Barcelona has a sense of humour, it teases the senses, offering you on each visit just a glimpse of what it has to offer. The problem with visiting Barcelona for a long weekend is that once you get started you realise how much more there is to explore. The Catalonian capital is a city for all seasons too.
Incredibly photogenic, it’s an aesthetically pleasing city for all different reasons – it has beach, city, classical, neo-classical, modern, modernist, beautiful and retro architecture, street art, graffiti, museums and plethora of inventive restaurants. Play hard, relax and most of all enjoy it – Barcelona is certainly about enjoying yourself.
We were staying in the centrally located Passeig de Gracia, the perfect spot to explore hubs such as Las Ramblas, head up to the hills – or take the cable car.
What to see on a first visit to Barce…
Sant Pau – A masterpiece of Catalan Modernisme, described as the ‘City within a City,’ the original hospital was part of a social healthcare project that started in the early 1900s. It’s a beautiful collection of decorative pavilions built on the diagonal and only a 10 minute walk to Sagrada Familia.
Sagrada Familia & Casa Batllo, Gaudi – No visit to Barcelona would be complete without seeing some Gaudi – the father of modernist architecture.
Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s cathedral vision dominates the surrounding skyline. A tribute to the natural world, a wondrous and dominating masterpiece of architecture. The curved iconography on the front resembles a melting facade, the almighty tree and branched styled columns inside supporting the roof and the Cubism-styled Passion of Christ.The cathedral is due to be completed in 2026, 140 years of work that is being shaped by architects and residents of Barcelona now – under Gaudi’s instruction.
Casa Batllo, a 5 minute walk from where we were staying. It looks like it was designed for Dr. Seuss. The colourful facade resembles fish scales, mosaic and ceramics are present in all of his work. Light and a fascination with the natural world combine to create this stellar block of apartments.
MNAC – one of my favourite activities was visiting the Museo Nacionale d’Art de Cataluyna, sitting on a hill by the Olympic Stadium with views across the city. The museum was such a surprise, incredibly modern interiors coloured in shades of whites and grey, taking you through Romanesque Catalonian art to modernist pieces which tell the story of how the history of the region has changed. It has some of the best murals and Gothic art collection.
Eat your heart out…
Famous for it’s gastronomy, Barcelona took the food world by storm with the now-closed El Bulli. Dining is a warm affair rather than snooty, and hipsters have certainly moved in bringing young bearded chefs adding an edginess to the talent already present in the city.
Dos Pebrots – just opened in the newly renovated part of the city off from Las Ramblas, which used to be rather gritty with a bad reputation. It has been cleaned up and this fantastic restaurant has more of an East London vibe, exposed bricks, menus that recommend which utensil to best eat the tapas style degustation menu with – hands, spoon, chop sticks – as well as the method of cooking – osmosis etc. One of the strangest dishes we tried was the Pigs Udder, comically served on a ceramic pig with a hot salty broth to wash it down, this was swiftly followed by the most delicious roasted pork I’ve ever had. http://www.dospebrots.com/
Alvart – opened just 14 months ago. The Duck Cappucino is one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. The tiny restaurant is minimalist in design, fantastic crockery so that all attention is drawn to the food, prepared in the tiny kitchen. He offers a lunch time menu with a glass of wine for EUR 23. http://www.alvart.es/
Moments – woah! Try the Trip Tasting Menu – that Paris macaron with foie gras is inspired. 15 courses paired with local wines, cava and beer! A moment I will not forget…
Casa de Tapas – a typical tapas restaurant where families would visit for a Sunday lunch with friends, delicious hams, tomato bread, octopus and prawns in garlic. Great atmosphere – looks a little dodgy from the outside but was wonderful inside. http://casadetapas.com/
Boqueria market – wonderful fresh food markets and shops just off Las Ramblas, very atmospheric – this is a great lunch time spot.
BistrEau – Angel Leon – the Chef of the Sea is the pioneer of cooking with plankton. Absolutely delicious, the restaurant is located in the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona on Passeig de Gracia
Where to stay – it couldn’t be anywhere other that Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona. So stylish, the Patricia Urquiola design is phenomenal throughout – very green, super chic. The Banker’s Bar is in the old bank vault with the original security boxes decorating the room.