Our good friends from back in Melbourne, Mike and Maria, were visiting Spain and provided us with the perfect excuse for a visit to Barcelona. It didn’t take much to convince Alex and Amy to join us; in fact it took no convincing.
“Want to come to Barcelona?”
For the week leading up to this trip, I had this song by Giulia y Los Tellarini on repeat, driving Kristian mad, but bringing me much enjoyment!
‘Te quiero, Barcelonaaaaa…..’
I was so excited for our four day holiday.
I have only ever been to Barcelona once, as a 14 year old. But when you are a young traveller you don’t appreciate the things you do as an adult (ahem…tapas) so I was keen to get to a place where sangria is queen and patatas bravas are in abundance!
It was during that first European trip as a young girl, that my obsession for travel, language and culture emerged. What a life changer! I fell in love with all things Italian and Spanish. Hence the reason for dedicating many years to learning the two languages. Although Kristian and I have travelled quite a bit since, particularly in Europe, this was to be my first time in a Spanish speaking country since learning the language. I was ridiculously eager to get out there and finally put my Spanish skills to good use.
We left London in the early hours of the morning and before long (one hour and thirty minutes to be exact) we were in bonita Barcelona. It is so dangerous for my bank account knowing that Spain is that close to England.
After checking into our beautiful apartment just off the bustling street of La Rambla, in the stunning Gothic Quarter, we made our way to La Boqueria, one of the biggest fresh food markets in the city.
It was abuzz with people. Tourists sampling the dishes on offer, locals doing their weekly shops, “nanna bags” in tow and shop keepers calling out their weekly specials, trying to entice potential customers. The stalls were bright, laden with fresh local produce and all sorts of delicious treats.
After doing several rounds of the market, up and down and back and forth along the aisles (deciding on lunch is serious business, you know), we finally settled for empanadas de carne, a typical Spanish pastry filled with shredded beef. In all honesty, this particular empanada didn’t blow me away, but was still a good start for what would be a four-day food fiesta!
Whilst exploring the quaint little streets in the Gothic quarter, we stumbled across the most delectable little patisserie, specialising in all things chocolate. Dangerously located around the corner from the apartment, the appropriately named ‘Chök' wooed us with window displays showcasing the most amazing looking cakes and desserts. It took me a while to finally decide on the ‘Kronut’ (a croissant/donut) filled with lusciously smooth Crema Catalana. Divine.
Food really did dominate our trip to Spain. As I am writing this, I am trying to calculate a rough timeline of events in my head about significant experiences we had and most revolve around food!
Mike and Maria arrived at the apartment shortly after our visit to Chök and they were keen to head out for dinner, as were we (even if we had been eating all day!)
We meandered down La Rambla, strolling past eye catching buildings by Gaudí and taking in the atmosphere. Our first tapas in Spain at ‘Cerveceria Catalana’ was a winner. Totally delicious. The squid salad was a favourite.
We hired six very colourful bikes on our second day in the city and rode from our apartment up to Park Guell (which was so good to see). After this trip, believe me when I tell you that the best way to travel this incredible city is by bike. I never realised just how bike friendly Barcelona is.
On the way to the park, we came across the cutest little street, paved with cobble stones and lined with charming little bars, cafes and bakeries. We sampled various drinks at a cute little Mexican bar. Maria introduced us to a traditional Spanish drink called ‘Horchata’. I can’t believe I haven’t tried it sooner. I have been missing out! Very popular in Hispanic countries around the world, Horchata is a milky (but dairy free) drink made from tiger nuts. Definitely give it a try if you are ever in Spain.
We rode about 25km that day, making our way down small streets and cruising past the most beautiful buildings. La Sagrada Familia blew me away. Wow. What a building.
Thanks to our trusty bikes, we managed to see a lot of the city. We ended up at Barcoloneta beach where we had a late afternoon swim. As the evening progressed we found ourselves sitting at the bar of a tiny tapas restaurant called ‘Bodega La Peninsular’ enjoying a vast variety of tapas. Patatas bravas, Bombas, croquetas, calamares…the list goes on. Could not fault any of it.
We were enjoying ourselves in Barcelona a little too much, which is why we decided to stay a day longer than we had planned. Whoops! Lucky we made this decision, however, as we were able to witness one of the biggest festivals in Barcelona- the festival of Sant Joan. One of the most important feast days for Catalans, the festival celebrates the Summer solstice. Often described in Catalan as ‘Nit del fuoc’, meaning ‘Night of fire’, this incredible celebration revolves around fireworks. And let me tell you, there were fireworks aplenty!
We looked on as the streets and skies of Barcelona lit up with firecrackers, bonfires and fireworks. Loud cracks and booms resonated throughout the city as the locals went fire crazy! It sounded like we were in the middle of a battlefield. It was such a surreal experience, but certainly a festival worth witnessing! We were all glad we had decided to stay.
Our four days in Barcelona were a reminder of why it is that I originally fell in love with Spain. The people, the culture, the food- everything about it is just so beautiful! Another visit to this glorious country in the not too distant future is definitely on the cards. And I tell you what, the mere thought of those tapas is making my tummy rumble already!
Pere’s apartment- Carrer de Sant Pau 10, Barcelona
Perfectly located apartment, spotlessly clean and so comfortable for the six of us. Pere is such a welcoming host who gave us a thorough introduction to the city. He provided us with suggestions of where to eat and places to visit. If you are travelling in a group of six, consider staying here. We booked through AirBnb. You can check it out here.
Chök- Carrer de Carme 3, Barcelona
As mentioned above, this little patisserie specialises in all things chocolate. They offer a vast array of sweet treats with shelves of delicoius looking donuts and kronuts, truffles and chocolate. Be warned, it’s hard to choose as they all look as good as each other!
La Boqueria- Rambla 91, Barcelona
Although not a restaurant, I definitely need to include this market in here. Spend some time perusing the many stalls offering local Catalan specialties. The market provides a really good insight into Spanish food culture. Although fresh produce dominates, there are several places around to grab some lunch. I recommend taking your time and sampling a few (or a lot!) of the dishes on offer.
Cerveceria Catalana- Carrer Mallorca 236, Barcelona
A great little restaurant with a lovely ambiance. All the food we tried (and we tried a lot!) was delectable. The octopus salad is definitely worth a try! It tends to get quite busy so I would recommend reserving a table or getting there a bit earlier.
Casa de Comida Mejicana Teicawey- Carrer de Torrijos, 50, Barcelona
We stopped here twice, once for drinks (where we had Horchata) and on another occasion, for food. Both the tacos and burritos were delicious, very fresh and tasty. It’s a very small café, but has a great set up. They offer a range of salads aswell. The drinks are very refreshing and the perfect way to regain your energy after a day of exploring!
Pastisseria Nana Yoti- Carrer Torrijos 37, Barcelona
Located across the cobble stoned path from Casa de Comida Mejicana Teicawey (above), Nana Yoti is a beautifully presented patisserie selling an array of sweet treats.
We tried two different kinds of biscuits as well as lemon cheesecake and double chocolate cheesecake presented in cute little glass jars. To top it all off, the owners are just as sweet as their cakes!
Bodega La Peninsular- Carrer del Mar, 29, Barcelona
Located very near to La Barceloneta, this is a great tapas place to visit after a day at the beach. Again, this is a very small place with few tables. We were lucky to find seats at the bar. Everything we had was delicious. The waiter was very personable. Sitting at the bar, we were able to watch as the very friendly chef whizzed around the kitchen preparing mouthwatering dishes. Quite reasonably priced too.
Café Federal- Carrer del Parlament, 39, Barcelona
So, this isn’t really a typically Spanish breakfast place. Generally, the Spaniards will grab a pastry in the morning, much like the Italians. Of course, we did a Spanish style breakfast (gotta love those custard filled croissants!) but we thought we would try this too, because of the reviews it received from various sources. We weren’t disappointed. My mascarpone and raspberry coulis filled croissant was perfection. Kristian had a breakfast burger, of course (if you know Kristian, you know this is a very Kristian breakfast) and proclaimed that it was ‘one of the best breakfast burgers I’ve ever had!’ Amy’s quinoa with poached pears and natural yogurt had her coming back for more (we actually did come back!) Mike loved his Shakshuka and Maria devoured her toast with goat’s cheese and chutney. Delicious food, cute little cafe, a great way to start the day!
Cup and Cake- Carrer d'Enric Granados, 145, Barcelona
We were so lucky to stumble upon this gem of a cake shop on our last day in Barcelona. We couldn’t resist the beautiful cupcakes inside this tiny, little shop. Although cupcakes aren’t typically Spanish, the flavours on offer were. Kristian and I shared two cupcakes- Kinder Bueno and Crema Catalana.
I couldn’t decide which one I liked best. I love making cupcakes but I am not too proud to admit that these were actually better than my own! The cake itself was moist and delicious with a lovely golden tinge. The icing was out of this world, smooth, creamy and addictive. I wish I had one right now!