Hola! I recently returned from a week in Barcelona, Spain. This was my first time in both the city and country, and I was so excited to explore everything Barcelona had to offer. I was headed there for work, so I tacked on the Saturday and Sunday before the work meetings started and the Saturday after they ended to explore and create a Barcelona city guide.
The first weekend I was there with my sister-in-law and three year old niece. I hadn’t seen my niece since she was six months old, so it was great to see her as an actual person who can talk and express emotions (lots of “NO! NO! NO!” at the moment) as well as catch up with my sister-in-law. I convinced a coworker to also extend her stay the second weekend, and it was get to know her on a personal level. What I learned — she loves breaking into hotel pools and eating all the food. What’s not to love about that?
So here you have it, what I ate, drank, shopped and did in Barcelona, Spain.
Where to Stay
Over the span of the week, I stayed in three different hotels. Two were in the same hotel chain, but all were different and had something else to offer.
- Hotel NH Barcelona Centre (Gothic Quarter) – This is the first hotel I stayed in with my sister-in-law and niece. If it’s your first time in Barcelona and you want to be in the middle of everything, this is a great location. Right in the middle of the Gothic Quarter, you can hit up more-or-less everything you could want within walking distance. Plus, our room had a small balcony over looking the street, which added the perfect European flair. One thing to keep in mind … a lot of cabs won’t take you all the way to the hotel because the Gothic Quarter is overflowing with pedestrians. Make sure you have some access to GPS when they drop you off outside of the neighborhood so you can find your way.
- Pullman Barcelona Skipper (Beachfront) – This was by far the nicest (and most expensive) hotel I stayed at. This hotel was booked through work, or else I wouldn’t have spent this much myself. In reality, it was only a couple hundred dollars a night, so not crazy expensive, but still more than I like to spend on my own. It was relatively luxurious and had access to the beach and two private pools. The breakfast they served each morning was delicious and the staff was really friendly. Location wise, it was a bit weird. It was next to the beach and Barceloneta, but you would end up taking a cab more often to get around to the other neighborhoods if you stayed here unless you really, really love walking.
Hotel NH Barcelona Eixample (Eixample) – I stayed here the last two nights with my coworker after our meetings let out. As I’m sure you could tell by the name, it’s the same hotel chain as the first hotel I stayed at. The rooms felt a bit more modern than those in the Centro hotel, but we didn’t have a balcony. Sad panda. Plus, I really liked the neighborhood. It felt less touristy than the Gothic Quarter, but we were able to easily walk to everywhere we wanted to be. The best of both worlds.
Where to Eat and Drink
- Restaurant Petra (Born) – This might have been my favorite meal the whole trip. A coworker recommended it and I’m so glad she did! I didn’t have a single dish I didn’t love. Get absolutely everything!
- Ciudad Condal (Eixample) – This was another coworker recommendation. The wait was long (about 45 minutes) but the food was delicious. My favorites were the fried camembert (obviously) and the shrimp skewers. I was a bit let down by the flan, but you can’t get everything you want.
- L’Òstia (Barceloneta) – Unlike Cuidad Condal, the flan here did not let me down. In fact, I’m disappointed that I didn’t go back for another flan. It’s a quick two-minute walk from the beach, which makes it the perfect place to grab lunch after swimming. The spot is picturesque — you can sit outside in the shadow of a church with children running around the square.
- La Boqueria (Ciudad Vieja) – Arrive with an empty stomach and a full wallet and you’ll leave with a full stomach and an only semi-empty wallet. La Boqueria is a large food market with everything you could ever want to eat. From fresh juices to cones of meat and potato chips on a stick. Get ready to feast.
- El Vaso De Oro (Barceloneta) – This is a tapas bar, not a sit-down restaurant. We met some random New Yorkers who moved to Barcelona about five years ago and let them order for us. I HIGHLY recommend the Solomillo con foie and Gamba y cigala de la platjeta.
- El Nacional (Eixample) – This is a giant building with lots of little bars, cafes and restaurants inside. I don’t recall the name of the one at which we ate, but I’m sure they’re all super fabulous.
- Chök (Ciudad Vieja) – This is where all of your chocolate dreams come true. The cream-filled donut holes were so fudging delicious, but the “most popular” cronuts were just meh.
- Somorrostro (Barceloneta) – The wait for to be seated and get our food was absurd (by US standards), but the paella was delicious. It’s a quaint little restaurant near the beach, just don’t expect speedy service. Not that you’ll get it most places in Spain anyways.
- Ugot (Eixample) – This little cafe is the perfect spot to pick up a sandwich to go or stay to sip on a latte.
Where to Shop
- La Manual Alpargatera (Gothic Quarter) – This espadrille shop was on my list from day one, so I was so excited to scoop up a pair. The store is mobbed, so expect to wait. Just use the wait time as the perfect excuse to eye all the pairs so you know exactly what you want once your number is called.
- Toni Pons (Gothic Quarter) – Oh look, another espadrille store. This one is more like a traditional shoe store without the crazy crowds. I didn’t get a pair here, but my sister-in-law did.
- Visual Poetry (Gothic Quarter and Born) – Tucked away, this is the cutest little store with adorable cards and clothes. I snagged a few postcards, but am sad I left the balloon sweater (seen above) behind.
- Etnia (Born) – If you’re on the prowl for super trendy and kind of expensive sunglasses, then this will be your jam. I didn’t buy a pair, but a coworker did and she was super hip from the second she put them on.
Orolíquido (Gothic Quarter) – If you’re into olive oil and things made out of olive oil, make sure to stop in. I got an olive oil lip balm and love it!
Bornisimo (Born) – This cute little corner store in Born has all sorts of hip accessories. Hats, sunglasses and bags, oh my!
What to See and Do
- Take a ghost tour – Duh, I love to do this everywhere I go. It’s a fun way to see the city and learn a different type of history.
- Barceloneta Beach – Be prepared to see some boobs and bums. The Spanish are much more casual with their beach attire, so just be warned!
- The W Hotel Pool – So technically you’re not welcome unless you’re a paying guest. If you follow guests into the hotel and let them tap their room card, you can push the button for the pool level and waltz right in. But you didn’t hear that from me.
- Gaudi Architecture – Granted I didn’t do any of this, but I’ve heard great things about Sagrada Familia and Park Guell.
Know Before You Go
- Customer service isn’t Spain’s strong suit, so prepare for long waits and not the friendliest waitstaff and sales associates.
- English isn’t as common as I was expecting. I had plenty of cab drivers, waiters, sales associates, etc who didn’t speak any English.
- It’s very common for beachgoers to bare it all, so brace yourself if topless sunbathers bother you.
- Barcelona is in Catalunya, which has it’s own Spanish dialect. Take a few minutes and learn a few key words in Catalan.