My first drink at dinner was obviously a glass of cava. It was roughly 9PM on a Wednesday night. As I sat in a typical Spanish style restaurant observing the surroundings, my senses couldn't help but be overwhelmed with reminiscent memories. My ears heard that all too familiar, yet foreign language that I haven't heard for months. My nose picked up the variety of tapas being passed around from person to person. And my eyes, the biggest sense of all for me, could not help but stare at all the wonderful things that were happening around me. It's an understatement to say that I am the total ultimate fangirl of easygoing Barcelona. However, this love affair is nothing new. It began approximately one year ago, after a mauve nail polish color, 'Barefoot in Barcelona,' influenced a last minute trip with my sister and boyfriend.
Now spring has rolled around again and given me the opportunity to go back into the Eixample district of BCN for the second year in a row. I think I should start to make it a tradition because Barcelona is great in the middle of the year. It's not too cold and the streets are filled with people and so much energy. There's always tapas, motorbikes galore, and an array of architectural gems. If you time it right, you may even be able to experience Sant Jordi Day. And if you miss that, well, there's plenty of other things going on!
Barcelona is like New York, in the way that it's impossible to do everything in one trip. Even after my second trip, I haven't been able to see it all. With each visit, I find myself wanting to know more about the customs and secrets of this city. I'm still not even sure if I should be translating my English into Catalan or Spanish. All signs point to Catalan, but I'm still trying to make it easier on myself!
Something interesting to pay attention to when you land in the Barcelona airport are the signs. First you'll see Catalan, followed by English and then Spanish translations. They probably just want to make it known that you aren't just in Spain, but in the Catalonia region of Spain. This same rule applies to most road signs and street names, minus the translations. It could worry a girl like me, who barely speaks Spanish and even less Catalan. But despite all of that, it seems everyone in Barcelona that I encountered in shops or on the streets knew Spanish and enough English. I was told that they don't mind speaking Spanish with foreigners, but would be impressed if you whipped out a bit of Catalan. It's an endearing way to woo the locals!
Overall, I find Barcelona to be very chill, yet constantly celebratory, meaning it's a relaxed city with energetic restaurants, bars, and nightlife. I appreciate all of those things. A city can win me over if there is always something to do or somewhere to go at all times, like New York. If you are planning a trip, or just want to know more about Barcelona, I've left links to some great sites below. They should have all the information you'll need. I am also leaving a few restaurant mentions (that I have been to and enjoyed) and great areas to view the city below. I know that it's difficult to know what you should focus on if you've never been to a city and/or your time is limited. I hope these suggestions can come in handy!
CAFE ALFONSO - This seems like a traditional Spanish restaurant with a mixed crowd, busy staff, and every tapa imaginable. It was a very authentic atmosphere and every single dish we had was delicious.
CARRER DE ROGER DE LLURIA 6
BAR LOBO - I came here on my first trip to Barcelona- three times! The hype has seen to have caught on because I came here for lunch this time and there was a 30 minute wait. Yikes! Nonetheless, if you've got time- wait. It is an open, modern space with a nice variety of dishes and an outdoor patio.
CARRER DEL PINTOR FORTUNY 3
RACO DE LA VILLA - This restaurant stays open pretty late. We sat down for our semi-late 9PM reservation, but there were groups of people waltzing in until about 11:30PM to begin their dinners. Throughout our dinner, mostly Spaniards filled the room. The food here was super good. They have a steak for two that is quite filling. You can prepare it on a hot stove to your liking right in front of you. This place provided a very good and hearty meal.
CARRER DE LA CIUTAT DE GRANADA 33
PETIT POT- This is a cute cafe-bistro that I came across one morning. They serve small bistro sandwiches in a soothing atmosphere. It's the perfect place to read a good book with some tasty additions by your side. There are two locations. I went to the one right next to our hotel.
PLAZA DE URQUINAONA 4
XAMPANYERIA- This is a very unique food and drink experience worth having at some point on your trip. It is a super busy bar with meats hanging from the ceiling, no tables or chairs, and constant cava flowing. The price points are super bearable compared to the rest of Barcelona and the service is expeditious. It can be an ideal pregame spot, but keep in mind that a claustrophobic, neat freak would not do well here on a Saturday night. It seems to be quite the place of choice.
CARRER DE LA REINA CHRISTINA 7
Some other restaurants I'm interested in checking out next time are:
TENORIO - PASSEIG DE GRACIA 37
MEATPACKING BISTRO - TRAVESSERA DE GRACIA 50
I think it's safe to say to stay away from the restaurants on La Rambla in the afternoon. They are overpriced, touristic, and just not good. Your best bet would be to go into Placa Reial to have something in there. At least there are usually street entertainers. If I'm wrong, please correct me, but each time I ate something along La Rambla, I was disappointed. It reminds me of Times Square, where the restaurants don't have to be good because there is so much foot traffic and people will always eat there. However, I encourage you to look a little deeper while you're in Barcelona (and New York). All of your meals can and should be terrific. If you can't avoid the area, one of the places I mentioned above, Bar Lobo, is right off La Rambla.
Turo de Rovira
SITES AND BLOGS (to get in the spirit of Barcelona):
http://wikitravel.org/en/Barcelona - about Barcelona
http://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/index.html - tourist guide and travel info
http://blog.lifestylebarcelona.com - activities available for purchase
http://www.foreverbarcelona.com/travel-blog/ - tour guides available for purchase
http://www.bcnrestaurantes.com/eng/ - restaurants
http://www.timeout.com/barcelona - guide to art, culture, and going out
http://capdesetmana.bcn.cat/en - activities and events
http://www.ub.edu/guiaconversa/angles/ - to learn some helpful Catalan and/or Spanish phrases