As I mentioned in my post about Sevilla, Amanda and I wanted to spend a couple days in the major city that we flew into. We were torn between Madrid and Barcelona, but ultimately went with Barcelona based on a trip that I went on in high school. While I loved both cities for different reasons, the lively, cosmopolitan feel of Barcelona was what we were after for the final leg of our trip. Plus, I could soak up Gaudí’s genius architecture multiple times over and still not have enough.
We had two fulls days in Barcelona. Although it would be easy to spend much more than two days there, I’d say we did a pretty good job of experiencing the city’s highlights in a mere 48 hours. We stayed at Hotel Colón Barcelona, which I cannot recommend enough. Its rooms are beautiful and the hotel itself is located in Barcelona’s centrally-located Gothic Quarter. Everything that we wanted to see was either walkable or easily accessible by public transit. Also, being that the hotel is located in Plaza de Cataluña, directly across from Catedral de Barcelona, its rooftop offers unparalleled views. But more on that later.
En route to our first destination of the day, we popped into Honey-B to grab some coffee and pastries. Honey-B is an adorable co-bakery that offers a variety of sweet treats made by bakers from around the world. It’s definitely worth stopping by if you happen to be in the area!
Next stop: La Sagrada Família, a Roman Catholic church and UNESCO World Heritage Site designed by famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. If one thing is for certain, Gaudí was not afraid to break the rules of classic architecture. Although his style was uniquely his own, elements of Art Nouveau, Catalan Modernism, and Spanish Late Gothic design can be appreciated in his work. Notably, construction began in 1882 and continues to this day. Yep, over 135 years have gone into making this one-of-a-kind masterpiece what it is! When the church is complete, it is projected to be the tallest in the world.
To avoid long lines, do yourself a favor and purchase advance tickets online. By doing this, we were able to head directly inside. Now, for a bit of transparency: the crowds are borderline nauseating and the metal detectors at the entrance are off-putting, but take my word for it and go anyway. Once you’re inside and complete awe takes over, none of the chaos matters. During our trip I posted a photo to Instagram with the following caption: “Mesmerizing, jaw-dropping, straight up chills… there is no way to describe the genius that is Gaudí.” And, to this day, I can’t find a better way to convey my sentiments.
After I took multiple photos of every angle of the church (#sorrynotsorry), we headed to Park Güell. This is another stop that I recommend purchasing advance tickets for. The park, also designed by Gaudí and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is undoubtedly worth seeing. The park’s history dates back to 1900 and was built in partnership with Count Eusebi Güell, hence the park’s name. Situated on the mountain range of Collserola, this quirky, mosaic-filled park offers incredible views of Barcelona. While you’re there, be sure to catch an outside look of Gaudí’s former home, now the Gaudí House Museum.
On our way back to our hotel, we quickly stopped by Casa Batlló, yet another famous Gaudí landmark. Although you can tour the former home of Josep Batlló, designed by Gaudí in 1904, we chose to view it from the outside only. Like Park Güell, Casa Batlló is eccentric, colorful, and adorned in mosaics.
As we continued toward our hotel, we walked down Las Ramblas, a tree-lined pedestrian street known for its shopping. While the walk was pleasant, Amanda and I were underwhelmed by what it had to offer. Think all of the well-known European chains on repeat: Zara, H&M, Mango, Topshop, etc.
The second we got back to our hotel, we headed to its rooftop to drink some tempranillo over sunset. We were up-close-and-personal with Catedral de Barcelona; meanwhile, we were able to take in Montjuïc from afar. Both views were particularly stunning at night. Notably, Hotel Colón’s rooftop is open to everyone, so be sure to enjoy it at sunset, even if you’re not staying there!
We ended a Gaudí-filled day with an incredible dinner at Elche, recommended to us by Amanda’s friend. The food, wine, and service were on point. In fact, I’m drooling just thinking about the lobster paella! Major shout out to my cousin Jordan for treating us to a bougie bottle of wine to go with it.
Because Catedral de Barcelona was a hop, skip, and a jump away from our hotel, experiencing it from the inside is how we decided to start our day. Catedral de Barcelona is a Roman Catholic church and a stunning example of Gothic architecture. Although located in an extremely touristy area, the crowds were very tolerable.
Afterward, we switched gears and headed toward the water. Because Barcelona’s coastline is the Mediterranean Sea, it’s home to many beaches. Being that La Barceloneta is considered a neighborhood of its own and is the most easily accessible beach from the Gothic Quarter, that’s where we headed. First, we ate at a popular spot called Brunch & Cake. While the menu is not Spanish by any means, the food is beautifully presented and tasty. Later, we went to W Barcelona for delicious afternoon cocktails. Although it was mid-December, it was warm enough to enjoy them on their posh, oceanfront deck.
After catching an afternoon buzz, we ventured to Arc de Triomf, originally built when Barcelona hosted the Universal Exhibition of 1888. This iconic landmark served as the gateway to the fair and was meant to symbolize Barcelona’s respect for the nations involved. The fair itself took place in Parc de la Ciutadella, which is where Amanda and I headed next. The park spans over 70 acres and is home to the city zoo, the Catalan Parliament Building, several museums, a small lake, and a fountain known as Cascada Monumental. We barely caught a glimpse of everything the park has to offer, but we found the lake to be charming and peaceful.
As we headed back toward the Gothic Quarter, we made it a point to pass through Barcelona’s vibrant and historic El Born neighborhood. Picture narrow, medieval streets lined with trendy boutiques and sought-after restaurants. This was the kind of shopping we were looking for!
Eventually, we made our way to a wine tasting at Vivinos. The owner, Vivian, is a highly-trained sommelier who made it simple and fun to learn about Spanish wine. Her pours were generous, and she even hooked us up with some local cheese and charcuterie! Needless to say, I highly recommend doing a tasting with her.
Because we trusted Vivian’s taste so much, we asked her for recommendations about where to eat for dinner. Without hesitation, she exclaimed, “Llamber!” Typically a restaurant that requires reservations far in advance, she used her connections to snag us a last-minute table. What a gal! Not shockingly, the food was both exquisite and authentic, making it perfect for our last meal in Spain.
After dinner, we hopped into a taxi and headed to our last stop of the day: Montjuïc. Situated on a hilltop, Montjuïc is home to many popular activities and sites including the Magic Fountain, Montjuïc Castle, various museums, and its infamous cable car. Because I have vivid and fond memories of the Magic Fountain sound and light show that I experienced when I visited over a decade prior, I was super excited to experience it again. Well, unfortunately, I was left disappointed; we missed the last show! Showtimes vary depending on time of year, so be sure to check out this schedule prior to visiting. Despite being disappointed, our trip to Montjuïc was not in vain, as we got to take in the beauty of Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya at night.
Before we knew it, our final night in Barcelona had come to a close and it was time to get some rest before heading back to the States the following morning. Salud to an incredible and much-needed trip!