Barcelona is a fabulous city situated on the Mediterranean. So much history, architecture, food and neighborhoods to explore. There is so much to do and see that you could spend way more than five days here. We decided to go Thanksgiving week and it was a great decision. The weather was great for that time of year and it wasn't crowded at all.
We arrived at our hotel around 6pm after an exhausting travel experience from DC, but the staff Retrome Urban Retreat welcomed us with smiling faces and a glass of wine that soothed our nerves! After getting settled in to our room, we headed out for a bite to eat at BETLEM- Miscelánea Gastronómica which was right across from the hotel. By far the best pan con tomato we had while in Barcelona. Such a simple dish, but so delicious. Of course, we were still on American time, so we were early to eat, but we took our time, ordered several of the delicious tapas offerings and of course, vino!
We headed out to explore and headed down to el Born neighborhood which has tons of restaurants, cafes and unique shops is an easy walk from our hotel. Of course we had to poke into the corner bakery for some pastries to fuel our walk.
We also stopped by another cafe called 365 that had the best little donut hole type of pastry that I've ever had in my life. They are called berlines and are either filled with chocolate or cream and they are so tasty we got them any chance we could!
We stumbled upon Palau de la Música Catalana (more on this later), Avinguda de la Catedral and la Boqueria market while meandering around, as well. I highly recommend a trip to la Boqueria and go hungry! This market is packed full of every different type of food imaginable. Chocolate, eggs, peppers, seafood, iberico ham, crepes, fruit, etc etc. You can even grab lunch or dinner at a few of the stalls in the market.
We had a 2pm tour of Sagrada Familia, so we headed back to the hotel to clean up and rest a minute and get back on our way to one of the most amazing sites I've ever seen in my life. I HIGHLY recommend getting a tour of this breathtaking church. It's a must see and words cannot really describe what your eyes see. This one of a kind church got it's beginning with the first stone being laid in 1882 under another architect who soon resigned. Antoni Gaudí took over the design in 1883. Unfortunately, Gaudí died in 1926 with only one tower of the nativity facade complete. Sagrada Familia is still under construction today with completion planned for 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudí's death. Every detail has meaning. Every item is purposeful and planned. It's stunning.
Day one ended with a quick bite to eat and us falling into bed after this packed day of walking everywhere.
After walking over 22,000 steps the day before, we woke up to VERY sore bodies. Thank goodness for ibuprofen! We headed out for more pastries and to check out Gaudí's other well known masterpiece, Casa Batlló. We hadn't planned to tour Casa Batlló, but I'm really glad we did. It's fascinating!! Gaudí designed this unique house for Joseph Batlló, a textile industrialist and prominent businessman. There are no straight lines in this house where function and form reign. It's a UNESCO World Heritage site and definitely worth a visit.
Next stop, the beach! We hopped on the metro right there in front of Casa Batlló and headed to the beach for the day. The streets down by the water reminded me so much of the streets in Italy, flower boxes, laundry hanging, locals chatting it up at the street corner. It was a great day to hang by the Med for the afternoon. It was cool to see surfers and families hanging at the beach on this warm-ish November day.
There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, so we picked at spot with seating outside next to the water where we could get mussels and enjoy the food. As we headed back we noticed there was a tram that led somewhere. So being the spontaneous couple that we are, we decided to jump on and see where it took us. The tram took us to Montjuic right outside the Marriott. There was a beautiful park here and a path that led us through a desert like atmosphere with many different cacti, birds of paradise, parakeets and giant aloe plants. It was like stepping into a different world. We followed the path to the road which led us to the Christopher Columbus statue and back to La Rambla. Who knew? Sometimes you find the best things in those unplanned, spontaneous moments. Day 2 ended with a stroll up La Rambla, a stop for vino and a quick bite to eat at la Boqueria market.
Day 3 was a gorgeous sunny day with highs in the 70s! Great for exploring. Our first stop was for a tour of Palau de la Musica, a stunning concert hall. The architecture here did not disappoint! We were lucky to hear a concert while touring this stunning building!
The next part of our plan didn't work out like we wanted, but it was such a beautiful day, we still had fun. We planned to head up to Park Guell and spend the day in Gaudí's park. Well after some metro mishaps, walking in circles to the entrance of the park and then realizing that line was too long for us to enter the park in a timely manner, we decided to just walk around the free part of the park, which was lovely. We got some fantastic views of the city from the top of the park and stumbled upon some other cool sites. We had to get back to our hotel to get ready for the Food and Wine tour we had planned for the evening.
We met our tour by Culinary Paths in the Poble Sec neighborhood. I have to say, this was one thing I was really looking forward to. It did not disappoint. We started at a couple of pinchos bars and worked our way back over to the el Born neighborhood. We tasted iberico ham, patatas bravas, pinchos, meatballs and roasted peppers and of course plenty of vino while on the tour. One of the best things about the tour was getting to meet and chat with people from all over the world...Canada, Atlanta and England! It was a fabulous time and Javier was a great guide! Read more about the pinchos we had on the tour in one of my other blog posts.
After the tour, our guide hung out with us and took us to a very cool Speakeasy called Paradiso. We had no idea where we were headed, or how strong the drinks were (oops!) but what a fun night! Once inside the bar, we were given menus that light up and met another couple from the States. After a few drinks, we notice our friend talking to one of servers and the next thing we know, we are piling into the bathroom and, honestly, I was nervous thinking something weird was about to happen, but he opened the soap container, punched a few buttons and the wall opened up to ANOTHER SECRET BAR! WOW! This bar can be rented for a private party for a pretty penny. I'm sure we super nerds about the whole situation...not the cool kids at all! But whatever, it was a blast!
Day trip to Montserrat!
I definitely recommend taking a day trip to Montserrat, a monastery built in the mountains, while in Barcelona. It's about an hour and a half from the city but it seems a world away. As you approach you wonder how in the world they got all the material up here to build this amazing monastery. There are hiking paths all around at the top and the funicular is a fun way to get to the top!
With the Montserrat experience tickets, you get the train from Barcelona, lunch, and rides on both funicular trains. If you are there at the right time, you might even get a chance to hear the boys choir sing which is like listening to angels in heaven.
That night back in Barcelona, we stumbled upon their kick of to the Christmas shopping season. They party in the streets on our Thanksgiving night leading up to Black Friday. Stores have big promotions and entertainers to bring the shoppers in. It was so fun to watch and be a part of.
Oh and if you get the chance, stop at Lucy's Burgers and Tapas Slow Food and order the fried provolone! It was amazing! I was expected fried cheese like in the states, but it was this little cast iron skillet full of melted provolone served with bread...mmm...mmm...mmm!
Another day trip for us this day. We decided last minute to head up to little town of Girona. On the fast train it's only 40 minutes from Barcelona. It was a rainy, chilly day, but fun nonetheless. The historic section has intricate cobbled stone roads, medieval buildings, a breathtaking cathedral, not to mention sites where Game of Thrones was filmed.
Our last night was spent in the el Born neighborhood getting last minute souvenirs and grabbing dinner.
I hope you get the chance to visit Barcelona and I'm sure you'd spend your time differently than we did, but the best advice I can give you is to schedule yourself sparingly and let the day take you someplace amazing!
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