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My Barcelona Guide

Long overdue, but having been to Barcelona a number of times, I have been wanting to write some of the secret parts of the city that I encountered, and that are worth seeing. It's worth citing that a lot of the restaurants were originally gotten from an amazing list of restaurants my doctoral advisor shared with me, and that a lot of the places I love going to were first shown to me by our program director, who knows Barcelona better than anybody I know.

Additional note: Barcelona runs on a different time schedule than other countries. Dinner at 9-10pm is very common, and people start going out around midnight (to bars). Clubs start around 2am and go until about 6am, so keep that in mind as you enjoy the city. They also have afternoon naps (siestas), so in the early afternoon, a lot of things may be closed. The summer is usually pretty packed regardless because its booming with tourists. I generally do not like crowded toursit-filled areas, but you have to experience them once. You'll notice a trend in that I heavily focus on walking through different parks, or more relaxed activities in small niches of the city, because that's what I love about the city. It's about discovery, and finding corners of a wonderfully designed city through a metro system that makes transportation systems in major cities look like a joke.

First, I'll start numbering out the tourist spots, these are always crowded with tourists, and although they are worth it, I almost like to 'get them out of the way' because being in crowded spaces can get frustrating.
  1. Sagrada Familia: Gaudi's masterpiece, definitely worth it to pay and go inside. Don't forget to hit up the underground part where they walk you through what has been built, and what they are planning to finish in the next few decades.
  2. Montjuic Castle: Take the metro to Parallel and from there take the Funicular de Montjuic which will take you to the cable cars. It's up to you if you'd like to take the cable cars, either way, I'd recommend wearing athletic clothing, and venturing around the mountain, there are a number of gorgeous views that are definitely worth it.
  3. Park Guell: Take some snacks and a bottle of wine and have a nice picnic in this park. Absolutely gorgeous!
  4. Camp Nou: If you are a fan of football at all, the stadium is a must see. If there is a game at the time you are there, GO!
  5. Casa Mila & Casa Batllo: These places are generally incredibly crowded so try to go early when they open, unless you're there when it is not the summer, in which case, it's probably fine to go whenever (check their Spring hours).
  6. Tibidabo: This is another incredibly fun place that is high up and has a stunning view of the city. It is actually also a theme park (although most of their rides are geared towards children not adults -- I still had a blast).
  7. Barcelona Cathedral: Although Sagrada Familia is often the church everybody loves visiting, the Barcelona Cathedral is by no means petty. The amount of intricate detail that went into every little sculpture in the church makes it definitely be worth a visit.
  8. Zoo de Barcelona: They have a tremendous number of species at this zoo, I hadn't gone until this past year but wow, it had everything!
Now these are other experiences that are harder to categorize -- all of them really fun:
  1. Magic Fountain of Montjuic - They do a fountain light show that is nice to watch as you walk around the city. It's nice to just sit back and enjoy watching the fountain in gorgeous colors, a quick google search will give you an idea of how it looks :).
  2. The Labyrinth Park - Not as well known as some of the other parks Barcelona has, this one has a labyrinth that is pretty fun to figure out. Definitely recommend walking around the park and solving the labyrinth :D!
  3. Botanical Gardens - Simply gorgeous!
  4. The Cactus Gardens - Depending on how much you enjoy walking around and looking at a variety of cacti, you'll love this park!
  5. Parc de la Ciutadella - Great park to walk around. Absolutely gorgeous and go see the Arc de Triomf while you are in this area. Definitely worth checking out too!
  6. Barceloneta Beach - Take in the beauties of the city and enjoy walking all the way down this well kept beach. I personally love the walk and this is one of the occassions where I don't mind the heavy traffic of people, it's simply part of the beauty of the beach, everyone is relaxing and enjoying their day! As you can see, it's in the middle of the city, maybe 15 minutes in metro from most places, if not less.
  7. Placa del Sol - I don't have a preference of a bar in this plaza, but sitting outside and just having beers is great fun. Filled with locals who are just sitting in the plaza floor, enjoying beers until late in the night :).
  8. Placa Masadas - This is a well kept secret which I simply adore. A small plaza with a few bars, one which has a surprising collection of beers. Children are often playing in the plaza as their parents sit back and enjoy. It's a nice getaway from the crowds of people.
Now, I'll walk you through some potential trips that you could take while you are in Barcelona:
  1. St. Pol de Mar: Go to the Arc de Triumf metro station. Get out of the metro but stay inside the station, there should be an adjacent entrance that lets you go into Renfe, which is the long distance train system. From there, you can walk up to the orange ticket machines, and buy a ticket to "St. Pol de Mar". You then hop on the train and in under an hour, you're in a much less crowded beach in a small town in the outskirts of Barcelona. I ate at Restaurante La Selva and their food was outstanding. (note: you can also do this from Catalunya, but I love how less crowded Arc de Triumf is, makes it much more easy to navigate).
  2. Night at the Gothic Quarters + Palau de la Musica: Take a close look at a Barcelona Map, and look at the streets in between La Rambla, and Via Laietana. In fact, even beyond Via Laietana there are a number of small places, many of which are my favorite holes in the wall. Here's my trip advice: Find a day where the Palau de la Musica is having a concert, and book a ticket. Then, about 3 hours prior to the concert starting, go to Arc de Triumf. Walk past the Arc and as you walk away from the arc everything to your right will be small streets which I find awesome to get lost in. Below I have labeled all of the restaurants which I love going to, feel free to take a look at the list and hit up one of those restaurants and just spend the night walking through the gothic quarters. I am a tremendous fan of this part of town.
  3. A walk through the hills of Barcelona: Head out to Catalunya, and take the FGC (the slightly longer distance train system they have) to Peu de Funicular, and then take the Funicular up to the top. Then walk. Wherever. You can walk to Tibidabo if you'd like, just look at what roads might get there from your map. A lot of this is used as a running trail but some of it you end up walking down streets, etc. I ended up getting to the tower at one point, that was pretty awesome :).
This list is a collection of experiences after numerous trips to what I consider one of the best cities in the world:

Coffee:

  • Cafes el Magnifico - You can't beat their selection of coffee. It's more to pickup coffee on the go than it is to hang out (although they do have a few small tables) but if you are a fan of coffee, be sure to check them out.

Gin & Tonics:

  • Xixbar: There's little competition here. This bar is far and beyond one of the greatest gin & tonic bars in the city, located in a very relaxed neighborhood, near the very famous 'Lolita' and a few blocks from 'Tickets'.
  • Rubi Bar: I stumbled upon this gem - its a cheap gin & tonic bar with a plethora of gins and tonics. They also have very cheap mojitos, great trendy bar.
Scotch:
  • Ideal Cocktail Bar: Don't even try to compete. Their scotch collection is outstanding. They make all sorts of drinks but as a scotch fanatic, this was my go-to heaven. 
Bars:
  • Alsur Cafe (El Born) - awesome mojitos alongside food, I generally went to have their mango mojitos, they were delightful.
  • Princesa 23 - fun atmosphere to grab a drink, I enjoy grabbing a drink or two here!
  • Espit Chupitos - there are a number of locations around Barcelona, and it wouldn't be right not to miss mentioning their array of hundreds of shots, all of which are crazy creative and fun.
  • Ovella Negra - also known as the Black Sheep. A massive bar for cheap beer. Getting the giant 5 liters is definitely worth it :). Has endless seatings and is common amongst the local university students. It will be crowded during the summer nights.
  • Bar Dow Jones - Novel concept, drinks go up or down in cost depending on who has most recently purchased them. Makes for cheap beers if you don't mind picking randomly but overall its more for the hype of it than anything.
Best kebab place in town:
  • Doner Kebab - Feel free to tell them Daniel sent you. They are a wonderful family running a delicious kebab place -- been going here for over four years, it's the best place ever. 
Restaurants (to name a few, there are too many but I often avoid any restaurants with pictures outside, its often a good indicator of mediocre food -- although not always!):
  • Mosquito - surprising dim sum and beer place. They get crowded so get here early but its really wonderful.
  • Quimet & Quimet - outstanding tapas at a reasonable price. Gets incredibly crowded.
  • Rias de Galicia - focus on local seafood dishes, I've heard outstanding things from here, I haven't been but its probably on the pricier end of places.
  • Braseria Canota - more family friendly, really fun menu and quality dishes (traditional Spanish seafood is their focus).
  • Lolita Taperia - cheap, amazing tapas (traditional Spanish dishes - fairly small). This is a place i'd go right before grabbing some gin & tonics across the street at Xixbar. It's a must.
  • Bar Calders - really fun atmosphere for drinks, can be hard to get a table.
  • Bodega Vinito - A great wine bar to hang out! Usually everyone is standing in a very talk-friendly environment, love it!
  • Bo de B - BEST cheap sandwiches in town. It's a small corner shop, very few tables inside, most people get the sandwiches to go, and for the price, it's definitely worth it.
  • Cal Pep Restaurant - Cal Pep is an outstanding chef who will serve you an experience. They'll come up with the menu for you based on what is fresh that day, asking you a preference of what meat (beef vs seafood, etc), and then taking you through an amazing journey. I'd come early and sit at the bar (I camped out a good 15 minutes before it opened and got a seat, otherwise it can be a wait).
  • Els 4Gats - My favorite. With a revolving menu (changes every 6 months) I have always been pleasantly surprised by what is in store in this wonderful restaurant. I am a huge fan and I try to go back every year, i'd recommend trying to get a reservation, it can be hard to get a table.
  • Tapas 24 - This is stellar cuisine at a good price. Tapas 24 is often really packed so the trick is to go at odd hours, you will not be disappointed.

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I'm all in.