We traveled to Barcelona by Renfe train which was a nice change not having to deal with airport security and luggage guidelines. Getting back to a coastal city and staying in an air conditioned Airbnb with a kitchen was exactly what we needed! We stayed in a relatively roomy one bedroom apartment in the Gracia neighborhood just north of the center of Barcelona. Gracia is a quaint residential area that has bike rental shops everywhere, great restaurants and many small markets. It was an ideal location, close to 2 metro stations that got us everywhere when we didn’t feel like walking. We were away from the crowds but still close enough to walk anywhere in under 30 minutes. We also joined a gym directly across the street that made Barcelona feel a little more like home.
We started our Catalan exploration by taking the cable car up to Montjuic (Mountain of the Jews) where we checked out Castle Montjuic an old military fortress built in the 1600’s to warn of incoming ships during the war. After being impressed in Madrid, we decided to go on another Sandeman’s Free Tour around the Gothic Quarter. We got to see the Barcelona Cathedral, the King’s Watch Tower and other historical sites, but the most interesting one was Placa (Plaza) Sant Felip Neri with a church (where Gaudi went) and school that had been bombed during the Spanish war and remnants of those bombings were still visible on the outer facade of the building. We also learned about Castellers, the Catalonian tradition of building human towers and saw a sculpture that represented the tallest human tower that has been built. The record is 10 levels high!
One of our favorite places in Barcelona was the Sagrada Familia, Antoni Gaudi’s last piece of work before he died and a sight to behold. The Church still isn’t complete even though it was commissioned to be built over 100 years ago! Since Gaudi’s death, over 70 other architects and artists have carried on the project in an effort to complete his architectural masterpiece. It is now anticipated to be finished in 2026 which marks the 100 year anniversary of Gaudi’s passing. At first glance outside the church we were in awe. It is located smack in the middle of a city neighborhood and the intricacies of the design were a sight to behold. It wasn’t until we walked inside that we both got chills, literally. The beautiful stained glass and massive stone columns that support the church were designed to look like tree trunks with smaller tree limbs. We weren’t sure about the $44 we spent beforehand but once we stepped inside, we felt it was well worth the cost! Park Guell was another beautiful park we visited and was also the modernist work of Gaudi. We toured the free area of the park and caught some amazing views and more beautiful architecture.
We visited the Picasso Museum on our last day and it was nice – definitely smaller than the museums we’ve visited thus far but it contained hundreds of Picasso’s works. We got to see many of his abstract drawings, paintings and sculptures, and 2 rooms dedicated to his nude art. Let’s just say he didn’t leave much to the imagination!
We didn’t eat out all that much thanks to having a kitchen and Jenn’s love for cooking! We spent some time at the Boqueria – a huge open market with really cheap produce, meats, fish, cheese and pretty much anything edible you can imagine. As we talked about in our last post, the inspiration to recreate Gambas al Ajillo came from our time in the market and the final product was delicious!
It was Jesse’s birthday about halfway into the trip and we decided to splurge on a fabulous dinner at Viana in the Gothic Quarter. After dinner we headed out to The Box, an awesome Rum Bar (that also served hot dogs – go figure) where we sampled some tasty caramelized banana rum and a few well-mixed cocktails!
Some of our favorite places to eat & drink include:
- Viana – fantastic dinner. Tuna tartare was amazing!
- The Box – great rum cocktail bar that serves hot dogs!
- Mexcla – we were looking for spice and found it at this Mexican place!
- Messie Sin Gluten – tasty pizza with the best gluten free dough we’ve had.
- Quinoa – great vegetarian lunch.
- Xurreria – we think it’s mandatory to try Churros while in Spain!
Some of our favorite places we visited include:
- Sagrada Familia – Gaudi’s masterpiece!
- Park Guell – Gaudi influenced park atop a hill.
- Castle Montjuic – military fortress overlooking the city.
- La Boqueria – fantastic market with fresh food galore!
Our last night in Barcelona marked one month on the road and we were fortunate to spend it with Ev & Cailin our friends from DC who were on vacation! We had some wine and some good laughs together before heading home to pack for our next stop – The French Riviera!