My wife and I just got back from a fantastic 10 day trip to Spain for our first anniversary. I wanted to write a trip recap to help fellow travelers out since I researched much of my trip on these boards. I apologize in advance as this may be lengthy. Here is a review of our 6 days/5 nights in Barcelona, you can find my recap of our days in Madrid here tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187514-i126-k3513…
We arrived early in the morning from the states. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel (Le Meridien on las ramblas). The Meridien was nice and had a great central location. I would have taken the Aerobus, however, given our lack of sleep and our bags I thought it would be too much of a hassle. Unfortunately our room was not ready for a few hours so we killed some time walking around the port area. When we finally checked in we dropped off our bags and then headed out to meet 2 friends who were also in from the states for lunch. We had a fantastic lunch (10 euro menu of the day) at this place called RA (I believe) behind Boqueria market. The weather was fantastic and we were able to snag 4 seats outside. We debated buying the Barcelona Tourist card but decided against it as I thought it was not worth the price based on the museums we wanted to see and the fact that a 10 trip metro pass was such a good deal. After lunch we loaded up on some essentials (bottled waters and snacks.) at the Carrefour a block or 2 from our hotel on las ramblas and took a stroll to paza catalunya and my wife did some shopping. We then took a quick nap to make sure we had plenty of energy as we were going to a champions league match between Barcelona v. Stuttgart that night. We had a quick café at Café Zurich in Plaza Catalunya and then took the metro there and back. It was the most crowded I saw the metro. While I won't go into all the details here (I wrote a recap on the match here http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187497-i44-k3480139-l25262138-Barcelona_v_Stuttgart_Question-Barcelona_Catalonia.html) I will say attending the match was one of the highlights of the trip, such an experience! I even managed to snag some Barcelona gear in that crazy team store before the match. After the match we were all in need of a snack and headed over to Vinya del Senor in Plaza de Maria, a very cool wine bar with a limited tapas menu. I had surprising good oysters there. Since it was Saint Patrick’s day that day we stopped for a quick Guinness on our way home. We called it a night after that having not slept in over 24 hours.
We started our morning at 10am by heading to Boqueria Market and had breakfast at Bar Pinotxo, you can't miss it on the right as soon as you walk in with all the Pinocchio hanging from the bar. We had some great cortados and pastries for breakfast. Juanito who runs the bar was a very warm host and seemed to know everyone by name. I also loved the fresh juices you could get in Boqueria, we tried all different varieties during our stay. After breakfast we headed out for Park Guell. We bought a 10 trip metro pass (such a good deal) and headed towards the park. I must say I was very impressed by the metro, very efficient and easy to use. The metro does not get you that close to the park but we did not mind the walk, though I think some people may not want to take such a long steep walk and may opt for the bus instead. We visited the Gaudi museum and then spent a few hours walking in the Park as it was such a beautiful day, we even found time for a quick caña. After the park we took the metro and headed to barceloneta for lunch at Cal Pep in Plaza del les Olles. It was very crowded when we walked in and had to wait for about 10 minutes for 4 seats at the bar. We asked to have a sampling of items and they obliged with about 7 different courses of fish, vegetables and meat (which were all mostly delicious, especially the clams and jamon). While lunch was very good it ended up being a bit more expensive than we wanted as I think we ordered too much. We could have done without 2 or 3 of the dishes but an experience nonetheless. After lunch we headed down to catch the teleferico up to Montjuic. After walking around in Montjuic for a bit we took the metro back to our hotel to take a quick siesta. For dinner we headed to Commerc 24. All 4 of us did the tasting menu. While many of the dishes were very good there were some very bad misses such as the artichoke ice cream and some of the fish dishes were overly fishy. We were disappointed as the restaurant came highly recommended and was very expensive. Perhaps my palate is not as refined as I thought. Being from NY I am used to expensive dinners but this was a bit too high for me. In hindsight I would probably not go back there for dinner. It was Saint Patrick’s day that day and we stopped for a quick Guinness on our way home. We called it a night after that.
After breakfast at Bar Pinotxo (had the tortilla and sausage and fava beans this time) we took the metro to La Sagrada Familia and did the tour of the church and the museum. The line for the elevator seemed to go on forever and we made the executive decision to skip it and its additional cost. The church was very lovely but way overrun by tourists (of which I am one I realize) and large groups and we were happy to leave. We next walked over to Casa Mila and headed up to the rooftop and the apartment/museum. Such a fabulous building, we had a great time. I am not sure how people actually have offices in there with all the tourists. Afterwards we walked by la manzana de la Discordia but did not go inside. We then headed off to Fast Food (Ferran Adrià restaurant) for lunch. Since were not making it to el Bulli I thought this was the next best thing :-). Unfortunately we either missed the place entirely or it closed down, I believe it was the latter. We instead had lunch at a lovely little place on rambla catalunya (the name escapes me). After lunch we took a stroll down passeig de Gracia doing some window shopping and taking in the grand avenue. After a quick caña and some people watching at Café Zurich we headed to our hotel for a quick siesta. Before dinner we had a few copas de vino tinto in Plaza Santa Maria. Around 10 we headed to El Xampanyet on Carrer Montcada for dinner. This was probably our favorite dinner in Barcelona. I was a bit daunted when I first walked as it was a Friday night and the place was absolutely packed, but after observing other people for a minute I figured out what to do. We first claimed a spot for ourselves. I then headed to the bar and asked for a few plates and cañas and then just started sampling everything that looked good or interesting (both at the counter and being passed around). When we had our fill I settled up at the bar (I was very honest with our toothpicks, I think only 1 was left behind). On our walk home we passed a creperie that smelled entirely too good to pass up so we stopped in to share one with nutella. Exhausted, we bid our friends farewell as they were flying home to the states the next morning and we called it a night.
This was probably my favorite day in Barcelona. As usual we had breakfast at Bar Pinotxo around 9am. Even though our anniversary was not technically until Sunday we chose to celebrate it on Saturday as more restaurants were open. We had some cavas with breakfast which started the day off right! While we probably should have tried some other place for breakfast, we loved Pinotxo so much and it was so close to our hotel. After breakfast we strolled through Boqueria one last time as we knew it was closed on Sunday. We bought some jamon, chocolates and wine. Afterwards we walked over to the Picasso museum and spent about 2 hours there. I thought it was a very lovely museum; I especially loved his interpretations of Las Meninas. We next strolled around Born and made our way to the Park de la Cuitadella. I loved the giant fountain. We spent about an hour in the park and then walked to the Arc de Triomf. Lucky for us (or at least me!) there happened to be an antique car show that day. I absolutely loved viewing all the old European and American cars, such an unexpected treat. We next took the metro to Quimet i Quimet on Calle Poeta Cabanyes for lunch. We were very excited about going here for lunch as it came highly recommend and we made a special trip for it. The restaurant is very small and cute and obviously loved by locals. While we did have some very good smoked salmon, anchovies and a mixed cheese platter there it was not our favorite place and I did not really get what all the fuss was about. Perhaps it stemmed from not knowing exactly what to order. After lunch we took the metro back to the Jaume I station and from there took a self guided walking tour of the gothic quarter (thanks Fodor’s!). After our walk we headed to the city history museum in plaza del Rei. Being a huge history geek I found this museum amazing, really a highlight for me. I loved the subterranean ruins and the history of the development of modern day Barcelona. I could have easily spent several hours there but I could tell my wife was getting impatient so we left in search of Formatgeria La Seu, a cheese shop she read about in the NY times. Such a wonderful little cheese shop IMO. My wife likes to think of herself as a junior cheese connoisseur so she was in heaven. We bought some fantastic manchego and blue cheese and a lovely soft cheese that I unfortunately can’t name. We headed back to the hotel to change as we were celebrating our anniversary that evening with dinner at Saüc in Eixample (on passeig Lluis Pellicer). We took the metro to the Hospital Clinic station. To my horror I realized I forgot my guidebook and map in the hotel. The Hospital Clinic station is under construction and did not even have one of those local area maps to help me out. After asking 3 different people for directions and finally asking for a phone book we finally made it about 30 minutes late. We had the tasting menu and though a bit pricey we both really enjoyed the meal (better than Commerc). My only complaint was the lights in the dinning room could have been dimmer, the bright lights make a romantic dinner a bit tough (I know I am getting picky here). We headed back to our hotel after dinner.
Since our trusty Pinotxo Bar was closed on Sunday we headed over to University Plaza and had a quick breakfast at one of the outdoor cafés there. After breakfast we took the metro to Paral-lel station and then took the shuttle over to Monjuic (very convenient). Around 11am we arrived at the Miro Museum in Montjuic, luckily beating most of the crowds. We both really enjoyed Miro’s paintings and sculptures very much, maybe more so than the Picasso museum. The rooftop was very enjoyable as well. When we left around 12:30 the line was unbelievably long to get in even though the museum closed at 2pm. We next strolled around the many gardens in the area. We unfortunately did not make it to the national museum. In hindsight I think we did not leave enough time to explore Monjuic, we could have easily spent the day there. We walked to the Olympic stadium, which was nice to see from the outside. For the life of me I can’t understand why you would want to go inside to see an empty stadium. We then got back on the metro and went down to Barceloneta as we were both getting hungry for lunch. We tried to go to Can Sole for lunch on Calle Sant Carles as we had read good things. We arrived around 2pm and the restaurant was completely empty save for 2 tables. We were asked rather rudely if we had a reservation. When I said we did not we were told everything was booked. I looked at the person in disbelief. Perhaps they were expecting some massive rush in the next hour but I have my doubts. The food may be good there (we would not know) but the décor seemed stuffy and their attitude was terrible. I would never spend my money in place like that. Trying to put that unpleasant event behind us we wandered off and found a lovely restaurant with views of the Mediterranean, I believe called Cava Mar. We grabbed a table outside and had a few copas de cava and some very yummy tapas. A much better experience from Can Sole. After lunch we strolled through a little crafts fair in Barceloneta and then headed to the Maritime Museum near the Columbus monument at the end of las ramblas. Since I am a huge history buff (see my love of the city history museum above) I was really excited about this museum given Spain’s rich maritime history. Since it was Sunday afternoon admission was free. I know the museum is a work in progress but I must say I was disappointed. The replica ship in the main hall is impressive but beyond that there are just a number of model ships. I was frankly expecting more. The museum did have a nice little café area and at least it was free. After the museum we took one last stroll up las ramblas and made a stop at the historic Els Quatre Cats on calle Montsio where we had some cafe and some yummy crema catalunya. I know the place is a bit touristy but it had its charm and IMO well worth a visit. Since we needed to be up early the next day for our trip to Madrid we had a mini anniversary picnic in our hotel room of cheese and the jamon, wine and chocolate we picked up the day before in Boqueria market. It really was a lovely way to cap off our anniversary and stay in Barcelona.
We left Barcelona early in the morning for our flight to Madrid. We took the Aerobus to the airport from plaza catalunya (a short walk from our hotel). The bus is a fantastic deal, 5 euro per person and we got to the airport in no time. We had a fantastic time in Barcelona and were sad to leave but were excited for our stay in Madrid. We will definitely be back. One last item, I read in a number of places how crime has gone up in Barcelona. While I believe it is good for travelers to know that information I hope people don’t get scared off from visiting as Barcelona is such a wonderful city. I never once felt unsafe during our stay nor did we ever have any issues (pickpockets etc.). I just used good common sense while we were there (don’t walk in desolate streets at night, don’t flash money around or have your wallet in your back pocket etc.), same as I would in any other big city .