Barcelona hit us like a slap in the face. If cities had personalities, I would say Barcelona is kind of like that wild, eccentric Aunt we all have (or is that just me?). It's unpredictable, eclectic, vibrant, and seemingly always on level 10. Let's just say that going from the quiet, serene mountains in Mallorca headfirst into the crowded, highly energetic streets of Barcelona was a bit of an adjustment at first.
We checked into Soho House Barcelona (which is jaw-droppingly cool, complete with rooftop pool and bar and in the best location) and immediately headed back out the door to walk along the famous Las Ramblas. This is, of course, a must if you're visiting Barcelona. This beautiful tree-lined promenade is full of people, shops, and food and cuts right through the heart of the city. La Boqueria is located here, and it is one of the best food markets in the world. Save your appetite, because this is the place to try things you've never tried before, and there is a LOT to try (Sidenote: beware of pickpocketers here because it's very crowded).
From here we made our way to see Barcelona Cathedral, which literally made me gasp when we turned the corner. Gothic architecture at its finest lives in Barcelona, and while it's also very crowded around the cathedrals, they are so worth enduring the chaos. These buildings are works of art, and they require time to really absorb them. The most famous cathedral (which is immediately understood the minute you see it in person) is Sagrada Família. This is the mother of all gothic cathedrals. A good friend of mine said it perfectly when she said, "It will change the way you view cathedrals". Get tickets ahead of time online because they actually do sell out, and I recommend getting a guided tour of the inside of this one (even if just to skip the ridiculously long lines). It's absolutely the most magnificent building I've ever seen.
Aside from Cathedrals, the Picasso Museum might be my favorite art museum experience I've had to date. Picasso grew up in Barcelona, and this particular museum tells his story in such a way that you feel like you're getting to know him personally. The audio guides are incredibly informative, and the rooms are set up chronologically and take you on a journey throughout his life. Tip: definitely get tickets online and skip the line here too!
I gotta be honest. We LOVED seeing the architecture and all the sites etc. But at this point during our stay in Barcelona, we were a little disappointed. Everywhere we had been was so busy and flooded with tourists, and we just didn't really understand the hype. Our expectations were high (to say the least), and during those couple days, we just didn't fall madly in love with the city (don't hate me, just being honest). That is, until we discovered El Born. El Born is a quaint, artsy neighborhood with great tapas bars and restaurants, local shops, and charming ambience. Definitely more our speed. My favorite night in Barcelona was the night Jess and I went tapas bar hopping in El Born. We had some of the best tapas we've ever tasted, and it was blast! Tapas Bars are not at ALL what I thought they would be (meaning, they aren't like the quiet little tapas restaurants at home where you sit down and sip your wine and order plates of food to share). The REAL tapas bars are standing room only, and the tapas line the bar where you basically have to shove your way in and yell out what you want if you expect to eat. It's awesome. We had the most delicious oxtail croquettes (amongst a million other things), and I still dream about them at night (they were that good).
My one regret was not getting to see Park Güell, which is a uniquely beautiful and famous park in Barcelona and also another masterpiece of Catalan architecture. Don't space out like I did. Get tickets online and make this a priority while you're there.
WHERE TO STAY:
Plaça del Duc de Medinaceli, 4, 08002 Barcelona, Spain
WHERE TO EAT:
Caravelle: Breakfast and Brunch
Carrer del Pintor Fortuny, 31, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
Carrer de Montcada, 29, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
El Xampanyet: Happy hour/Tapas
Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Bastaix: Dinner/ late night
Plaça del Fossar de les Moreres, 5, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
WHAT TO DO:
Pla de la Seu
933 428 262
Sagrada Família Cathedral
Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona, Spain
Carrer Montcada, 15-23, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
La Boqueria Food Market
La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
08024 Barcelona, Spain
*Walk up Las Ramblas
*Explore El Born neighborhood