Barcelona Recommendations

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I just wrote up a list of Barcelona recommendations for a friend of a friend, so thought I would share it here too in case anyone else has a trip in mind.   Brett has many more restaurant recommendations from his work trips there, but the list below are some highlights.

LODGING

The metro in Barcelona is easy to use and fast.  Given that, you can stay in lots of different parts of the city and still not need a car.  We bought the 10 pass card and then replenished as needed.   We also used taxis occasionally.  You don’t need to rent a car.

Hotel Praktik Rambla - Rambla de Cataluña, 27 08007 Barcelona 08007 Barcelona

We love, love this chic boutique hotel.  Brett always stays here and he has gotten a lot of Amazon people to stay there over the years.  It’s a great, comfortable hotel (with reliable wifi!)  and wonderfully located.  The boutique hotel is just a few minutes’ walk away from spectacular monuments and places to visit such as: La Pedrera, the Batlló house, the Paseo de Gracia, Las Ramblas or the Plaza Cataluña, Barcelona’s nerve center. It is between the two busiest metro stops – Cataluyna and Passeig de Gracia so easy to get back to from almost any metro line.  The hotel isn’t really suited to kids, although we did stay there with ours.

If you are travelling with kids, I’d recommend checking out Airbnb to rent an apartment.  We and others we know have had great success with Airbnb though not specifically in Barcelona.

SITES

La Boqueria – Mercat St. Joseph on the Ramblas

We’re not fans of La Ramblas.  If you are from Seattle, it’s like walking the Waterfront.  Fun to see once for the entertainment but you have to be careful of pick pockets and gypsies particularly around there.  Very touristy.    However, the market off the Ramblas is a can’t miss.  It is the most amazing market I’ve ever seen - -huge and vibrant.  You’ll only wish you had a kitchen so you can cook.  There are pre-made smoothies at all the fruit stands that are great to sip on while walking around.  There are also a number of places to sit at a bar and eat fresh food – we’ve never done it, but have wanted to.  It’s hard to find a seat usually.  Pick up some nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, olive oils, and saffron to bring home.

La Sagrada Familia – Carrer de Mallorca 401

In the Eixample neighborhood.  Gaudi’s church is the most visited site in all of Spain.  You have to see it.  And spend the money to tour the inside and towers – it’s worth it.  The lines move fast so don’t be discouraged if the line is long (it will be.)  Pay the extra for the audio tour.  They have one for adults and one for kids. 

Park Guell & Gracia neighborhood

This is Gaudi’s hillside park.  The landscape design is unlike anything you’ve seen.  Definitely worth going to.  While you are there, check out the bohemian Gracia neighborhood.

El Poble Espanyol-in the Montjuic neighborhood

My friend Grechen told us about this place for our first visit.  It’s off the beaten track and something to do if you have more than 3 days in the city.  It costs to get in.   From Gretchen: “El Poble was created for the 1929 International Exhibition to showcase architecture and crafts of each region in Spain.  It’s a mini village, filled with gorgeous handmade items – ceramics, glass, leather (buy belts!).  And the main square has several nice restaurants for casual meals.” 

FC Barcelona sports campus

All the professional teams in Barcelona play in one large campus.  We saw a FC Barcelona basketball game, but obviously FC Barcelona Soccer is the big team in town.  Definitely get tickets in advance of your trip.  It’s a great way to do sports all in one central location and it’s worth poking around even if you don’t go to a game.  The basketball game was great fun, so may be a worthy back up if you can’t get soccer tickets.

Tibidabo mountain, church, and amusement park

Further out of the city is a church on the top of a hill called Tibidabo.  You take the subway, a trolley, and then a funicular to get to the top.  The church is nice, not amazing, but the views are worth the trip up.  Only go if it’s a clear day when you can enjoy the views.  There are some really nice houses on the way up the mountain to look at.   Also, there is a mini amusement park at the top that is fun for the kids – about 20 rides geared towards kids ages 12 and under.  Our boys loved it, and with the views – we didn’t mind either.  Bring a picnic if you plan to spend a day up there as food options aren’t great.  There are a few rides that you can go on without paying for the amusement park.  There wasn’t any tourists in the amusement park as it’s not talked about much in the guide books.

Barceloneta & Beach

You have to see the Mediterranean Sea up close and the beach along it is really nice.  Also check out the spit of land called Barceloneta which is a traditional Mediterranean fishing village.  It feels different – more working class – than the rest of Barcelona.

Montjuic

If it’s a nice day, this is a great walk up a mountain with parks and gardens along the way.  There is a castlefort at the summit.  Fun if you are looking to see some good views and get in a good walk.

Museu de Xocolata – Chocolate museum in La Ribera neighborhood.

This is a fun tour to see the history of chocolate as well as whimsical chocolate sculptures.  Colin and I went for an hour one afternoon.  It was fun, but wouldn’t describe as a must see.

Museu d’Art Contemporani – in the Ravel neighborhood. 

This is Barcelona’s version of Paris’s Centre Pompidou.  Brett and Lawton went, and it was good but they wouldn’t describe it as can’t miss. 

Fundacio Joan Miro – We didn’t go, but wanted to.  It’s on our list for next time.

Museu Picasso – Old Town. We didn’t go, but wanted to.  It’s on our list for next time.

RESTAURANTS

The Spanish eat late.  Most restaurants don’t open until 8pm, and are the busiest at 10pm.  A lot of restaurants are closed on Sundays, so plan accordingly.  We never found a great paella – which by the way, is generally only eaten for lunch.  If you find some, let us know!

La Pepita - Carrer Còrsega, 343, Tel. 93 238 48 93

This is one of our two favorites.  In Eixample neighborhood.  More contemporary tapas.  Reservations required.  This restaurant is highly reviewed on Trip Advisor, so there will be tourists there but the food is special.  Sophie the Chef’s wife runs the front of the restaurant – she speaks good English – and she was incredibly warm. She let the boys tour the kitchen and sign their tile wall.  Don’t miss.

Tapas 24 - 269 Diputacio

This is our other favorite. Also in Eixamble neighborhood.  Very small restaurant with well done and slightly different tapas.  They don’t take reservations.  Get there early!  Sitting at the bar is fun to watch them make food and order what you see.  Don’t miss this place either. 

Margarita Blue -   c/ Josep Anselm Clavé, 6

Close to Las Ramblas.  Mexiterranean restaurant and cocktail bar.  We ate here when we wanted a change of pace from tapas.  Food is good, cocktails are excellent.   It’s also a hangout for local musicians, so go on a night when there’s live music.  It was packed every time we were there.  Great vibe.  Unlike other bars, kids are welcome in restaurant area.

La Rambla 31 - Carrer de la Diputacio 253, 08007

In the Eixamble neighborhood, a ½ block from our hotel.  This is the bakery we went to every morning.  It’s great.  Packed with locals.  Everything is delicious.  There whole wheat croissants (croissant integral) is unique.  Small area to eat in.  You pay at the register and sit down.  Coffee is fine, but generally Spanish coffee is weaker.

Ciudad Condal – Rambla de Catalunya 18, 08007

In the Eixamble neighborhood, across the street from our hotel.  This is a very well-known traditional tapas place.  If you are from Seattle, it reminds me of The Met.  It’s well established – lots of people in suits and always bustling.  We usually have our first meal here.

Filferro - sant Carles 29 in Barceloneta

We stumbled on this place while walking around Barceloneta and it was great for lunch.  It’s a fun, funky neighborhood place with outdoor seating that was filled with locals.  Best fresh tuna salad I had while I was there.  Not a single tourist.

Forn Boix - Carrer de l'Hospital, 20, 08001 in El Raval neighborhood

Great bakery in El Raval neighborhood .  Great sweet and savory things to choose from.  No seating, just grab and go.  Always busy.  There might be two locations.

SHOPPING

There is an underwear shop on every corner, so ladies – if you need to stock up on lingerie, Barcelona is your place.  There are also tons of boutique shops.  It is a great city for clothes shopping.

Raval , Born, Barri Gotic neighborhoods

Fun streets to roam and shop.  All non chain types of stores on small, narrow cobblestone streets.  Raval has one of a kind shops.  Barri Gotic neighborhood for crafts and antiques .  All these small side streets have great graffiti.  We had fun with kids and pictures will all the graffiti.

Desigual – multiple locations

Fun Spanish, bright clothes for men, women and children.  It is very distinctive clothing and the Spanish love Desigual.  It is like their version of Gap.  Stores are everywhere, but pop into several of them as selections are slightly different between locations (especially with children’s clothing.)  Great sales.  Desigual is available in the US, but prices are much better in Spain.  We always spend some money here. 

Camper – multiple locations

Great shoes for men and women.  Stores are everywhere.  Stylish and comfortable and not too expensive.  Brett and I get a pair or two every time we visit.  You can get Camper shoes in the US, but there are more styles available in their home country.  Also a small children’s section. 

Vaho Gallery – multiple locations

Fun recycled messenger bags, purses, wallets, etc.  in all shapes and sizes. Stores are everywhere.  Most of the bags have Barcelona on them somewhere.  Fun souvenir to bring back.

See all Barcelona Photos.