The last stop on our Spanish tour was Barcelona – the city that I had by far heard the most about from friends. This hot spot on the Mediterranean came with high expectations – a fun city with nightlife, beaches, art, and of course, amazing food.
Having never been, I was most surprised by how big the city was – getting from one end of the city required a cab, and it definitely wasn’t as walkable as some of the other places we visited. Even staying centrally located near La Rambla still required some planning when treking to the water or one of the big tourist sites. However, being such a big city gave us plenty of activities to choose from – and that did not disappoint.
Where to Stay
Barcelona is a large, spread out city. La Rambla is a busy street in a relatively central location. The street itself is a bit too busy to stay on, so it’s best to stay nearby. Walking to the beach is fairly easy, although the beachfront hotels such as the W are very far from the rest of the city.
- Hotel Portal de l’Angel – On a busy shopping street that runs parallel to La Rambla, this hotel was in the ideal location – walking distance to the old city, beach, and main tourist attractions, and not terribly far from the sites further inland such as La Sagrada. The hotel itself was very modern yet still maintained its quaint charm being in a historic building. We picked it for it’s price (less than $200 a night during peak season) and for the cute pool that was perfect on the hot days of July.
What to See
- La Sagrada – the unfinished cathedral started by Gaudi is still a work in progress. But it’s definitely worth seeing the modern architecture for a few Euros.
- Park Guell – The famous park containing Gaudi’s work. Part of the park is free but the center of the park requires an admission ticket.
- Museu de Xocolata – the Museum of Chocolate is a delicious quick stop to view some chocolate sculptures. The admissions ticket is a chocolate bar.
- Cuitadella Park – adjacent to the zoo, this park contains the Cascada fountain designed by Josep Fontseré in 1881, with young Gaudí as assistant and inspired by the Trevi Fountain.
- Montserrat – We booked a tour through Viator that included Montserrat, the unique mountains of Catalonia including the monastery, as well as a stop for lunch and a wine tasting at Oller del Mas winery – a vineyard with a castle. This day trip was filled with beautiful views and merged the best of Catalonia day trips.
Where to Eat & Drink
- Chupitos – a shot bar great for a night out with friends. Order the Harry Potter shot!
- Dow Jones Bar – like the other Dow Jones bars in Europe, the drinks go up and down in price depending on how many are being ordered. The New York theme makes you feel right at home when you’re homesick, which is why it’s popular among study abroad students.
La Bodegueta – good for quick, local tapas, this place is simple with a homemade feeling. Small inside, but the outdoor dining is spectacular.
- Restaurant 7 Portes – a great traditional Spanish restaurant with a big menu and moderate prices.
- Marina Bay – a great seafood restaurant near the water, right next to the casino and nightclubs. A great way to start the night at a restaurant with water views and fantastic paella.