The Highlights of My Trip to Barcelona
Towards the end of January, I departed on an 8-day trip to Spain. I based my stay in Barcelona and made several day trips to the surrounding cities including Figueres and Montserrat and stayed overnight in Girona. This was my first trip to Northern Spain and I got to experience exactly what I was looking for–plenty of Spanish food (lots of tapas), wine, and sightseeing. As someone who spends his days commissioning the design of houses and thinking of ways to make space functional and attractive, I was blown away by the architectural masterpieces crafted by Gaudí. It’s clear that he was way ahead of his time in the originality and boldness of his creations. The following is a list of must-do, must-see and must-eat experiences that highlighted my trip.
La Sagrada Familia
A trip to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without a tour of this whimsical church that has been under construction for more than 100 years. Slated to be complete by 2030, this labor of love was left unfinished at the time of Gaudí’s death in 1926. Current construction is based on an architectural team’s interpretation of blueprints that he left. I was very impressed with the seamless blend of nature and religion, resulting in a church that looks very organic and flowing. I recommend the audio tour, which explains the history of the construction and concepts integrated into the design. If you go, expect crowds and long lines, since this is one of the most popular sites in the city.
Built in the early 20th century, this municipal park is known for its iconic terrace with a bench that resembles a multi-colored tiled serpent. Nearby Sagrada Familia, this park can be visited with a joint ticket that allows entrance to the church. I particularly enjoyed people watching while strolling with a cup of quality European coffee (they make better coffee than Americans!!).
This house was commissioned by a wealthy textiles manufacturer. Compared to Gaudí’s other works, this building is the most conventional of his creations. Even still, I’m sure the architects and contractors that I work with wished they were allowed to display even 1% of the creative freedom that went into this building. This house is symmetrical and orderly, a departure from the flowing asymmetrical design that went into La Pedrera.
La Boqueria Food Market
Located on the Ramblas, the city’s most high-energy street, this market offers many treats for both the casual observer and dedicated foodies. This is a multi-use market which offers retail and wholesale foods of all varieties in addition to cooked foods for visitors looking to have a meal. Immediately after walking in during lunch, I happened upon El Pinotxo, a bar selling quality meats, sandwiches, and seafood. The ambiance is not for the squeamish since you’ll brush shoulders with vendors carting around animals parts while you’re eating, so be prepared. At the very least, you’ll know your food is fresh and close to the source.
Located within walking distance of the Barceloneta metro station, this small tapas restaurant is a local favorite. Be prepared to wait in line for a table. The food makes it all worth it. The tapas are authentic, with my favorites including chipirones (deep fried baby squid) and pescaito (a whitefish) and bravas. This place beats even the best LA tapas restaurants.
Places to Stay
Anba Bed & Breakfast Deluxe
Ronda de Sant Pere, 27 Pr. 4A, Eixample, Barcelona
I stayed in this boutique hotel for the first three nights. Located near Barcelona’s Plaza Catalonia, I was within easy walking distance of the Cathedral, the Picasso Museum, the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta and the Ramblas. They serve an excellent breakfast. I also enjoyed relaxing on their terrace/garden.
Hotel Llegendes de Girona Catedral
Portal de la Barca, 4, Girona
This new hotel, located in the city center, is ideally located to explore the original Roman Wall, Girona Sant Felix Cathedral, the Jewish Quarter and the Arab baths. The atmosphere was warm and elegant and brings together old and modern design elements.
Avinguda Tibidabo, 1, Sarrià, Barcelona
Featuring exquisite hillside views of Barcelona, I picked this hotel for its location and the reputation of its restaurant (run by a Michelin-star awarded chef). This hotel was the ideal place to spend the second leg of my trip (4 nights) and offered another angle into this amazing city. The amount of attention put into everything from the décor to the food impressed me more than anything else.