A Wander Guide: Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona. My sister’s favourite place in Europe. A city in which I’d only spent a few fatigued days after finishing the Camino many years ago, and somewhere my mother had never visited. We allotted four days, just long enough to wander around aimlessly & fall for the city’s charms. We booked seats beside each other on the airplane & a triple room in a fancy hotel. Our plan was simple – to indulge, while also having quality time. We filled our weekend to the brim with food, drinks, napping, more food, coffee, & an unbelievable amount of laughter.
After the jump there are heaps of recommendations on everything I think you’d enjoy in the city.
where to STAY
Hotel Petit Palace Boqueria Garden Barcelona // thinking back on it now, we must have gotten very lucky with our hotel booking. 30 seconds walk off La Rambla, this is one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed at in my whole life. The house scent – which you can actually buy a bottle of – set us at ease from the moment we set foot in the building, which is gorgeous. Great room, lovely staff, fantastic location, & an outdoor bar housed in an old courtyard. We of course sampled many a cocktail there, obviously.
what to DO
Picasso Museum // miraculously, there was no queue whatsoever when we rocked up at the beautiful buildings housing the museum. We waltzed right in & leisurely looked through the museum without having to fight with others for viewing space. The focus is mostly on Picasso’s early works, which is rather a nice change from the norm. Added bonus: during our visit, there was a small restoration team carrying out work on a large piece – ‘At the Sick Woman’s Side’ – which was endlessly fascinating to watch.
Aquarium Barcelona // call me childish, but I love a good aquarium. I could spend hours watching all the different species swimming around in circles, they’re so calming. I wanted to hit up this aquarium for one specific reason: the underwater tunnel in which sharks & what-have-you swim right over your head. All of my childhood dreams come true… at 25 years old.
Horta Gardens + Labyrinth // you have to take a train out of the city to visit Horta, but it is so worth it – this was one of my favourite stops. Very inexpensive to visit (like, €2 or €3), these are some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever had the pleasure to explore. They’re so peaceful & quiet, away from the throngs of people back in the city. The main reason we headed out to Horta was for the labyrinth, because although we are three fully grown ladies we enjoy a labyrinth as much as the next kid. Pro tip: head to the nearby Hotel Alimara afterwards for a glass of rosé in their beautiful courtyard. It was just what we needed after a few hours in the sunshine.
Montjuic Cable Car // now, I don’t know about your mother, but our mother is easily terrified. Planes, trains, elevators, strangers, swinging cable cars hanging high above the city, you know. We somehow convinced her the cable car would be fun, and all three of us cried the whole way to the top (two with hysterical laughter, one with sheer fear). Jokes aside, it was one of the very best moments of our trip, with fantastic views all over the city. PS we didn’t bother going into the castle, but there’s a nice area at the top of the hill for walking around.
Sagrada Familia // admittedly, we were unable to get tickets to see inside the cathedral (they sell a set amount each day), but even without going inside it is 100% worth visiting the outside. Nothing quite prepares you for the sheer vastness of the building, which is like something out of a dream. My mother couldn’t quite believe her eyes.
360 view @ Las Arenas de Barcelona // truth be told, we stumbled across this entirely by accident. Upon investigation, we learned that it was only €1 to go up, so we literally couldn’t not. Perfect viewing platform. with some nice bars & restaurants up top.
where to have breakfast/brunch
Caravelle // hands down, the best brunch we had in Barcelona. The whole experience from beginning to end was faultless. It started when we were seated at a spacious table smack bam in the middle of the buzzy cafe by a waitress so cool that we all wanted to be her. Pro tip: I couldn’t recommend the pulled pork eggs Benedict enough – it was insanely delicious, melt-in-your-mouth perfection. If eggs benny ain’t your thing – the Caravelle huevos rancheros were also to die for. We’d all go back in a heartbeat!
Milk Bar + Bistro // our last brunch place of the trip, I’d honestly kind of written it off because I didn’t think it would live up to Caravelle. I was wrong. Milk Bar + Bistro do an inventive ‘Recovery Brunch’ menu, & what I had was on 100% par with the previous morning. Eggs, potatoes, chorizo, cheese, and some hidden spinach you don’t even notice eating. How perfect does that sound? Pro tip: get there early; we heard staff informing others there was an hour’s wait shortly after we arrived.
Federal Cafe // before even being seated, I really liked the feel of Federal Cafe. It’s all light and airy, and I felt at ease from the moment we stepped through the door. I had a fabulous small skillet dish with baked eggs, sage roasted potatoes, bacon and creme fraiche. There also was a super delicious feta, caramelized onion + rocket bruschetta situation that we loved!
Citizen Cafe // a TripAdvisor find. A cute, rustic-chic cafe. Books everywhere, fairy lights, communal tables, exposed brick, wood furnishings etc. You get the picture. The coffee was great, the freshly squeezed orange juice was fantastic, and the food was just okay. I went for the blueberry pancakes, & each pancake had just one blueberry inside. Perhaps I just chose wrong, but one blueberry is obviously no where near enough.
where to eat
Viana // without a doubt, the best meal we had in Barcelona. We booked a table two days in advance and still only managed to snag a seat for 10 pm. For my main I had a beef cheek with sweet potato puree dish, which basically had me groaning right there at the table. It was unbelievably tender & I almost cried with happiness at how perfect everything was. Our lovely waiter – who was actually Polish, but had lived in our area of Dublin for 8 years – made the whole experience one to remember. He conjured up cocktails that weren’t on the menu, treated us to several samples of exotic drinks, & gifted us a bottle of the most delicious Crema de Orujo to bring home to Ireland. Perfection.
La Alcoba Azul // a tiny little restaurant crammed into the Gothic Quarter, with character oozing out onto the street. Small tables and exposed brick walls lit by candlelight alone. My memory of that night is kind of hazy, but I do remember that we had a killer meat & cheese platter, as well as pan con tomate, and a few various tostas. Everything was devoured.
Bar Lobo // located conveniently close to our hotel, we took to Bar Lobo one late afternoon for snacks. The space is fantastic – bright & airy, high ceilings, comfortable seating. We chose a random selection of things off the menu and loved it all. Bravas, pan con tomate, nachos, chicken wings, and an utterly delicious tandoori chicken tapa. Needless to say, we stayed for seconds.
Taco Alto // sometimes you just need a taco, simple as. This adorable taco joint is near the Arc de Triomphe (& also to the Motel One rooftop bar!) & has a great variety. We tried out a whole variety of things: one chicken & one pork taco (the pork stole the show), the nachos topped with beef, a quesadilla of some sort, & a frozen margarita + some Mexican beers we’d never heard of. Everything was ahhh-mazing.
Chok The Chocolate Kitchen // an excellent doughnut display enticed us in & convinced us to buy some to bring back to the hotel room. We enjoyed them so much that we went back again later!
where to drink
Roof terrace @ Motel One // after mine & Boyfriend’s successful stays at the Motel One in both Bremen and Vienna, this was my first choice of hotel for Barcelona. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a room for three adults, so I had to make do with a visit to their rooftop bar. Friends, I cannot recommend it enough! We spent the whole afternoon lounging on the bouncy outdoor couches, surveying the views, drinking spritzes to our heart’s content. That rooftop was my happy place.
Schilling // a lucky find. We’d already had a few drinks & were on our way home for the night, when suddenly we spotted Schilling & unanimously decided bed could wait. The place seemed so classy & elegant somehow – we fell for its charm. All three of us opted for cocktails, each was mixed to perfection. An old fashioned for me, an espresso martini for my mother, & a long cocktail of sorts for my adventurous little sister. Pro tip: the hummus tapa is delicious! I was skeptical, but it was perfect! It came in a generous heap, with a pile of mince on top & plenty of pita on the side.
Roof terrace @ Zinc Bar // after experiencing the pure joy of visiting the Motel One terrace, we thought it only fair to give another Barcelona rooftop a try! Once again, we lounged on comfy couches in the sunshine, shaded by a well placed parasol, drinking until it was almost frowned upon.