Two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take a nice long vacation with my mom to the beautiful city of Barcelona in Spain. I know it seems like I’m just out here jet-setting (lol!), but my mom and I have had this trip planned for quite some time. So it was really exciting to finally have it come to fruition. This was my mom’s first time ever in Europe, so you already know how much it filled me up seeing how happy she was there. Aside from my boyfriend David, my mom is literally the best travel buddy I could ask for. We’re both Virgo’s so when we vacation, we really try to take it easy. A majority of our trip was spent exploring the city at our leisure and eating ah-mazing food! I’d highly recommend Barcelona if you’re looking to hit up Europe anytime soon. And here’s a guide for when you get there!
Where to Stay
It seems that lately, Airbnb hasn’t really been hooking me up with any good accommodations. It’s been a little while since I stayed in one, and this was no different in Barcelona. I searched through a number of listings but they were all too far out of the central part of the city or if they were centrally located they were tiny and pricey. So, we decided to book a room at the Praktik Bakery Hotel in the Eixample neighborhood.
The hotel itself was pretty straight to the point. As the name suggests, it’s literally located inside of a bakery. The smell of freshly baked bread fills the halls and there were a few mornings I ran down to get us a croissant for breakfast. Praktik Bakery Hotel is a good option if you’re going to be out and about a lot on your trip–though nicely decorated the rooms are pretty small. Thankfully we had a small balcony situation so that expanded the space a bit, but don’t expect a grand room.
The neighborhood is the real gem. If you’re planning on going to Barcelona and want to be in a convenient location but not overrun with tourist traps I’d say in the Eixample or the Gracia area. If you’re going during the summer and want to be like the beach, get something in La Barceloneta. It literally means “little Barcelona” and in my opinion, they have some of the best food options if you hit the side streets.
Money, Money, Money
The currency in Barcelona is the Euro, though the exchange rate is constantly changing–right now it’s about .90 EUR to $1 USD. I exchanged half of the money I brought with me prior to the trip to get as good of an exchange rate as possible. Sometimes airports, hotels, and currency exchange places overseas charge more, so I always do it beforehand. A majority of restaurants, bars, taxis, etc… accept credit/debit cards (except American Express), however, I don’t particularly like the fees my bank gives for using my card overseas. So I tried to use cash most of the time.
Europe once you get there is fairly inexpensive, which is why I love traveling there. In Barcelona, a glass of wine is anywhere between $3 – $6, you can get a nice bottle for around $17. Because most of the meals are served tapas style, you can get yourself several small plates at dinner or lunch for between $4 – $10 dollars each. Overall, not including our flight and hotel, we spent about $1,000 for the two of us over the course of 10-days.
As I mentioned, the food in Barcelona is SO GEWD! The abs I worked out for, for my trip to Puerto Rico are gone, but it was worth it, ha! In Spain, they serve their food tapas style, which are small plates/portions of savory dishes. Some of my favorites were La Bombas, Croquettes, Patatas Bravas, and Pan Con Tomate. Though Paella is something most people associate with Spain, it’s more common in Valencia so you won’t get many great ones in Barcelona. Instead, opt for the Fideuà which is very similar except instead of rice you have noodles!
Most locals don’t go out to dinner ’til, so to avoid looking super touristy I advice grabbing a snack or something light to eat around 6 and taking a nap or relaxing until you go back out around 9 pm for dinner. Yup, 9 pm is the standard dinner time in Spain and that’s even slightly early! Here are some of my favorite restaurants:
- Casa Pages – Very authentic tapas bar in the Gracia neighborhood. The prices were great and it had a nice family-owned feel to it. Lots of locals frequent it, so we felt a real sense of Spain here.
- Can Majo – One of our favorite meals, they have the most amazing Fideau and it’s right by the beach. Great for lunch or dinner!
- La Luna – Chic tapas restaurant, bar, lounge in the Gothic Quarter. The food and drinks here were great and so was the vibe. It’s also in a great location if you’d like to bar hop after.
- Taverna Iberia – This is a great spot for lunch in Barceloneta. The owner actually waited on us and he was very kind and attentive. The food was great and also very cheap.
- Tapas 24 – This place gets pretty crowded but we were able to get through the line fairly quickly. It’s pricier than most other tapas restaurants, but the food was so good. Especially their La Bomba, I had to re-order it!
- El Pachuco – Though they don’t celebrate it in Spain, we went here for Cinco de Mayo and I have to say it was the most amazing Mexican food I’ve had. If you can, go here–it’s very small so I say go on the earlier side to get your name on the list.
- El Nacional – Chic tapas restaurant, upscale dining, multi-restaurant concept, it’s a must see!
- El Pintxo de Petritxol – We didn’t have a chance to dine here but they had some amazing Pintxo’s, which was like tapas but even smaller–just one bite!
- CappUKccino – My mom was in the mood for some good Churros and this place delivered. We got Churros and hot chocolate, delicious!
- Ice Box – They have such amazing Gelato if it wasn’t right after lunch I would have gotten two scoops!
Things to Do
- Visit the Sagrada Familia
- Visit the Parc del Laberint d’Horta
- Visit the Santa Maria del Mar *less crowded than Sagrada Familia
- Wine tasting at Hotel Praktik Vinoteca *We met an amazing Sommelier Fernanda here and ended up building a great relationship with her. If you happen to get a wine tasting with her, tell her that Aisha and Avis sent you! She told us about the next location:
- Visit the Alta Alella Vineyard
- Visit Casa Batllo
- Visit Casa Mila
- Explore La Boqueria Market or Santa Caterina Market
- Visit Park Guell
- Take a cable car to Montjuic
- Devour Barcelona food tour
- Day trip to Madrid
- Visit one of the many museums: Museu Picasso, Fundacion Juan Miro, Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya, Museum of Perfume, Barcelona City Museum
- Walk the Las Ramblas *a boulevard in the heart of the city, very touristy and crowded, but well known
- Visit one of the beaches: Bogatell, Mar Bella and, most of all, Ocata Beach *Barcelona Beach can be overcrowded and touristy
Nightlife to Try
We didn’t go partying at night at all, ha! So I don’t have much first-hand experience of the nightlife, however, we did visit a few bars after dinner that I enjoyed. Here they are along with a list of some nightlife spots I found via research.
- La Confiteria – My absolute favorite bar in Barcelona. It’s a speakeasy and they make the most intricate and delicious cocktails. Go here as you wait for a seat at La Pachuco!
- Babula Bar 1937 – My second favorite bar. Great relaxed vibe and again, amazing cocktails. They also serve food!
- La Taverna de Barcelona – While we were in Spain Barcelona was competing in the championships so we went here to walk with the locals. Very fun dive bar!
- Xixbar – Cocktail bar, known for gin and tonics
- Passeig del Born – An area with lots of bars, nearby La Luna restaurant and Gothic Quarter
Things to Keep in Mind
- Try fideuà instead of Paella as that is more common in this region.
- Lunch typically goes down between 1:30 and 3:30 pm, and dinner from 9 to 11:30 pm.
- Barcelona is filled with pick-pockets. Keep your purse close and in sight at all times. Wear any backpacks in the front.
- Tipping is not customary, but if you feel obligated 5% or 10% will do
- Sundays are dead, so expect a lot of establishments to be closed
- Barcelona is the capital of a region with a unique history, culture, and language of its own, and Catalans don’t like to be lumped in with the rest of Spain. The locals are very proud of their distinct identity. Most speak Catalan as their first language, and although almost everyone also speaks Spanish, they will appreciate you learning a few basic phrases in their native tongue. Don’t accidentally call a Catalan person a Spaniard, this can be incredibly offensive.
- Barna is the correct nickname for Barcelona, not Barca
- Learn some Catalan phrases here