Barcelona was never on my bucket list. The opportunity presented itself last year when a dear friend of ours asked if we’d like to go for his birthday. Our desire to go was three-fold, well, four if you count I, and less so my husband love to explore new places.
For one, we love our friend and wanted to celebrate his 30th birthday.
We also weighed the fact that a trip proposition of this magnitude will soon not come around often due to friends entering different life stages that may prevent them from big group travel (hello babies, home ownership and relocation).
Lastly, my California-born husband minored in Spanish in undergrad and had once dreamed of spending a year living in a Spanish speaking country. I asked him about a year and a half ago, almost as a “last chance” if he’d like to make the move – he said no, but when offered the trip, it was the trifecta of why we said yes to the opportunity.
A city that wasn’t on my radar became one in which I could have stayed another full week.
Where to Stay:
One of the most difficult aspects of travel planning is figuring out where to stay. We, “The Great 14” as we called ourselves during this trip, stayed in an Airbnb that slept 17 in the well-known Barcelona area known as “Las Ramblas”. The region is convenient, a 10 min cab ride from most places, including the beach, bars and numerous dining options.
Where to Eat:
La Xampanyeria – Visiting this tapas bar is a must. (Be prepared to withhold your judgement of this book’s cover). The energy in this quaint tapas bar is palpable. I remember walking in and semi turning my nose up; a few tapas and sips of Cava later, I came to fully understand the hype. Go if you want a unique experience overflowing with inexpensive, quality tapas and family-made Cava (sparkling wine) by the bottle at just 5 Euro per bottle.
Can Dende – Can Dende is a charming, cozy, authentic and delicious brunch/lunch spot. We waited an hour for a table for 6 but the wait being accompanied by sidewalk drink service made the wait seem far shorter. Three “Rossinis” later (a cocktail with sparkling wine and pureed berries) and our name was being called!
Tip: Order the fried green tomatoes. The corn relish on top will blow your mind. Also, be sure to check their hours of operation. They’re closed at times travelers might not be accustomed to.
What to Do:
Traditional Sight Seeing: La Sagrada Família, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Museu Picasso de Barcelona, La Catedral, La Boqueria, Futbol (soccer) games.
Tip: Most attractions require tickets for entry. Go online to find out hours of operation and entry requirements. If you’re on a budget, many attractions can be appreciated from the outside such as La Sagrada Familia and La Catedral. Buy your tickets in advance for Park Güell as it books several days out.
Eat Tapas and Drink Cava: Oh Cava! Cava is a sparkling wine native to the Penedes region of Catalonia, just outside of Barcelona. Try traditional Catalonian cuisine as well as the different variations of Cava, ranging from blanc to rosé, from very dry to sweet. On my cuisine list, though we did not get a chance to go, was the Tapas Bar “Quimet & Quimet.” The restaurant is family-owned with reviews boasting an “attentive staff, delicious and inexpensive tapas and great ambience.” When I return, this will certainly be at the top of my list!
Take a Day Trip: We fell head over heels for Sitges, a Mediterranean coastal town in Catalonia. What started as a day trip transformed into an overnight adventure for half of our group. For spontaneous, last minute lodging, I’d recommend hoteltonight.com. Sitges is about a 40 min train ride from Barcelona, only costing us about 8 euro, or 10 USD per person. Sunbathe, enjoy the warm ocean waters and soft sandy ocean floor (a welcomed break from the rocky ocean floors of Barcelona) and walk up and down the narrow boutique-filled streets. Be sure to grab gelato before heading back to Barcelona!
Tip: Be sure to know when the train stops running. We went on a Monday and the last train out was 8:30 pm.
Boat/Catamaran Tour and Pool Parties: There’s a plethora of party boats/catamaran cruises that can be researched prior to going on your trip. There are also several pool parties, day and night, which too can be researched prior. We were slated to go to the pool party at The W Hotel Barcelona, but lost track of time.
Wine Tour: If you love wine, cheese and views, add a wine tour to your itinerary. We went on a full-day wine tour and it was incredible. The tour costs 69 euro per person and included transportation to and from three vineyards (a Cava vineyard included) as well as wine and cheese pairings, charcuterie plates and three vineyards of tastings. We loved all three vineyards – Jean Leon, Bodegas Torres Winery and Freixenet, the Cava Winery. Though there are many tours, we booked our wine tour here.
Beach Day: Looking for a break for your wallet? Enjoy a day out on the beach.
Tip: The ocean floor in Barcelona is pretty rocky so consider water shoes if you have sensitive feet. Umbrellas run about 10 euro per umbrella at Barcenoleta Beach.
Explore Las Ramblas: Bustling and lively with people until the wee hours of the night, Las Ramblas is the most popular promenade that cuts through the heart of the city centre. Explore the narrow streets, unique boutiques, tapa bars and night-life.
That’s our week in a nutshell! This is a long post but it just goes to show you how much can be packed into 6 days, naps included!
Have you been to Barcelona?
What are your recommendations?
Monica is a Family Nurse Practitioner in Women’s Health in Washington, DC. She’s mastered traveling on a budget and hopes to inspire others to escape the daily grind and explore the globe.Monica Carter