Could Barcelona be the most popular European city? Well, it’s finally won its place in my heart this summer. Friends have always raved about it – I suppose it’s the half and half vibe of city meets beach (and the great food) – but somehow on my 2 previous visits it hadn’t wowed me. I know, I know!
My first ever trip to Barcelona was around 10 years ago. I visited Park Guell, climbed the steps of the Sagrada Familia then on the last night ate some dodgy chicken and had horrendous food poisoning which ruined it for me. Back home, I was ill for a week and off chicken for months. Although it’s a silly reason, it slightly marred my opinion of the city I suppose and was probably the reason I didn’t return until 2015.
However, when a friend was heading to the city on business I decided to tag along and met her there for a weekend of sun. The one night I spent without her (she arrived the following morning) I met my boyfriend in a small cocktail bar called Betty Fords. By the end of the weekend he and the city had secured a fond place in my heart. But it wasn’t until my trip last August with the girls that I felt the love for real.
Barcelona: take 3
The four of us stayed in a great little airBnB with an amazing terrace in the El Borne area. We were happy to discover we were near some great sites, streets and eats such as the Picasso Museum, Taco Alto and Picnic café. (See below for all details)
We had a great time – mostly revolving around sunbathing on the beach with a glass of sangria or cocktails & tapas by night. We managed to squeeze in a little bit of culture though too.
Here are all of my recommendations for a weekend in the sun…
La Pepita: I literally cannot recommend this restaurant enough! I think it might be the best tapas I have ever had. There’s a no reservations policy, and it is a very popular spot so head there for around 9pm. Although you’ll have to wait to be seated you can pop next door to the cute sister bar – La Cava.
Order the Calamari it was incredible, as was the steak fillet on quinoa. The smoked aubergine cakes and the patatas bravas were perfect. FYI it’s also open for lunch (but closed on a Sunday night).
Tip: Ask for a marker pen to write your name on the walls.
Carrer de Còrsega, 343
Bodega La Puntual: We came across this place by accident but these were the best ham Croquetas we had all weekend!
Carrer de Montcada, 22,
Bar Lobo: Busy tapas place right in the thick of it all near La Rambla, ideal if you want to be in the centre of town.
Carrer del Pintor Fortuny, 3
Picnic: Great cafe, with healthy brunch options and really tasty huevos rancheros. (see pic above)
Carrer del Comerç, 1
Taco Alto: We were lucky this little gem was right around the corner from our air BnB so we popped in twice for great little tacos… yumm. El Born area.
Portal Nou, 62
Flax & Kale: Health foods café with “flexitarian” menu
Carrer dels Tallers, 74B
Boca Chica: Dark, hotel vibe cocktail bar. Tucked down a little side street – but you’ll spot it because there’s a bouncer on the door. Go up in the lift to the terrace bar. Pricey but definitely worth going for one drink. The unisex toilets have more mirrors than I have ever seen.
Passatge de la Concepcio, 12
Numeronueve: Small, packed out cocktail bar with fun atmosphere and people spilling out onto the street. In a nice area where there are other places nearby too. Great Lychee Ginger cocktail!
Carrer de la Vidrieria, 9
Betty Ford Bar: another really small cute bar (near to Bar Lobo)
Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 56
Park Guell: It is a bit of a trek but worth it for amazing views of the city and of course more great Gaudi architecture. It really is one of my favourite places in Barcelona.
Tip: You must book your tickets in advance though as its timed entry to the centre of the park (where all the good bits are) only 7 euros each though.
Casa Batllo: Amazing blue tiled Gaudi house. I have been in and it’s beautiful but it has a €22.50 entry fee which is a little steep I think! It’s worth just walking past though and looking at the outside detail.
La Sagrada Familia: Obviously the most famous site in the city so you must go and have a look. Walk into the small park opposite (with a large pond) as its the top place for a picture with the super tall basilica in the frame.
Parc de la Ciutadella: lovely park and has a big lake where you can get a boat, or walk up the promenade to Barcelona’s version of the Arc de Triomf.
Picasso Museum: Such a nice way to spend a chilled morning, this museum was was around the corner from our Air Bnb. Mostly showcasing Picasso’s early work. The courtyard and building itself are very pretty and the streets surrounding are nice for a stroll/shop (pic below). €11 entry
Don’t go to Barceloneta beach it’s dirty, packed and touristy. Make the effort to go to either Playa Nova Icària, or Bogatell. Further up the bay but much more chilled and cleaner.
Tip: If you buy a ‘Cervasa’ from the men walking about on the beach rinse the top before you drink out of it as apparently, they keep them cool underground in dirty places.
There’s no Uber in Barcelona anymore. They ditched it. So just flag a cab from the street old-school style. Airport trips are €29 standard.
AERObus, you can get this to and from the airport for €5.90 each way and it takes you right into the centre to Plaça de Catalunya.
The metro is super easy, air-conditioned and cheap. If you think you’ll do a few trips buy a 10-ticket pass for like €9 and swipe yourself through, then pass back to the next person. It’s totally acceptable to do that.
You can hire bikes from lots of places, it’s a safe city to cycle around there are lots of bike lanes. But the red BiCiNg bikes like in London are only for residents so we can’t use them.