Last month I had the opportunity to visit Barcelona for a quick weekend getaway and it was amazing. It was my first visit to Spain, and I can't wait to go back. Nadalee, Hilary and I took the train from Paris on a Friday afternoon and arrived 6 hours later with plenty of time to settle in to our super cute AirBnb rental, explore the neighborhood, and have dinner and drinks. The weekend was a whirlwind with tons of sightseeing packed in. Our apartment was perfectly situated in the center of Barcelona- I loved the Old Town neighborhood and will definitely stay there on my next visit. We were only a few minutes walk from Las Ramblas, the Picasso museum, the beach, and so much more- yet the streets weren't packed with people and we were surprised at how quiet it was. It did get pretty noisy at night- it was Friday/Saturday and we were right above a super lively bar that seemed to stay open until daylight....- but on the second night I remembered a pair of earplugs I'd packed and slept just fine. Super easy fix and way worth it for all of the advantages of the area.
A few highlights:
After breakfast at Satan's, we walked around the quiet streets marveling at the gorgeous architecture and beautiful little details of the buildings and eventually made it to La Boqueria. Oh my god. Do not dare visit Barcelona without stopping at this market. Originating around 1217 as a meat market, it is now home to dozens of stalls offering every fruit, veggie, and delicacy Barcelona has to offer- and then some. From the official website:
"fresh fish and sea food; tinned food; butchery and offal; birds; game and eggs; fruits and vegetables; herbs; delicatessen; breads and pastries; restaurants; frozen items; artisan products; charcuterie; farmers' shops; wine; and even a Greek and an Italian hand made pasta stall have joined the consortium/maelstrom that keeps La Boqueria alive."
It was a kind of amazing sensory overload experience nearly impossible to describe. I'd only ever seen photos of markets like this one, and was so so excited to actually be visiting one. We ate and drank our way through- and I was so thoroughly immersed that I took little to no photos. I could have spent all day there, and would have had we not planned to do a walking tour that afternoon.
I've always kind of rolled my eyes at these tours, likening them to grade school field trips and preferring to go my own way instead of being herded around and seeing the top touristy spots of a city. So I was pleasantly surprised when the Sandeman's tour my friends had planned for turned out to be a really great way to see various neighborhoods on foot, and learn a ton about Barcelona's incredibly interesting history in the process- but without feeling like a boring school trip. Of course the quality of the tour 100% depends on the guide, but they are "free" with a tip expected at the end based on your experience. We did a 3 hour tour, learned a ton, our guide was great and the 3 hours flew by. They have guides in 18 major cities, and I definitely recommend giving them a try! I've linked to their site at the bottom of this post :)
On Sunday before heading back to Paris, we visited Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia. Both incredible, both worthy of spending hours in. We unfortunately had to carry our bags with us for these visits, so the very serious trek uphill to Parc Guell was...serious. Even with being in relatively decent shape and regularly trekking around and up and down the streets of Paris, we had to take a breather or two. But it made the view from the top that much sweeter. If you're willing to make the climb the views of the city are spectacular.
Due to time constraints we cabbed over to Sagrada Familia, but I would have loved to have walked as the area around Parc Guell was so cute and definitely worth exploring during a future visit. It kind of reminded me of Montmartre at first glance. Sagrada Familia was well worth the wait and the price of admission (Definitely ask for the youth/student rate! I do qualify so I asked, but they don't bother to verify. Easy way to save 6-7 euros). This place was like something from a sci-fi/space-y film- I've never seen anything like it (if you're not familiar with the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi- give him a quick google!) Visiting in the late afternoon was perfect. With the sun going down, the light streaming in from all of the stained glass windows bathed everything in a rainbow of colors and light. So unreal, and of course seemingly impossible to photograph and do it any justice.
There was a metro stop right outside the cathedral, so when it was time to head back to Paris it was super easy to take the metro directly to the train station.
This trip was a great little taster of Barcelona. Way too short, but long enough to have experienced enough of the city to know that I want to go back. We packed so much in to so little time and it was exhausting and I feel like I hardly have any decent photos to show for it- so obviously I'll need to go back and remedy that! Below are a few that I did manage to snap in between the flurry of touring, eating churros and drinking sangria.
Links from this post:
|Cheating here, this is from a Google image search. The smells of the market pulled me right in and I couldn't be bothered to photograph the beautiful signage.|
"At the Boqueria people eat, shop and gossip together doing what the Spanish excel at, living life well and enjoying a sense of community"
Tiny winding streets.
Baixada de Santa Eulalia - one of the patron saints of the city, who had a festival going on this same weekend.
Satan's chai latte. A+
The "Well of the Geese" in the Barcelona Cathedral/Cathedral of The Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia (told you she was popular!)
Here's the story on Eulalia (according to our guide, at least): she was a young virgin who, according to Catholic tradition, suffered martyrdom during Roman times in the city. One story says that since she refused to renounce her faith, she was tortured and exposed naked in the public square..until a miraculous snowfall in mid-spring occurred...covering her nudity and preserving her modesty. The enraged Romans put her into a barrel with knives stuck into it and rolled it down a street (Baixada de Santa Eulàlia, shrine pictured above)..pretty gruesome yet she allegedly came out unscathed so they continued to torture her. The body of Saint Eulalia is entombed in the cathedral's crypt. Above are 11 of the 13 geese that are kept, the number explained by the assertion that Eulalia was 13 when she was martyred. THIRTEEN!
Fountain in the atrium with the Well of the Geese.
Sweets at La Boqueria
Glimpse of the Church of Santa Maria del Pi / Blessed Lady of the Pine Tree / The Virgin Mary, located in the Barri Gotic. Construction started in 1319.
Churros/ xurros as they are called in Catalan, with a cup of thick, hot chocolate sauce- nearly hidden by a mountain of rich whipped cream. No regrets.
These were from Granja La Pallaresa. The subject of best churros in Barcelona is hotly debated, but most agree that you'll find them on Carrer de Petritxol- a small winding street with multiple xurrerias nearly next door to each other, and almost certainly with lines out their doors no matter when you go. It's not a long wait and it's pretty much guaranteed to be well worth it no matter which shop you try.