{travelogue} My Favorite Places in Barcelona

I recently spent a week in Barcelona with my husband and almost-3-year-old. We scouted some excellent restaurants, sights, and neighborhoods and even did a fantastic food tour. Here are my favorites!

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My Favorite Places in Barcelona 

Restaurants and Bars

In the fun and lively neighborhood of El Born, try Llamber. It looks quite posh but is surprisingly inexpensive, especially their lunch special which is a great deal! Delicious and cleverly presented food from start to finish. My husband’s all-time favorite is the quirky Cal Pep, which is fun and fabulous for a late dinner. The big, crazy restaurant at Santa Caterina Market called Cuines Santa Caterina is great for lunch, fresh and fun food with Asian influences.

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In the Barri Gotic you would be remiss to miss a mojito at the funky Bar Oviso in Plaça George Orwell. It’s hands-down the best one I’ve ever tasted. For an authentic wine and tapas experience, make your way to Bodega La Palma. Don’t miss the tasty local raw cheeses.

In rollicking El Raval you’ll find the cozy Suculent, where you can have a fun dinner and great gin and tonics.

Near the beach, head into the charming working-class area of La Barceloneta and wait for a table at La Cova Fumada for a bustling meal of perfectly prepared tapas. You’ll eat shoulder to shoulder with fishermen, students, grandmas, and everyone in between. (There is no sign on the outside so look up the address at the link.)

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On the main drag of Passeig Don Borbó Comte Barcelona you can snag a patio table at Suquet De l’Almirall (whose chef was formerly at El Bulli) and eat crispy chipirones (baby squid) with artichokes and a fried egg. It sounds odd but it was absolutely wonderful.

Speaking of eggs, you’ll find the most incredible plate of fried eggs with jamón and a seat by the window at the lovely Bar Velodromo in L’Eixample.

Bakeries and Sweet Shops

In Gracia, take a trip to La Nena for crazy delicious hot chocolate. The cozy spot has shelves with toys and games for people of all ages, so you can sip your chocolatey brew, nibble a croissant, and get your Scrabble on.

By the beach, cool off with a cone from Vioko. They have interesting, luscious gelato flavors and excellent cones.

Back in El Born, you can smell the wares of Forn Vila Mala from a block away. This unassuming bakery turns out the city’s best milhojas (also called coca de crema)–crispy, caramelized layers of puff pastry sandwiching rich custard. Also in El Born, you’ll find 2 fabulous old candy shops that are worth a stop: Casa Gispert and La Campana. Both are designated historical landmarks and offer lots of sweet treats to try.

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Sights and Things to Do

My aim here is not to be as exhaustive as a guide book, but rather to share a few things that I found particularly fun and special.

I had pretty low expectations of Park Güell – I mean how great could a famous park be? Pretty great, actually. If you time your visit to coincide with sunset the views are fantastic. Note that you can get into the park for free, but you need to buy a ticket for the Monumental Zone (i.e., the really good part) and it is a timed ticket with a specific window.

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Of course you are basically required to visit Sagrada Familia when in Barcelona, but this will also not disappoint. It is massively crowded though, and I highly recommend buying tickets online before you go so you don’t get turned away.

Of course, one of the best things about Barcelona is just walking around the different neighborhoods, from the Barri Gótic with its tight cobblestone streets to the hipster paradise of Born.

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My favorite event was our wonderful food tour with Culinary Backstreets. We had been on a Culinary Backstreets tour in Shanghai (which was called an UnTour at the time) and it was just the most fun thing imaginable. Highlight of the trip.

Barcelona’s mild weather means any time is a good time for the beach, so don’t miss it.

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Near Casa Mila you’ll find Vinçon, a massive and wonderful home and design shop that is a delight to browse. Worth a stop.

If you’re going with kids, check out my top recommendations for what to do with families and how to spend a week in Barcelona with kids at Rookie Moms.

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Hotel/Apartment

We rented an apartment from the well-reviewed boutique hotel The 5 Rooms. They have a couple of apartments and five rooms (obviously) in a classic Barcelona building. The location was super-central and walkable to so many things. There were multiple subway lines just a block away. The apartment was comfortable and stylish, and the people at the hotel were helpful and flexible. Plus, it was right near the convenient airport bus so getting in and out of town is fast, cheap, and easy.

Resources

  • Time Out Barcelona is, as in many other cities, an indispensable resource for all things Barcelona – especially local events.
  • I like these cool, offbeat Citi X 60 guides, and we got lots of great ideas from reading the Barcelona version.
  • We got a bilingual (Enlish/Spanish) babysitter a couple of nights so we could get out on the town, from the well-reviewed Tender Loving Canguros service.
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