Just because we’ve been back in the work/real world for over 6 months, doesn’t mean our travels will stop! When we quit our jobs to travel, we made sure to hit the “further away” destinations and promised we would go to Europe and other closer destinations when we were back to living “real life.” Well…we took our first, quick trip to Europe and it definitely won’t be the last.
La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is the large, unfinished church designed by Antoni Gaudi. The Basilica construction began in the late 1800s and is slated to be completed in 2026. Understanding the complication of his design, Gaudi never expected to see the finished product. The privately funded project is nearly complete and the interior was even more mind blowing than the exterior. This first stop on our trip had us planning a visit for 10 years from now.
Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau
Relatively close to La Sagrada Familia is Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Walking Tour of The Gothic Quarter
As we like to do in most cities, we booked a free walking tour of the Gothic Quarter. We booked with Craft Tours and highly recommend it. The tour started in Plaça de Catalunya, which is the transportation center of the city. From there we walked south on Passeig de Gràcia and entered the Gothic Quarter. The Gothic Quarter is the historical neighborhood of Barcelona which was walled in until the Industrial Revolution. The neighborhood was expanded in the 1850s when the Industrial Revolution pushed the city’s population to its limits and a more typical grid-style city began construction. The quintessential neighborhood contains small, winding streets that navigate through small shops, restaurants and churches.
Highlights of the tour included:
- Chocolate Street: This might be the best smelling street we’ve ever walked on. There are tons of chocolate/sweets shops on this street that sell the famous “chocolate and churros.”
- Plaça de Pi: This translates to the square of the pine because when the square was opened there was a large pine tree in the middle. The square is now surrounded by beautiful antique shops and old bars.
- Catedral de Barcelona: This is a beautiful cathedral that was constructed from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, with the principal work done in the fourteenth century.
- Chicken Wire Tribute to the Castellers: “Human Tower” is a professional sport in Barcelona. There are groups of people that will practice for hours on end and compete frequently to see which team can build the tallest human tower. As a tribute to the team that built the tallest human tower, the city now as a very interesting and tall sculpture in the Gothic Quarter.
- Plaça Reial: This is a very frequented square that contains two light posts which were Gaudi’s first (and last) public work. Supposedly Gaudi was very difficult to work with and spent way more than he was budgeted for, which is why his public service career was very short-lived and he ended up spending most of his professional years working for extremely wealthy families that didn’t mind when he exceeded the budget.
Mercado de la Boqueria
This market was as hectic and filled with delicious food as most of the markets we have visited around the world. We spent about 15 minutes here, got a few bites to eat, and then escaped the chaos.
La Barceloneta is the small neighborhood near the man-made beach that was created for the 1992 Summer Olympics. We visited the area to grab some delicious seafood and we were definitely not disappointed.
Passeig de Gràcia
We enjoyed the walking tour of The Gothic Quarter with Craft Tours so we decided to book another tour with them for later in the same day! The tour focused on Gaudi and modernism and took place mostly on Passeig de Gràcia. During the expansion of the city during the Industrial Revolution, this street first became populated by the wealthiest families and today it still remains the most beautiful and expensive street in the city. Several homes were designed by the famous architects and reflect the modernist features of the early 1900s. Highlights of the trip were:
- Casa Lleó Morera: This is one of three homes on the same block designed for a very wealthy family by a very famous architect. This home was designed by the famous modernism architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner.
- Casa Bonet: This is another beautiful home on the same block.
- Casa Batlló: This is one of Gaudi’s most famous homes. The main windows of the home are in the shape of a bat, which is one of the main symbols of Barcelona. The facade of the building is covered in colorful tiles, a common technique of Gaudi’s.
- Casa Milà: This house is commonly known as La Pedrera. This was the last residence designed by Gaudi before his death.
As we learned the hard way, make sure to book tickets here in advance! Luckily we went on the first day, realized we couldn’t get in, and we were able to snag tickets for early in the morning on our last day. Park Güell was designed by Antoni Guadi in the early 1900s for the wealthy Güell family and opened to the public as a park in 1926.
Fundació Joan Miró
This art exhibition dedicated to Joan Miró is a must see. We took the public bus from Castell de Montjuïc, which was perfect because we passed through the Olympic Village and were able to see many fields and arenas from the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Castell de Montjuïc
We stumbled upon Castell de Montjuïc after visiting Fundació Joan Miró. The Castell once served as a primary fortification and lookout point for the city with views into the sea and mountain ranges that surround the city.
This was recommended to us by multiple people and we would highly recommend it as well. You sit at what looks like a diner bar, chat with the waiters, tell them you’re visiting and want to try everything, and then they bring out dish after dish of true, Catalan cuisine.
This restaurant has a very cozy atmosphere and THE BEST duck paella (yes, that’s correct, DUCK). The waitress was also so nice and brought us complimentary shots of something similar to Bailey’s at the end of our meal.
This restaurant is in La Barceloneta and sits along the beach. We got mini clams and grilled mushrooms, which were both very good!
This was recommended as a must from a friend who lived in Barcelona for over a year. Although they don’t take reservations, we showed up early enough so we didn’t have to wait for too long. The food was extremely well priced and delicious. We highly recommend ordering their signature dessert which is basically a crembrule in a croissant!
Our guide from the walking tour of the Gothic Quarter sent us a list of her favorite restaurants in Barcelona and this was one of them. This was a nice change, since it is all fresh from a farm 10 miles away and vegetarian.
La Pallaresa Xocolateria Xurreria
This chocolate shop is the second oldest in the city and sells the famous hot chocolate with churros. We heard that the hot chocolate would be so dense that the churro stands up in it, but we were still expecting what we know as “hot chocolate.” Instead, the chocolate was really melted chocolate, similar to what you would get for fondue. Of course it was good 😝!
This restaurant was recommended by a few of our friends, one of whom is from Barcelona! It is very “old school” and definitely a bit overpriced, but we enjoyed the experience.