I arranged a long weekend in Barcelona as a surprise for Dave's 30th knowing he had always wanted to see all of the Gaudi architecture and especially the Sagrada Familia (more on that later!), which helped me when choosing the right hotel. I came across Ayre Hotel Rosellón which has a rooftop bar overlooking the Sagrada Familia. It was perfect and such a lovely place to stay. After some exploring in the day, we would relax in the afternoons on the rooftop bar watching the builders working at scary heights to complete the ongoing building and then return at night to admire it lit up.
Barcelona is known for its unusual and impressive architecture, and in paticular, Antonio Gaudi. With our CityMaps2Go map downloaded, off we went to tick off and explore as many Gaudi creations as possible.
The first, La Pedera Casa Milà, was the last private residence designed by Gaudi. With its colourful facade, irregular shapes, wavy lines, and iron ornaments, it was fascinating to see.
The next was Casa Batlló, which feels almost dreamlike inside. Inspired by nature and the sea, Gaudi created an interior of wavy lines and whirpool like effects and we marvelled at all of the colours and the quirkiness as we walked round and round. The rooftop is absolutely enchanting and has amazing views over the city.
We made our way to Park Güell, which is located on a hill-top, so comes with some up-hill walking! The nearest Metro stop is Lessops, and then you are faced with a 20-minute uphill walk, and after the sweaty hike we approached the entrance thinking we could just turn up and buy tickets on the day but unfortunately it was fully booked! So down the hill we went and after booking tickets at the ticket booth, we returned the next day, where we caught the next stop along on the Metro to Vallcarca, where we discovered there were escalators up to the park's highest point and a walk down to the park which is much more managable.
Park Guell has stunning panoramic views over the city, beautiful gardens and more of Gaudi's unusual architecture to discover, there is so much to see.
And finally, we visited the Sagrada Familia, and we were even more blown away than we expected. An absolute feast on the eyes as you walk through the doors, we spent the first five minutes just gawping at the spectacular ceiling. Its quite undescribable, and beyond breathtaking.
As we explored Barcelona further and further, we saw glimmers of Gaudi all around.
Where to visit?
A stunning building we passed, but didn't go inside, is the Palau de la Musica Catalana, which is a beautiful concert hall desgined by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
Always a fan of a Flea Market, we went in search of El Encants. Leaving Glories Metro Station, we passed some great street art on our way to the market.
Located underneath an impressive mirrored canopy, the market is full of thrifty finds!
One of our favourite areas by far was the Gothic Quarter.Narrow medieval streets, filled with shops, restaurants and bars and we enjoyed just exploring and getting lost around the gothic labyrinth.
Another favourite area to explore was the neighbourhood of Gracia. Full of artist studios, cosy cafes, and quirky shops - we loved wandering these bohemian streets.
El Born is another neighbourhood we loved walking through, located close by to the Gothic Quarter and with similar narrow streets but with more of a bohemian feel and less touristy. This area is very picturesque and full of charm.
Barcelona is full of amazing shops, one in paticular that I wish I had a bigger suitcase for was La-a-Botiga. We brought back a vintage mask for our wall, but there was so many plants and planters and various homewares I had my eye on!
I had to tell myself I don't need yet another basket bag in the many wicker filled shops!
Another favourite find was Fundacio Gaspar which is located within the Gothic Quarter. We unfortunately didn't have time to visit the actual gallery as we discovered this gem on our way back to the hotel before our flight, but we did visit their wonderful shop. We came back with two pieces of art work for our home (pictured). We love bringing back pieces of artwork from places we visit, there is a story and sentiment to them that always reminds us of our journeys.
Cafes and Restaurants
Alsur Cafe was the first cafe we ate at when arriving in Barcelona. Greenery and beautiful tiles, we were sold. The breakfast was an unusual mix of food but resulted in one of the most delicious breakfasts I have ever tried!
Since it was Dave's 30th, I wanted to find a great burger joint (as one of his favourite foods!), and came across Bacoa. With quite a canteen feel, selling delicious burgers and (bargain!) wine in plastic cups, it was a fun start to our first night in Barcelona!
Following our burger fix, we headed to El Nacional, an innovative concept with four distinct areas. The building is beautiful, greeted with an array of plants (always a winner with us!) and with an industrial interior with large windows and metal pillars - this place is full of charm. We had some birthday cocktails here and soaked up the atmosphere.
Another day, another strange array of Barcelona breakfast foods. This time at Galeria Cosmo, which is a contemporary cafe and art space. We loved the interiors with so many things to look at!
During a brief spell of rain, we ran into the Hammock Juice Station and were delighted with the seating! Sipping our smoothies and rocking on the hammocks, it was a great pit stop.
That night we went to Gourmet Tapas by Sensi in the Gothic Quarter, one of a few Sensi establishments. The food was absolutely gorgeous.
After filling up on delicious Tapas, we walked down the road to Cafe Milans. Great music and a cosy atmosphere, we settled ourselves down on the sofa and enjoyed some beverages!
The next day we popped into Bar But in the Gracia neighbourhood for a coffee pit stop and it looked great for a bite to eat too. We passed another cute coffee shop called Syra, and although we didn't stop for another coffee, I would recomend stopping by.
Sat hidden within the winding streets of El Born, is Ziryab Tapas, which was such a find! It is delicious tapas but with a middle eastern twist, set in an old building of nooks and crannies.
I came across Espai Joliu via Instagram and couldn't wait to visit. Slightly off the beaten track, we walked and walked (realising on the way home that it isnt too far from the sea front) and finally came across this wonderful plant concept store. It is an interior dream inside, covered in greenery with exposed plaster and brick walls and artwork - we were truly at home here! We had a coffee and a bagel each whilst I took photo after photo!
In the area of Sant Antoni we stumbled upon Cafe Cometa, which will meet all your health kick needs. Also in Sant Antoni, look out for the briliant piece of street art below.
Barcelona has the best of both worlds, it is a fantastic vibrant city but also has the beach! We headed over to the beach a couple of times and enjoyed a drink looking out over the lapping waves. We did take a walk to the Maremagnum Shopping Centre during our trip which juts out into the water at the end of a wavy wooden pier at Port Vell to find me some alternative footwear (the blisters were real...!), and found lots of people basking in the sun, eating at restaurants and watching the boats come in and out of the port area.
We found the Metro very easy to use, with it being fairly similar to the London underground, except the carriages have air conditioning which was a heaven sent in the heat! We did try to walk to most areas as we enjoy looking at everything inbetween, the arcitecture and culture as we pass from neighbourhood to neighbourhood, but the Metro was great for when we had tired feet! There are various tickets you can go for such as travel cards for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days, or multi-journey tickets. . We opted for a T-10 ticket, a multi-person card allowing us 10 journeys which worked out great.
We felt we had barely scratched the surface exploring this wonderful city, with so much to do and see, it really does have a bit of everything.