Barcelona was exactly what we wanted: sand, sea, and the city. I’d heard about the charismatic buildings, vibrant streets, and seen pictures of the long sandy beaches. The best of both worlds.
After excruciating delays we landed at 1 am. I couldn’t wait to get to the apartment - I’d chosen to stay in Gràcia as I’d heard the neighbourhood was for the cool kids. In the taxi there I expected to be met with club lights, loud music, and scattered trendsetters. But the streets were quiet and all businesses were closed.
Barceloneta Beach was first on our agenda. Right in the midst of the buzzing city, the beach was expectedly packed with both tourists and local residents. After grabbing a sheet from one of the beach vendors we found a spot and commenced with our first taste of Barca sunbathing. Club promoters and vendors selling everything from mojitos to massages will approach you every now and again but after a few stern no’s you can skip right back to sunbathing.
Next on our agenda was the Gothic Quarter, only a few minutes’ walk away from Barceloneta Beach. This neighbourhood largely consists of adjacent medieval buildings forming narrow streets - it was a pleasure to explore. Only sparse rays of sunlight are able to pass down to the ground allowing us to roam freely in the shade without the harsh heat. But occasionally we turned into a brightly lit open court with a quaint fountain or other stone feature sitting pretty in the centre.
The popular La Rambla strip is situated in the Gothic quarter. Lined with restaurants and human statues, this is a great place to head for a post beach munch and some entertainment.
We headed out in the afternoon in search of a hearty lunch having slept through the breakfast hours. Thanks to Siri we found 'La Pizzeria de Gracia', a hidden gem within the Gracia neighbourhood. The exterior doesn’t beckon gourmet grub but the chef did serve up a mean Spaghetti Bolognese and the Lasagna was flavoursome too. If you are into Italian cuisine and staying close by I would recommend a visit.
After lunch we headed to Museo Picasso. The museum is small and is dedicated to Picasso’s earlier work; framed sketches and life drawings less popular than his later more abstract pieces. I learned two things here - Picasso had a clear obsession with women and the abstract style he is so famously know for is a lot more complex than I thought.
Walking around town on holiday is one of my favourite things to do so after the museum we set out again and ended up at the Arc de Triomf. There is something beautiful to find on just about every turn you make in Barcelona so not having a destination in mind never really seemed to matter.
Mar Bella beach!
Mar Bella was further out from the city centre. Without the thrill of traffic - human and vehicle alike - this beach was far more tranquil. Visitors here are more likely to be on holiday as opposed to taking a quick break from the city.
After walking down the promenade we stopped at La Guingueta, a beachfront bar and restaurant. Here I had Brazilian Moqueca - a fish stew containing sea bass, prawns and mussels served with rice - almost everything I love about seafood in a pot. Accompanied by sangria and the sea, the moment was sublime. We spent the whole day at the beach.
Day 4 and 5
I’d been waiting the whole trip to see some of Antoni Gaudí’s work. After another late start we made our way to Park Güell. There was a bit of a queue and by the time we were finally admitted entrance to the park it was sunset. Not bad timing as we got to see Park Güell’s view of Barcelona while the sky was lit in various hues of purple and peach. What captivates me most about Gaudi’s buildings are the finer details that appear blatant among such grandiose structures. They can seem so obvious however every time you look again you might notice another small but thoughtful detail. In Park Güell it’s the mosaic in the walls and ceilings and looking just a little harder at some of the pillars to see they are in fact women carved into stone. Likewise, at la Sagrada Familia - which we visited the following day - it’s the numerous statuesque stories carved into the face of the cathedral.
There is so much to see in Barcelona, much of which I have not crossed off my list - going inside the Sagrada being at the top. If you suffer from Wanderlust and want to travel somewhere close by that will tick the city break and beach boxes, Barcelona gets at least 4 out of 5 stars from me.
Words and images* by Fiona Chuka @FionaChuka
*Image of La Pizzeria taken from Tumblr