Traveler: Stacy Armstrong
When: September 2019
Cities Visited: Barcelona, Tarragona, Sitges
We planned a kid-free trip to Barcelona because neither my husband nor I have been to Spain. A lot of our friends told us they love Barcelona, and now I know why; it is a gem of a city! Barcelona is clean, easy to navigate, there is so much to do/see and the food is delicious. We also found Barcelona to be very affordable in comparison with major cities in the US and Europe. Everyone we encountered was friendly and overall we had a fantastic time!
We took the aerobus from the airport, which was about 5 euros per person and an efficient way to get to town as it only makes a total of 4 stops. Otherwise, we did lots of walking but at times opted to take the metro, which was very clean, fast and affordable. You can purchase one metro pass and use it for multiple passengers; my husband and I bought the “T 10” pass, which was only 10 euros (1 euro per ride; quite the steal compared to DC) and this pass was enough for our 4 day trip. We opted to rent a car to take a day trip to Tarragona and Sitges that we picked up at the train station. If you drive expect tolls of about 20 euros each way, but otherwise it was pretty easy to get to both cities and free street parking was readily available.
We stayed at Hotel Medinaceli in the Gothic District of Barcelona. We really enjoyed the location because it was close to a metro station and lots of restaurants while still being in a quiet and safe place to come back to each night. We were lucky enough to have a corner room with two windows and a view of the port. There was also a lovely grocery store and fruit stand across the street that we stopped by to pick up some snacks, fruit and of course Cava!
THINGS TO DO
Flamenco: Although Flamenco is dance more commonly found in Madrid and other parts of Spain, we wanted to make sure we attended at least one Flamenco show while in Barcelona. After doing some research we bought tickets ahead of time to a show at “Palau Dalmases”. It is a small theater that does several Flamenco shows per week; because of how small it is, I recommend you purchase tickets in advance, especially for a weekend. Neither my husband or I had ever seen Flamenco performed in person but both enjoyed the passion, emotion and musical storytelling.
Gaudi: Barcelona is known for some whimsical architecture and the person responsible for most of the well known spots is Antoni Gaudi. We made it to the following Gaudi destinations: La Pedrera aka “Casa Mila”, Park Guell and Sagrada Familia.
I appreciate that Gaudi pushed the envelope with each of his projects and especially like his effort to incorporate aspects nature in some of the structural and decorative components of his work. That being said, Casa Mila used to be a private residence that has since been converted to a museum, Park Guell was a bit of a challenge to get to (quite a long walk up a steep hill with a lot of stairs) but we enjoyed this vast whimsical place, and finally Sagrada Familia is a wonderful world-famous church that is unfortunately incomplete to this day as it was one of Gaudi’s final undertakings. All of these sites required tickets , so I highly recommend looking into reserving a spot prior to arriving in Barcelona.
Barcelonetta beach: Barcelona has a beach right in the city that is easily accessible by metro. However, I will be honest, I found this beach to be a bit overwhelming. There was a ridiculous amount of people, both locals and tourists, the ocean was littered with a very rocky bottom and there was a relentless amount of salesmen trying to entice us with towels, beach umbrellas and alcoholic cocktails. What I am saying is, if you want a relaxing trip to the beach, this is not the best destination.
Stiges: Moving on to a much better beach experience… If you have the time and the opportunity take a trip to Stiges, I highly recommend it! About an hour south of Barcelona, there is something here for everyone! As you walk along the waterfront, there are a total of 9 separated beaches. Some beaches were clothing optional, some were more of a party scene and finally some others had more of a family vibe. I recommend walking along the boardwalk until you find the best fit! We opted for a family-friendly beach just to do some swimming and relaxing. Unlike Barcelonetta, the water was clear and free of debris and the gentle ocean waves felt so great after a morning of driving and walking under the hot sun. The boardwalk is lined with little cafes, but I will admit I think they specialized in the view and not really the food. I imagine Stiges has some great food spots somewhere, but we unfortunately did not come across those spots on this trip.
Tarragona: As a total history buff, my husband did not want to miss the opportunity to visit this ancient town. I will say, it had a great mix of old world history, including an almost fully intact arena, gorgeous views of the ocean and modern day attractions and amenities. Tarragona was a cute town with a great deal of Roman history and amazing views!
WHERE TO EAT
Our favorite meal in Barcelona was at Café Lolea! It’s located in the Gothic district, close to the Flamenco venue. The restaurant is small, the food is delicious and reservations are a must! I think it’s the kind of spot where they change the menu often but we loved the charcuterie, the pulpo ceviche and the sangria!
We also really liked our meal at Cituta Comptal which is a casual spot that was our first experience of true tapas. We sat at the bar and just pointed to all of the tapas we wanted to try. The most memorable for me was the razor clam; a more subtle texture than regular clams and prepared with lots of flavor! Finally, paella is a must when you travel to Spain!