When I was growing up, my Dad used to take me on a trip to a new city every few years for Christmas. We hadn’t been on one since I was in college (miss that) but this year we wanted to spend some time together before I left for Australia, so we spent a week together in Barcelona in December!
It was my first time traveling to Spain, and Barcelona far exceeded my expectations. The city was so clean, public transportation was easy, the wine was delicious (and cheap!) and there was a delicious restaurant or cafe on every corner.
This post will be a bit of a recap of our week in Barca, with recommendations for your next trip there, ranging from accommodation, restaurants, and must-see’s and do’s.
Since I was traveling with my Dad, I got to step it up a bit and stay in a real hotel instead of a hostel. We stayed at the most beautiful hotel, which had opened only a week before we arrived. Named Hotel Barcelona 1882, it is located a few blocks from the Sagrada Familia. The lobby was a dream, with no small detail spared. Since we visited in the winter, we didn’t get to take advantage of the rooftop pool, but I did spend my mornings lounging on the rooftop deck, soaking in views of the city and the Sagrada Familia!
The hotel is about a 30 minute walk to La Rambla and old gothic areas, but you can catch a subway there with a station only a few blocks from the hotel. If you can splurge a bit, I was blown away by the beauty of this hotel, and you will especially appreciate it if you are visiting in the hot summer months! Otherwise, I know there are hostels all over the city as well.
We were lucky enough to be in town when FC Barcelona had a match at home! We scored tickets to the game against Villa Real, and watched Messi absolutely dominate the pitch. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience! The energy in the stadium was unparalleled, and the fans are some of the most passionate I’ve ever seen. If there is a home match when you are visiting Barca, you absolutely must go!
- Buy your tickets ahead of time direct from the team’s website
- You select your seats when you purchase. If you want to really have the FC Barca experience, pick seats behind the north goal. This is where the grada d’animacio is, which is the stands area for the die-hard fans who never sit down and are chanting the entire match.
- Dress appropriately, in red and blue for the team’s colors!
- I was surprised to find there is no alcohol sold inside the stadium. Therefor, I’d recommend getting your pregame on at any of the bars surrounding the stadium before heading in. (;
This should be a given, but you have to visit the Sagrada Familia while you are in Barcelona! Book a tour that will allow you to go inside the church; it will take your breath away. I’ve seen a lot of old European churches, but this doesn’t even compare; Sagrada Familia is so much larger, more intricate, and grander! When we were there in December 2018, they were shooting to be done with construction by 2026 (although I think it will be longer than that) so even if you have been before, it will surely look different when you go again!
No visit to Barcelona would be complete without spending an afternoon at the Park Güell. This famous park was designed by Gaudí, and lives up to his iconic name in every way. I’d recommend going first thing in the morning to beat the crowds, and so you can take a personal moment to soak up the views of the city below. Pack a picnic to enjoy from the gardens, and really make it a worthwhile trip!
Parc del Laberint d’Horta
Wandering through this park made for one of my favorite mornings on our trip. It’s a beautiful public park on what used to be someone’s grand residence, but now the city maintains it and allows visitors to enter for only a few euros. The grounds are well-kept, and the best part is the hedge maze full of twists and turns and dead-ends, decorated with greek statues and a fountain in the middle when you finally get there! We had a blast wandering around in circles, even though there was a little pressure on us to get out quickly as we visited the park since we had a few hours to kill before heading to the airport.
The park is on the outskirts of town but is very easy to get to via subway; simply take the L3 to Mundet Station and walk up the hill through the university grounds. If you have some time to spend here, I’d bring a bottle of wine and a picnic as well!
There is so much more to do and see and eat and drink in Barcelona, but I wanted to keep this short and sweet. Besides, I am sure you won’t have any trouble finding incredible wine and delicious food anywhere in the city!
For food, you need to try traditional Spanish Paella at a restaurant along the harbor. They all have a “Menú del día” which is a rotating set menu of that day’s freshest ingredients. Try the seafood! It doesn’t get much fresher.
Make sure you live like the locals do and enjoy Spanish tapas in bar that serves them in the traditional way. Tapas are light appetizers, and you will find bars and restaurants that allow you to serve yourself from the dishes of tapas lining the bar or being walked around by staff members. Each Tapa will be decorated with a toothpick. You simply keep all of your toothpicks on your plate, and when you are ready to pay your bill, your total is calculated based on the number of toothpicks on your plate. Respect the honor system!
Spain is known for it’s wine and especially for Cava, which is a sparkling white wine from the region of Catalonia. Opt for wine or Cava anytime you drink in Barcelona, it is incredibly affordable and delicious!
A few other notable recommendations:
- Learn about the city from any of the hundreds of free walking tours each day. Simply google ‘free walking tours Barcelona’ and you will be able to reserve a spot to a variety of tour topics.
- Walk through the Parc de la Ciutadella, which is the city park of Barcelona.
- Enjoy the magic water fountain show at Montjuïc. This nighttime show combines water, lights and music, and can’t be missed!
- Rent bikes and ride along the waterfront. You’ll see all of Barcelona’s famous nightclubs here, and can plan out your stops for later in the evening! (No one goes out to party until nearly midnight in Barcelona, so plan accordingly!)
If you are planning a trip to Barcelona, I’d love to hear from you! I’d be happy to send more details your way.
Happy trails and happy travels,