A Weekend in Barcelona
The wheels on your flight have touched down at Barcelona’s El Prat International airport. You’ve gone through passport control, and now you stand in the warm, late evening summer air in one of Europe’s most exciting cities. You’re here for a weekend and time is of the essence. So, grab yourself a taxi and make for the center.
Once you’ve checked in to your room (hotel or Airbnb) and quickly unpacked your bags, it’s time to satiate your appetite because those sub-par, overpriced, cardboard sandwiches you ate on the plane are starting to fade and hunger is setting in.
For some terrace side tapas, make your way to Gracia where on the corner of Carrer de Nàpols sits Tossa. Like so many of Barcelona’s best tapas joints, from the outside, it’s fairly unassuming. But, take a seat outside, order a couple of cool beers and pick from a selection of some stunning small plates that include delicious Galician squid, fried artichokes, and delicious croquettes. The service is quick, friendly and incredibly efficient.
Well fed, head home to catch a couple Zs in preparation for the day to come.
If you’re staying in an Airbnb, seek out the neighborhood’s local bakery and pick yourself up a couple of ensaimada. This soft, pillowy pastry, heavily dusted in powdered sugar, originates from Mallorca but is eaten widely throughout Spain and is to-die-for. Throw in a couple coffees to kick you into high gear, and you’re set.
Head to Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece first to avoid the mid-day heat and crowds. This stunning church is an architectural wonder that feels stripped from the pages of a fairy tale. Head inside to marvel and the towering columns built to resemble trees and the dancing light that floods through the stained glass windows.
Why not make it a morning of churches? After the Sagrada make your way to the Gothic Quarter and get lost in the narrow tangle of the old town’s streets trying to find the Gothic Cathedral. Don’t worry, getting lost is part of the fun. The Gothic Quarter is a beautiful network of streets that point to Barcelona’s history.
For lunch move into Barcelona’s most vibrant neighborhood, El Raval. Here, you have your pick of world cuisines, with restaurants serving up everything from Mexican and Thai to Indian and Turkish. If you’re looking for a fantastic kebab, seek out Bismillah Kebabish. Located on a street peppered with fruit and veg stalls, vintage shops and little bars, this place serves up a mean kebab wrapped in fresh, homemade bread.
Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA)
MACBA, Barcelona’s world-class contemporary art museum houses a permanent collection of more than 5000 works as well as hosts a range of exciting rotating exhibitions. This museum is at the cutting edge of contemporary art. Its permanent collection covers art from the 1940s to modern day and represents predominantly Spanish and Catalan artists.
As the afternoon pushes into evening time to settle in for a beer or two.
Named after a small Danish town, Olgod also literally translates to God of Beer. This cozy craft beer bar boasts 30 taps that pull some phenomenal Scandinavian beers (a few local beers are represented too) and is the perfect place to wet your whistle. The place also serves up burgers, wings and other beer food fare too.
Start your day off with a proper Catalan breakfast at La Padilla in Gracia. Here, they serve up esmorzar de forquilla, which roughly translates to “breakfast with a fork” and means a big, hearty breakfast. Bring an appetite and tuck into Catalan sausages, beans and stews.
While you digest, stroll the streets of Gracia, one of Barcelona’s best neighborhoods. Gracia used to exist independent of Barcelona until it was swallowed up by the city in the 19th century. Despite this, the area has retained its own distinct feel and identity.
Head down Carrer de Verdi which is lined by boutique shops, restaurants, and trendy bars and punctuated by sun-dappled places.
In the middle of August Gracia explodes into life for ten days for the Festa Major de Gracia. If you find yourself in the area around this time, explore the richly decorated streets which each have their own theme. There are also street performances, workshops, and food stalls.
No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a trip up to Gaudi’s extraordinary park.
Park Guell is another architectural wonder where Gaudi brought together, in perfect harmony, nature, art, and architecture. The park was initially envisioned to serve as a housing project for Barcelona’s wealthy population who wanted to live removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. However, Guell’s park failed to attract investors, and the idea was abandoned. Eventually, the land and the work that had so far been completed on it was opened to the public to serve as a park.
Park Guell is a wonderland of beauty, and the distinct, organic style of the architecture found within it is sure to be unlike anything you will have ever seen.
Bunkers of Carmel
When you’ve toured Park Guell, head a little further up the hill into Barcelona’s working-class neighborhood of El Carmel. Up here, sitting atop a Turo de la Rovira hill, are the crumbling remains of a civil war era anti-aircraft fortification.
Built in 1938, the concrete and masonry defenses were fitted with 105 mm cannons that were used to help protect Barcelona from aerial bombardment. There are information boards dotted about the site which tell the history of bunkers and Barcelona’s struggle throughout the civil war. But, the bunker’s main draw is the spectacular view it boasts over all of the city.
In the evenings the bunkers come alive with tourists and locals rubbing shoulders. Groups of youngsters, families, and couples take picnics and drinks, claim a spot, and watch the city move beneath. Why not grab some snacks, a few drinks and do the same?
Round you’re night and weekend off with Mexican-Spanish fusion food at La Catrina, a low-key restaurant at the top of Gracia. This place serves up great tacos with fillings that combine the best of Mexico and Catalonia. The service is second to none, the food delicious and wonderfully affordable.
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