I’ve said it many times on this blog, but Barcelona is one of my favourite cities in the world. It’s like a second home to me: the place where I mended a broken heart, re-found my independence and fell for a city like no other before. Later, it’s where Steve and I got together, and in the years since, we’ve returned again and again, even living there for short stints. But recently, our time away from Barcelona stacked up to more than three years. We’d always talk about going back, but the trip would fall by the wayside. Finally, with a baby on the way, we determined to get one more visit in before the little one arrives. We wanted one last trip by ourselves to the city that lives in our hearts.
So, following our trip to Italy, we had a second babymoon, a minimoon of sorts, for three nights in Barcelona. It was a time spent re-visiting old favourites and finding a few new ones along the way. The city remains enchanting, with golden light in balcony-lined streets and a laid-back artistry that spawns endless creative endeavours. It was like visiting an old friend, and I felt sad to say goodbye.
This is a round-up of what we did: the places we ate, the sights we saw and the place we stayed. It’s a slice of my Barcelona.
What we did in Barcelona
Like with nearly every city we visit, we mostly walked and walked and walked, exploring different neighbourhoods and punctuating our days with delicious food. As we already know Barcelona well, we didn’t feel any pressure to see the big sights, plus we tend to prefer to avoid these anyway as they always draw the largest crowds. For a run down of my favourite sights in Barcelona, see this post or have a look at Visit Barcelona’s website. But this is what we did this time.
Although this trip wasn’t about seeing tourist sights, we did make one exception with a visit to La Sagrada Familia. We hadn’t been there since they took the scaffolding down inside, so wanted to see it in its full glory. It’s one of my favourite buildings in the world and the sight of it was breathtaking. We did the audioguide, which gives a brilliant (and not too long) overview of the building and all its history. The Sagrada Familia is incredibly popular and tickets are limited each day, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Ciutadella Park is one of my happy places, especially at the weekends when families and groups of friends gather together to eat, play and lounge in the luscious park. It’s the perfect place for people watching, from listening to musicians play their hang drums to watching juggling hippies play on slack lines. We went there with a blanket, a coffee, cake and a book and loved soaking up the Sunday vibes.
An extra jewel in Barcelona’s already bursting crown is its location on the seafront. Even without this, it’d be a spectacular city, but being able to stroll along the seafront or even visit the beach makes Barcelona extra special. To get away from the crowds and find cleaner water, it’s best to head down to beaches slightly further from the city centre, like Mar Bella, Boatel and Nova Icaria. Barcelona is the closest to the centre, but this can get jam packed and the water isn’t the cleanest. That said, I still love it, and on this trip, Steve and I enjoyed taking a walk along the promenade and relaxing on the sand. It was mid-October and the temperature still warm enough for people to be sunbathing and swimming in the sea.
Brunch in Barcelona
Steve and I are shameless millennials with an avid penchant for brunch. It wasn’t a big thing back when I lived there, so this time I wanted to try some of the places I’d heard great things about. These are the three we tried.
Mostassa, a self-branded ‘ethical kitchen’, uses locally sourced ingredients where possible and has a focus on healthy, wholesome food. We had the huevos rancheros, which were some of the best I’ve ever eaten (and I am a huge fan of this dish!). It has a pared-down, laid-back style and is definitely a must if you find yourself in the Eixample area of the city. It’s very close to Gaudi’s La Pedrera, so would make a good lunch stop if visiting there.
Picnic was buzzing with a weekend crowd on the morning we visited, the bright restaurant filled with chipotle bloody marys and colourful bellinis. The seasonally-dated menu has full meals as well as smaller sharing plates, including classes like pancakes and french toast as well as meiterrranean-style dishes such as burrata and fried green tomatoes. I ate the huevos rancheros (again!) and although not as incredible as the ones at Mostassa, they were still delicious. Picnic is just on the edge of Born, near to Ciutadella.
La Federal was on every list we saw of the best brunches in Barcelona, so we decided we had to try it for ourselves. There are two locations in Barcelona, one in Gotic and the other in Sant Antoni, a trendy area on the other side of Raval. It was opened by two Australian locals and wouldn’t be out of place in Melbourne (perhaps the best city for brunch in the world). We went on a sunny day and the whole front of the cafe was open, bringing the outside in and enhancing the already bright and airy space. The menu has all the brunch staples, plus some creative additions or twists, such as a veggie brunch burger or coconut pancakes. The only downside was our waitress who was hands down the most rude waitress I’ve ever come across – she scowled and sighed every time we asked for something and didn’t smile once.
Lunch in Barcelona
Yep, we did eat both brunch and lunch, but we tended to make lunch quite light, opting for tapas or snack food. Some old favourites and a new one here.
Vaso de Oro
This classic tapas bar, Vaso de Oro, has been a favourite since my first trip to Barcelona. It’s not a secret (it’s in Lonely Planet), but is still largely frequented by locals. The raucous and typically Barcelona atmosphere, as well as its menu of high-quality, authentic tapas makes it one of the best tapas restaurants in the city. It’s also well known for its popular, homemade beers.
Lonja de Tapas
We didn’t do any research before stopping in at Lonja de Tapas: we were simply hungry and fancied sitting somewhere where we could enjoy the view of Santa Maria del Mar. There’s a cluster of tapas restaurants right next to the church, and although not on the same level as the tourist traps you’ll find on the Rambla, there’s no denying that these places are squarely aimed at visitors. However, in spite of this, we found the food to still be good, and sometimes it’s worth a paying a little extra for the view.
Gusto del Born
Mmmmm, Gusto del Born was a staple of our diet when living in Barcelona, and we were excited to return. The by-the-slice pizza restaurant serves up delicious thin-crust pizza at reasonable prices day and night. It’s delicious!
Dinner in Barcelona
As soon as we booked our tickets to Barcelona, we started dreaming of the food. These are the two favourite restaurants we decided to return to, plus a new one that some friends took us to.
Cuines Santa Caterina
Half of the appeal of Cuines Santa Caterina is the building itself, housed alongside the Santa Caterina Market in a high-ceilinged, plant-filled restaurant with an open kitchen and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto the market and the square. The international menu has foods from around the world, split into different sections of rice, vegetables, pasta, meats, seafood and eggs and then categorised as vegetarian, mediterranean, world and grill. In spite of the huge diversity, it’s all done well and I’m a huge fan of the tofu curry and the oven-baked provolone.
La Cereria is the restaurant I’ve been to most in Barcelona – I love everything about it, from the veggie food to the colourful interiors and friendly staff. Sadly, my favourite dish, the pizza, is no longer on the menu, but they are serving piadinas instead, which were a good (although not as good) substitute. It’s run by a co-op and they have a second restaurant, La Bascula, in Born.
Our friends took us to Rasoterra, a high-end, light-filled vegetarian restaurant in El Gotic with a focus on honest, convivial, thoughtful food (see their 8-point manifesto!). The food is inventive and exquisite: and it goes down as one of the best vegetarian restaurants I’ve been to. Our carnivorous friends were equally impressed. The restaurant has its own garden where they grow much if their produce. Vegetarian or not, don’t miss it!
Cafes in Barcelona
I’ve spent hours in Alsur, back when being a digital nomad in the city. There are two branches, a little one by the Palau de Musica and a big one further into Born. The big one is my favourite, perfect for lounging in, working or meeting up with friends. In good weather, it’s a perfect place to sit outside. It serves food and drinks all day.
Oh my, this place served what was by far the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever tasted. I was drawn in by Demaisie’s window display and have been dreaming of its food ever since. Warm, gooey and oh so delicious. Don’t miss these buns! They come in a variety of different flavours, and the shop (no seating) also serves coffee and a few other sweet treats.
Where we stayed in Barcelona
We stayed in an AirBnB apartment on the edge of our favourite area of the city, El Born. The location as perfect, just a five-minute walk from the nearest tube (Urquinaona) and just ten minutes from Plaza Catalunya, which is where the airport bus (Aerobus) drops you off. The apartment itself was big and airy with a comfortable bed and separate lounge area. It’s in a classic Barcelona apartment block with fabulously high ceilings and a little balcony overlooking the street, and reminded me of the place I used to live in the city. It’s an authentic taste of Barcelona living. There was also a kitchen, but we didn’t use it (far too many restaurants to try!). The apartment cost £63 per night, which was a bargain! Use this discount code to get £25 off your first trip.
Is Barcelona a good choice for a babymoon?
We already had our big babymoon in Italy, so this was more or a minimoon. I was 25 weeks pregnant at the time, nearing the end of the second trimester, but still with plenty of energy. This meant I was able to do most of the things I’d normally do in Barcelona. We walked about 20km on our first day, which was a little much, but didn’t wipe me out. Of course, every pregnancy is different, so you have to do what feels right for you. That said, I think that regardless of how you’re feeling in pregnancy, if you’re up to taking a babymoon then Barcelona would be a good choice. It’s main draw is that it has a huge amount to offer in a small amount of space. You could spend days at the beach or lounging in the park, or visit its many museums and galleries and eat your way through the city’s restaurants. There’s a huge amount to choose from and you could easily find something to suit your mood and energy level.
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Disclosure: AirBnB sponsored our stay in Barcelona, but we chose the apartment and it’s where we’d have stayed, sponsored or not. As always, all opinions are my own.