Four years ago, Irina Andreeva and her family moved to Barcelona. Today she shares her favorite places, and useful notes about this magical city – the source of inspiration of the talented Antoni Gaudi, where the sun warms even in winter, the streets are blown by a fresh sea wind, and restaurants and cafes serve fragrant paella.
In which area to stay?
The city is divided into 10 main districts, each of which has its own merits. Here are the three central areas that tourists most often choose to stay in Barcelona:
- The district of Eixample (Upper Town) is the largest district of the city, it is it that is divided into blocks in the form of a grid. If shopping is your passion, then choose a hotel in the area. Here, on Paseo de Gracia, all the most famous boutiques are located. There are also the magnificent Sagrada Familia and two more creations by Antoni Gaudi – the houses of La Pedrera (or Casa Mila) and Casa Batllo. Every summer, concerts are held on the roofs of these houses, tickets for which can be purchased on the official websites of the lapedrera.com and www.casabatllo.es.
- Barceloneta is a central area located on the seashore. The beach is a stone’s throw away, there are always a lot of people (especially in season). Discos, bars and restaurants work almost around the clock. This area is suitable for those who like to hang out and spend time on the beach.
- Well, if you want to feel the atmosphere of old Barcelona, stay in one of the hotels of the El Born district. In addition to designer shops, art galleries, atmospheric bars and restaurants, there are also the Picasso Museum, the Santa Caterina Market – the second most important market in Barcelona, the Palace of Catalan Music and the Gothic Cathedral of the 15th century Santa Maria del Mar.
Things to do?
The unconditional tourist center of the city is Plaça de Catalunya. There are seven streets, two railway lines, and three metro lines. In the north-eastern part of the square is the famous shopping center El Corte Inglés, where on the ground floor there is a central tourist office, and on the roof, there is an observation deck with a magnificent panoramic view. From here, the famous Ramblas originate, where street musicians perform, and live statues are shown.
The pearl of the Rambla is considered the Palace of Güell, built by Gaudí – I advise you not to be lazy and find time to visit it.
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Here is the famous market of Boqueria (La Boqueria) striking in its scope and range of products. There are small cafes in the market where it is delicious (for example, in a café located in the left corner of the market closest to the Rambla, they prepare an absolutely stunning mix of mushrooms).
Not far from the market is the Lyseu Theater, which gives operas and various performances and concerts. For example, not so long ago, there was an opera “Demon” in the Russian language. In general, this theater is worth going to, at least for the sake of the interior – it amazes with its decoration. And this is one of the few places where Barcelona really dresses up.
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It ends the famous street in the port, where there is a monument to Columbus. Having reached the port, I highly advise you to take a boat trip along the coastline of Barcelona and see the city from the water. In the summer season, choose a catamaran where you can enjoy a glass of wine to the sounds of a live saxophone.
No less famous square of Barcelona is the Plaza de España. Here is a former bullring, converted into a shopping center. A panoramic elevator leads on the roof, where the observation deck is equipped, which costs 1 euro to climb. However, you can get to the top by escalators inside the arena – absolutely free. In addition to the excellent view, the roof will please good chain restaurants, the kitchen that works without interruption. There are also singing fountains, a Spanish village (where different regions of Spain are represented by typical houses. If you like hand-made, you are here for souvenirs. And of course, for beautiful photos).
Where to go for breakfast/lunch/dinner?
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In Barcelona, a huge number of cafes and restaurants for every taste and purse.
- For breakfast, choose small cafes located in inconspicuous alleys – it is there that the locals have breakfast. But do not expect that in the morning you will be served porridge or eggs. Spaniards have breakfast with bocadilla (sandwich) or croissant with coffee. And if the sandwiches are delicious everywhere, then the most delicious croissants in the confectionery store Hofmann (carrer dels Flassaders, 44). Across the house from it there is a café where you can order pastries from this pastry shop with a cup of coffee or tea.
In general, the most important thing you should know and remember about the restaurants of Barcelona is that the kitchen does not work all day, but opens for lunch and dinner (except for very tourist places). Spaniards eat quite late. A typical lunch begins at 14.00, and dinner at 21.00. Therefore, you can eat from 13.00 to 16.00 and from 20.00 to 24.00. The rest of the time, you can offer snacks and drinks, but not hot food.
- For lunch or dinner, head to the Carballeira restaurant (la Reina Cristina, 3), it works without interruptions, and it offers perhaps the best black paella in the city. Also on the menu is a large selection of the freshest seafood and fish. Prices are slightly above average. Other seafood restaurants open year-round and without interruption are those on the Port Olimpic waterfront. All of them are about the same, we prefer the restaurant La Barca del Salamanca. But for delicious meat, you should go to the restaurant Assador de Aranda. It is a chain of restaurants, one of which is located next to Plaza Catalunya, behind the shopping center El Corte Inglés. But if you want to eat not just delicious, but also in a very atmospheric place, go to the restaurant located in the upper part of the city, on Avenida Tibidabo.
- A place where you can eat inexpensively, will be a network of restaurants Wok. For 9-14 euros (drinks are paid separately), depending on the day of the week and the time of day, you get to the buffet, where, in addition to ready meals (mainly Chinese cuisine) and sushi, there is a good selection of fish and seafood that the chef will cook on the grill right in front of you. A few times I even came across oysters (usually they do not happen). One of these restaurants is also located behind El Corte Inglés, near Plaza Catalunya.
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- Adherents of a healthy lifestyle should pay attention to the restaurant Flax & Kale. Most of the dishes in this place are vegetarian or vegan, but at the same time very tasty.
- Pizza lovers will be pleased with the pizzeria Nap Antic, located near the old santa caterina market on avenida de Francesc Combó 30. In El Bourne, also check out el Xampanyet bar at 22 Rue de Montcada, a very old, inexpensive, insanely atmospheric place serving homemade cava (local champagne). But keep in mind that in the evening there can be a lot of people.
If you find yourself in Barcelona in early June, do not miss the street food festival Taste at Rambla (during which you can try mini versions of dishes of the most famous restaurants and famous chefs) and Born Gourmet.
What else to see?
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If you like to explore the city on your own, be sure to check out the cactus garden on Montjuïc. Located next to the Miramar Hotel, this park will delight with a collection of 250 cacti and succulents and panoramic views of the port with cruise ships.
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A trip to Colonia Güell is suitable for sophisticated travelers – trains here go from plaza de España (the same as Montserrat). Few tourists get to this village, built by order of Güell for the workers of the weaving factory located here. The town has preserved several buildings in the style of Catalan modernism. And also here is gaudí’s crypt – it was here that the great architect tried out various architectural solutions, such as inclined columns, before proceeding with the construction of his main creation – the Sagrada Familia. It will be exciting to get to Colonia Güell in mid-October when there is a holiday of modernism, and the whole city is dressed in clothes of the late XIX – early XX centuries, and scenes from the life of the city of the beginning of the century are played out on the streets.
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