Barcelona, Spain, Pier

While this post is a little late in coming as I had a whirlwind tour back home to Vancouver (Barcelona –> Cambridge –> London –> LA –> Vegas all within 10 days time), I’m finally getting around to putting something together for all of the people that have been asking me lately about one of my now favourite world cities – Barcelona, Spain.

I spent a little over a month in this amazing place from May to June. It was such a drastic change after coming through from 3 weeks in Dubai, which to me didn’t have much history or personality in comparison. Barcelona is a vibrant city, with so history and culture in abundance, beautiful and unique architecture (think Gaudi), excellent food and wines (without needing a license or drinking at a hotel bar), and also beaches lining the downtown core. It also helped that I managed to meet up with over 5 friends who visited from Vancouver during this month, and I rented a great little 2 bedroom apartment via AirBnB in a more local and upscale neighbourhood (L’Eixample).

Originally I had planned to venture a little further south while in Spain and spend most of my time in Valencia, but more and more people told me stories convincing me that Barcelona was the place to spend a solid month – especially other entrepreneurs and location independent people I’ve met on the road and friends who travel a lot. It also seemed as good a time as any, since it was still springtime before heavy tourist season was going to explode, and yet it was warm enough even for my spoiled tropical climate requirements (think 17 degrees celsius, where I was wearing several scarves, sweaters and boots and still feeling frozen to my core). In the end, I was more than happy that I decided to take the plunge to this destination. Plus, I had a Mastermind Retreat planned for the end of May with several other entrepreneurs around the world, and the timing just worked well.

Gaudi Building in Barcelona, Spain

And if you’re curious at what I’m up to on a day to day basis, I post more real-time on my Twitter and Instagram accounts – so please come join me! Although I’m now spending the next 2 months more or less glued to Vancouver to be with friends and family and of course take part in my usual summer volleyball activities, I still seem to get up to a lot of antics!

So here we are, with my usual list of finds and must-sees, ranging from restaurants, food stalls, markets and tourist sites – really anything I would recommend (or perhaps want to highlight for a specific reason). Special thanks goes to Paco from Bodega 1900 – he was amazing at showing me the city and telling me about the places to go and who to talk to at many of these restaurants. Special thanks also go out to Mijune, for her fun visit and company for many meals and drinks and Clara and other friends who shared your recommendations with me. If you want to pull up the travel map on Google directly, you can also see it all right here!

Food & Drink

Cervecería Catalana Just off of Placa Catalunya, this bustling restaurant is great for all things tapas and a glass of wine. Either sit at the bar and peruse the daily specials, or find a seat for perfect people watching on the patio. Grab a bottle of vino rosado and make sure to try the pimientos padrons (fried green peppers with salt), the pulpos (Galician style octopus with potato) and the Andalusian style squid. Also, the pan con tomate (local and always eaten bread with tomato) here was the best I had while in Barcelona.
Bar Mut Foie and Filet Mignon, Bar Mut Restaurant, BarcelonaIf you want to be entertained for 15 mins, check out the well-done video on this restaurant’s website.  A small local and hip restaurant, the wine list is phenomenal, and there are many delicious daily tapas to choose from. We had our server just pick the best seafood dishes for the day, and finished off with some filet topped with foie (as you do). Make sure to try their egg carpaccio – unique and amazing! Also, head upstairs to Bar Mutis, if you can get an invite to this private space within the apartment building that has been heralded as one of the world’s best bars. Incredible live music, great atmosphere, phenomenal cocktails – a place to see and be seen, and you never know who may show up…
Dry Martini Speakeasy There are two sides to this cocktail lounge – a more traditional area, where the bartenders look like they stepped right out fromVictoria at Dry Martini Speakeasy the last century, and a more modern side. I recommend the traditional side, with great staff, amazing cocktails (try the old fashioned, a whisky sour, or one of their mojitos). Don’t miss it!
Tickets Tickets Restaurant, Barcelona, SpainOpened up by Albert Adria, brother of the infamous Ferran Adria of the late El Bulli restaurant, Tickets is a fun restaurant with excellent food. Although advance reservations are usually required (at least 2 months ahead of time, with openings available up to 3 months in advance), you can sometimes get lucky and walk in early enough and get a seat at the bar. I’d suggest going with whatever the staff picks are, and providing them with a budget for your evening meal. Unique and beautifully presented dishes abound, including liquified olives, orange ice cream, artichokes with quail egg, foie gras, “tobletickets” – the list goes on and on.  Just go and try your best to get in!
Tapas 24 My fave casual eatery in Barcelona, I went back multiple times. The best patatas bravas (spicy potatoes) in the city, in my Tapas 24 Restaurant, Barcelona, Spainopinion, and chicken croquettes. Also try the Bikini with Truffles, the Cap I Pota (tripe stew) – top dish of all I ate there, and the chocolate dessert with olive oil and salt. Sit at the bar for a more lively atmosphere.
Bar Pinotxo Pinotxo Bar, Barcelona, SpainWithin La Boqueria (the main market just off of La Ramblas), you’ll find a bustling tapas lunch place. Go early enough to make sure they haven’t run out of the favourites, which include the croquettes, and the squid with white beans, and the beef cheeks – amazing! Fun staff will make great recommendations. Just line up and get ready to enjoy a seat at the bar where your taste buds will thank you!
El Xampanyet Looking for some really inexpensive cava? Get a bottle of the house sparkling wine for only 9 Euros. A small casual tapas Xampanet Tapasrestaurant, there are also excellent food options to choose from. This place is really busy during the dinner rush, but it’s great if you can hit the “early” lunch spots where it won’t necessarily be overflowing into the sidewalk. Specifically, try the egg tortilla, stuffed red peppers, smoked cod, and really whatever else they recommend you get your hands on!
Bodega 1900 Beef, Bodega 1900 Restaurant, Barcelona, SpainAnother Albert Adria restaurant, you know that you’re in for a treat at this vermouth specialty bar and resto. Make sure you tell Paco I sent you if you do go there, and he’ll make sure you are in for a round of the best the place has to offer! Highlights for me included the Galician beef cured in Belgium and the tartare in a jar mixed with pork fat. The desserts are also to die for!
Restaurant Bardot Opened by previous staff at Bar Mut nearby, Bardot has a great bar area and dining room, as well as a large covered outside patio. The tapas are excellent, and you can find a multitude of drinks and glasses of wine to taste – just name your poison. Mostly frequented by locals, as it’s a little out of the tourist center, it’s a great place to hit up for a fun dinner.
Bar El Velódromo Open 24 hours a day, this large bar is quite popular with the locals. Lots of food served as well (although I didn’t try it and couldn’t speak to it myself), and a variety of cocktails and drinks available. It gets quite busy during the late evening hours on weekends and there’s definitely a great crowd.
Monvínic Monvinic Wine Bar, Barcelona, SpainTouted as one of the best wine restaurants in the world, this fabulous wine bar can’t be beat. The food is supposed to be phenomenal as well, but what I went in for was the fact they have tablets for their wine menu, with 50 options available by the glass! Prices range from 4 Euro and up, and wine lovers of all kinds are sure to enjoy it. An addiction, when in the area.
Cuines Santa Caterina On the outside corner of the Santa Caterina market in El Born, there’s a great patio and dining room for tapas and other Bufala Mozzarella, Cuines Santa Caterina, Barcelona, SpainSpanish and Catalan food options. They also serve up a refreshing clara, aka shandy (beer with lemon soda), which is great to drink on the sunny patio while watching the world go by. Other highlights include the mini beef burger, the bufala mozzarella, and their sangria!
Caldeni Meat Bar Steak Tartare Baldena Meat BarIf you’re headed to see La Sagrada Familia at some point, just a block away is a fantastic meat bar. Ask for Jose Urdiales on the bar side and get him to put together a menu of the best items for you! The cake of foie and caramelized apple starter is delicious.
Lolita Taperia Although I didn’t have the chance to dine here, this is a good option to hit up if you’re trying to get into Tickets and can’t get a seat at the bar without a reservation. It’s also busy at peak times, and has great tapas, based on a really good referral (he used to work at El Bulli) who knows what he’s talking about when it comes to restaurants.
R’as de Galicia For €60, go all out for the degustation menu, and enjoy all of the delicious raw dishes that Chef Ever has on offer. My favourites included the steak tartare, served two ways, the scallops served on a shell, the pineapple infused with rum, coconut and passion fruit dessert, and the tuna belly with yuzu, ginger, and radish. Take a few hours to enjoy the meal over a bottle (or two) of wine. Either sit on the outside patio or upstairs. Make sure to reserve ahead.
Can Culleretes Apparently a bit of a local secret, this restaurant has been around longer than all the others in Barcelona. Only open for one seating from 9-11 pm, with no reservations, make sure to show up just before dinner so that you can get in. I didn’t actually end up having the time to get there, but was told by someone who grew up in the city to make sure to get there at some point!
Toto This restaurant may sound Japanese, but it actually serves a combination of European cuisines. It’s got a great atmosphere and the food is great – I especially enjoyed the many pasta offerings available along with all of the sharing plates I tried. Quite a wide ranging by the glass wine list as well.
CDLC Although I didn’t eat there, I did enjoy a drink (or 3…) at this oceanfront haunt. Sit out on the patio in the cushioned seats with a cocktail, or else dance the night away inside after 1:30am, once all the tables are cleared and it turns more into a nightclub atmosphere.
Opium This place is a bit more on the pretentious side, and full of tourists and people who are looking to be a part of a busy meat market. On the positive side, their drinks and patio make for good quality drinking, and if you do stay on late at night (at least on the weekends), the house DJ does put on a great show, and definitely knows how to play to the crowd. Note that entry for the nightclub is €30 (which includes a hefty drink), so it’s definitely a bit of an investment to go inside. :P
Boadas The oldest cocktail bar in the city, this unassuming place serves a mean drink. Try the mojitos (not oversweetened and extremely potent) or the passionfruit daquiri, of all things! You won’t regret it, and the amazing barkeeps fit right in to the unpretentious and comfy scene.
Els Pescadors Another recommendation that I didn’t have the time to try, this restaurant is owned by the Monvinic family (fabulous wine bar I mention as well). The sea bass is supposed to be incredible.
Xup Xup Restaurant Xup Xup Restaurant, Barcelona, SpainLooking for a beachfront restaurant with decent food? Check out Xup Xup – it’s right along the beach walkway and has a great grilled salmon main. Sit back, enjoy lunch with a glass of wine, and people watch.

Accommodations

H10 Catalunya Plaza This hotel has a great terrace on the first floor, which is where I spent most of my time during a work event here. There’s also an excellent conference room, called the Gaudi Room, which isn’t too large and beautiful decorated. The rooms themselves are quiet if you manage to get one overlooking the courtyard side. Plus, the location is bang on, in the middle of the city if you’re only spending a few days there and want to take in all the tourist sites.

Sites & Activities

La Sagrada Familia One of Gaudi’s most significant works in Barcelona, make sure you get inside the cathedral and towers. The audio guide option with two tours is 23 Euros, and you can go at your own page. Make sure to book in advance online to avoid two hour+ lineups, especially in the busy summer tourist season.
Park Güell Although you can enjoy a picnic and the view over the city from the outside areas of this park created by Gaudi, entrance to the main part is 8 Euros. Spend the day wandering around the park, and then go inside to learn more about the history of this community, which was never completed as funding ran out. Try to pick a sunny day so that you can see all the way out to the ocean. I would advise going first to buy a ticket at the main office, so that you can secure a time to enter, and then you can explore the outside areas while you wait.
La Boqueria Although this is actually the main food market in town, it’s also a site to see while you’re near La Ramblas. There are many fantastic tapas bars inside (ie. Pinotxo Bar), and a large variety of meat, seafood, spices and fruits & vegetables available. Looking for a quick way to quench your thirst? Make sure to enjoy one of the fresh fruit juices from the abundant options for €1.50 each or 2 for €2. Also endless fruit cups available if you’re looking for a quick and healthy snack.
Barceloneta Beach Barceloneta Beach, SpainIf you’re interested in doing some amazing people watching in a busier and touristy beach atmosphere, you’ve come to the right place. In May, it’s not overwhelming, but I’m assuming this gets to be a little much in the high season summer months. There are many restaurants and beachside bars to enjoy. Bring a bottle of cava with you, or else just flag down one of the mojito or sangria vendors. Or even get a beach massage for €5 to start. Head a little further north towards the Port if you’re looking to jump into a casual pickup game of beach volleyball.
Montjuïc The whole area around Montjuïc is beautiful – lots of green space, views over Barcelona, Palaces and fountains – really Placa Espana can’t be beat for an afternoon stroll in the sunshine. Check out the Olympic arena and take a picnic in the park.

So there you have it! It was an absolutely incredible month in Barcelona, and I will definitely be back again – maybe even this coming fall. After all of my travels to date, I would definitely say that this city has won a large place in my heart, and is likely one of my top 4 favourites in the world. If you’re ever headed that way, please let me know and share your stories – I would love to hear your experiences and whether you enjoyed it as much as I did!

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