This was my first time in Barcelona and I wasn’t sure what to expect. First of all I checked the weather and it looked like similar temperatures in November as in Southern California. When we arrived it was as expected, but the next day it dropped to low 40s. Brrrrr! Maybe that was my “unintentional” reason to go shopping for a jacket. It worked! Ha! The locals told me it’s only that cold for 5 days out of the year and this must have been the week. They were not used to this either.
Getting around in Barcelona is easy. Pretty much everything is in walking distance and they also have a great subway & bus system to get around. However, we mainly used taxis and Cabify (their Uber version). One day the entire country of Spain was on taxi strike so don’t rely on it too much :-).
My 3 favorite things about Barcelona
I don’t have a great knowledge of architecture but the one on Barcelona fascinated me. Gaudi is the main influence and the buildings he created are really one of a kind. They’re mostly inspired by nature – maybe that’s why I felt so intrigued by them. I could look at them for hours and always find something new. Really beautiful. The most famous cathedral Sagrada Familia was designed by Gaudi and he worked on the Design alone for over 40years on it. It’s still a work in progress – for the past 131 years – as it’s so many details and towers. Hopefully I’ll still be able to see his completed work of art. Goal is by 2026! If you want to be transferred into a fairy tale – walk around Park Guell. The buildings looked to me like gingerbread houses with sugar coating on top. You also have a great view over the city of Barcelona from the park. Make sure you buy tickets in advance as they sell out quickly.
#2 Food markets
The biggest food market is La Boqueria right on La Rambla. This is the most amazing and biggest food market I’ve ever been to. You’ll find everything from fresh fruit, vegetables, meat (ham), seafood, candy, nuts, etc here. I snacked on fresh mango, had a seafood dinner and a dragon fruit fruit smoothie afterwards. So delicious! Keep in mind that the market is closed on Sundays (we didn’t know and arrived that day to explore the market but it was closed :-() Another cool and more upscale place to eat is El Nacional. It’s in an historic building that resembles the 1920s and you can try different Spanish dishes with high quality ingredients.
I didn’t have shopping on my mind when I came to Barcelona. I promise!! However, walking down La Rambla and Old Town you just can’t resist checking out the many cute boutiques and Spanish brands like Massimo Dutti, Desigual and of course Zara and Mango. My favorite was exploring the narrow alleys of Old town and the Gothic Quarter and discovering many small shops, new labels and designers. You should also walk down Paseig de Gracia – which reminded me of the “Champs Elysees” with many high end luxury designer stores. This was also my favorite street to view the modernist buildings and architecture.
One thing to be careful about in Barcelona is pickpocketing. I never think about this stuff when I travel in the US, but going to other countries esp. Europe you have to be mindful about your backpack and where you keep your valuables. Unfortunately, a colleague of mine had her purse stolen and I read that Barcelona is rumored to be the pickpocket capital of the world. Don’t feel intimidated to travel there now, just be mindful of where you keep your money. It’s easy to get distracted with the beautiful sights around you 🙂
To turn this post back to how awesome Barcelona really is…here’s my description of an epic run you should try:
This scenic run includes lots of famous sites, views and great hill work out! We started at our hotel in the marina, running along the waterfront into the garden park and to the top up to Montjuic. Best city views! From there we continued uphill to the Olympic complex and stadium that were held here in 1992. Then we continued to run back down through beautiful Greek gardens and past the national art museum (doesn’t the statue in the front look like ET?). I can’t remember the exact distance – around 4-6 miles roundtrip?! – but who cares when you’re having fun, right?
Then we went to breakfast at Federal – healthy options and yummy smoothies! I was so excited they had a chia bowl (so so good) with soy milk (wow!) and fresh squeezed orange juice. So delicious! Nice service, cozy ambience and good music (if you dig Wutang like me :-)) – no worries they switched to more pop music when the crowds came in).
If you’ve been to Barcelona, let me know what your favorite things to do are in the city. What other cities in Spain can you recommend to visit? I always love to hear your feedback!