There are some cities across the world where you can’t describe WHAT it is that makes it so magical. Barcelona is one of those.
Everything about it just makes you feel alive. From the food culture, the narrow cobbled streets overlooked by the bouquet of tiny balconies, the aromas floating out from the array of bars, restaurants and markets to the rich history and culture that the people of the city take such pride in. I just love how the streets slowly start to breathe at night, folks pouring out of their sleepy apartments after siesta for a bite to eat with friends and family. I LOVE it there.
It was our first time trying AirBnB and Ross and I are so happy we did! We stayed in Gràcia, linked to all the major sights and areas you want to go to by the metro. Our hosts and their apartment we stayed in was perfectly located with awesome restaurants, cafés, shops selling all sorts and gelato around every corner. In our area, Carrer de Verdi was a great street with a variety of restaurants to pick and choose from. On our first evening we had really yum croquettes, patatas bravas and gambas, washed down with vino tinto and a cerveca Mortiz (all for 17 Euros) at Restaurant Braseria La Villa.
Generally, during the day we bought fresh fruit from the fruit shops (which are EVERYWHERE) and yoghurt for snacking, after oats and coffee we’d have in the mornings at apartment before heading out. Lunches usually were bought from cafés or at markets like La Boqueria (jamon stuffed in little paper cones were my favourite) as we were on the go all day, walking everywhere (boy did we walk). For dinner we’d spoil ourselves and have a sit down meal at any restaurant that grabbed our attention, which became hard because they all always looked so intriguing, some with more trendy interiors and others that were more traditional looking.
Our hosts told us about a Ramen bar in the Gothica that we HAD to try. I didn’t think about it twice, seeing as it was in my favourite area in Barcelona to wander around at night and around the corner from my ultimate shopping street, Avinyo. Koku Kitchen I can safetly say was my favourite meal in Barcelona (after all the tapas of course). The interior is warm and welcoming, and so is the Irish owner, who helped us put together an amazing spread. I had Soja with toasted garlic and Ross had the Piquante (it was pretty spicy but so yum). We shared some pork gzoya and the most divine seaweed and cabbage salad. To die for.
The awesome thing about Barcelona is that there’s a great mixture of restaurants and bars serving traditional Spanish food and other cultural cuisines from across the globe, so you’re really spoiled for choice if you’ve had enough jamon (but who ever get’s over eating jamon?!). Speaking of jamon, it goes down pretty well with some cava (bubbly) and what better place to enjoy the two than Can Paixano in Barceloneta. Crowded with people, you manage to shout your order to the guy behind the counter who quickly splashes some champagne into your glass. While they’re cutting you some jamon from the legs hanging from the ceiling or frying some chorizo, you push through a sea of people to find your comfy spot. They also serve jamon sandwiches and have a great selection of local cheeses. When ordering your cava, you have to tell them you want a brut, otherwise they will just serve you a sweet one. That place is so vibrant and packed full of people almost all the time, it’s a great stop after a day at the beach!
On our list of to-do’s in terms of sight-seeing was of course, the Picasso Museum, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia (wow – I highly recommend, Park Guell, Casa Batlo and Casa Mila (which was covered up for renovations). I’d recommend buying tickets online for Sagrada Familia because the queues are crazy. We also did a 4 hour Barcelona City Tour by Fat Tire Bike Tour on the first day, which was a great way to familiarize ourselves with the city. Our guide was awesome and gave us digestible snippets about the landmarks and Barcelona’s history and cultural background. It’s an easy ride and you stop quite a bit, with a lunch stop at the beach where you can go grab a bite to eat at any of the restaurants or just get something from the café to munch on the sand. You’re allowed to drink on the beach in Barcelona so grab a cold cerveca from the supermarket fridge with your sandwich …
Here are a some of our favourites:
- Woki Organic Market, Carrer de Astúries 22, Gràcia – for fresh produce and essentials
- Mercat de Libertat, Plaça de la Llibertat, 27 – meats, fish and fresh produce
- La Boqueria – try the jamon tacos from the first meat counter on your right
- Baluard Bakery, Provença, 279 – their pain au chocolat is amazing!
- Koku Kitchen – All their ramen and pork gzoya
- Topping Circus, Avinyo 27 – best ice-cream EVER
- Can Paixano – cava and chorizo
- Bierut, 37 Carrer de Joaquín – great for drinks and around the corner from MACBA (The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art)
- Avinyo – clothing shopping (not your commercial shops like H&M but the stuff is awesome)
If I ever were to move away from Cape Town it would probably be to go live in Barcelona. This city stole my heart.