Being away on holiday has given me a bit of travel bug syndrome. It’s always been in me – I love to visit new places, whether it’s in the UK, Europe or further afield. So I’ve decided to introduce a new weekly feature to the blog, sharing a few snapshots of places I’ve loved to visit. First stop is one of my favourite places in the world: Barcelona.
Barcelona has a special place in my heart, as I lived there for 9 months during my university years as part of the Erasmus scheme. I also met my two dearest friends there, and although I’ve only been back once since then – it will always be somewhere I would love to return to. The city is vibrant and metropolitan but also has a real family feel to it as well, so perfect for a family getaway break. In fact, I’ve always found that the people are so accommodating to young kids, as with a lot of Mediterranean countries. In a couple of restuarants, the owner would offer to entertain the kids so you could finish your meal, which is such a first for me. So I thought I’d share my favourite 5 ‘off the beaten track’ things to do in Barcelona:
1.Markets: La Boqueria, Sant Antoni & Mercat de Galvany
The food markets in Barcelona are dotted all over the city, and a definite must. When I first arrived, I immediately understood how it’s so easy to eat a little healthier in this city – the fruit and veg is the freshest you’ve ever seen. I particularly love the fruit stalls, who sell fresh juice too, and you can wonder around giving the flavours a little taste before deciding to buy. And the sweets! This has got to be the most colourful display of sweets I’ve ever seen. It’s not all about the food though – hidden at the back of each market you’ll find bars where you can sit on tall stools and eat lots of delicious tapas.
The most famous market is La Boqueria, which is located on Las Ramblas, but it’s definitely worth checking out the Mercat de Sant Antoni – round the back of Las Ramblas. Also, the Mercat de Galvany is a brilliant one too, just north of the city in San Gervasi.
2.The Beautiful Old Town
One of my favourite things to do is to take a walk through the Old Town’s Gothic Quarter and see some of the amazing architecture. If you start off on Las Ramblas, and take a left when you reach Carrer de Ferran. You’ll then walk through the Old Town: you’ll pass Plaça de Sant Jaume, where the town hall is and you can clearly see the gunshots on the buildings from the Spanish Civil War. You’ll soon reach the city’s cathedral, which is such a beautiful spot in the city. Along the way, there are lots of little restaurants, bars and cafes to stop at too!
It’s well-known that Barcelona has Gaudi’s architecture all over the city, but Park Güell is a really beautiful place to visit. Situated a little out of town and a bit of a hike up a steep hill, it’s well worth it for the views over the city. I love how vibrant it is, and a gorgeous place to take a picnic and spend the day there. It is a bit of a suntrap, so you have to be prepared if it is a sunny day! Outside the park, there is a mini market with local artists selling their paintings of the city, which always makes a lovely souvenir too.
Where to Eat and Drink?
There are so many places to eat and drink in Barcelona but one thing is for sure: off the beaten track is always better. There are some amazing Catalan restaurant-bars that you’ll stumble across, and these ones are always the best food I’ve tasted in the city. They never have a menu, so you have to come armed with a bit of Spanish lingo, but they will prepare you anything you want at the drop of a hat.
My other favourites are: La Fianna on Carrer Manresa in El Born; a beautiful place to go for cocktails and Mexican food. They have comfy sofa areas and the ambience is brilliant for a pre-drink before dinner – I always try and come here without fail. Closely followed by Can Paixano (also known as La Xampanyeria); this is a local restaurant-bar run by a family who produce cava. They make amazing tapas in a massive grill in front of you, and you receive a bottle of cava free of charge for buying 2 sandwiches/tapas. Located on Carrer La Reina Cristina (near the sea), the only problem with this place is that it is always jam-packed. The bar doesn’t hold a lot of people and they aren’t allowed to let people stand on the street, so it’s best to come early or during the day. But it’s always a great sign when a place is full of locals, and this was a fantastic find!
5. Mount Tibidabo
So those of you who are Friends fanatics will remember Mount Tibidabo being quoted as a very mystical and romantic place…I’m not sure I agree 100% but it is a lovely place for the views of the city, as well as a spot of ‘other people’s houses’ spotting. You have to catch the FGC train from Plaça Catalunya to the northern part of the city to the Av Tibidabo station; from there, you can catch a funicular train up to the top of the hill. You’ll notice that the higher up the hill you are, the bigger the houses get to have a good nosey! Then at the top, the view is simply breathtaking.
So that rounds up my Top Five for Barcelona – I hope you enjoyed it and would love to know if you’ve visited Barcelona too and what you thought of the city. Are there any other places you would add?