I’m one lucky person to have a partner who plans surprise trips for me. This was one of the first (of several) surprise trips that Justin planned for me for my birthday. I told him I wanted him to keep it a surprise until just a few days before we were scheduled to depart. Based on the clues (warm weather, bring good walking shoes, great food), I figured we were headed to the wine country or maybe Southern California. So you can imagine how shocked I was when I found out we were going to SPAIN!
Barcelona was the first stop, followed by going to a coastal town called Tarragona for an international fireworks competition (of course) and finishing up with a few days in Madrid.
I fell in LOVE with Barcelona! The air, the neighborhoods, the food…all perfection! We stayed at a fantastic Airbnb right in the heart of the city near the Passeig de Gracia metro stop. Thus began 4 amazing days in this incredible city.
The food, food, food
We at some of the most delicious food throughout the city. Restaurants and cafes dot the sidewalks and courtyards, and there is an abundance of choice if you want to stop on the street for a quick bite, some light tapas or an Aperol Spritz. We found Plaza de les Gloriès Catalanes on our first day out exploring.
We found some of the most incredible restaurants for dinner. Some of our favorites were Cervaceria Catalana, Tapas 24 and La Pepita. It took a couple days to get used to sitting down for dinner after 10pm, but we quickly started to close down restaurants and then walk home in the warm air through enchanting neighborhoods.
All of the food was amazing but we especially loved eating fideua, a traditional Catalan dish, similar in style to paella but made with short spaghetti-like pasta called ‘fideos’ and gobbling down tons of octopus!
Food…on a tour
Justin surprised me with a walking food tour through with Devour Barcelona Food Tour through Gracia neighborhood — an old neighborhood in Barcelona that feels like you are stepping back in time 100 years. We had 9 wonderful stops for tastes, snacks and drinks. Starting with breakfast cava, of course! It was fantastic!
Food…in the markets
The markets in Barcelona are wonderful. We loved la Boqueria — filled with overflowing stalls of every fresh item you could imagine.
We gathered up some goodies, a lunch of figs, nectarines, cherries, dragon fruit (not local, but just because), a wonderful sheep’s milk cheese, two types of olives and the highest end, acorn-fed shoulder of Iberian ham (like prosciutto). We took our snacks to la Ciutadella park (past the Arc de Triomf) and ate in front of a stunning fountain we couldn’t stop photographing.
Basilica Sagrada de la Familia
One of the highlights of Barcelona, by far, is the incredible church of La Sagrada di Familia. I highly recommend getting tickets in advance to avoid the lines. It also comes with a free tour which we loved. Basilica Sagrada de la Familia, the largest basilica you can imagine, all designed by Gaudi. He worked on this for over 40 years and only completed 15%. It has been in construction for over 100 years (normal for European cathedrals) and was the most incredible building. His designs mimic nature and it is evident in the structures, color and lighting. It was stunning.
Parc Guell and Casa Batllo
Gaudi’s design influence is felt throughout the city. We took the metro up to Parc Guell, and spent a very hot morning walking around this beautiful park on the hill. It is one of the iconic spots in Barcelona and is definitely worth visiting.
We came back into the city and toured through Casa Batllo, another Gaudi-designed building close to our Airbnb. We booked tickets online a few minutes before we wanted to tour, which allowed us to skip the line completely. We rented audio guides that also came with smart phones that had augmented reality software, that when held up throughout the house, showed some of the design inspirations. It was so awesome we spent several hours walking through the house and exploring the various rooms.
Overall Barcelona took a piece of my heart and I can’t wait to return. In my dreams, we move there and manage a series of Airbnbs. In the meantime, at least we’ll get back to visit. Yo amo Barcelona.