We were lucky enough to travel to Barcelona in January of 2020, right before the whole world shut down. I remember seeing people wearing masks at the airport and thinking to myself, “that seems like a little much”. Turns out, it was not! Little did I know we’d be rocking our masks for the next year and then some! This was the first (hopefully not last) trip to Europe for both my husband and I. We ended up finding a really good flight deal and throwing the trip together pretty quickly. I’m a little bit of a history buff and it was so amazing to travel to Europe, where the history far extends American history. It was a gorgeous, clean city that was easy to navigate and very walkable. We were pretty nervous about not speaking Spanish very well, but most people spoke English and we were able to break out a tiny bit of our high school Spanish. (Word to the wise: Pay attention in your high school language classes or you will regret it later, haha). Overall, the trip was above all expectations and definitely gave my husband and I even more of the travel bug!
Favorite Places to Explore:
We look a day trip to Montserrat with a tour group. I hadn’t researched it too much before going on the trip and it turned out to be magical! Montserrat is a mountain range just outside of Barcelona. We took a bus ride to the Montserrat Rack Railway and from there it got really exciting! The train starting taking us up the mountain and before I knew it we were traveling into the clouds, and then above them! We then reached the top of the mountain where a 11th century Benedictine monastery sits, called Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey. The views were unimaginable. We were above the clouds with views of the jagged mountain ranges in the distance. There really aren’t words that can explain the beauty and peace you feel when there. The grounds also included Basilica of Montserrat, a museum and shops. When we visited, there was a local farmers market, so of course we scored some goodies. It was beautiful, I highly recommend this to anyone who visits Barcelona.
2. Everything Gaudi
Antoni Gaudí was a modernist architect who’s dazzling creations are sprinkled throughout Barcelona. My three favorite were Casa Batlló, Sagrada Família, and Park Güell. We visited all three separately, but I believe they do Gaudi specific tours that will take you to all three. To me, all the buildings seemed like they were out of fairytale or dream!
Unfortunately, we were not able to tour the inside Casa Batlló since we visited on a Holiday (Epiphany Day– click to learn more). But even just viewing it from the outside was remarkable!
Sagrada Familia is basically the icon of Barcelona. It’s an impressive gothic cathedral. We took a guided tour, which I recommend because you get more of the background information and inspirations for the church. Construction began in 1882 and what was amazing to me is that it is still not complete! In fact, active work was being done while we visited, that’s why many of our pictures include scaffolding.
Parc Güell was nothing like I excepted. It was like visiting Wonderland. It sits atop Carmel Hill and has the best view of Barcelona! The park includes gardens and buildings created by Gaudi. It was originally designed as a luxury housing site but was converted into a municipal garden. We took a guided tour and it ended up being the same tour guide we had for Sagrada Familia. I wish I remembered the guide’s name! He was great and was detailed and passionate about the subject matter.
3. Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is the historic city center of Barcelona. It’s the oldest part of the city and even includes remains of the city’s Roman walls! Visiting this area is like traveling in time. Narrow roads and alleyways twist and turn throughout this area. There are town squares that open up periodically and you feel like you have been transported to the middle ages. There were tons of artisan shops and restaurants. I regret not spending more time here. A historic walking tour would be been amazing! We visited the Picasso Museum and viewed the façade of the Church of Santa Maria de Pi. My pictures really can’t do it justice and I wish I would have taken more! We also visited the Palau de la Música Catalana, which is on the boarder of the Gothic Quarter. It was stunning!
- La Boqueria:
La Boqueria is a large public food market. It is packed with fresh produce, seafood, meat, cheese & desserts. I loved wandering around. We did the majority of our shopping during our trip here. I bought as much olive oil and manchego cheese that would fit in our suitcases! The market was lively and I could have wandered and shopped for hours. Additionally, there are a couple small restaurants with bar seating. We ate at Bar Pinotxo. It’s a tapas bar specializing in Catalan cuisine. The late, great Anthony Bourdain featured Bar Pinotxo on the Spain episode of No Reservations. I would eat an eraser if Bourdain told me to, so it was a no brainer.
2. My Fucking Restaurant
Good name, even better restaurant. We had reservations at 8 PM, as most people in Barcelona eat later. But then, we had walked around all day and were tired and starving. (We wanted to eat 5 PM, American Geezer Time). We stopped in the restaurant and they were so sweet and moved our reservation up with no problem. We really appreciated it! They served Mediterranean food which was all delicious. Even the small olive appetizer was beautiful and tasty! We also had this really cool interactive dish, which was so fun!
3. Oller del Mas
Oller del Mas is winery near Montserrat. We went there as a part of our tour of Montserrat. What was amazing to me, was this winery has been in the family since 900 A.D.! The land and buildings were picturesque. They gave a tour of the winery and grounds along with some background and history. We had a wine tasting with really great tapas.
That’s it for Barcelona! I highly recommend a trip! The only thing I would change is maybe exploring outside of Barcelona. We went for 8 days and I think we could have comfortably fit in exploring more of Spain. I believe there is a high speed rail between Madrid and Barcelona. Valencia would have also been a cool place to check out.