Romantic streets, perfect wine, intricate alley-ways, delicious ice cream, stunning gothic architecture, ridiculously fabulous food… have I got your attention? Good. The sun has recently peeped out for us in the UK, and it has given us the taste of summer’s excitement… and we want more. I’ve been hearing many friends begin planning European getaways and where better than the dreamy city of Barcelona? In my eyes, it’s one of the most perfect getaways for a long weekend with your boo.
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain and the largest metropolis on the Mediterranean Sea which attracts hordes of tourists… but for good reason. It is the place to wander and explore hand-in-hand with a loved one as the cuisine and atmosphere will blow your socks off. If you’ve never been before, here’s a little guide to help you get immersed in the Catalan city that’ll make you swoon.
Where to Stay
On my last trip to Barcelona, I went with a touch more dollar in my pocket than usual as I wasn’t wanting to stay in the cheapest-of-chips hostel. I wanted something a bit more special as it was a long weekend away with my loved one. I wanted it to be romantic, yet affordable, and have some of the stunning qualities of the Catalan architecture… but dammit, I wanted a balcony! All in all, it needed to be basic and chic so where better than at Chic&Basic Born?
I would highly recommend staying in the bohemian district of el Born. Not only is it central and cultural with art galleries on every corner, but the streets are leafy and O so pretty. Not only did Chic&Basic Born offer me a stunning balcony that overlooked the bustling pretty streets below (the perfect perch for wine sipping at dusk) but also its fusion of modern design and old architecture took my breath away.
It retained the old glamour of slat wooden balcony doors, tiled floors, high ceilings and wide winding staircases… but there was also a real unique twist. Around each bedroom doorway, strange beads of LED lights hung forming an alcove. This theme of beaded lighting continued into your room as the white and chic rooms had curtains of this surrounding the bed area… and what’s that? You had controls to adjust the lighting according to your mood! This was a hilariously unique feature and soon our room was flashing like a 1970’s disco, and when everything had to calm down a notch there were multiple pastel glows to sooth you.
Do please note though: stay here if you’re with your partner or a very very close friend. The shower is practically encased in glass and is in the centre of the room.
Chic&Basic Born is incredibly central as it borders the atmospheric Gothic quarter and is a stone’s throw away from Parc de la Ciutadella. The Parc de la Ciutadella takes up the old military citadel and is the perfect garden to lie about in the dappled shade. It’s so peaceful, you’d hardly realise there’s a bustling city within arms reach!
If hotels are not your cup of tea and you’d much rather find yourself in a cute rental apartment we can warmly recommend the options offered by only-apartments. Just browse your dates and find a cute spot that suits your preferred location, needs and budget.
Where to Eat & Drink
When you get to Barcelona, the best thing you can do is get hold of a rough map of the city, strike out and explore. Yes, you will get lost. Yes, you will encounter delicious places that you’ll never find again. And yes, you will see some stunning sights so make sure that camera is charged up, baby! If you want to get lost anywhere, Barcelona is the place to do it because that’s when you’ll discover the best tapas, the best sangria and the best mojitos. Those alleyways will wind you all up in confusion (or maybe it was all that sangria), but you’ll find your way in the end… or discover something better than what you were searching for!
The neighborhood of El Born has many cute hidden bars stowed away in its walls. Our top favourite was a teeny tiny amber-lit bar on Princesa 42: Cal Brut. Chilled with the friendliest bartender and locals, it’s a bar that is guaranteed that you’ll meet some unique faces and creative individuals. Across the street lies the Black Horse, which is a favourite among expats.
If you fancy drinking at the most iconic watering hole in all of Barcelona, head to London Bar. Sit where Ernest Hemingway and Picasso once sat and enjoy a tipple in the faded art deco interiors. Authentic tapas, fine wines and top-notch fish are all on offer and shouldn’t be missed!
Just opposite the Black Horse in El Born, lies the sweetest café you’ll ever lay your eyes on. Santa Piadina serves the freshest ingredients at great prices. They specialise in fresh juices and healthy piadinas (funnily enough) – I literally couldn’t get enough of the spinach, mushroom and goats cheese filling in their homemade spinach flatbread!
If you’re after more health and a fun bustling atmosphere, head to La Boqueria market for fruits, juices and sooo much more!
The alleyways of the gothic quarters always led me to the most fantastic gelato and ice cream. It was almost like my nose was trained to lead me these stands, and I wasn’t complaining. Only from the fact that I’d never find the same gelato stand twice…
La Rambla is where most of the tourists flock to on those hot bustling weekends. It’s jam-packed and the majority of cafes/bars are overpriced. If you’re in the area, head off La Rambla and have a look around Placa Reial (the Royal Plaza). Its majestic fountain is surrounded by a pumping nightlife of restaurants and clubs, with the odd underground bar that you should really peep into.
What to See!
Barcelona is famed for its architecture. The Gothic Quarter has buildings that date back as far as the Medieval and Roman periods, and other areas contain the Catalan Modernista architecture (also known as Art Nouveau). The famous architect of this movement is Antoni Gaudi. The Sagrada Familia is his most famous piece of work, even though it is hugely unfinished! They say it won’t be finished for another 80 years and many argue that the continuation of work will disregard Gaudi’s work on the Roman Catholic Cathedral.
Take a walk around the entire building and you can witness the different Façades, which includes my favourite section: The Nativity Façade. This side bears the most direct Gaudi influence and if you take a walk in the small park, you’ll see the whole building without breaking your neck – those spires are freaking tall! Plus, you’ll get to quietly watch the artists sketching out their personal views of the iconic building.
In the centre of Barcelona, the Gothic cathedral is a must-see. Beautifully built and intricately designed, plus it has a courtyard in its centre. Thirteen white geese are kept in the courtyard and it’s tranquil atmosphere will chill you out from the hectic summer heat out on the streets.
For more of Gaudi’s work, head up to the hilltop of Park Güell. It was designed by Gaudi during the English Garden City Movement, and is now classed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only will you see weird and wonderful designs around the park, but the main terrace is the perfect birds-eye-view of Barcelona city and the sea beyond.
If you’re still hungry for culture, head to Museum D’art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) for interesting art. It’s free to get in, and afterwards you can sit outside and watch the skaters come out and play.
A lot of these major sights are quite a distance apart, so if you’re tight on time or you’re way too hot and sweaty to bear hiking for miles in all directions, then jump on one of those double-decker tourist buses. Yes, I know they may be cringe-worthy, but they sure take you far and wide!
Be sure to try out the nifty cable car that will whip you all the way to the stunning Montjuïc Castle (Castell de Montjuïc) and if you get a chance, travel the 30 miles out of Barcelona to Montserrat Monastery. This monastery is the most important religious retreat, attracting hundreds to hike overnight to catch the sunrise.
Jeez, there’s so much to see and soak up, it would probably take me about three lifetimes of words to even breach the tip of the iceberg of this city. But that’s the beauty of Barcelona: it’s the city of never-ending delights!
All photographs by Sophie SaintTweet