Barcelona is a city that ticks ALL my travelling boxes: tasty food, sea, beautiful buildings and mountains. You'd think this would be somewhere I would spend a week or two, but alas, financial obligations and annual leave allowance made it not so.
Thankfully, Barcelona is one of those cities you can hit up in a long weekend and still not miss out, if you're smart about your planning. Think of it like the capsule wardrobe of city breaks: so many combinations, but you can pretty much wear it all out in record time. Just make sure you hit these three pillars:
Spanish food is one of my favourite cuisines and my trip to Barca did not disappoint. Over the course of three nights, we ate muchos tapas, drank muchos sangria and seafood was pretty much a staple at each meal. Weirdly though, the best patatas bravas came from an American diner in the town centre, rather than one of the many tapas bars. My personal fave was Spanish omelette with some sort of chorizo dish on the side, but the squid was ex-squid-site (heh heh) and I ordered calamari with most meals.
On one of our afternoons, we trekked up Tibidabo and ate at a restaurant that overlooked the whole city. The view was AMAZING; you could see Montjuic, the sea, Sagrada Familia, and even the planes coming in and out of the airport... Although the Jardins del Turo del Putxet had great views of the city, too, this restaurant visit just pipped it!
Back firmly on street level, we went exploring one night and ended up in a mojito bar called Mamaine. Each mojoto came with unlimited salted popcorn (win for me, obvs, but I know what they were trying to do) and cute, relevant snacks to your cocktail. An example was a cookie mojito, which came with an actual cookie!
There's not much to say here, really, but as a seaside lover (hey, I'm a Londoner, and the Thames is no picturesque lake), it's definitely worth taking a trip to the beach. It was a first for me heading to the beach in a jumper, let alone in February, but thankfully, it wasn't cold at all. In fact, it was so mild, I had an ice cream. I even went sans tights at one point; not something you could ever do within the first six weeks of the year in England.
Sights and culture
Now for the main pillar.. and the longest, sorry! I promise the below is more than doable in two, or three, days!
Gaudi pretty much runs this town, amiright? His presence is felt throughout the city, despite having died a tram-related death almost 100 years ago. Most buildings feature his original designs, or are inspired by his work and, of course, the head honcho is the vast Sagrada Familia, which he not only designed, but is his final resting place, too. Despite still not being finished (Gaudi once quipped "my client [God] has all the time in the world"), the intricate architecture on the outside is astonishing and, inside, it is hands down the most beautiful church I have set foot in.
Aside from the Sagrada Familia and those in Park Güell - which was quite close to our hotel, and lovely to walk around, even without entering the famous rooftop section - there are many beautiful buildings to admire when walking around the town. Some transpire to be simple shops, while others are just as magnificent wonders on the inside. Funnily enough, the city is also littered with weird and wonderful sculptures, which we noticed while on a bus tour (as you know, I love a sight seeing bus #busw*nker a la The Inbetweeners). It's worth checking out the smaller churches in the city too, as they are just as beautiful as city's crowning glory.
For good food and drink, walk down the famous La Rambla boulevard. It's popular with many tourists and locals, so keep an eye on your bag, don't buy the knock offs from the street vendors and maybe pop into the La Bogueria market hailed as one of the best food markets in DA WORLD. The smells are great, but unless you're in a B&B and can cook said delights, you'll leave sad and hungry. That's probably why there are so many food places so close by... they know what you want.
Another notable sight is the city's Arc de Triomf (personally, I prefer it to France's - the deep red and bulbous tips give it a kind of exotic, Mediterranean vibe). It's a little out of the way compared to the others. but just hop on Barcelona's tube service and you'll be there in no time. Explore Ciutadella Park and it's grand fountain, or stop for a sangria at a nearby bar to really make the trip worthwhile.
On the final night, we attended a Flamenco show. I have dabbled in learning the dance at various stages of my life, but my little toe-heel tap had nothing on these dancers. The fact that some of the guy's sweat *may* have entered the audience arena after a particularly vigorous spin speaks volumes as to how they were really going for it. The guitar playing was great, and it was an all-round, authentic, feel good evening.