This past summer, we received dozens of emails from foodies internationally interested in our take on the perfect day spent in Barcelona. Having a plethora of guidebooks at their disposal, not to mention a few hundred websites claiming to offer the creme de la creme of tourism information, it is of no surprise to me that most of these pleading emails simply wanted someone to personally share their experiences with them. As we live in Barcelona and walk the city streets, questions tend to flood our direction, such as:
- Where can we stay that is both affordable and authentic?
- What are the local restaurants that you enjoy, featuring traditional cuisine?
- Is there a wine or gourmet shop that you frequent?
- Can you suggest any charming streets, neighborhoods, museums or local sites that are worthwhile of our very short stay?
In lieu of these questions, I’ll be posting a few options over the coming months that might be appealing depending on your mood, energy level and desire. Today’s option takes you on a circle from Plaza Catalunya down the Barceloneta up through the Born district, with a quick jaunt to the Gothico and ending back at square one with a few optional detours for those with both time and energy.
So, it’s 9am, the sun is pooling a beautiful golden light upon the Plaza Catalunya, and your rearing to go. After doing a little 360 turn around the Plaza, taking in the architecture, the bustling international activity and the sumptuous statues, head to the top of Las Ramblas and begin your stroll. “Rambla” is Arabic for “dry stream’, and in the early Medieval period, this famous street was a gully with a storm fed stream, filled with runoff water from Collserola and marked the boundaries of the city. The stream was also used as both a moat and sewer, eventually becoming known as the Caganell, or s–t stream. Over the centuries, this stream became rather unappealing, as you might imagine, forcing inhabitants to fill in stretches of the gully, and consequently, naming it ‘Las Ramblas” referring to the five ‘ramblas’ which make up the street: Rambla de Canaletes, Rambla dels Estudis, Rambla de Sant Josep, Rambla dels Caputxins and Rambla de Santa Monica. It wasn’t until the mid 18th century when this gorgeous tree lined street became the bustling promenade we know today.
Halfway down Las Ramblas you’ll stop for a mid morning bite at the internationally famed La Boqueria. Informally created in 1701 as a gathering spot for local farmers to sell their produce, it wasn’t until 1840 that the first official stone was laid. As you meander through the market, smell the fresh flowers; ogle the vast fish and seafood stands; marvel at the plethora of tinned food, meat, bird and game; taste the perfect pyramid of fruits and vegetables; and inhale the fresh herbs, breads and pastries. Then stop in either El Quim or Bar Pinotxo for a plate of calamare, chipirones, patatas bravas or any other of their delectable treats, paired with a refreshing glass of cava. Top off your meal with a cafe solo before strolling out the Boqueria and into El Celler de la Boqueria, a quaint and cozy wine shop just east of market.
When you’re finished perusing their shelves, continue down the Rambla, keeping your personal items under close watch, towards the massive statue of Columbus. Hang a left and hug the port taking in the sites and smells of the sea. Here you can buy handmade crafts from local merchants, sit and watch the boats rock to and fro from the gentle coastal winds, or find one of the many street musicians playing everything from ragtime to reggae.
As 2:30 slowly creeps up on you, begin heading inland toward the Born district, where you will stop and dine at Vila Vinateca. This tiny little shop is a treasure to taste local cheeses, cured meats, tinned goods and local produce. There are only few tables nestled in the back, and a reservation is highly suggested. You can also choose a wine from their extensive wine shop just across the way to pair with your meal! However, if you can’t sneak in with a reservation, check out Calpep or 7 Puertas – both traditional, yet slightly pricey, cuisine renowned for their seafood.
As afternoon falls into evening, your choices become plentiful! Depending on your energy level, I might suggest doing one of the following:
High Energy: Check out St Maria del Mar, grab a drink at La Vinya del Senyor, then snake your way through the Gothic Quarter until you find yourself in Eixample visiting Gaudi’s famous Casa Mila and Casa Batllo, then dine at Tapas C24. Mind you C24 can be smoky and have a long wait, but we’re suckers for their wine selection and rabbit rib tapas.
Low Energy: After the Cathedral (clearly you can tell it’s a must see for us), have a drink at La Vinya del Senyor, shop in the Born and dine at Moma Cafe (on the Raval side of Doctor Dou), El Xampenet or Euskal Basea – a low key Basque restaurant located just northwest of the of La Vinya del Senyor on Carrer de l’Argenteria.
Finally, your evening choices are vast, but there are two in particular I would suggest. Make sure to see the Fountain show at Plaza Espana. This is an incredible show with synchronized water jets alter in velocity, pressure and color depending on the beat of the music. Despite some rather peculiar song choices, the show is worth your time and taxi ride during the summer months. Otherwise, I would highly suggest a show at the historical Palau de Musica.
This particular day is only one of many, as Barcelona is a living and thriving city, continuously pulsating with an ever changing energy. Each moment I walk along Passeig de Gracia under a pool of shadowy street light, or meander through the medieval labyrinth of the Gothic Quarter, I can’t help but smile. With its dark and undulating mystic, Barcelona will always hold a bright and invigorating feeling for me that I can only hope it also stimulates for others. We’ll post more enticing days in the near future, but if you have any additions or subtractions to our proposed day, never hesitate to chime in! We encourage any and all feedback