After a week exploring the beautiful Mediterranean island of Mallorca, I’m off to Barcelona for the quintessential Spanish experience. It’s immediately plain to see why so many of my friends have raved about this city— I am completely bewitched by the people, the heat, the peculiar architecture, and the lively noise in every corner of Barcelona. And the readily flowing sangria certainly doesn’t hurt, either! Here are my favourite things to do in this incredible city:
Visit the colourful Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
I’m totally obsessed with markets— in my opinion, there is no better introduction to a city than being thrown into the sounds and smells of its markets, and La Boqueria is no excpetion. Near the Liceu metro station, we visited this hectic and spectacular mercado where you can buy all sorts of fruits, meats, and spices (it was pretty difficult for me not to bring home mango-infused sea salt, but it would have been snatched immediately off me by Australian customs, so I resisted). As a consolation prize, I enjoyed a delicious fruit juice and then wandered around the market, drink in hand, just trying to soak it all in.
Gawk at the bizarre, yet delightful Gaudí architecture
I don’t think anyone can really appreciate the degree to which Barcelona’s cityscape is dominated by the whimsical designs of the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí, until they witness it in person. Just walking to our hostel, we passed at least three of his towering masterpieces, sparkling in the sun (he was a fan of glitter) and commanding quite a lot of attention from other tourists. Seriously— sandwiched between entirely normal buildings, there would be a confetti-covered edifice with warped balconies and peculiarly shaped windows that would be quite at home in a Salvador Dali painting. (That’s my cultured adult comparison, but it also did not escape my notice that this building looks exactly like Floop’s castle from Spy Kids. Seriously. Uncanny.)
There’s at least one museum dedicated to Gaudí’s work in the city, but it was far too hot to spend the day standing in queues and elbowing past people indoors, so we opted for wandering past his buildings and had a great time. Even if you aren’t looking for them, you will find them.
Enjoy tasty Spanish tapas
Even though we had already enjoyed our share of tapas on Mallorca, I was still eager for more—when in Barcelona! Tapas are tiny plates of food, wonderful for sharing and sampling a large variety of tasty nibbles rather than just having to choose one thing on the menu. Our Mallorcan tapas were more traditional, like chorizo and patatas bravas and croquettes, but we ate at a wonderful restaurant in Barcelona that offered mini hamburgers, gazpacho, tiny open-faced sandwiches with crab or meats and cheeses, even baby bowls of ice cream, all for 1.5 – 2.5€ per plate. The whole experience is incredibly fun, not to mention delicious, and no trip to Barcelona is complete without going for tapas at least once!
Drink giant glasses of sangria at an outdoor restaurant
And while you’re nibbling tapas, grab a drink! There’s truly no better way to spend a summer afternoon in Barcelona than perched on a shady outdoor table, people-watching, a gigantic glass of cold sangria in hand! We indulged a time or two (or four).
Take in sprawling city views from sunny Park Güell
The one attraction that I had been most looking forward to visiting in Barcelona was the immensely popular (and World Heritage Listed!) Park Güell, an expansive network of parks that sit above the city on Carmel Hill. The first thing we did when we arrived was hop on the #24 bus and scoot our way up to the Park.
Designed by Gaudí, the famous Spanish architect with an obvious penchant for things less ordinary, the park is an absolute masterpiece and has several dozen great spots for panoramic views of Barcelona below. Heartbreakingly, we missed out on the ubiquitous mosaic terrace photo, as access to the “Monumental Zone” is regulated by tickets that were completely sold out. I still felt quite satisfied with the views from other terraces and even just the interesting walk around the snaking paths of the park, but if it’s important for you to see the terrace, buy a ticket online in advance for 7€.