but the music wasn't rock at all and the cocktails weren't what we hoped. Then we found La Luna which was a lot nicer but also more classy and expensive. However the decor is really worth it: vaults and dim lights were so charming! We ended the night at Rei de Copes on the plaça Reial. The bar was crowded but we had a lot of fun dancing on latin hits!
On our last day, Easter Monday, we decided to simply walk the city and stumbled upon a local bakery that wasn't just opened...It was crowded with people coming to collect their Easter cakes, and they were stunning! Traditional or customized, I could have eaten them all but I settled for a croissant, a coffee and a homemade Easter egg. It was quite interesting to see a part of the local's routine during this holiday and how nice they all were! We got a full explanation about why some cakes had hard boiled eggs on them and the logic behind some of the creations. Easter is a big deal in Spain and for the first time, I was part of it! So don't listen to people who tell you not to visit Barcelona during Easter!
Pastisseria Cusachs: Calle es Bailén, 223, 08037 Barcelona, Spain
After this stop, we strolled some more...Actually 14.5km...to make sure we had taken in as many memories as possible: stunning facades, the sit down on Plaça Catalunya, la "Dolce Vita" as Italians would say and more! Because yes, when you travel to Spain or Portugal or Italy, life is very different and lot more "despacito" but also a lot more fun and happy! I guess that's a characteristic of sunny countries!
The only little downside of the trip is the weed...My gosh I could smell it everywhere and during our night out (11PM to 5AM catching the first metro home), we saw plenty of sellers. They were never aggressive but you would see them and a bunch of drunk/under influence people. This apart, Barcelona is such a nice weekend gateway location!
If you are looking for a map to pin-point where we stopped, check the Google Map below! It contains addresses from this trip but not only! Click here to view the map in a new tab.