Barcelona city center is very culturally mixed. Like any big city, there were parts we felt uneasy at night because we were unfamiliar with the narrow alley ways, but we were never afraid to walk anywhere anytime. The biggest caution we were warned about was pickpockets at the airport, train stations and in general. We didn’t carry a wallet, just an ID and credit card on us with a little bit of cash just in case. The only thing in my bag was extra layers, the map, snacks and bottled water.
Note: Bring a refillable bottle and refill it with a 5 gallon jug of water from the supermarket. Cost 1-2 euros. Tap water is safe but it tastes funny.
Our mission on this trip became finding the tunnel turned free climbing zone that you can “easily” get to on the way from Plaza Espanya to Montjuic. Six hours of literally circling the castle mountain later and we left with plenty of exercise for the day, just not from bouldering. On Monjuic there are a few things to do including the Castle, the Botanical Gardens, the Olympic center and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. The views are the best from the museum. It overlooks the magic fountain to Plaza Espanya. We caught it at sunset by accident and it was perfect. The best part after the long day of hiking up was taking the escalator down. I have never seen outdoor escalators on a mountain before so we had to ride it. There is also a cable car you can take up and back the mountain from the port area but we opted for the hike.
We felt a little better about not finding the tunnel when we had a drink at a great little organic restaurant called Copasetic later that night (they were one of very few places open on New Year’s Day). We asked the owners if they knew where it was. They said they found it only once and attempted to draw where it may be on the mountain for us. We never made it to the tunnel this trip, but the mission is still there for our next visit. We did have dinner at Copasetic later that week and it was delicious!
Most days in Barcelona we spent wandering.
To start the day: The best croissant and coffee (shot) in the morning was only 1.50 euros from Amor y Pan Barcelona. Our favorite real breakfast spot (meaning eggs) was Milk. They hosted a phenomenal (much needed) New Year’s “Recovery” Brunch at their normal menu prices, 10 euros or so per person. We ended our trip at breakfast there too. A very close tie was breakfast at Brunch and Cake, really tough call, both best bets for “American style” breakfast.
Dessert also counts as breakfast: The cronut from our new obsession Chök. For Kings Day, everyone was in line at the famous Escriba for traditional cakes that come with a crown to celebrate. Bubo chocolate cake was advised as a must do, impressive but our hopes were higher on the decadence than what it was. Give us a Chök doughnut any day or some churros and chocolate from Cafe Granja or a side street vendor (shown). Lastly the Crème brûlée of the region, Crema Catalana (video recipe).
We went inside every church that had an open door, some during services, beautiful to see. The Barcelona Cathedral’s courtyard in the back has geese wandering around the drinking water fountain. Drink from it for luck.
There are a million things to see in Barcelona: The Arc de Triomf, the Central Park of Barcelona called Parc de la Ciutadella has a magnificent fountain, walking the entire Born and Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas, the main touristy shopping strip, of course was unavoidable though we tried to keep off the path and to the side streets.
Free Museum’s Sunday’s Note: If you are looking to go to the main ones like Picasso, you must book the ticket online to reserve a time slot even through its free, they will only let those with tickets in. The Maritime Museum and the History of Barcelona with Roman ruins under the castle, both had no reservations required and no waiting.
Barceloneta: Barcelona’s Beach
Kings Day Celebration
Similar to Gasparilla in Tampa where the pirate ship arrives and is greeted by the mayor then a parade, Barcelona celebrates Three Kings Day on the 5th of January with the arrival of the Kings on a ship followed by a huge parade that blows any US parade out of the water. The story, pyrotechnics and performances and lights were awesome and it wasn’t too long or boring to stand in the crowd. Our favorite part was seeing the all the kids that had written their letters to the Kings (like Santa) but instead of mailing them, they are collected in huge nets during the parade with kids all over holding them up. So cute! At the end of the parade, there are cannons shooting out glitter and candy to everyone in the street. Amazing.
Barcelona has Craft Beer!
The Barcelona beer scene is getting big. It reminded us of how Tampa was 4 years ago when people were excited about the products and the market wasn’t saturated with brewing competition and crazies yet.
A Few Craft Beer Bars We Stopped In (in no certain order):
- Kaelderkold – 15 craft beers on tap, a little expensive, in the Barri Gotic closer to the touristy areas so that can be expected.
- Ale & Hop – Off the beaten path near (ish) to The Arc de Triomf, 10 taps that rotate every week with a variety of bottles available for sale. This is where we noticed Cigar City cans of Maduro in the fridge from a connection the bar has in Denmark. We will be back here again on our next trip.
- La Cerveteca – Larger chill place, helpful bartenders, we stopped there more than once because it was close to our neighborhood but we read a review that the variety of their selection had fallen off a little recently for what’s on tap and we would have to agree. Still a great spot to visit and hang out for a good beer.
- La Mes Petita – The most taps per square foot. Only 8. 8 taps including their own brewers beer and the smallest bar ever which makes it an even neater place to stop. There were 5 of us inside at one time and that was really crowded. They have a couple of street tables as well but in January, it was better to wedge a spot inside. We waited it out with a beer outside and when a few others left, we slid right in. It’s an easy place to meet new people.
- BierCaB – Best modern craft bar in the city hand down. A great selection on tap, bar area, restaurant bar seating in the back, and a bottle shop next door. Flat screen menus with what’s on tap now, what’s almost out and what’s tapping next. The owner was awesome too, so fun and friendly serving everyone from the bar.. We also met another dude from La Mes Petita there and one of the owners of Kaelderkold which tells you something.
- Edge Brewing – An American craft brewery in Barcelona with an owner from Tampa. We attempted to go one Friday night, but in January they are closed, otherwise Friday is their open night for tastings.
Sitges: Beach Town
Sitges is a 30 minute train from Barcelona Sants train station. Ticket cost about 4 euro each way. Beautiful place to watch the sunset, and have lunch with friends by the sea. The oldest beach bar from 1913 “chiringuito” is still open and serving 7 days a week right on the beach. Many restaurants along the beach also have wonderful menú del día options (menu’s of the day) consisting of an app, main and dessert at one fixed price under 20 euros per person.
The ending of our long Barcelona adventure was a sad one, we love the city, the convenience of walking everywhere, the warmer weather, the mixed culture and history and the short trip to an amazing beach. We will be back.