We spent our first and last nights in Spain in the city of. . . Barcelona! We didn’t get to do everything I would have liked in this city because of time limitations, but here are the places that stand out as the best of Barcelona:
Disembarking onto the Airstrip – I want to thank Norwegian Airlines for fulfilling this lifelong dream of mine! I only ever see people disembark onto the airstrip in movies (see The Parent Trap), but I have always wanted to do it. It’s so much more exciting (and a little old school feeling?) to walk into the fresh air and get a quick lift in one of those shuttle buses than to just walk into a stuffy, old airport.
Park Guell – This architectural gem is beautiful at any time of day but visiting the park at sunset is truly extraordinary. The pastels swirling in the sky, along with the Park’s whimsical curves and pops of color, make it feel like you’re in a world all its own. Splashes of mosaic tiles, pillared tunnels, gingerbread looking houses, and lush gardens- there’s no shortage of things to see here. And the famous curved balcony overlooking the city? It actually lives up to the Instagram photos!
Sagrada Familia – We saw A LOT of cathedrals in Spain, but this one is unlike any other. Walking inside or outside the Sagrada Familia, your eyes never run out of details to marvel at. Like Park Guell, this cathedral was the product of Antoni Gaudí, which means color is a big part of its design. Gigantic stained glass windows wash the whole cathedral in shadows of red, green, orange, and blue. The grandiose of the space is topped off with thick columns that lead your eyes up dozens of feet to the clustered domed ceiling. What’s even crazier? Cranes peak through the already imposing outer facade where the structure is continuing to expand.
*For both or either of these well-known Gaudí masterpieces I would recommend taking a guided tour. We didn’t, but what I learned from a fellow traveler who did, made me instantly regret that decision. His life and work are very interesting!
Montserrat “Serrated Mountain” – We actually didn’t book this tour until the day of because I was worried about how jet lag might affect us, but visiting Montserrat turned out to be my favorite thing that we did in Barcelona (even though it’s technically an hour bus ride outside of the city). This ancient monastery, as well as the mountain it’s nestled in, was impressive! The chapel itself looked like something straight out of medieval times with plenty of gold leafing, stained glass windows, and dark metal chandeliers. However, we spent the majority of our time hiking to Saint Michael’s Cross and admiring the sweeping views of the valleys and mountains beyond. The delicious sweet bread we bought from the Montserrat bakery gave us just enough energy to survive the hike 😉 .
La Rambla – This street, lined with souvenir shops and retail stores, is bustling with activity at almost any time of day. In most parts, it’s flanked by antiquated buildings and looming trees that give the area a bit of a gothic feel. There are also street vendors selling all kinds of high-end (imitation?) wallets, belts, purses, sunglasses, etc. And the famous Mercado de La Boqueria is located on this strip!
The best breakfast meals we had in Spain and the most scrumptious paella (outside of Valencia) were hands down in Barcelona:
Can Dendê – This hip, little breakfast spot was near our airbnb, on the outskirts of the city, but it still managed to attract a crowd. After sitting down to eat, we realized why. Each bite of food was like a punch of flavor, and every dish was its own piece of art. My only complaint is that we didn’t get more.
Portal de la Pau – This restaurant is much more centrally located, situated right on La Rambla. It also offers American-style breakfast that is delicious and adorable (see tiny pancakes below). However, beware that the restaurant stops serving their American menu and switches to Spanish-style breakfast around noon.
Casa Angela – This quaint, little restaurant served up some excellent cuisine, including some of the best patatas bravas and paella I ate in Spain. The patatas bravas are crisp potatoes served hot with thick crema and a meaty red sauce piled on top. Not many places serve it with the crema, but it makes all the difference! And the paella was perfectly cooked and seasoned. If I had the stomach capacity, I would have gladly finished the whole thing! I also loved the romantic view we got of the Sagrada Familia in the moonlight right from our table.
Even though Barcelona provided us some extraordinary views and amazing experiences, there were two things I didn’t love so much about this city. . .
- Unfortunately, there was a pervading smell of sewer in many parts of this city. I am not sure if this is a common occurrence, but it made the whole city feel dirty, despite its charm and beauty.
- Many of the best things to do and see in Barcelona are pretty far apart geographically. I mean technically you might be able to walk it, but most of the time, taking a taxi is just more convenient.
So that’s it for Barcelona and our entire trip through Spain. If you missed any of the previous six posts about our two-week Spain vacation, feel free to go back and catch up here. . . it was quite an adventure! And hopefully not the last one 😉 .
Photos edited by Caitlyn Cuello.