Having recently left Barcelona for Paris, Eva Díez takes a trip down memory lane to give us her take on the best way to spend three fun-filled days in the Catalonian capital.
Catalonia's seaside-capital Barcelona, is a city whose undeniable Mediterranean flair exists alongside its own unique national culture. It's the birthplace of modernism, a haven for art and a favourite amongst the partiers of Europe - forget New York, Barcelona is the real 24-hour city. It's also the former home of travel blogger Eva Díez, who after a blissful year here recently moved to Paris for a new adventure, leaving many happy memories behind her.
Eva returns to the Catalonian capital, if only in spirit, to give us her recommendations for making the most of a three-day-weekend in this cosmopolitan culture hub with a walking guide through Barcelona's Barrios. Grab your passport, pack a small suitcase and we'll see you at Barcelona–El Prat Airport. Força Barca!
Day 1: Parc de la Ciutadella, Barceloneta Beach and El Born
Barcelona is a compact city, and it's easy to see it on foot. Let’s start at one of its most popular monuments: the Arc de Triomf. This impressive monument was built by architect Joseph Vilaseca i Casanovas to serve as the main gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. Pass through its arch and you'll find yourself on a long, pedestrianised promenade that leads to the city's main green space, the wonderful Parc de la Ciutadella. Grab a coffee to go at the stand in the park and take a peak at the large fountain in the foreground which is said to have been partly designed by a young Antoni Gaudí.
Stroll down through the park, vere left out of the exit on Avinguda d'Icària and down towards Avinguda del Litoral and you'll reach the Mapfre Towers where the busy beach of Barceloneta starts. Walk all the way down the boardwalk enjoying the sea views and you'll end up at the famous sail-shaped W Hotel, one of the chicest hotels in the city. If a stay at the W Hotel is a little out of your price range (you won't be in a minority here), opt for the charming Hotel 54 Barceloneta for boutique seaside views that are slightly more affordable. Whether you're a guest at the W or not, climb to the top of the hotel and stop for a sky-high cocktail with magnificent views. You're sure to be hungry on your descent so next, pop into Restaurant La Mar Salada for a lunch-time paella looking out over the harbour.
Once you've settled your bill, make your way to Via Laietana and Palau de la Música - this small but stunningly beautiful opera house has an elaborate facade that is guaranteed to leave you speechless. Continue towards the El Born neighbourhood, the historic centre of the city. Take your time idling through the neighbourhood's boutique shops and stop at the ancient Church of Santa Maria del Mar, known as the city's 'second cathedral'. Built between 1329 and 1383, this outstanding piece of Gothic architecture gives you a real feel for the medieval past of the city.
By this point you’ll be looking forward to dinner and I suggest you make your way to La Vietnamita on Cárter del Comerc. As a Vietnamese restaurant, it won't satisfy those looking for a traditional meal, but it's one of my favourites and you've got plenty of time for tapas. Try the salmon sushi followed by Saigon-style noodle pho. What about dessert? Find the 'hidden bar' Al Sur (I'll give you a clue, it's at 1 Plaça de Sant Cugat) for a refreshing mojito and a delicious slice of red velvet cake along with some live music. Night owls can end the night at Bananas, a tropical bar in the main square of this historic neighbourhood whose walls are adorned with neon palm trees to create an oasis of good fun.
Day 2: Barri Gòtic, Passeig de Gràcia, La Pedrera, La Rambla and La Boqueria
Start your second day in the maze-like streets of the Gothic Quarter. Begin at Palau de la Generalitat, the City Hall of Barcelona, and then walk through the narrow Calle Bisbe, making a wish as tradition dictates as you walk under the Bridge of Sighs. You'll find yourself at Barcelona's main cathedral, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. Bring a cover up to hide bare shoulders and step into the cloisters and its adjacent courtyard where in honour of the patron saint of city, St. Eulalia, a flock of 13 white geese are kept, representing the young age at which she was martyred. After this, walk through the Portal de l'Àngel to reach Plaça de Catalunya.
From here, walk up to Passeig de Gràcia, the top end of La Ramba and Barcelona's high-end shopping street. At number 24 stands El Nacional, a fantastic tapas restaurant housed in an atmospheric old factory where you should definitely stop for lunch. After your fill of tapas, make your way out into the elegant street for some window shopping at Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Dior among others and take a look at the iconic La Pedrera and Casa Batllo, Guadí-designed buildings that make for perfect photos.
After crossing Avinguda Diagonal and Rambla Catalunya, you’ll find yourself back at Plaça de Catalunya. From here, walk down La Rambla to Barcelona's iconic Boqueria market. Grab a super-fresh smoothie and wander through the amazingly colourful stalls. Next, continue your journey down La Rambla and you'll come to the National Theatre and a fantastic bar that seems to be taken out of a fairytale, El Bosc de les Fades ('The Forest of Fairies). Once you've had a drink and a quick sit down, continue to the end of La Rambla to Monument a Colom where you'll get a good view of the harbour and the historic courts of Barcelona.
Now you're sure to be hungry so make your way to Luzia on Carrer del Pintor Fortuny (I recommend their famous eggplant and honey). Then pop down to Bar LoBo on the same street for an elaborate cocktail before dancing the rest of the night away at Sala Apolo.
Day 3: Sagrada Família, Gràcia, Park Güell and the Monjüic Magic Fountains
On your last day, a morning full of tourism is mandatory and you can't leave without a visit to the unfinished Gaudí masterpiece, the gigantic Sagrada Família. Take the tour and climb the towers for an incredible view of the city. Before you leave the area, take a stroll through the gardens of the old Hospital San Pau at the end of Avinguda Gaudí just next door.
Make your way to the Gràcia neighbourhood and duck into a cafe (the place is teeming with good spots) for a bocadillo sandwich washed down by a vermouth in true Catalan fashion. You're now in prime position for a visit to the peculiar and spectacular Park Güell. This Gaudí-designed residential enclave is one the most impressive public parks in the world and well worth spending a few hours in.
At dusk, head to Plaça d'Espanya in Monjüic and climb to the terrace of the Arenas mall for an incredible view of the mountain. Finish your last evening at the Magic Fountains in the plaça where jets of water dance to coloured lights accompanied by a, sometimes unusual, selection of music.