Barcelona, Spain | Part 1 | Beaches, Mediterranean vibes & the Catalan cuisine

Barcelona is a perfect combination of Mediterranean vibes, a slow-paced lifestyle, sun-drenched beaches, architectural masterpieces, delightful Catalan cuisine and a wild nightlife. What I love the most about Barcelona is a variety of contrasting landscapes it has on offer. One minute you are in the middle of the city, admiring the beautiful architecture and delicious smells of the local cuisine, while the next you are in La Barceloneta, chilling on the beach with a cold cocktail in your hand and calm breeze in your hair.Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia and it’s second most populated municipality in Spain. Based on a recent travel research, it is the most searched travelling destination in the UK, attracting millions of tourists that are, just like myself, in search of good weather, delicious food and breathtaking views, like the city’s Gothic & Modernist architecture.So what’s not to miss in Barcelona? Let’s talk about it but let me warn you there will be no Antoni Gaudi architecture involved. Why? Because I love it so much and I dedicated a separate post for it! So let’s go…

Sightseeing buses (or Bus Turistic in Barcelona)Yes, we all know how touristy this hop-on/hop-off bus sounds but if you are short on time or it is your first time in Barcelona and you want to see the most & the best of the city, Bus Turistic is your lifesaver. Double decker tourist busses have got two main routes around the city, Red and Blue, concurring at Plaça de Catalunya (the main square of the city) where you can jump from one route to another. There’s also the green route which runs only along the shoreline.

If you decide to use a sightseeing bus, make sure to purchase tickets online as they would normally have around 10% discount comparing with the prices on board! Bus Turistic will take you to all noteworthy places of Barcelona such as Park Güell, the famous FC Barcelona Camp Nou stadium, Sagrada Familia and Montjuïc mountains. Always, always double check which bus you need to hop-on for your destination as it’s incredibly easy to get mixed up… and end up on the other side of Barcelona!

The Camp Nou ExperienceThe Camp Nou stadium is none negotiable if you are a football fan and my travel companion is indeed one of them. It is said that the Camp Nou is one of the most visited attractions in Barcelona and that says a lot! The stadium is not too far from central Barcelona and is easily accessible by metro or by bus.

During your Camp Nou Experience you will get to see the tunnel, the pitch, the commentary boxes that were the most memorable part of the Camp Nou for me, the visitors’ changing rooms and, of course, the museum which is full of trophies, the history of FC Barcelona and a lot of interactive materials that make the experience that little bit more fun for both adults and kids alike.The Camp Nou was a great experience for sure, however, I wished they were doing guided tours inside the stadium, uncovering a bit more insights and personal experiences rather than the boring facts that the audio guides provided. But maybe it is just me, being spoilt by the great Allianz Arena tours in Munich…

La RamblaLa Rambla is best known to tourists as the place where great things happen. During peak seasons, it is packed with travellers either walking down the street to the port or in search of the famous La Boqueria Market located on one side of La Rambla. However, tourists are not wrong, Barcelona’s most famous street is a great window into the Catalan culture and are admired by locals as much as those coming to see the best of Barcelona. The middle of the street is a wide pedestrian-only boulevard that connects Plaça de Catalunya in the centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell.

Today La Rambla is inseparable from souvenir shops, flower stalls, mimes and street painters that are all part of La Rambla’s culture. Now there’s two things I will tell you about La Rambla. First, because of the high volumes of tourists visiting this street, there’s pickpocketing going on. Don’t get scared but be vigilant and keep your bags closed and any expensive belongings safe. Second, for the exact same reason as the first, restaurants and bars on La Rambla are not that good and too expensive for the quality of the food they are serving. The only place I would recommend you to go to is the La Boqueria market but more about it later.

Monument a ColomIf you walk down the street of La Rambla, you will see a gigantic statue of Christopher Columbus looking at you and pointing towards the New World with his right hand. The statue was constructed as a reminder of his first voyage to the Americas and that Barcelona was the place where he reported about his discovery of the new continent to Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand V.I heard that you can reach the top of it for some great views from above. At the time of our travel I believe that it was closed, therefore, we did not get a chance to see Barcelona from another angle. If you have an opportunity to do it, check it out as the monument is based next to the port and the views of both the city and sea would be spectacular.

Gothic QuarterThe Gothic Quarter is at the heart of the old city of Barcelona with the remains of the Roman wall and a few other landmarks from the Middle Ages. The Jewish Quarter, El Call in Spanish, is also located within this area.

Today, The Gothic Quarter is one of the most famous landmarks of Barcelona because of its richeness in buildings dating back to the Roman times. Tourists are in search of antique architecture, narrow streets and it is a very quiet part of Barcelona with almost no traffic around, allowing you to soak in the true spirit of the Catalan capital. It is said that many areas are build like labyrinths of streets and squares.

One of the main places to visit when you are in the Gothic Quarter is Barcelona’s Cathedral that is, in my opinion, massively overshadowed by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.Plaça Reial is also based at the Gothic Quarter and it is a beautiful square with lively atmosphere, street dancers showing their performances from time to time, couples seeking for some time to themselves or late diners sitting down at the restaurants with beautiful outdoor seating areas. As many places in Barcelona, Plaça Reial looks spectacular at night.

La BarcelonetaIf you are looking for a beach in Barcelona, you are in for a good one. La Barceloneta has got it all from lively beaches and some of the best seafood restaurants to cocktail bars as well as the Port Vell where the city’s beautiful yachts are docked. La Barceloneta was once the home of fishermen and is now one of the most popular and busiest districts of Barcelona. Even though today it offers first class beaches and higher-end restaurants and hotels, it was not always like this. La Barceloneta was modernised only in 1988, prior to the Olympics.

It is so close to the rest of the city that there is no reason why you couldn’t enjoy a bit of sun & sea while exploring Barcelona. Matter of fact, you should definitely come here even for a little evening stroll along the Port, La Barceloneta brings some romance to the game!Looking for a place to get a refreshing cocktail in La Barceloneta? Check out the W hotel with its stunning transparent glass architecture and beautiful outside seating area. They have a great range of cocktails as well as a restaurant if you are after a bite to eat! If you wish, you can go up to their cocktail lounge on the 26th floor where even better views of La Barceloneta opens up. Make sure to leave big backpacks at your hotel/apartment as they would not allow you to go up with it!

FoodIf you come to Barcelona and you are not excited about trying Spanish food then what are you even doing here? The city has got some of the best traditional restaurants in the country and they are smashing everyone’s expectations! Tapas, sangria and traditional seafood dishes are out of this world and if you choose your place right, you will most likely be wanting to come back for more! One of my personal favourites in Barcelona is El Nacional restaurant located on Passeig de Gracia and you can read my full review about it here.

La Boqueria MarketNo matter if you are here for a day or a week, La Boqueria is a place you want to be. Mercado de San José de la Boquería, simply known as La Boqueria, is a large public market in Barcelona and one of the most visited markets by tourists and locals alike. Something that Catalans themselves say very well represent the city and the local cuisine. The first time the Boqueria market was mentioned back in 1217 when the first tables were installed to sell meat. However, La Boqueria, as we know it today, has went through a lot of phases until it reached its current location and stage. It was used as a pig market, a straw market and a fishermen market.

Today La Boqueria has strong family memories for a lot of local people and it still follows many traditions and celebrations. The majority of current sellers at the market are third/fourth generations that have got the great memory of their family traditions. Anything you want to try from Catalan cuisine, you can find at La Boqueria: fresh fish and sea food, a rich variety of meats, bread and pastries, wine, artisan products, delicatessen, fruits and ice cream, even a Greek speciality and Italian handmade pasta!Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is Barcelona’s biggest ornamental fountain located near the Plaça d’Espanya and Poble Espanyol de Barcelona in the Montjuïc neighbourhood. It was originally built in 1929 for the International Exhibition, then refurbished for Barcelona’s Olympic games and today it offers a great, magical show of music, water and lights that can generate around 50 different shades. The moving water jets create a magnificent display and it’s no surprise that the Magic Fountain has become one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona and it’s a personal recommendation of mine.

Depending on the season, the Magic Fountain plays a set program of one hour on different evenings so if you are in Barcelona, make sure to check which days these programs are on because it is an experience you would not want to miss! If you take the metro, Plaça Espanya Metro Stop is where you want to be.

Another interesting fact about the fountain is that it operates on recycled water in order to save drinking water in Spain. On top of that, the traditional lighting has also been replaced with a modern LED technology as it can provide lower consumption and better coloured lighting. I hope my insights have helped you decide where in Barcelona you’d like to find yourself in but don’t hurry just yet, Antoni Gaudi masterpieces are coming next… and they are absolutely worth a visit! So click ‘follow’ now and lets continue this adventure together..

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