My first trip to Barcelona was in 2013 with my friend Carol when this blog was just a few months old.
We had several mishaps including missing our flight over, paying about €100 each for a new one (I was broke for months after) and I accidentally broke the glass shower door in the apartment we were staying in!
Despite this, I had an amazing time and always wanted to go back. My boyfriend and I discussed going last year but went to Biarritz instead.
This year I was lucky enough to be able to take a long holiday and we settled on Barcelona.
We chose an Airbnb in Gracia, a bustling hipster neighbourhood, full of cafes and bars and only ten minutes walk from the Rambla de Catalunya.
I had actually stayed in Gracia the last time but I didn’t realise until we were out for a walk and came across the street – I almost fell into a hole in the ground with excitement!
Another random discovery we made was finding Balenciaga’s former house/shop.
We didn’t make an itinerary but what we did want to do is relax, enjoy some good food and drinks and catch up with some friends.
Temperatures were around 25C to 28C but it was still very warm given we’d just came from Ireland! Luckily for us, our apartment had air conditioning.
We arrived late on a Tuesday night so after ducking into a kebab shop (the only place open that late), we headed home to bed.
The next morning we went to a little square to grab a coffee and then took the metro into the city.
We bought a five-day unlimited metro pass which proved to be excellent value. You can also buy shorter ones and we later bought a three day one for the final few days.
We wandered around the Barrio Gotico, the beautiful old Gothic quarter but returned home after a couple of hours as it was very hot.
Our Airbnb host had helpfully given us a map with areas he recommended visiting and areas to avoid!
After a siesta, we had one mission on our minds, getting a mojito in Bar Miramelindo in El Born.
My boyfriend had been there before and sung its praises and the mojitos were delicious and I loved the interior decor and neon lights.
We had dinner in a nearby square that night, along with a few more drinks before we called it a night.
Park Guell was on our to-do list but we woke up late and decided to head for Parc de la Ciutadella instead.
This beautiful park is Barcelona’s answer to Phoenix Park, with the Barcelona Zoo, a lake where you can hire a rowing boat and much more.
After a quick walk around the park, we made for Barceloneta and enjoyed a delicious paella with black rice.
That night, we went for drinks in Gracia and dinner in a Syrian restaurant. We were spoiled for choice in Gracia as it has an abundance of restaurants with cuisines from all around the world and every type of bar also.
Unfortunately I felt quite ill the next day, however, we’d booked tickets for Park Guell so I had to suck it up and go.
It was roasting climbing up to Carmel Hill which leads up to Park Guell.
The park was originally meant to be a residential area for wealthy families, designed by Antoni Gaudi and his mentor Eusebi Guell.
This is why it is spelled “Park” rather than “Parc” as it was meant to resemble an English estate.
However, only two houses were ever built and it ended up being gardens and a tourist attraction.
Despite not feeling the best, I was able to wander and admire all the details, trencadis mosiacs, turrets, palm trees and fairytale-like gingerbread houses.
The park is full of hills, so a sensible pair of shoes is a must.
To avoid long queues, it’s best to book online but entry times are staggered so you may still have to wait around.
I felt really sick in the afternoon so I lay down and didn’t do anything. I felt a little better by the evening and we went for dinner in a local Mexican restaurant called MexCla.
We feasted on tacos served in cocktail glasses and I wished I was well enough to eat more!
On Saturday evening we went to meet my friend Eli and her boyfriend Pierre who had recently moved back to Spain.
Beforehand, we stopped on the Rambla de Catalunya for a vermouth and tapas. I hadn’t drank vermouth before but I started to get a taste for it!
We also checked out Casa Batllo but didn’t go inside.
This is an ideal spot for people-watching as there are restaurants lined all down it and pedestrian walkways right beside.
We then went to the Barrio Gotico again where we drank gin, ate tapas and had a great catch up.
I woke up the next morning sweating with a banging headache! A greasy breakfast dish of heuvos fritos with chorizo and potatoes helped somewhat as did a long nap.
In the evening we decided to go to the Bunkers del Carmel, a site where anti-aircraft guns were kept during the Spanish Civil War.
We’d heard that the Bunkers were a great spot to watch the sunset and take pictures but unfortunately, it was an overcast evening when we were there.
I liked the Bunkers but my boyfriend wasn’t so keen. It was very busy with crowds of people taking selfies, chilling and drinking.
Carmel is a neighbourhood on the outskirts of the city and getting to the Bunkers involves a long walk uphill.
I think there may be a bus that brings you part of the way but we were able to walk it although it was tough.
Back in Gracia, we treated ourselves to pizzas in a pizza/Lebanese restaurant.
On Monday, we visited my good friend Marta in Mataro, which is a seaside town approximately 40 mins outside Barcelona by train.
Mataro is easy to get to with trains from the city every hour.
Marta and her fiance Javi drove us to a beautiful restaurant high in the mountains and treated us to a traditional Catalonian lunch.
The Santuari del Corredor is a former monastery which looks like something out of The Godfather and is now a popular family-owned joint.
We stuffed ourselves with tomate con panne, fresh aioli, bread, meats, cheese, desserts, as well as after dinner shots! Afterwards, the owners gave us fresh figs from their trees outside.
Back in Mataro, Marta showed us their “apartment” which turned out to be an incredible old building that is a UNESCO heritage site.
It had huge double doors with ancient knockers, wooden beams, a wooden staircase, and an enclosed courtyard.
We also got to walk around Mataro, visiting the stunning cruciform cathedral the Basilica Santa Maria and walked down the pier before leaving around 7pm.
Tuesday was September 11 or Dia de Catalunya, the national Catalan day.
We had been warned that there would be a lot of demonstrations so we decided this might be the best day to go to the Sagrada Familia.
I had been before but it’s 100% worth visiting again.
We booked tickets online which were about €15 each (I think there may be a discount for under 30s).
There was a bit of a wait outside but we didn’t have to queue up at the front thankfully as it was 28C!
Gaudi himself is actually buried in the crypt of the church. He met an unfortunate end after he was hit by a tram in 1926.
After fortifying ourselves with Five Guys, we headed back to Gracia where demonstrations were underway.
Everyone seemed to be wearing the same neon pink t-shirt and waving Catalan flags and there was a lot of shouting “Libertat!”
It was quite interesting to watch as I didn’t know much about the campaign for independence until now.
I saw yellow ribbons everywhere but I initially thought they were in memory of those who died in the 2017 terror attacks.
They actually represent imprisoned and exiled Catalan politicians.
That night, we donned our glad rags to go to Terraza Alaire, a rooftop terrace bar overlooking the city at the Hotel Condes.
We watched the sunset while sipping cocktails (me) and beer (him) and listening to live music.
It took me a while to relax up there as I am terrified of heights but it was an experience I would 100% recommend!
It was pretty pricey but you’re paying for the view as well as the drinks!
We headed into the city for a Mexican dinner followed by mojitos in Bar Miramelindo.
Getting home was problematic as we missed the last metro and it proved very difficult to get a taxi (possibly because it was Dia de Catalunya).
On the way home, we nipped into a Cuban mojito bar called El Sabor to watch people salsa dancing to amazing reggaeton tunes but I wasn’t too impressed with the bar service.
Service in some of the bars and restaurants wasn’t great but as the minimum wage in Spain is pretty low I can understand why.
Another place I was not impressed with was a shop in Gracia called In Love With. I really wanted to look at their dupe bags and shoes, however, when I went in 15 minutes before closing, the owner started to scream at me in Spanish to get out!
I later discovered it has a lot of bad Google reviews…
While my boyfriend slept in the next day, I hit the Rambla de Catalunya to shop.
There were all the usual chain shops, including Zara, Mango, H&M, as well as designer stores and I picked up a t-shirt and black pinafore dress in H&M.
We intended to go to the beach that evening but a MASSIVE storm erupted and went on for at least 40 mins, pouring rain, thunder, and lightning.
We were running from one spot to another before we finally found shelter at an underground garage.
We paid a brief visit to Barceloneta beach the next morning but didn’t sunbathe or swim as we had bags with us.
Our final day was spent wandering around the city centre, picking up some souvenirs and I bought some Rayban sunglasses.
I came across one vintage store Flamingo Vintage but my suitcase was stuffed so I didn’t buy anything.
Unfortunately, I felt sick again on the final day but I was better by the afternoon.
I was really sad to leave Barcelona but it was an incredible trip that I’ll never forget.
Word of advice, I was there in September on both occasions and there are still a LOT of tourists at this time of the year. We were also warned about pickpockets but thankfully, we weren’t robbed.
Thanks to our lovely friends for making the trip even more fun!