After a 13-hour plane ride, I found myself in beautiful Barcelona. Well, let’s take a step back… Barcelona wasn’t so beautiful at first. Although, I was eager to take on the city, customs thought otherwise. It took almost two hours to go through passport control. They only had a couple of passport windows to serve over 200 passengers, so make sure you go the restroom before you fall into that labyrinth of a line. I suggest you download a good playlist to drown out the line complaints, too! I was stuck with a lady who went on and on about how terrible this wait is for the WHOLE two hours.
Finally free from the mess of customs, I hailed a taxi to the L’Eixample District where my Airbnb was at. If you’re finding an area to stay at, I totally recommend L’Eixample because it’s a convenient home base if you’re touring the city. It’s smack dab in the middle of all the sights. It may cost a little bit more to stay here, but within a short walking distance are many excellent pastry shops, sidewalk cafes and restaurants. Plus, if living the bougie lifestyle is a part of your dreams this neighborhood is for you. My Airbnb was off Passeig de Gracia the main boulevard and I was steps away to Celine, Prada and Louis Vuitton. Not like I can afford these brands, but nothing beats the power of proximity.
Eating times in Spain are quite different. In the US, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In Spain, breakfast or “Desayuno” in the Spanish culture is easily the least important meal of the day. Most Spaniards skip breakfast but if they do have breakfast it will likely be something light and simple which may consist of coffee, hot chocolate or fresh squeezed orange juice accompanied by a croissant, pastry, or toast with jam. Aka if you want your big American brunch to make sure you look up a restaurant that caters to American food. Lunch, the most important meal of the day, is actually the heaviest meal with multiple appetizers and courses. And lots and lots of sangria! Lunch and the famous siesta (nap) occur from 2 until 4 pm. I suggest you plan accordingly since most shops and establishments close during this time.
My friends happened to be in Barcelona the same time I was, so I met up with them for lunch and drinks. I know Spaniards love their cured meats, but whoever came up with jamon beer, I think you’re overreaching. The beer from La Bandarra tasted exactly like liquid bacon. It sounds good, if only it tasted the same. Our group met up again post siesta, and got cena (dinner) from La Pepita/La Cava. Greatest tapas of all time. La Pepita fills up quick, so try to get there early! If you can’t get a seat in La Pepita, you can overflow into their other location La Cava, only two doors down. You can order food from both locations. Ugh, the food was so good. I had the greatest chili lime mussels. Although the tapas here were kind of on the pricey side, their food was worth every penny.
After dinner, we swung by Bobby Gin, a bar that specializes in gin and tonics. It’s a hip, little bar that belongs in New York, but I wish I could transport this place to LA. The cocktails were delicious! I ordered a Galeon de Manila, paying homage to my Filipino roots. Our group was craving some late night paella so we decided to check out Pirineus 1935. Holy cow, this restaurant has it all. It’s English friendly, so if your Spanish isn’t strong make sure to add this spot to your list. They give you manchego cheese with olive oil as an appetizer, the sangria is to die for and the paella is stuffed with lots of seafood.
Fun fact, there’s a ton of Filipino people in Barcelona. So you know your girl had to grab some Filipino food. Off La Rambla, there’s a quaint little spot called Filmanila. The second I walked in I was greeted with a loud “Kain na!” Boy, was I ready to eat! I ordered a Kare Kare for myself. Okay, I usually don’t give Filipino places a chance because nothing beats home cooking. I’m not gonna lie, this Kare Kare was a game changer. Instead of leaving the eggplant in the stew so it gets all soft, they top the Kare Kare with charred eggplant medallions so you have that crunch. Ah, heaven.
When in Spain, be a tourist!
Barcelona is filled with tourists sights and museums. I started the day with an early morning trip to the Picasso Museum. Pro tip: buy advanced tickets before your trip because the lines get crazy long. Also, opt for a morning time to beat the crowds. I got the cheapest ticket to view La Colleccion. They are really strict on taking pictures in most of the galleries. Instead of snapping your favorite pieces of art, sketch it instead. Make sure to bring a pencil and journal, you can’t get in trouble for drawing.
A day is not enough to fully take in Sagrada Familia. This basilica has such rich history from when it was built, and the cool thing is it’s still under construction. I opted in for a guided tour of the church. Best decision ever, the architecture nerd in me went crazy. It was awesome revisiting the wonders of Gaudi and his architectural feats. The Sagrada Familia is set to be completed by 2026. Don’t be surprised if a surge of tourists flock to the city around this time.
If you love a good view please add Parc de Montejuic to your list. It’s nestled high in the mountains so you have to take a cable car and gondola ride to this part of the city. Parc de Montejuic has beautiful 360 views of Barcelona. Plus, there’s a castle on the grounds. Castell de Montejuic is no Sleeping Beauty Castle, but it is a big mean Spanish castle that’s built like a fortress.
Shoot, I thought Parc de Montejuic had amazing views. Park Guell trumps that. Unfortunately, there’s no cable car that takes you up to the park. Your best option is to take a taxi or bus. Pro tip: Bring good sturdy walking shoes. The park has a lot of uneven ground and crazy steep stairs. Also, don’t forget a positive attitude! I was getting frustrated finding my friends since this park is SO big. It also doesn’t help that it’s steep aka the perfect cranky combination. Park Guell is worth every step. This park showcases Gaudi’s love of nature and there are so many pretty structures that are inspired by this. Those sights and talented muscians make the atmosphere so whimsical. Park Guell definitely was one of my favorite places to visit in Barcelona.
Get in loser we’re going shopping!
Why does everyone in Barcelona dress so nicely? I swear, everyone on the street looks like they just came from a photoshoot. With Spain, being the home of Zara and Mango I was dying to get some awesome Spanish pieces. I actually found some other shops that had some very tasteful clothes. My favorite was Lefties, TopShop style with Forever 21 prices.
European sizes tend to be on the smaller side, so if you’re a full figured woman it’s hard to find sizes. The Zara in Spain actually has extended sizes beyond an 8, which is amazing! Violeta by Mango is Mango’s plus size brand. They have some cute contemporary pieces perfect for someone who’s trying to break the Forever 21 vice, but isn’t necessarily read to jump on the Ann Taylor ship.
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The Gothic Quarter is filled with tons of shopping and it’s the home of my favorite plaza, Placa Reial. If you love people watching, you need to go here! Grab a bikini sandwich to go, take a seat at the fountain and just chill. If you’re looking for souvenirs, swing by Papabubble. It’s this super cool candy shop that makes intricate hard candies into art. Ale Hop is another great souvenir place, it’s basically a Spanish Daiso filled with cute trinkets with sassy Spanish phrases.
If you’re looking for a magical place to visit, please add Barcelona to your list! You always hear horror stories of people getting pick pocketed in Europe, but I had no trouble. I actually traveled by myself for 50% of this trip and I felt safe the entire time. And that’s with walking the streets at midnight. Public transportation in this city is so reliable and easy to use. Download Google Maps and pick up a multi-day pass to really conquer the city. Speaking of apps to download, please get Duolingo. If you’re not fluent in Spanish, you might struggle a little bit. Luckily, I still remembered my high-school Spanish (shout out to Senora Mori y Senor Caceres) and I was able to get by. Spaniards get a little shy with their English, so make the effort to speak a little Spanish at least!