It feels like everyone went to Barcelona this summer! Every time I logged into Instagram, snaps of tapas and Gaudi architecture loomed back at me – not that I’m complaining of course. It all served as great inspiration for our own trip at the end of August, when we jetted off for a week to escape the frenzy of relocating our entire lives back home. It was a fantastic week, and a much-needed one. So here’s my favourite places that we found in our short time in Barca – I hope you enjoy them if you’re planning a visit!
We stayed in the very cool district of El Born, which is very much like the Shoreditch of Barcelona. It’s not much to look at in the daytime when all the shops are closed, but in the evening it comes alive with bars, cafes, shops, galleries and so much going on. Plus it’s easy to walk to so many places from Born, so I’d definitely recommend it as a great place to stay. We stayed in this AirBnb studio, which was a great location and served the two of us perfectly.
Of course, it’s not a trip to Spain without tapas! Born has some amazing tapas bars and we tried pretty much all of them! Our favourite was Bormuth, which we headed to on our first afternoon and went back to at least twice more. It’s absolutely tiny so best to visit between lunch and dinner time if you want a seat, but the food is delicious. Reasonably priced for large portions (large for tapas, that is), and really tasty, we enjoyed every visit here. The patatas bravas are just about the most garlicky thing I could ever imagine – but still so tasty – and the chicken fingers and the Spanish omelette are also delicious.
We also loved La Taverna del Born, which we only found on our last day but enjoyed pretty much the best meal of our trip. Sit outside on the terrace if you can (there’s an extra 15% service charge for the terrace but it’s worth it for the buzz on the streets outside) and if the boneless chicken wings are on the menu, for the love of God order them. Without a doubt the best chicken anything I have ever had, I could have eaten piles and piles of them. Absolutely delicious, great service and a very tempting menu that I could have happily worked my way through if we didn’t have a flight to catch…
The Alsur Cafe was all of about a thirty-second walk from our apartment, so once we’d spotted it, it became our go-to for a tasty brunch, a quick snack, an evening drink or a mojito to pass the time. We really liked this place; inside is like a cosy coffee shop, and outside is a pretty terrace with fairy lights. The food is basic but super tasty – think avocado on toast, or a grilled cheese sandwich made with waffles instead of bread. Simple and delicious! They also made the best mojitos I have ever had here, and they were just €3 each!
La Bona Sort was a much dressier affair; this is a really cool cocktail bar and restaurant further into Born, with the most stylish hipster deco and an extensive cocktail menu. It wasn’t the cheapest, but the service was great and the margaritas were fabulous – what’s not to love?!
Yes, there’s cocktails and tapas to be had, but Spain also does the most delicious desserts and sweet treats. My particular favourite is churros – I’m still thinking about them daily. We tried several places for churros during our stay and I have the two best lined up for you. For traditional churros and chocolate, Petritxol Xocoa was dreamy. This is a properly indulgent chocolate shop, filled with the most incredible looking chocolate cakes and treats, and they are famous for their churros y chocolate. Expect sugary sweet churros and the most decadent dipping sauce, you can really take your time over this. Delicious!
For something a little different – and my absolute favourite – there’s a tiny churreia stand at La Sagrada Familia, just a little way away from the Gaudi cathedral. It’s on the corner of the street opposite a park and is admittedly pretty tricky to spot, but it’s worth the hunt. Here you’ll find gigantic churros for around €2, stuffed with a variety of wicked fillings; I chose dulce de leche and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. It was just the most gorgeous thing. So satisfying, so delicious, so dark and rich and luxurious – I would go back to Barcelona for that churro alone.
Ice-cream is of course a must-have on a summer holiday, and while we sampled many places during our trip, the best was Gocce di Latte. There was a huge variety of flavours and each one was rich and sumptuous, beautifully made and incredibly tasty. It wasn’t the cheapest at around €5 for a tub (three scoops) but worth the price for a tasty treat.
La Colmena Patisseria was a great little spot too; the windows are piled high with cakes, meringues, muffins, macarons and other amazing little bits, and once inside, you won’t be able to resist trying something. I chose a chocolate orange muffin, complete with preserved orange cubes and a sticky, tangy orange sauce, while Lewis had what he thought was a huge meringue, which turned out to be a huge meringue on a huge cupcake. Win win.
Shopping wasn’t high on our agenda, but we couldn’t resist a trip into the city centre to explore. La Rambla is the Oxford Street and Bond Street of Barcelona, rolled into one. Expect everything from Zara and Mango (Spanish staples!) to Chanel, Saint Laurent and Gucci – heart-eyes everywhere! This is just the biggest street so wear comfy shoes if you’re planning on taking a day trip, or you could always just buy some…
El Corte Ingles is Spain’s version of John Lewis, and while it’s not amazing, it’s definitely worth a look around! It’s also got a Sephora housed inside – although I counted at least three standalone Sephora stores so you can fill your boots!
Ale Hop was a great fun find – it was kind of like Tiger, but definitely more feminine and less homey. I found great cheap flip-flops, plenty of amazing novelty inflatables for the pool and loads of pretty stationery here; again there seems to be loads about, so if you spot one it’s worth a stop!
Things to Do
There is plenty to do in Barcelona, but it gets so hot that you might not want to do very much! On days like that, the beach is always a great idea, but head down to the far end of the beach – it’s about a ten-twenty minute walk further along the coast than the main beach, depending on how far you want to go – but it’s totally worth it. The main beach is rammed with children and tourists, so if you want a quieter, more chilled atmosphere, definitely keep walking!
If you take a trip up to the museum of Catalan art, make sure to set time aside to explore the area behind the museum. There are lots of beautiful gardens to walk around, with amazing views over the city. A wander around here will also take you to the Olympic stadium, which is open to take a look at and is pretty interesting. The gardens were pretty much empty when we explored so it’s a really peaceful way to escape the crowds and enjoy a chilled afternoon.
Exploring Born is a great way to pass the time too; there’s markets, galleries and so many winding, twisting streets to discover. And then you can take a walk into the Gothic Quarter, which is totally worth getting to know. There are dozens of beautiful cathedrals and churches, interesting and quirky shops and plenty of places to stop off for refreshments on the way!
There’s not too much need to take the subway, as you can walk to most places – but if you do, buy the ten-journey subway ticket for €10. Multiple people can use the ticket, and it can be used over multiple days, so two of you can take five trips over the course of the week for just €5 each. Definitely worth having in case you decide to stay out late!
Another subway tip: if you are going to the beach, stay on past Barceloneta and get off at the next stop, Ciutadella Vila Olimpica. It’ll take you much closer to the nice end of the beach!
And if you do go to the beach, take something comfy to sit on – sunloungers are €28 to hire!
Make the most of a siesta – Barcelona gets HOT!
If you need to take a taxi, look up the Barcelona Women’s Taxi Association – friendly female drivers in nice cars at good prices, so you can feel safe and get to your destination easily.
And remember – pasalo bien!