Reema Desai recently spent one week in Barcelona, eating, drinking and wandering her way around town. Here, she shares her recommendations for a stellar time in Spain’s second largest city.
The neighborhood of Barceloneta
If you’re looking to spend time on the beach or by the water, Barceloneta is the place to be. The neighborhood borders the Mediterranean Sea and has a cool, relaxed vibe. Bars and restaurants line the beach so you can enjoy sweeping views of the water as you eat; they’re also great spots for people watching.
While you’re in the area, be sure to check out La Xampanyeria (Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7), a completely chaotic and energetic champagne bar just a few blocks away from the beach. The champagne is cheap (around 1 Euro per glass), the food is good and the atmosphere is lively and fun. You can’t help but strike up a conversation with your fellow patrons while enjoying drinks and tapas.
Another favorite in the area was Surf House (Career l’Almirall Aixada, 22), a cool, summery restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating right beside the water.
The neighborhood of Barri Gotic
To best experience Barri Gotic, simply wander around. Although some parts of the neighborhood can feel quite touristy, all it takes is a turn down an alley to bring you to a quaint, quiet side street. There, you’ll find interesting shops, beautiful churches, unique art galleries, and delicious restaurants. Take note of where the locals are and just follow behind them. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find something you love, be it a new art gallery or a local bar.
Bar Oviso was a memorable stop for me. The restaurant/bar is located in Plaça George Orwell, a beautiful public square. We sat outside enjoying tapas while watching kids play futbol and, a little while later, local bands began playing music for all of the diners in the square.
Taranna (Career de Viladomat, 23) is one of my favorite cafes in Barcelona because of its standout stylish décor, community feel and wonderful coffee. Barcelona’s café culture, generally, is lovely; everyone seems to take time to sit down, chat with friends or read a book, and really enjoy their brew. It was a welcomed change in pace from my everyday life in Washington, D.C., which can feel rushed and hectic at times.
Can Mano (Calle del Baluard, 12) is a small seafood restaurant tucked away on a side street in Barcelona. It’s a very popular spot – a line forms outside the door before it even opens! Cheaper than just about any meal I had in Barcelona, it was also one of the most delicious and memorable. We shared a bottle of wine for just a few Euros and enjoyed fried red mullet, white beans and flounder. There was also flan for desert! Street musicians often come into the restaurant and play for the patrons. It’s truly a no frills atmosphere that offers an incredible dining experience.
To Immerse in Culture:
Museu Picasso (Carrer Montcada, 15-23) is one of the most enjoyable museums I have ever been to. It’s not incredibly large but, nevertheless, offers a beautiful, comprehensive collection of Picasso’s work, with over 4000 pieces on display, many of which illustrate his ties to the city. Admission is free on Thursday evenings between 7:00 – 9:30pm.
Although the collection itself is the real star of museum, the museum’s courtyard is beautiful as well. In the evenings, the light is stunningly picturesque. It’s the perfect place to spend some time dreaming and reflecting after viewing the exhibits.
La Virreina – Centre De La Imatge
Tucked away just off of the overcrowded thoroughfare of La Rambla is La Virreina, a gallery set up by the Barcelona City Council to promote art and culture. The exhibits change regularly and feature everything from photography to audiovisual work. (During my visit, I was lucky enough to see one of my absolute favorite photographers, Martin Parr, and his show, The Non-Conformists!). Like many galleries in Barcelona, the building La Virreina is housed in is absolutely stunning; a piece of art in itself!