After spending 3 days in Barcelona for Julien’s birthday, I can honestly tell you it was love at first sight. After flying in on a less than 2 hours flight from Luxembourg, we got a bird’s eye view of the Mediterranean Sea (I’m a sucker for cities near bodies of water). We landed at Barcelona El-Prat Airport with 13C/55F with sunny weather. We took a cab to get us directly to the hotel on Ave Paral-lel (one of the main streets in Barcelona). The taxi was about 30 euros and in hindsight, there is a metro and bus that can also get you to the center at a cheaper rate which we discovered to get us back to the airport.
We got there on a Sunday early afternoon, checked in to the hotel and made our way to the Wild Rover (an Irish Pub, which there are several in Barcelona), just outside the Gothic Quarter, to enjoy our first beers of January (having had a break since the holidays) to catch the world championship handball match between France and Norway. France won, Allez Les Bleus! Afterward, we made our way across Rambla de Santa Monica where they have a street market with local foods and souvenirs and I bought myself a new scarf – it got colder than I was expecting at night. We decided to try dinner in the Gothic Quarter, tiny pedestrian alleyways between European looking buildings with hundreds of restaurants, bars, and shops.
We used TripAdvisor for dining suggestions to look for affordable, good food, which turned out to basically be every restaurant. We started at La Cuina de la Mama where we had an affordable 3-course dinner menu option for 9.90 euros. Fantastic empanadas, ravioli, and coconut chocolate cake but the house red wine was something to be left desired and we asked to switch to a beer. Smaller portions in a small atmosphere. Good for light eaters, which unfortunately does not describe me and we both left feeling still hungry having not eaten all day. As we walked out the door we passed a tapas restaurant called Sensi. Our hunger and desire for better red wine got the best of us and we stopped in for tapas portions of chorizo, octopus, oxtail, cheese and, of course, red wine. We certainly weren’t disappointed or hungry after that. With a 20 minute walk back to the hotel we burned off a small portion of our 2 meals.
Monday was Julien’s birthday and we ordered massages at the hotel first thing in the morning. I’m always hesitant to get myself massages being a deep tissue masseuse myself, I judge the intensity and while she was good, it still wasn’t a deep enough sports massage I was hoping for to treat my running legs. One day I’ll find someone over here in Europe just like me 😉. Still, the relaxation was nice and we ended up feeling good enough to decide to run around the city, literally. We mapped out the places of interest and decided Parc Guëll, where the Antoni Gaudi art park is that sits on a hill overlooking the city, was the place to start. It was only 5 km away but all uphill. Running on the streets wasn’t terrible, the sidewalks are fairly large enough to get by walkers but the streets are full of cars and bikers and lots of stoplights, so our pace wasn’t very fast. But the weather was perfect and mild temps with very little wind. The park is lovely with great city views and so much history but learned upon arriving that you have to pay to walk around the Gaudi park, we decided against it and just viewed it from 100m away which still gave us a majestic experience. After a short rest and taking in the sun and views, we ventured off, now downhill, another 3 km towards La Sagrada Familia which is a massive, interesting cathedral, very modern and with a somewhat Disney like feel with its colors and size which doesn’t seem to feel like the architecture had this view when it started in 1882. Tons of construction is still being done with expectations of completion in 2026-2028. Simply mind-blowing.
From there we walked another 2 km to the Arc de Triomf, a less impressive in size Arc compared to the one in Paris, but its brick design gives it a Boston feel. The arc leads to the Parc de la Ciutadella which also has the zoo, parliament building and a couple of museums. Great for people watching and taking in a quiet and restful part of the city.
At this point, we were hungry and turned to TripAdvisor again for suggestions. We were a half-mile from a top-rated lunch place called El Casal Cafe Bar back in the Gothic Quarter. Delicious food, great prices, and friendly staff 3 language speaking staff (Spanish, French, English). It’s family-style seating and you can have your options of a prix fixed 3-course meal with a drink (water, wine, beer) included for 11.50 euros or choice of tapas. I went with the fixed menu and was not disappointed. I started with a huge, delicious salad followed by pork ribs with broccoli potato mash and a banana chocolate cake dessert. Awesome place and would go back several times in the future.
With another 35 minute walk along the harbor, totaling our day out at close to 20km, we made it back to the hotel for a nap and shower before going out for a seafood dinner. We chose Arrosseria L’arros as it was near the harbor and had Paella (seafood and rice dish in a big skillet) for a Monday night birthday dinner being told that the Spanish eat late (between 9-11pm) we got there at 9:30pm, however, we were the only people in the restaurant. In fact, the whole area near Port Vell was like this. We started with fried squid rings and garlic shrimp. For the main plates, we went with Paella, I chose noir paella and my boyfriend went with the regular and with artichoke. The food was rich and made with a lot of oil, while tasty was very heavy. Overall nice establishment, just we found it empty on a Monday evening.
Tuesday we got up around 9:30am and packed up our belongings and headed to Plaça Espanya to catch a bus to take us on the top of the hill of Parc Montjuïc to see the castle and home of the Olympic Park from 1992. With another angle to overlook the city, you can see both the Sea and residential areas. The Castle is big but nothing too impressive about its design, built more for protection and war. The Olympic Park is massive and has a new-age feel having been built in the ’90s. It was empty and you wonder what really happens to the city to keep the upkeep once the Olympics are over. Still a pretty cool place and lots of fellow runners in the area.
It was our last morning of touring and we found a cheap bus to bring us back to the Airport. Our trip was a success with amazing sights, good food, and lots of exercise. I promise to be back in the near future.