Hello out there,
Miss W has been absent for nearly a month now. While she was away Miss W was busy taking weekend trips to see obscure maps (rest assured it was not Miss W’s idea to trek to Hereford to see the map -thanks husband!) she was almost starting to feel like this might have been the death of her blog, but fear not, she has returned and is ready to take up her plume once again.
The most exciting thing that happened while Miss W was offline was that she went to Barcelona last weekend. Now, Miss W was born in Barcelona, as you all may know if you have read the about section, so going to Barcelona is kind of like going home. Miss W has always hopped back and forth between living in Barcelona and the UK, so she knows the city well. She wanted to give all you lovely people a bit of a guide to some of her favourite areas and things to do in Barcelona that you might not know or wouldn’t think to go to if you’re there for a weekend, so here goes.
Cathedral and Gothic Quarter
Contrary to popular belief, La Sagrada Familia is NOT Barcelona’s cathedral, it is simply a very famous unfinished church. Barcelona’s actual cathedral is in the Gothic Quarter, it dates from the 13th to 15th centuries and has been remodelled in the last few years. The cathedral has a cloister full of geese. I mean, how many other cathedrals have pet geese?
Also, during weekends in the square in front of the cathedral people gather to dance the sardana, the national Catalan dance. It is very easy, and you are encouraged to join the circle and dance. So forget flamenco, if you want to really get into the traditional Catalan spirit, this is where you should be.
Along the left side of the cathedral there is one of my favourite hidden nooks of Barcelona. It is the courtyard of the Federic Marès museum. Although I haven’t actually ever been into the museum, the courtyard is free to go in and sitting in there is like being in a little oasis away from the noise of the city. There is a gurgling fountain and orange trees, and I love just sitting on a bench in there reading a book. Check the opening times here.
Another hidden corner of the Gothic quarter is Plaça Sant Felip Neri, which is in the heart of the call, the Jewish area of Barcelona. This tranquil square was the site of a bombing in 1938 where 42 people, mostly children, were killed. You can still see the marks on the walls of the church where the bombs hit. There is a very nice hotel in this square where you can sit and have a quiet drink. This square always gets me because of its poignant history and the restful silence in what is generally quite a noisy city.
While we’re in the Gothic quarter I recommend going to the xurreria on carrer Banys Nous. It is a tiny place but their xurros are reasonably priced, not oily and very delicious. Dip them in xocolata desfeta which is a very thick hot chocolate. This is a typical Sunday morning breakfast after an all night party, but any time is good to eat xurros!
Platja de Sant Sebastià
This beach at the end of the Passeig de Joan De Borbó is a good option if you want to head down to the beach in Barcelona and don’t have much time. To be perfectly honest, I, and many people from Barcelona would rather not swim at the beach in the city. I would head out towards the beaches towards the north, but if I only have a short while or am only visiting outside of the summer season then this is a good beach to go to. Years ago the beaches in Barcelona were filthy, but they are very clean now. What I like to do is grab a beer (a good local one is Moritz) from one of the shops on the way down, sit on the sand and go for a little paddle. The water, even in February is not that much colder than Brighton in the height of summer, so I say get those toes wet!
This is one of my absolute favourite things. It is a milky drink made from tiger nuts. It is the most refreshing thing ever… Although you can buy it in loads of places in Barcelona, Sirvent at 67 Ronda Sant Pau, is a good place to taste it. It has quite a distinctive taste, and is not light on the stomach, so the best time to drink it is probably mid morning or afternoon when your stomach is kind of empty. This is a new branch of an established orxata place just round the corner.
Mercat dels Encants
This is my favourite flea market in Barcelona. It is near Glòries metro station. This area has undergone a lot of improvements in recent years, and the market has got a new home now which is a lot nicer than the old location just across the road. This market has a lot of vintage knick-knacks and more expensive antiques and also a lot of plain old junk. It’s a good place to find treasures.
This time I got two little trinkets from this market. This little tin box which I think is so cute.
I also got this picture which for some reason really captured my attention when I saw it. I imagine it is somewhere outside Barcelona in the 19th Century. I just love the freedom and joy it transmits.
This isn’t really a thing to do, but it is something I love about Barcelona. The street tiles are so original here. The ones designed by Gaudí stand out, but the more basic ones are also really special in my mind.
Food & Bars
A good place to eat Catalan food is Origens 99.9 which is a chain of restaurants that serve traditional and locally sourced food. They are quite reasonably priced, and they do lunchtime menus so it’s good if you’re on a budget.
If you’re into clean eating a place you must try is Flax & Kale on C/Tallers 47. It is in a spacious and airy NYC style locale and they serve flexitarian food, so 80% vegetarian. They also have a great selection of juices and smoothies to grab and go, which although they’re on the pricey side at €5.95 are delicious. This is also on the quirky Carrer Tallers, which is worth walking down.
A very local place to try tapas is Bar Mandri. As a tourist you would probably never come across it at random because it is in a non-touristy area of Barcelona, Sarrià, the part of the city that goes up towards the mountains. The food is delicious here, in particular the breaded and fried chicken pieces… oh my god- I dream about that chicken. If you want to fer el vermut, which is basically having a few tapas and an aperitif before a big family lunch at the weekend, then this is a good place. This bar is tiny so get there early if you don’t want to wait. They don’t have a website, but you can read more about it here. The address is C/Mandri, 60.
A place I always take visitors is Bar Mirablau, at the top of Tibidabo overlooks the city and has retractable windows, so in the summer you can sit up there with a drink in your hand and see Barcelona’s lights shining beneath you. The address is: Plaça del Doctor Andreu. Their website and slow staff leave a bit to be desired, but the view is sooo worth it.
One of my absolute favourite ice-cream places is Planelles i Donat. They also have great orxata, turrons which are typical Christmas nougat-type things. They have several locations in the centre, my favourite is Portal del Angel 27.
Walk down the Rambla if you must, but for God’s sake don’t eat there! No, not even the paella. Just.don’t.do.it.
Watch your belongings. At all times. Unfortunately the centre of Barcelona is crawling with professional pickpockets, particularly places like Starbucks and McDonald’s (please don’t go to either when you’re on a trip!!) Wear a satchel style bag and keep it zipped up, and try not to parade your iphone or camera around… it sounds basic, but I have seen some amazingly nimble thefts in the centre, so watch your stuff unless you want to pay a visit to the local police station.
The best transport ticket to get in Barcelona is the T-10, which allows you to get any mode of transport, metro, bus, tram, and change between them for the price of one journey in less than an hour and 10 minutes. It currently costs €9.95 for a zone 1 ticket which covers the whole centre.
So there you have it, Miss W’s favourite spots in Barcelona. There is so much more I could tell you and write about my home city, but I’ll leave it there to whet your appetite. So if you haven’t been to Barcelona off you go now to book your flights!