Barcelona is a city full of history, food, culture, wine and political debate. It is the capital of Catalonia in Spain and boasts a mixture of old, intertwined streets and buildings based around new, grid-like streets with lots of fantastic local art and a great local public transport system. Barcelona only started to receive tourists after it played host to the Olympics in 1992. Even the beach where tourists flock to was built just for the purpose of that, tourists (it actually used to be part of the industrial shipping yard).
With so many tourists flocking to Barcelona every year (and with good reason), it is one of the richest cities in Spain or Catalonia (we are still confused by this). Catalonia is a district with it’s own police force, parliament, language and more and more they are pushing to become separate from Spain but have not yet succeeded, so instead they run as an autonomous state within Spain. The list of amazing things to see and do is endless, from shopping (as we’ve mentioned previously) to art to food and wine – which together create a super relaxed and fulfilling Spanish getaway.
Sagrada Familia - This is the most visited site in Barcelona and Spain with over 6 million tourists a year. The church is still not yet complete and has been in construction for the last 150 years based on the architecture and craftsmanship of Anthony Gaudi. It is funded by tourists entering to visit the church and each of those tourists will most likely tell you it is one of their highlights of Barcelona. We recommend you buy tickets online before you go to avoid the queue. You can opt to take a guided tour if you can find a time-slot with one available in your language (book far in advance) or you can also get an audio guide headset upon arrival (there will be a line once you enter though). The church is incredible but make sure you head downstairs and check out the museum underneath as well. We can’t wait to head back there to see it finished, which they say will be in 12 years but we are thinking more like 50!
The Cathedral of Barcelona - A great big church just off the main street La Ramblas. Inside you will find some outstanding stain glass windows and a little garden terrace complete with palms and swans. Go between 8am-12noon or 5pm-8pm for free entrance and make sure you are dressed conservatively (shoulders and knees covered) otherwise you’ll be turned away at the door.
Park Guell - This park is also known as Gaudi Park as you will find more of his great artwork here, this time in form of mosaics. You can walk around the whole park but to see the artwork close up, pre-book the tickets online to go into the restricted area. Here you will find the best viewpoint of the park and Barcelona.
Montjuic Castle - Take the metro to the end and finish with the funicular to Montjuic (included in the metro ticket). Once you arrive go up the hill on the gondola to get one of the best viewpoints of the whole of Barcelona. You can enter the castle (for a small fee) and once you’re in we recommended you head up to the terrace for the best 360 degree view of the city.
Fat Tire Barcelona Tour - Keeping active while traveling is great and these tours are the best ways to orientate yourself in a new city and get ideas of what you might like to go back and see later. The Fat Bike Tours are popular, running twice a day, so make sure you pre-book or email in a reservation and arrive 15minutes early. The bikes are comfortable and the tour leaders are great. You will be given a lot information throughout the tour. Along the way you will stop at various hot spots to get information and if you want to go back later ask the guide the best way they recommend to see the site. Tours run for four hours so come prepared with a hat, water and sunscreen on.
Breakfast - Most mornings we ate in our apartment but we did splurge and go out to Brunch + Cake one morning for breakfast and it was one of the best decisions we made that day. Here we found some very yummy food with giant portions and fresh orange juice and coffee. Do not miss it. They also have huge slices of red velvet cake for an afternoon tea snack.
Lunch - For a taste of tapas and something very local head to La Flauta. This place can get very busy over the lunch period and for a good reason. Trust us.
To satisfy the vegetarian in you (even if you are all about the meat still go here!), head to Teresa Carles. Another busy place over lunch, vegetarians and vegans will be in absolute heaven and meat eaters may have a change of heart, if only for a second.
For something a little more fancy and to re-hydrate with some great wine in-between the shopping, you can’t go past Mordisco. With an open kitchen and a conservatory restaurant feel you will automatically feel a rush of relaxation. The food is portioned perfectly and is so tasty.
Dinner - Chill out in the backstreets of La Ramblas. Enjoy a glass of sangria and some delicious tapas food followed by some fresh cuisine at Bar Lobo. The waitstaff are cruisey and have a bit of quirk to them.
Steer away from Spanish for a night and head to Japan. This place doesn’t take bookings so get there a bit earlier if you don’t feel like waiting for ages. Restaurante Nomo is Japanese tapas and it is every bit as delicious as what you would expect it to be. For desert head next door to Xocoa for some of the best chocolate gelato in town.
If you feel like spending a little bit more and indulging on the fine dining experience don’t miss out on heading to Tragulaz. On the second level of an old house walk through the kitchen to the dining area where you will be waited upon and wined and dined like you are the King of Spain.
It is not hard to find the shops in Barcelona but head to the following areas to satisfy your shopping cravings.
Passege de Garcia, Rambla de Catalunya and Av.Portal de l’Angel – All the main streets where you’ll find the finest selection of big name brands.
Las Ramblas - The typical tourist street with all the big names and smaller stalls on the middle island. The main food market is also just off to the side – a definite stop on any food lovers agenda! Make sure you watch your bag and pockets closely though as it’s a stomping ground for thieves.
The Born District - Small, intertwining historic streets that are home to some of the coolest off the beaten track boutiques. A little more pricey then the big brands but quality and uniqueness is the highlight. Most of the boutiques have the designer’s workshop out the back so you can even see them at work.
We shopped a lot in Spain, especially in Barcelona. The shopping is incomparable to back home in Australia so why not? We didn’t focus on anything in particular, just the fact we wanted to come home with a completely new wardrobe. Here are some of the shops you cannot miss when in Spain.
Zara – We got excited when Zara was opening in Australia but Spain is where it all began. This is the mothership. And don’t think you can go into one and not go into the other five. In each you will find most things the same but a lot of different items as well.
Massimo Dutti – Our new favourite for men and women. Under the same umbrella group as Zara these clothes are a little more expensive but still at a reasonable price range. The clothes are gorgeous, and so are the shoes and accessories. Men can even get a tailored suit for half the cost of back home.
Bimba y Lola – This is a Spanish based label, owned by two sisters. The brand stocks clothing, shoes and accessories with our favourite items being the fun and quirky patterned clutches.
& Other Stories – This is a store you wouldn’t think came from under the H&M umbrella. Their range is stylish and there is sure to be something there for everyone. Their stock ranges from shoes, to clothing, to beauty, to accessories and everything in-between.
American Vintage - A French brand spread across Europe and the UK, the founder re-designed the basic Tee and essentials of the wardrobe. The clothes here are stylish and super comfortable.
Cos - Collection Of Style is also under the same umbrella as H&M but is a more high end fashion label at affordable prices. This is a shop for the more timeless office outfits at a great price.
Tax Free Shopping: When traveling you see this everywhere and most people can never be bothered to do anything about it, but this time round we tried it out. If you are a non-European resident/citizen and you spend more than 90 euros on one receipt ask for the tax free receipt. You will be given an envelope. Collect these throughout your stay and you can either go to the tax free office in town on your last day to get the cash back and just have everything stamped at the office at the airport or you can stamp at the office and then collect the money once past customs. It sounds like a lengthy process but it takes about ten minutes total and you get money back which is the best part! We recommend you look into it the next time to head over the European way!