I had never visited Barcelona before and it was very high on my bucket list. It did not disappoint. It’s a crazy city with so many layers. There is incredible architecture, amazing food and very interesting people watching. Check out the top three restaurants we ate at in Barcelona at the end of this post.
We took the fast train from Madrid to Barcelona which was a breeze. Book this in advance to secure your spot. On arrival, we took a taxi to our accommodation which was located right next to the La Boqueria market. This was the market and food destination I was most looking forward to visiting on this trip and has been on my bucket list forever.
Whilst this market is very touristy, it is simply amazing. It is huge and still a working market for fresh produce. The fish market is incredible and I’ve been to the Rialto market in Venice.
Because we stayed next door we visited it three times. The first was to have a late lunch on the day we arrive at El Quim. This is one of the best market restaurants where you sit on a stool around a central kitchen and order off the menu.
They are famous for their egg dishes. We loved the baby squid with egg, patatas bravas, boquerón’s and a bottle of rose wine. On our second visit, we had a breakfast of vegetable tortilla and croquettes with jamon.
Barcelona is a great walking city with many parts such as the Gothic Quarter demarcated for pedestrians only. Once you get your bearings it’s easy to navigate. We spent two nights next to the market and close to the famous Las Ramblas boulevard, and two nights in the centre closer to the Plaça de Catalunya.
This lively square is the heart of Barcelona and it’s also the area that separates the districts of Ciutat Vella and the Eixample. It’s a great shopping area and we found a fabulous historic hostal to stay in.
The cool part about staying here is you are near the second largest train station in the city, the Passeig de Gracia which links to the main station as well as the airport and to Sitges.
The Gothic Quarter was my favourite area of Barcelona so if I ever return I will want to stay there.
We booked the red bus for 48 hours which in the end we didn’t need. The timing starts when you take your first trip vs in Madrid where each day is a separate day. On the first day, we did one of the routes to see the city from one angle from 6 pm and the next day we did the other route stopping at various sights along the way.
There is so much to see and do in Barcelona you have to pick and choose based on the time that you are there.
La Sagrada Familia is the awe-inspiring unfinished Gaudi-designed church. It’s definitely worth going inside and it’s essential to book the time slot in advance in the busier seasons.
The architecture of Barcelona is something completely spectacular and wonderful to see a lot of from the open-topped red bus. We also stopped at three of his other famous buildings in the city to get a closer look from the outside. There is just so much Gaudi to see in Barcelona.
I loved the views of the city from The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) on Montjuic. You can stop and sit on the stairs overlooking Barcelona and listen to buskers,
The Miro Museum was so lovely and a highlight of the trip. The Picasso Museum was a little disappointing as it was fairly small and none of his art was post-1950ish-ish. His big pieces are housed in large art museums all over the world.
We didn’t bother going to the local beaches as they don’t look that great. Being from Cape Town we are a little spoiled), but did take the train down to Sitges about 45 minutes out of town. This is a quaint seaside town with cobbled streets and is considered the gay capital of Europe. We settled on one of the main beaches for a few hours of tanning and swimming in the Med. Pure bliss!
A local friend of a friend who owns a restaurant recommended the restaurant Cal Pinxos which was superb and booking is essential. We enjoyed a seafood paella and
My top 3 restaurants in Barcelona
- El Xampanyet – I had one of the best meals of my life here. It’s Albert Adrian’s favourite restaurant in the city. Anchovies, bread and tomatoes, razor clams, tortilla with chorizo and sabrassada with egg. The Catalan custard Mille-feuille and biscotti dipped in Muscat were all simply spectacular. The service was perfection and they processed hundreds of people through this very small restaurant effortlessly. No reservations are required so you need to queue for about 20 minutes before they open to secure a spot.
- Cal Pep – started and run by Pep since 1989 it serves some of the best counter-style dining in the city – only 20 seats. Watch the chefs prepare whatever is fresh from the market directly in front of you from the stainless steel counter. We ate monkfish with garlic and pepper; a pork sausage on beans flambeed in port, and octopus tentacle on paprika potatoes.
- El Quim – as described above, is one of my favourite ways of eating. Simple food prepared very well with top ingredients in a casual eating situation.
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