Discovering Barcelona

Barcelona is one of those stunning cities that is full of culture, great dining options including the cutest little cafes, and let’s not leave out the eccentric and unique designs of Gaudí.  (Fun fact: the word “gaudy” was derived from Gaudí given his out-of-the-box sense of style.)  This Spanish metropolitan really does have it all with respect to what it offers to visitors.  So if the aforementioned items are things of interest, be sure to bump Barcelona up on your travel bucket list.

Day One

Start the day off by fueling up with some food, more specifically tacos at Taco Alto.  This taco joint in the El Born area of Barcelona near the Arc de Triomf should not be missed.  I know you’re probably thinking, well I didn’t come to Spain to have tacos…but trust me, it’s well worth the visit.  The smaller venue features on their menu approximately 8 different tacos, a few quesadilla options as well as nachos.  Try one or try them all…you cannot go wrong as everything is delicious, and while you’re in the area, make sure to also check out the Arc de Triomf given the proximity to the restaurant.

After getting your Mexican fix, hop in a taxi and journey over to Park Guell.  This public park designed by Antoni Gaudí is truly one of Gaudí’s best works, combining art with nature.  Take a leisurely walk through the green space to see the ideas of Gaudí in motion.  Of note, the park is free and open to the public with the exception of the “Monumental zone” and the Casa-Museu Gaudí.  To visit the Monumental zone, it is best to arrange for these tickets in advance if this is a must-see on your list, as there are a limited number of tickets for entry per day.  However, tickets can be purchased up to three months in advance of your visit date and are actually cheaper (by one euro) if purchased online before visiting.

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Park Guell

As for the Casa-Museu Gaudí (Gaudí House Museum), this is a house where Gaudí resided for the majority of time during 1906-1926.  The house was originally occupied by private owners shortly after Gaudí’s death; however, it was later reacquired and turned into a public museum in 1963, and it has remained this way ever since.  If visiting the property to see where Gaudí lived for nearly two decades is of interest to you, you can tour the property for a small admission fee of 5,50 Euros.  The dwelling features unique furnishings that were originally designed by Gaudí among other items belonging to the great designer.

Casa-Museu Gaudí (Gaudí House Museum)

After spending a day at the park, splurge a bit for dinner at Tickets, one of the renowned restaurants in Barcelona, which has landed a well-deserved spot on the “Top 100 Restaurants in the World” list.  Unlike some of the other restaurants featured on this list, Tickets is strictly a la carte, which is a nice alternative to an overly pricey tasting menu.  The reservation window for this restaurant opens up 2 months in advance, so best to book early as this place is very popular and fills up quickly.  Of note, if you are staying for dessert, ask your waiter/waitress after being seated if there is space to have this course in the secret back room when you are finished with your main courses–it’s quite the treat!  Must haves at this locale are the octopus, Iberian ham, the mushroom ramen, and the cheesecake with cookies.

If a night cap is in order after all the delicious food, make your way over to Placa del Rei (The King’s Square).  This hidden gem in the Gothic area of Barcelona is a perfect spot to people watch and enjoy a glass of sangria.  On some nights, you can even find live music here or other entertainment.  So overall, a great place to head to before calling it a night.

Placa del Rei (The King’s Square)

Day Two

Begin your day by spending your morning at La Sagrada Familia, another one of Gaudí’s magnificent pieces.  The construction of this massive Roman Catholic Church began in 1882 and is still being built today, with an anticipated end date of 2026.  Inside the church, you will see the imagination of Gaudí come to life.  Unlike your typical place of worship, this one will make you feel as if you’re in a forest with its tree-like columns and the painted glass windows imitating sunlight.  The admission price (22 Euros with an audioguide) is a bit high, but consider it more of a donation as you are contributing to the construction and completion of the building.  Of note: It is best to book these tickets online in advance to avoid long lines.

Inside La Sagrada Familia
An outdoor view of La Sagrada Familia featuring The Crucifix.

For lunch, migrate over to La Boqueria, one of the largest (if not the largest) markets in Barcelona featured on Las Ramblas.  The motto of this location is “If you can eat it, we have it,” and it lives up to its word offering everything under the sun with respect to food.  Compared to some of the cafes and restaurants, this is one of the more economical places to grab a bite to eat and where many of the locals dine.  Pro tip: Stands further away from the entrance tend to be cheaper.

La Boqueria.

From here, if you’re in the mood for a stroll, walk down towards the waterfront area.  Otherwise, make your way to the Museu Picasso (Picasso Museum) to take in more culture.  The museum features many of Picasso’s works as an early artist before developing his niche for a more cubist and abstract artistic style.   Depending on what you wish to see at this museum, admission starts at 6,50 euros and runs up to 14 euros (which includes everything).  Like some of the other sites in Barcelona, it is best to purchase these tickets in advance as there is a limited capacity for each day.

When you’re done learning about the formative years of Picasso and seeing his artwork, head back towards Las Ramblas to take in some of the views and enjoy one of the large-sized mugs of sangria, which can be found at a majority of the cafes lining the pedestrian area.  Las Ramblas or La Rambla (referred to as both) is a long street (only for foot traffic) featuring multiple cafes, shopping and at times, as well as entertainment.  Be very careful, however, as this area is well-known as a place for pick-pocketing.

Sangria at a small cafe on Las Ramblas.

To end the day and for a full course dinner option, check out a cooking class at Barcelona Cooking.  Here you will learn about the cuisine of Barcelona, how to prepare it, as well as sample some of the wines from the local area.  The class, which is 65 euros per person, commences around 6:00pm and goes until about 9:00pm.  Of note: In order to reserve a spot, you should book your reservation online in advance.

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Barcelona Cooking Class.

Things to know before leaving:

Currency:  Spain utilizes the Euro.  Major credit cards are widely accepted; however, it is not the worst of ideas to exchange currency to Euros prior to arriving for a more favorable exchange rate.
Tipping:  Tipping is not very common or expected in Barcelona.  If you have enjoyed a casual lunch or dinner, you may leave a few extra euros in addition to the tab.  For a more fine-dining environment, 10-15% is seen as appropriate.  Additionally, it is not necessary to tip in taxis; however, if you are feeling generous, feel free to leave a tip of 1-2 euros.
Heads up:  
Barcelona is one of the top pick-pocketing cities in Europe, so be mindful of your possessions at all times, especially when strolling along Las Ramblas.

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