I recently took a trip to the Roussillon Wine Region in the South of France and had the option of coming back through Paris or Barcelona. I love Paris, but the idea of going through Barcelona sounded intriguing. I had never been to the Spanish city before and had heard nothing but wonderful things about it. They were all right.
While I recommend spending more than 24 hours In Barcelona (I definitely will next time). Manel Casanovas of the Barcelona Tourism Board helped me prove there’s still a lot for you to see, do and eat in that short time.
Barcelona is very easy to get to. Direct flights are available from the United States and all over Europe. There’s also the train route. For me, it was an easy hour and a half from Perpignan, France, to Barcelona by train.
I grabbed a cab and headed to my home-base, the Catalonia Plaza Cataluña. It’s in a great location to get just about anywhere in the city. The rooms are nice, with bathtubs and king size beds, two things that you often don’t see in many European hotels.
The Barcelona Bus Turistic is a double decker hop on hop off bus with three routes to take you around the city. I had been told it was a very walkable city so I decided to do it on my own.
The biggest attraction here is actually the buildings themselves. The architecture by Antonio Gaudi is just stunning and examples are found everywhere, from apartment buildings to malls.
I walked down to La Rambla (less than a block from the hotel) and headed to the Gothic Quarter to see the best of it. You can’t miss the Cathedral as it towers of the Placa Nova. In fact, it was my focal point anytime I thought I might be lost. Spend a few minutes exploring it, as well as the Museu de Cathedral.
Barcelona is filled with museums that can take more than a day in themselves -- there’s even a museum dedicated to chocolate! I gravitated toward the one dedicated to one of my favorite artists and I was not disappointed in Museu Picasso. I could have stayed there all day, but I wanted to head down to the water.
Along the way, I passed the beautiful Santa Maria del Mar, one of the many beautiful churches in Barcelona. There was also a statue dedicated to Columbus who left Spain to find our new world.
From the scenic Port Vell, you have access to see the Aquarium, the World Trade Center and the Maritime Museum. I walked around a bit, wishing I had time to go down a little further to Port Olympic and the Ciutadella Villa Olympica, home to the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics.
In the summertime, just past the port are many public beaches you can spend the day at. I was told Barceloneta (little Barcelona) is a favorite, and Suquet de l’almirall a great seafood restaurant to have lunch at while there. It wasn’t quite warm enough for that, but I made a note for the next trip.
Manel suggested I go to the Michelin Star Alkimia in Misop for lunch. They specialize in “colors, texture and taste” and that was certainly exemplified with dishes such as Pickled Oysters with pork cheek and spinach, though I was just as happy with Baked Chicken Cannelloni.
I did a bit of shopping and that’s not hard to do in Barcelona. From designer dress shops to street markets, there’s something to buy at every corner. I found the best deals to be on handmade jewelry and saw a number of unique silver pieces that were hand painted. I also couldn’t help staring at the Nike store in the Gaudi designed building.
I went back to the hotel to change for dinner, though I quickly learned anything goes when it comes to night fashion in Barcelona and I could have stayed in my jeans. The trick here is to look chic and comfortable with yourself no matter what you put on.
The newly opened wine bar at the modern Moritz (designed by architect Jean Nouvel and helmed by Chef Jordi Villa) has a selection of wines from the local Catalan to those from France and even Napa. The uniqueness of this place is that it allows you the option of tasting in your choice of size from the inexpensive to the prime. Using a compression gadget, they can keep wine at its freshest, allowing them to open bottles that most places would never offer by the glass. So, you can try a taste of that $3,000 wine for about $15. Or, you can enjoy some very good wines in a larger glass for much less.
In addition to pairing foods with cheese, tapas and charcuterie, Moritz makes dishes cooked with wine. I sampled it all and I enjoyed their version of Boeuf Borginon, made with a Spanish twist. Outside the wine bar there is a full menu in the brewery, where you can enjoy Moritz beer.
To get a real feel for Barcelona, there is nothing like wondering around at night. The city comes alive after dark and I felt perfectly safe, wondering through the alleyways of people dancing and watching the big football (aka soccer in the U.S.) match on television at places like Sports Bar Rambles.
I knew I had an early flight in the morning so I didn’t stay out to late at Barcelona’s nightspots, which are everywhere. Two of the most popular are Milk Bar, known for its international crowd with classic cocktails with names like “Bling Bling.” There’s also Marmalade, a bit more sophisticated and more popular with the locals.
I managed to get a few hours’ sleep before it was time to say Adios to España. It had been quite a trip, but I didn’t let go of it too soon. I found a vending machine where you can grab one last beer from the vending machine in front of my gate at the airport.