How to get the Best out of Your Stay in Barcelona

The Saturday morning church bells – not so faint mind you – bring you to consciousness again. A ray of golden dusty Mediterranean sunshine peeks through the shutters as you rustle underneath the 400 count bed sheets for 5 minutes more. You remember the Ethiopian coffee grounds you purchased down the street at Cafés El Magnífico, and they are now calling your name for a more imminent wake-up. The croissants from Hofmann Bakery on the counter also tempt you, and you surrender to their mascarpone filling, admitting that after all you’re on vacation. Yes, there is something special about the Catalan Gothic period still alive in 21st century Barcelona that makes us all feel a little majestic and baronial.

As you slide across the early 20th century mosaic tiles in your bathrobe, you might for a moment place yourself in The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. If this urge to imitate history and fiction fills your intrepid spirit, pack your camera and await to board the centenary ‘Tramvia Blau’ (blue tram) up Avenida Tibidabo, a well preserved example of the wealthy and elite mansions of the industrial, modern and artsy Sant Gervasi neighborhood. Climb all the way to the top of Tibidabo mountain at 512 meters by cable car for 180° panoramas of the aquamarine horizon and orange rooftops below.

Back in the gregarious center of the city – albeit clutching your handbag – admire the buzz of Las Ramblas on your journey towards locally sourced market dishes at El Quim de la Boqueria in the eponymous market (Mercat de la Boqueria). If you require a more spacious and relaxed vibe with young expat servers, and hip coffee, walk further into El Raval for home cuisine at Caravelle. Vintage and home decor shoppers will also find this neighborhood to be full of goodies to riffle through.

A few more turns and you’ll meet the charming mod delicatessen known as La Granja Viader, a summer and winter classic snack shop for milk aficionados; horchata (tigernut milk), hot chocolate, and a made-in-house whipped cream to make you swoon.

Now feeling sugar rushed and bouncing off the stone city walls, will leave you with a few local cultural options – the CCCB or contemporary art museum of the city, the less trafficked Gaudi house ‘Palau Güell’ at Nou de la Rambla 3, or the Maritime Museum housing the city’s port history in an incredibly gorgeous restored royal shipyard.

Before tucking back into your Barcelona apartment a humble but stylish abode, you’ll want to join the rest of the city celebrating the longer hours of sunlight and languid afternoons gifted by the meridian lines on street side terraces; once seated, toast to exceptional weather and company. A good place to do so is surely around the corner from your medieval portico, with charming cathedral views in toe, at La Vinya del Senyor wine bar. If you’re going with the when in Rome mentality, cozy up to a glass of cava and a Catalan cheese plate; some of the finest goat’s and sheep’s milk varieties available.

Then make your way back through the labyrinth of wrought iron lamps, arched alleys, graffiti and frozen yogurt shops to relax and put your feet up at home. A day this glorious after all only happens in dreams, or within the entrails of one of the world’s most fascinating cities, that is Barcelona.

Author's note: This creative writing piece was crafted under the wishes of an advertiser for those desiring to spend time in Barcelona, living as locals, in rented holiday homes. The itinerary and shops listed are indeed my favorites and I make frequent visits to these establishments when I find myself in the Ciudad Condal. As always, the photos are my own.


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