The Ultimate Guide to Barcelona: Seeing, Dining, & Doing
It's a curious thing to take a redeye flight out of the tri-state area and wake up in the heart of Catalonia, emerging from your aircraft in a bleary-eyed state only to be slammed in the face with beauty. No, I don't mean the artwork or the architecture: I mean the humans. All of them. They were so incredibly beautiful. The customs agents at the airport could have doubled as Calvin Klein models. The taxi drivers smoldered. The shopkeepers oozed with charm. And the beauty that emanated from the locals – some born and raised in Barcelona, others expats that came for a two week holiday that lasted for five years – stemmed from a very distinct inner glow. It’s not a mere physical radiance that felt so prominent: it was a genuine aura that coupled passion with ease and tradition with mischief. The people that inhabit Barcelona seem to be in on a secret that those of the us in the United States desperately need to learn: when you exist in the moment, even the most ordinary aspects of your existence can be injected with love, laughter, and magic.
Sure, the wine helps. But I never actually got drunk during my 8-day stint in a city that seems to be the lovechild between old world European charm and modern cosmopolitan advances, all with the laid-back sentiment of a bustling seaside village. At the risk of sounding like a total cliché, I became intoxicated by everything the city had to offer. In fact, most of the trip was spent carrying 1.5L bottles of water and keeping hydrated for the next round. Even when I thought I had hit my tourist climax, Barcelona encouraged me to take a siesta; rinse off in the shower; and do it all over again.
We take a twenty-minute taxi ride into the heart of Barcelona, admiring the palm trees and flower-topped balconies. I booked my stay at the inconceivably beautiful Cotton House Hotel. As a five-star Autograph Collection Marriott property, I wanted to stay someplace that was conveniently located and contained amenities like a swimming pool in the summer heat. When I originally booked my trip, I had planned on going to Barcelona as a solo traveler. Or rather, I booked it with the intention to go, whether anyone was coming or not. Yes, it was pricey. Yes, it was worth every penny. I wanted to ensure that I was centrally located; highly walkable and easily accessible by taxi; and felt safe if traveling alone. Not only did the Cotton House Hotel check every one of these boxes, but the service was impeccable and the property itself was living art.
After doing a quick refresh and outfit change in the bathroom, we opted to explore the city by foot until our room was ready. Famished after a busy morning, we discovered a restaurant called El Buscatrufas more based on convenience that research. Admittedly, our worst meal of the trip was our first one…but that isn’t because it was bad. In fact, the eggs were so fresh they required no seasoning and the jamón was cooked to perfection: it simply comes down to the wow factor of the city. We ate our way around so many insanely delicious dining experiences that this one was purely lackluster by comparison.
This is where I insert my disclaimer, and I hope it eases some of your concerns: I have an affliction that I've battled to overcome my entire life. I am a picky eater. Like, astoundingly picky. While I prefer to claim that I am a super taster and my heightened sense of taste creates multiple culinary aversions, I am picky, nonetheless. However, even though I won’t eat olives, cheese (except melted mozzarella), shellfish (except for shrimp that no longer appear to be crustaceans), sushi, or most condiments…and I avoid eating gluten…I never complain, and I always figure it out. Let me tell you: Barcelona was immensely figure-out-able! My best friend came along and tried every unique food and flavor under the sun. She enjoyed squid, duck, sardines, olives, and cheeses of every variety. But me? I still had a foodie experience despite the laundry list of foods that cannot enter the airspace of my dish. For all of my fellow picky eaters out there, don’t be intimidated by a trip to Spain: most menus had options for every palate or restriction, with no shortage of flavor.
After refueling with some café con leche (every cup of coffee was perfect and didn’t require sugar to hide the taste), we meandered aimlessly throughout the Gothic district of Barcelona. Here you can find stylish boutiques and high-end designers mingling with old-world architecture. We made our way to the tree-lined La Rambla, a bustling promenade filled with a healthy dose of tourists. While we never faced any issues, we were duly warned about the abundance of pickpockets and con artists that prey upon tourists too busy taking selfies to notice their wallets are missing. In fact, think twice before you ask a kind looking stranger to take a photo for you, as there is a possibility they may run off with a new iPhone. We were overwhelmingly greeted by kind, friendly locals and curious, likeminded tourists…but that doesn’t mean we weren’t keenly aware of our choice in crossbody purses and RFID credit card holders.
Between the sweltering sun and the post-flight delirium, we opted to return to our hotel and relax before dinner. The notion that Spaniards shut down shop for a midday lunch and siesta may have gone by the wayside in the touristic areas of Barcelona, but foolish be the traveler that doesn’t take a midday break before starting part two of the day! The days in Barcelona were insanely long: the sun didn’t set until 10 o’clock in the evening, and even though we didn’t start our days very early (at least by the standard of an anesthesia provider), we were certainly early birds by Barcelona standards. Without even dipping our toes into the nightlife scene, the three-hour dinners and meandering gelato walks just happened to last into the wee morning hours.
After a trip to the rooftop pool and a life-sustaining nap, we made our way to a highly rated Catalan and Mediterranean spot called Vivant. In true tourist form, we had made an 8:00pm reservation on a Saturday evening…and the restaurant was notably empty. Despite the early bird special, our meal did not disappoint. We topped off duck confit and jamón Ibérico with a freshly made crema catalana. Using regular milk instead of cream like its French counterpart crème brûlée, notes of cinnamon and citrus permeate with every bite.
In a comedy of errors that quickly reminded me that I am quite fun in Europe, but not that fun…enter the pub crawl. After dinner, we had tickets for a popular and highly rated pub crawl. Since my girlfriend had recently traveled to Ireland for 5 weeks and had an epic pub crawl experience there, we decided to give it a go. Alas, when we got to the rooftop bar of a hostel and saw a crowd that could be young enough to have made me a teen mom…I knew the evening would be cut short. Yet the tour guide – so sweet! so excited! – we couldn’t bear to ghost him from the start.
We made our way to the bar to secure our included drink, which turned out to be a shot of rum, vodka, gin, or tequila. I stared blankly at the bartender – the only person who was remotely close to my own age – and asked for two shots of rosé instead. Next to us stood a group of very tall, very green Dutch boys who wanted to order “the strongest drink possible.” When handed a shot of tequila, salt, and a slice of lime…the poor kid had a dumbfounded look on his face. “How…do I…” Entering full educator mode (and thanks to years of being a bartender), I taught the novice the steps to a proper tequila shot…totally aware of the fact that he was going to be hugging the porcelain monster in an hour.
“One more bar,” my girlfriend said.” “Let’s try one more bar and then we can leave.” We walked to the next destination, meeting the sweetest college girls studying abroad from Tennessee. They inquired sweetly if we, too, were staying at the hostel…and I laughed, telling her those days were so long gone that they never existed. Latin music and pops of color interrupted our conversation as we quickly realized we had entered the hottest gay bar in town. Truth be told, between the killer music and the delicious shot, we would have stayed if we were maybe a decade younger. But we called it a night, reminding the sweet young ladies to hydrate and be safe and make good choices…absolutely giving “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom” vibes before beelining back to our hotel for the evening.
- Cotton House Hotel
o Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 670, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
- El Buscatrufas
o Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
o C. del Consell de Cent, 394, 08009 Barcelona, Spain
We took it easy on our first day in the city, knowing that we were about to hit it hard for the rest of the trip. And by “hit it hard,” I mean the art, architecture, and cultural experiences. A few months before arriving for my trip, I purchased a Go City all-inclusive pass. While options may vary, I opted for a 5-day pass that cost 149 Euro: hands down, one of the greatest investments I could have ever made. This pass allowed me to find a variety of unique and interesting tours over the course of the week, and even included access to a hop on/hop off bus exploring multiple routes around the city.
After a delicious breakfast in the hotel patio (a spot so ethereal it makes it difficult to leave), we made our way to the sculptural wonderland of Park Güell. Designed by the world-renowned Catalan Modernist architect Antoni Gaudi, the park was nothing short of magical. Our guided tour of the park described the history and detail behind the whimsical structures, and despite the summer heat, the tourists were out in full force.
As a sidenote, if you are planning to visit Barcelona in the summer, be prepared for a dry heat and blue, cloudless skies. While much of our trip called for temperatures in the mid-80’s, our last day was 95 degrees, and we felt every bit of it. We were told that Barcelona sees 310 days of sunshine a year! Keep your wardrobe light and breezy and your footwear cute but functional. Be sure to pack a straw hat, sunscreen, and lots of water to stay hydrated. Beautiful, ornate fans are sold in gift shops and by street vendors, and it would serve you to pick one up to cool off when you can’t find the shade. While many places have air conditioning, some of them aren’t fitted with the cooling units we are accustomed to in the States. Since many restaurants have an open-air component, you may be dining al fresco most of your trip. In terms of footwear, I wore a pair of lightweight Rothy’s loafers for the first half of the trip, switching over to a pair of reliable Havaianas flip-flops when a couple of strategically placed blisters reared their ugly heads. You will be walking a lot: most days we clocked in at 15,000 steps or more. With that being said, the only time you see anyone wearing athleisure or true sneakers is if they are exercising (or if they are American Tourists. ) Also of note, if you enter one of the many basilicas in Spain, be conscious of the dress code. Most places didn’t seem to enforce any restrictions in attire, but it may be a good idea to bring a Pashmina or light sweater if you are entering a religious center in less touristic areas.
The abundance of sunshine only added to the artistic wonder of Park Güell, with beams of light dancing off of multi-colored mosaic tiles. After hours of exploring the park, we rewarded ourselves with some fruity ice pops in a funky coffee shop. Our next tour of the stunningly imposing Sagrada Família was supposed to quickly follow, but after a visit to the local McDonald’s to see what the sour cream and onion french fries were all about, we were a few minutes late for the tour…and the group was already gone! Allow me to explain something about time in Spain: punctuality seems to be an afterthought. You must leave your structured timeline behind when you visit, because sometimes, things simply will not occur on time. We struggled to find a coffee shop that was open before an early morning trip, since the 7:30am marking on the door was more of a suggestion than a guideline. So when we encountered a line at McDonald’s…I was certain – me, the queen of “early is on time and on time is late” – that we would be fine for the tour even if we ran slightly behind. In fact, our first tour of the day started 25 minutes late in an effort to wrangle up tardy stragglers. Well apparently, if you are late entering Sagrada Família, you will be left behind. Thankfully, since we had booked through our Go City pass, we were able to find another timeslot a few days later.
And what does one do with two unanticipated extra hours before an evening tour of the gritty history of Barcelona? You find a gorgeous view and enjoy a pitcher of sangria. Since we had time to unwind before our evening tour, we casually people watched, enjoying a view of the edifice of the yet-unfinished basilica that began construction in 1882. Amid our observations, we noticed how pet friendly Barcelona is, and how many dogs were trained to walk calmly off-leash. Owners were able to bring their pets into stores and restaurants, and often would leave them just outside to patiently await their owner. In fact, we joked about how relaxed and well-rested Spanish dogs appeared compared to their American counterparts.
We strolled through the stylish Eixample district, admiring the flower shops and architecturally striking terraces. At one point, I was photo bombed by a group of Argentinians who still had beers in their hands – but who even cared? We snapped a quick photo and carried on with our stroll. After returning to our hotel refreshing for part two of the day (I am telling you, one day in Barcelona counts as two, and one week is twice as long), we made our way to the Raval section of Barcelona. We embarked on a guided tour of Barcelona’s gritty past, highlighting elements of danger, intrigue, and scandal. This was the first time I ever felt inclined to really pay close attention to my surroundings, but despite taking place in a rougher section of the city, we were able to explore parts of the city I would not have encountered if not for the tour group.
Truth be told, there was an authenticity of the Raval district that felt akin to the gentrification of cities in the United States. What was once a neighborhood filled with poverty now had upscale buildings and trendy cafés. We even explored a neighborhood that used to be known as the “Broadway of Barcelona,” with its own Moulin Rouge among historic clubs and cabarets.
I cannot for the life of me remember where we had dinner, but what I do remember is the most delicious salad I’ve ever eaten. I ordered a vegetarian paella that was very well prepared, but the ripe tomatoes, fresh avocado, sweet pieces of corn all mingled together in a light dressing that was refreshingly divine.
- Fast Track Access to Park Güell
- Raval Walking Tour: Barcelona’s Gritty Past
One of the biggest highlights of our trip was something of a last-minute discovery. A few hours before heading to the airport, my best friend called me. I was in the middle of finishing some errands and would call her back shortly. I heard a series of distinct rings in my text messages that left me wondering if perhaps our flight had been delayed or even cancelled. When I checked my phone, the message read: “I’m calling because we have to do this!” I clicked on a link for a class to make authentic espadrilles in Barcelona, and I immediately reserved our spot for Monday morning. Not only was it a AirBNB top ten experience in the world, but it also combined some of my favorite things: culture, creativity, and fashion.
We entered one of the nine Handmade Barcelona shoppes in Spain and met the ebullient and charming owners and staff, who elevated the experience from an arts and craft session to a highly curated artisanal event. We gushed over colorful ribbons while learning the historical roots of an espadrille heel – once the result of functional necessity by the common farm worker – eventually made iconic by Coco Chanel herself. Lively music, delicious churros, and bubbly Cava allowed a room full of strangers to create with a sense of ease, and by the end of the workshop, what started as a daunting task became a welcome challenge.
Whether you’re a fashionista or simply looking to embrace an element of Catalan culture, you can create your own piece of wearable art (or allow the artists to create a custom pair)…all while feeling immersed in the intersection between modern advances in a historical context.
After chatting with the amazing owners – who sat down to give us a handwritten list of their favorite restaurants, bars, and sights to explore – we navigated the narrowed alleyways of the old Gothic Quarter to emerge in the breathtaking Plaza Real. We enjoyed a delectable lunch at Les Quintze Nits overlooking the plaza including an appetizer, main course, dessert, and wine for mere 13.95 Euro per person.
We giggled our way through the Gothic Quarter (thanks to two pitchers of sangria and a leisurely lunch) in time for our walking tour of the magnificent architecture of Antoni Gaudi. Starting with la Sagrada Família and ending with the distinctly spectacular Casa Batlló and Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera), we marveled at the influence that could be found from hospitals to houses to hallways.
We completed the day with dinner at Ziryab, a hidden gem within the old quarter that fused Middle Eastern influence and Catalan fare. We opted to get a five-course tasting menu with a wine pairing – because you know, vacation – and the meal did not disappoint. Powerhouse flavors, phenomenal service, and a glowing ambiance left us feeling full and satisfied. To top off our meal, we had the most exquisite tropical fruit ceviche with a twist: pop rocks – yes – POP ROCKS – added an unanticipated shock to our palates.
- Handmade Barcelona (Espadrille Workshop)
o Locations Vary
o IG: @barcelonahandmade
- Best of Gaudi: Barcelona Architecture Walking Tour
- Les Quintze Nits
o Pl. Reial, 6, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
o Carrer de Grunyí, 5, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Listen to me: you are not “too cool” to act like a tourist. When you’re a tourist, you have every opportunity to dive deep into the culture of a new and interesting world. When I tell you that booking a cooking class with traditional Catalan cuisine was hands-down one of the greatest events of our trip, I don’t just mean this as a tourist: I mean it as someone who is wildly fascinated by the everyday life of those who exist outside of my personal bubble. Let me assure you, the Barcelona Cooking course wasn’t just a run of the mill shortcut to a finished product. It was over four hours long, starting at the famous Mercat de San Josep de la Boqueria (more commonly known as la Boqueria) and culminating with a five-course culinary experience.
After chopping only the freshest ingredients, procured from our morning trip to the market, we opened red and white wine that makes you realize that the finer things in life truly may come from Spain. We mingled with students from Texas, California, New York, and New Jersey while learning traditional techniques from our delightfully charming instructor. We made pan con tomate; fresh gazpacho; Spanish tortilla (quiche like egg dish that has nothing to do with a Mexican tortilla); a seafood and vegetarian paella (the latter for yours truly); and mouthwatering crema catalana. The meal was rich in flavor yet simple in ingredients, teaching us the value in how much a fine extra virgin olive oil or a high-quality saffron can make all the difference in your end result.
My best friend took a segue tour around the park while I returned for an afternoon siesta, before we embarked on another evening filled with art and architecture. We enjoyed an early evening tour through the Gothic Quarter, culminating with tapas and sangria. Every tour was unique in that every guide presented different tidbits of information. Sometimes, our guides were natives of Barcelona. Other times, they were expats who relocated to the city. Regardless, they were a wealth of information regarding history, culture, and recommendations.
We ended the evening with a late-night dinner at one of the most ethereal places I’ve ever laid eyes upon. Salterio is a stone-walled gem, hidden in the old Jewish Quarter of the city. It was recommended to us by the espadrille workshop owners for phenomenal food and a charming ambiance. When we entered the dimly lit wooden doors, we were a bit…confused. The entire kitchen appeared to be two oversized George Foreman grills and a Bunsen burner. The restaurant was so small that every patron appeared to be sitting next to one another, making fast friends with total strangers.
The owner was accommodating and kind, ensuring that we would be given a table being closed out by a few drunken college guys. When we finally sat down, there was no menu: only three items – totally vegan – that were the daily specials. But holy moly, when I tell you I’ve never tasted a mushroom marinated and grilled to perfection the way I did at Salterio…the food was nothing short of perfect. We enjoyed a pitcher of sangria with mint leaves and fresh nectarines that tasted like they were plucked from the orchard. The ambiance was cozy to be sure, but the décor and music made you feel like you were enjoying a casual meal with your closest friends.
Events / Tours:
- Mercat de San Josep de la Boqueria
o La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
- Barcelona Cooking
o La Rambla, 58, ppal 2, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
o IG: @barcelonacooking
- Walking Tour through the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona with Pintxos Tasting
o C/ de Salomó ben Adret, 4, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
Another day, another tour! When I tell you we did our best to squeeze every last drop out of our Go City passes, I mean it. We kicked day number 5 off with a tour of the ancient markets of Barcelona that focused on the history of commerce in the region. We took a deeper dive into la Boqueria; visited some of the oldest shoppes and business on record; and visited the world-famous Patisseria Hofffman. Ranked as some of the best croissants in world, this hidden gem in trendy district of el Born is the perfect bite to satisfy either sweet or savory. We took a pit stop into the local Burger King, both for a welcome bathroom break and to explore the menu. Interestingly, all of the fast-food establishments have a local spin on their menu and contain gluten free and celiac friendly alternatives.
From here, we deviated from our plans and stumbled upon the most exquisite accident: el Palau de la Música Catalana. This symphony hall is not only an Art Nouveau architectural masterpiece, but also the only concert venue of this style to be listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. We paid 15 Euros each for a self-guided tour, marveling at the colors and patterns that adorned every corner. The symphony hall was a feast for the eyes, appearing something like a delicious architectural cake for all to devour. We were lucky enough to catch a pair of ballet dancers practicing in the main hall, perfecting their performance as onlookers watched in curiosity.
We had an early dinner by Spanish standards at 7:00pm at a local Venezuelan restaurant that was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten. La Taberna de L’Eixample Venezolanos left our mouths watering with their bubbly cava sangria; perfectly stewed meat; tender yucca; and arepas that were grilled to perfection.
We made our way to the Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi for an intimate Spanish guitar concert by the Barcelona Guitar Trio. The performance was magnetic and emotional: exactly what you would want from such a passionate display of musical prowess. After feeling the warmth of the emotion (and the balmy basilica – always carry your fans, friends), we found some decadent gelato and wandered through the winding streets under the evening ambiance.
We stumbled upon an art shop featuring pieces by an Argentinian artist who made his way to Barcelona and never looked back. We chatted with the owner of Galería Maxó and his colleagues, admiring fascinating art and engaging in witty banter that lasted so long our ice cream had morphed into gelato soup. So much of our trip involved learning about the lives of others through happenstance: a chance encounter with a taxi driver, a hotel concierge, a shop owner – would lead us to a new sideroad from our main adventure.
Events / Tours:
- Barcelona Ancient Markets Walking Tour
- Palau de la Música Catalana
o C/ Palau de la Música, 4-6, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
- Barcelona Guitar Trio
o IG: @barcelona_guitar_trio
- Galería Maxó
o Locations Vary
o IG: @galeria_maxo
- La Taberna de L’Eixample Venezolanos
o Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 688, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
We took a break from the city in exchange for an early morning visit to the multi-peaked mountain range of Montserrat, an hour outside of the city. Our bus met at 7:45am (early enough by Spanish standards that we only found one coffee shop already open) and the guide prepared us for a visit to one of the worlds holiest monasteries and museums. I must admit, my motion sickness attacks with a vengeance when it comes to driving through winding roads, so I am thankful to have loaded up on Dramamine before the ride. Once we exited the highway, a stunning vision of serrated mountaintops peered through a morning fog. We opted to purchase a self-guided tour since we only had about two hours to explore the grounds before the bus returned to Barcelona.
After admiring a few artifacts in the museum, we entered the basilica in hopes of catching a glimpse of the Virgin of Montserrat, known as the Black Madonna or the Black Virgin.
The statue was said to be carved in Jerusalem at the start of religion and is revered by many to have healing and miraculous qualities. The basilica housing the icon was stunning in its grandeur, but there was something about Monserrat that had a striking spiritual quality. We learned that all religious affiliations are welcome, and the Dalai Lama once compared the spiritual energy of Montserrat to that of Tibet.
Truth be told, I do not consider myself religious…but highly spiritual, to be sure. I became overwhelmed by emotion while sitting in the basilica and excused myself to find a space to write. I found a shady rock overlooking the glorious mountains and started to type feverishly on my notepad:
I’m sitting on a rocky ledge overlooking a sky scape of curiously shaped mountains, wondering why God would create something that’s so beautiful yet so difficult to reach. There is something to be said of observing something rare and beautiful from a distance, for being too close may limit your perspective. And in this very moment, as I admire the moss-covered magnificence of this simple yet serrated skyline…I think about this life.
And I have to believe - since I believe in a higher power; since I believe in the balance of the universe; since I believe that being a hopeless romantic beats being a burnt out cynic – I have to believe, that by putting so much of this world at a distance…the universe is asking me to admire every piece of it from a new perspective. And from this bird’s eye view of the parts that create a complex and imperfect whole - I believe the jagged, craggy edges of where I have been will zoom out just enough to create a serrated sky scape that forms when the past and the future melt into the present.
Because you see…the imperfect edges of this intensely spiritual masterpiece were created when a body of water was displaced by the shifting of tectonic plates. At least, that’s according to science. According to legend, the angels sliced these mountaintops using a golden sword provided by God. The word itself – Montserrat – is the Catalan term for “serrated mountain.”
The view is odd, unlike any I have ever witnessed in person - yet it is an intensely spiritual one. There is a stunning interplay between the soft, foggy mist and the bushy green tops of trees. Between areas of lush, dense vegetation there are patches of barren mountaintop. The porous earth is fertile and filled with greenery in some areas, while being unable to sustain growth in others.
And yet this dance - this fluid motion between the peaks and valleys of abundance and austerity - allows me to appreciate just how much I have during the moments that it’s gone. But beyond this, it shows me that the lean times don’t last forever: if you shift your point of view; if you change your limited perspective; you will always encounter growth.
This growth becomes beauty. This beauty becomes serenity. This serenity becomes spirituality. And only thorough one’s relationship with a higher power; a search for meaning; a sense of purpose…can simple porous rock form a stunning, spectacular landscape.
In this moment I know, sitting here tucked away between the edge of a mountain peak and a high holy monastery…that the true test of life is never found in the easy parts. The true test comes during the bare patches. The rugged terrain. The scorched earth. The true test of life may feel overwhelming at times. But once you scale the top of the mountain, it’s nothing short of a masterpiece.
We made the trek back to Barcelona in time to discover a seafood restaurant that felt perfectly suited to any beachside town. Sr. Ceviche surprised me with the most tangy and delicious vegetarian ceviche, featuring hearts of palm in place of seafood elements. Served with patacones and followed by the most spectacular mousse for dessert (one dulce de leche, one passionfruit, both insanely delicious), we discovered yet another gem in a new neighborhood.
While I went to nap off the Dramamine hangover, my best friend went to both Sagrada Familia and Casa Battlò for the next few hours. I refuse to exhibit any FOMO, however, since I already booked my return visit to Barcelona in September. We enjoyed cocktails at our hotel bar before heading to one of the hottest new restaurants in Barcelona.
SLVJ (Salvaje) mixes trendy Asian-fusion cuisine with an unexpected party. With locations in Paris, Madrid, Miami, and Bogotá, we were seated in the charming outer garden and assumed we would have a pleasant meal and call it an early night. We watched as well-dressed patrons were turned away at the door, and thought to ourselves: what is going on in there? Not a moment later, one of the staff members asked if we would like to be seated inside. We approached a table elevated on a platform, in what appeared to be the lovechild between the works of Gaudi and the Amazon rainforest. We watched in awe as dancers came out at intermittent periods, displaying their moves to a soundtrack that ranged from Bad Bunny to the Backstreet Boys. The cocktails were perfectly balanced and ornate, and the food was finger licking good. We found ourselves enjoying a mix of people watching chair dancing, gushing over the Asian-Latin fusion while watching businessmen open bottles of rosé and order an entire menu of appetizers at midnight.
As we devoured a decadent passionfruit and coconut trés leches cake and perused our bill…we were shocked to find that even the hottest, trendiest spot didn’t come close to breaking the bank. If you’re used to New York and LA standards, you will be shocked by how affordable even the most upscale experiences in Barcelona can be.
- Low Cost Visit at Sunrise to Montserrat Mountain
- Sr. Ceviche
o Carrer de Trafalgar, 74, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
- SLVJ (Salvaje)
o Carrer d'Enric Granados, 86, 08008 Barcelona, Spain
We finally made it, guys! If you are still reading, I commend you: our itinerary is not for the faint of heart. On our last full day in Barcelona, we finally slept in until 10:00am and allowed ourselves to just wing it. We headed to La Boqueria and went to El Quim, a famous restaurant tucked inside of the market stalls between a fruit stand and a chocolate vendor. I know I have said this ten million times already, but THIS MEAL! It was the most unassuming place to have the most decadent, hearty brunch. We ordered café con leche and a way-too big bottle of cava that we couldn’t finish. Don’t skip out on the butifarra sausage with chickpeas and the slow-roasted oxtail with potatoes. Trust me: your taste buds will shower you with praise.
We wandered through La Rambla, slick with sweat during what was the most sweltering day of the week. We picked up a refreshing treat from Dick Waffle (not a misnomer) before heading back to the hotel to pack and prepare for our morning departure. The feather in our “tourist” cap was without a doubt a rooftop tango lesson by the sweetest and most welcoming professional tango dancing couple. Rooftop Tango House Barcelona allowed us to enjoy a refreshing glass of sangria while learning how to lead and follow in a basic tango sequence. Nestled on the top floor of a gorgeous gothic quarter apartment, the class ranged from couples to friends to a bachelorette party. It was an intimate setting that made an intimidating dance feel sweetly tempered, and while I wasn’t very good at it, it was such fun to get dressed up and dance the Argentinian tango on a warm summer day in Spain. Talk about a bucket list item!
I had the best mojito I’ve ever tasted in my entire life (with real Havana Club rum from Cuba) at La Burnessa, a sexy hole in the wall cocktail joint, before finishing off our grand tour at a locals best-kept secret. La República RestoBarfeatured a selection of Argentinian fare that is grilled to perfection, and we even scored an off-menu platter of traditional Cuban ropa vieja. The restaurant becomes the hottest live salsa bar in town, and apparently, it’s impossible to get in on a Friday evening after 10:00pm. While we didn’t stay to check out the night club (night clubs in Barcelona, by the way, open at 3:00am and close at 8:00pm!), we chair danced to the music with a smile…knowing this wasn’t a “Goodbye, Barcelona.” It was merely a “See you later!”
- Rooftop Tango House Barcelona
o IG: @tango_house_bcn
- El Quim
o Mercado de La Boqueria, La Rambla, 91, 08001
- La Burnessa
o Carrer d'Avinyó, 40, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
- La República RestoBar
o Carrer de la Mercè, 13, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
The music. The food. The art. The architecture. The people. Barcelona was every reminder to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures in life, regardless of how challenging things may seem. This trip was a beautiful reminder that by living your life like a tourist, you can uncover the magic in every moment. We made many new friends in our travels abroad, and I’ll leave you with this. When asked what happens when one cannot finish a bottle of wine, a Spanish native looked at us inquisitively and said: “Never in the 2,000 year history of Spain have we encountered such a problem.”
Slow down. Explore. Learn. Laugh. Sip. Savor. And may every day feel twice as long.