Colored with Surrealism, flavored with memorable cuisine, and awakened with vibrant nightlife, the city stimulates your senses in a way that makes you wonder how you’ll ever be able to take it all in and yet, after a week, you realize you’re hungry for more!
Barcelona, Spain is a city for art-lovers!
Inspired by the works of Dali’, Goya and Gaudi’ which fill the pages of my Art History books, traveling to Barcelona, Spain was an early addition to my travel dream list. Colored with Surrealism, flavored with memorable cuisine, and awakened with vibrant nightlife, the city stimulates your senses in a way that makes you wonder how you’ll ever be able to take it all in and yet, after a week, you realize you’re hungry for more!
After 6 days and 6 nights in Barcelona, my bestie and I didn’t want it to end! We wanted to explore as much as possible, taking in the cultural riches, eating the food, and playing as the locals do, without going over budget. Turns out, anything is possible!
Here’s what we packed into our itinerary:
Imagine yourself on the balcony, breathing in the life of the city…
We stayed in a cozy two-bedroom AirBnB apartment in the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gótic) because we wanted to get a real feel of the city. I adore this part of the city for the charming alleys. The apartment was perfect and within walking distance to many restaurants, bars, Las Ramblas and even the beach! Every alley in the Barri Gótic is picture-worthy, but it will take some skill and timing to capture the moment without a crowd of people in your photo!
Click here to check out the apartment we rented.
Explore the alleys of the city…you’ll be amazed!
Touring the Market – Food in Barcelona
Stop into the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria!
You must stop into the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria and marvel at all the fresh produce and Spanish delicacies when on Las Ramblas.
Insider tip, the back of the market is cheaper than the front of the market.
Healthy never looked so beautiful!
Centrally located on Passeig de Gràcia, Casa Batlló is hard to miss with the curve of its arched roof, resembling a dinosaur’s vertebrae. This was my first tour inside Gaudí’s Art Nouveau architectural style. Gaudí was commissioned to redesign the house for the Batlló family in the early 1900’s. Mother Nature inspired his design and he used sustainable materials throughout construction of the house.
The arched roof, resembles a dinosaur’s vertebrae…
A vertebrate staircase leads you up many levels of blue tile walls. Recycled glass mosaics line the walls on the terrace. Every part of the house resembles the sea and skeletal bones of nature’s creatures. Gaudí interpreted how sunlight can play with design and placed darker shades of blue tiles higher up the wall towards the skylight. When you look up or down from any angle of the staircase, shades of blue seem to ripple as if you’re riding an ocean wave.
Mother Nature inspired his design…
Sagrada Família is a magnificent architectural work of art and can’t be missed when visiting Barcelona. It was built in the late 1800’s and unfinished at the time of Gaudí’s death in 1926. Construction on the basilica continues and it may be well into 2026 before it’s completed.
The massive cathedral is a mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau design…
The massive cathedral is a mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau design. Step inside and its beauty will take your breath away.
Similar to Casa Batlló, you’ll notice how Mother Nature inspired the design. The stained glass windows capture the light at just the right angle, leaving you with the feeling of walking in the forest where cathedral pillars become forest trees.
Just as in nature, depictions animals and the animal kingdom play freely in the cathedral. You’ll catch a glimpse of them along the top of the pillars. Look over there, and a tortoise holds up a pillar. Look above and the ceiling will mesmerize you…is it a bumblebee’s honeycomb or the glistening sun? Marvel at the snail shape curve to the spiral staircase that leads you down from the Nativity tower.
Sagrada Família is where Gaudí is buried. This is his perfect eternal resting spot because he spent over 20 years working on every intricate detail of this basilica. The design is beyond our time, as with all of Gaudí’s architecture.
Since this is the most popular tourist site in Barcelona, get there early, or prepare to stand in line for two hours to tour the basilica.
Insider tip: plan ahead and buy your ticket online. The view from the tower is worth the extra ticket price. Women need to cover their shoulders in some sacred areas of the basilica.
On one of my shopping excursions around the Barri Gótic, I came across the Cathedral de Barcelona and a small Salvador Dalí museum. My shoulders were not covered so I couldn’t go inside; however, that didn’t stop me from touring the outside of the cathedral. The inside gardens are so beautiful many white swans have decided to call it home! It’s worth a stroll around the gardens and inside the church, if dressed appropriately.
I spent more time touring the Dalí museum than the Cathedral de Barcelona. If you admire Dalí’s art, you would appreciate this museum. It contains many works, including his original drawings and some sculptures.
The art of Dali…
La Barceloneta was within walking distance to our apartment. We grabbed some beach towels, our bathing suits and flip-flops and headed to La Barceloneta.
The climate in Barcelona in the beginning of September is hot and humid, so you’ll find many people relaxing at the beach. Unlike the beaches where I live in New England, you can order cocktails or bottle service. Need a pack of cigarettes? How about some burritos? You can pretty much get anything you want while sitting on the beach in Barcelona.
Enjoy the beach at barceloneta..
Warning: Be careful from whom you order from since some of the “waiters” on the beach were not the wait staff from the surrounding beach restaurants. I would also be careful and not fall asleep (there are even signs warning you not to fall asleep!) or keep any of your expensive belongings out in the opening. Keep temptation at bay!
After soaking in the sun and atmosphere on the beach, we stopped at a beachfront restaurant for some appetizers and sangria. There are many cute beach bars and restaurants along the main boulevard.
Day Trip #1: Montserrat
Our first day trip was to Montserrat. The train departs every hour. Train schedule-Barcelona Spain to see the train line. Montserrat is a sacred religious monastery on top of a mountain. In order to get to the monastery, you must take a funicular, which can be scary for people with a fear of heights, like myself. This was a step in the right direction for facing my fear, as I took some deep breaths and focused on the photo worthy views of the rock formatted mountains.
Montserrat is a sacred religious monastery on top of a mountain…
As I stood in line, I noticed people on the outside terrace of the basilica standing with their head and arms reaching up toward the sky. I wondered if they were getting a good stretch in after standing so long!
What I learned is the circle on the ground beneath their feet is placed on the earth’s energy vortex. Much like the Black Madonna we were waiting in line to see, there was a hint of mystery and hope surrounding that place.
So, I stood in the circle with some expectation, feeling perhaps a little bit silly as a raised my arms towards the sun and tilted my head back at what I hoped was the perfect angle to catch the energy that promised to arise from the depths of the earth.
I stood. I waited. I didn’t feel the energy. But the stretch did feel good!
Maybe it’s a myth revealed only to believers. Maybe I needed to remove my shoes.
Me…trying to harness the power of the earth (and getting in a good stretch!)
Day Trip #2: Penedès Wine Country
Our second day trip was to the Cava region. We took a train to the Sant Sadurní d’Anoia station. When we arrived at the station we took a taxi to Codorníu. We missed the tasting tour, but ended up hanging around for a tasting and a chance to wander the grounds.
However, we couldn’t walk aimlessly among the grapevines. Unlike wineries in the U.S., tourists are not allowed on the grounds near the grapes, unless you are paying for a tour.
Codorníu winery is beautiful. In 1976 it was declared a “National Monument of Historical and Artistic interest.” Make sure you get there on time for a tour of the cellars. Judging by the stained glass windows and elegant bathrooms, I’m sure the rest of the property is tour-worthy.
Cava is the term used by Spain to designate their sparkling wines…
After our tasting at Codorníu, we walked to our next cava tour at Freixenet. Although, it is walkable, I would recommend calling a cab from the Codorníu winery. We got lost on our walk to Freixenet and walked through the town, then fields of grass, and mud to find it.
The Freixenet winery is located right next to the train station which is why we chose it as our last tasting tour during our trip. We relaxed in their tasting room with some tapas and cava prior to the tour. Imagine the fun of boarding a small cava train to reach the winery’s underground cellar!
Insider tip: Plan ahead by purchasing and reserving all tasting tours online
Llamber Barcelona : On our last night in Barcelona, we stumbled upon this restaurant while walking around the El Born neighborhood. It was the perfect restaurant to celebrate our last night in Barcelona!
Llamber Barcelona serves fresh ingredients with a creative and sophisticated Catalayan flair. The menu includes some exotic and traditional menu items. The ambience was just as good as the food. My favorite food discovery here was the blistered Padróns sprinkled with some sea salt they served while waiting for your table at the bar.
Chulapio Bar and Crepes: This tiny little bar, conveniently located next to our Airbnb apartment, is a great stop for a drink and a crepe after a day of walking or a late night treat. Bonus points: Handsome bar owner and bartenders.
Oliver Barcelona: This eclectic store in located in the Barri Gòtic It has a little bit of everything: clothes, shoes, jewelry, and even household furniture and rugs. It reminded me of an eclectic Spanish version of Anthropologie.
El Corte Inglés Department Store: You’ll find this store in several countries, but the store in Barcelona is enormous. We were in need of a camera battery and flat iron and found them both at the El Corte Inglés Department Store in Plaza Catalunya, Barcelona. This department store had everything you could possibly need, including a grocery store and delicious food court.
Top 5 Favorites
- Sagrada Família
- Alleys of Barri Gòtic
- Padrón peppers (I cook these at home whenever I miss Barcelona, my local Asian grocer carries Shishito peppers all year)
- Tortilla (I attempt to cook this at home but have failed the “cake-like” consistency multiple times)
- Freixenent Tasting/Tour
If you’re looking to purchase stamps to mail your postcards, you can do this from any cigar/tobacco shop. There are many on Las Ramblas.
Life in the Streets of Barcelona…in Black and White
Many ways to get where you need to be…
Music in the streets…
feel the energy…
Always among friends in Barcelona…