My friend Hana Bajrić and I first met when we were both young and naive exchange students in France back in 2008. Hana is a musician and moved to the wonderfully artsy city of Barcelona for a little while two years ago. Now back in Canada, I’ve asked her to share all her best recommendations for us!
One Important Warning about Barcelona
They pickpocket like nothing you’ve ever seen. If you sit somewhere and watch a bit, you’ll probably SEE it happening to people. Whatever documents and money you are carrying, if you are keeping it in one backpack, purse, or whatever, you MUST keep it in front of you. I lived there for a year and had people try to steal from me nine times…it’s crazy. You won’t even feel them slip their hand in your pocket or open your backpack. I wore my backpack frontwards for the whole year. You must.
If people are approaching you with an offer or trying to sell something like flowers, don’t try to explain you are not interested. While one person has your attention, another will reach into your pocket and you won’t even realize! Beware of the metros also, especially when there’s a crowd and people are sort of fighting to get on the train. I was pushed twice when trying to get on the metro so that someone could reach into my pocket or try to take something from me. Be careful especially in areas where there are lots of tourists, like on Las Ramblas.
Restaurants and Cafes to Visit
Gilda’s: Fantastic food which is a Catalan and Belgian fusion. The owner incorporates ice cream into many dishes which he himself produces! It’s pricier and on the “fancy” side but I always had a good time here and felt cozy and welcome. If you decide to go, let me know, as I know the owner and some of the bartenders! There used to be a salmon dish there…salmon with wasabi ice cream on rice! SO good. Also, see note about Marijuana Museum below.
Rebelot: This is a small, airy restaurant in Barcelonaeta (which is the part of Barca that’s on the water) with excellent food! It was my favourite! Everything was fresh and good quality. In terms of drinks, they serve some pretty good cocktails, but this place has the BEST Sangria so I recommend that! This is a good place to explore the waterfront from also.
Bormuth: Good place for tapas! In terms of tapas, by the way, order pan con tomate (bread with tomato — look up the story behind this staple!), pimientos de padron (eat them slowly, because once in a while there’s a SUPER spicy one, and tradition is that whoever bites the super spicy one has to pay for the meal), Manchego cheese, and Russian salad (has a little bit of tuna in it). Ahhh and try croquetas! I liked the spinach ones most but some places don’t have spinach ones, only fish, chicken, or pork ones. Anyway, this place is a pretty popular spot at night, so consider that you’ll have to wait at least a little bit to get in!
Cala del Vermut: Has a few different locations but is a very old Barcelona tapas place. Read my recommendations for Bormuth restaurant above and you’ll know what to order regarding classic tapas!
La Pizza Pazza: Best pizza I have ever had. Period. And it was at the end of my street! If you’re on a budget, order a big pizza and walk to Placa de la Merce to sit, which is the square in front of the beautiful Basilica de la Merce. Sit there by the fountain and you’ll be in the place where I spent a whole year living!
Places to See
You must book your tickets ahead of time and online for these:
Palau De La Musica Catalana: This is one of my favourite places in Barcelona and I consider it a must! Go for a tour and they will tell you all about the interesting design and the story behind the theatre. The rose is the symbol of Barcelona and the tour will tell you about the legend of the rose.
Sagrada Família: I avoided going inside until a friend came from London and forced me to…and it was so worth it. You will understand the outside when you see the inside. It’s just amazing. Try to go in the morning (or at least daytime) so you can see the sun pouring in through the windows. I didn’t choose the entrance option where you go up the tower as it was more expensive and I was told it’s not so special, so that’s up to you.
If you have time for more Gaudí stuff:
I loved Casa Batlló best and think this is one you shouldn’t miss if you have the time. I would go to Casa Batllo even before famous Parc Guell, to be honest! But if you can do both, then do both, of course. Also, a good thing about Casa Batllo is that you can go at evening time and not miss anything. I think it is even COOLER and more dramatic to visit this building at night rather than daytime. Besides Parc Guell and Casa Batllo, La Pedrera (especially its rooftop) was cool, as was Palau Güell!
Tickets Required, But Drop in Okay:
Hash Marihuana and Hemp Museum: Pretty much across from Gilda’s is the marijuana museum. I never went but it is apparently VERY good. Barcelona is full of marijuana cafes for which you have to have a special membership to visit… It’s a huge part of the culture and social life there, and the marijuana clubs are apparently all very different from one another: some are like dance clubs, while others are more like cafes for people who smoke pot more as a lifestyle than a social thing.
No Tickets Required:
Fountain Show: This only happens once a week or something, so read a bit about it before you arrive in Barcelona! It’s free and a nice experience.
La Boqueria Market: Get a fresh juice and have some lunch! Many places to pick from. Or is just cool to walk around and see what they’re selling and experience the market. Just watch out for pickpockets!
Cereria Subira: Almost right outside of Jaume Metro Station is a super old candle store that is cool to visit. It’s VERY old; the oldest store in Barcelona, apparently! And not far from there is a fantastic coffee shop called Tostaderos Bon Mercat. Excellent coffee above all, good sandwiches, and pastries. It’s very small and you’ll see different business people stopping in for a quick coffee. It’s excellent quality.
Final Notes from Hana: All the above being said (or recommended, I guess :p) about Barcelona, it’s also just a great city to walk around in aimlessly. It’s a really colourful, dynamic, and exciting place (without being pushy about joining in) and you can get so much out of just walking around. There are so many things I missed and neglected to do while living there for a year, but there were just so many other things that ended up catching and keeping my attention. I actually ended up spending my year taking photos of lobbies! Residential lobbies, mainly. And these ended up being my favourite thing about the whole city.
Final Notes from Me: After getting all of Hana’s recommendations, my parents took the list and hit up as many as they could during their recent trip to Barcelona! Their verdict? Churches for days, and the food is “weird but delicious”.Photo Credits: Header photo by Anastasiia Tarasova; Pan con tomate taken by my mom yesterday for the sake of this post; photo of Hana taken by Anela Dujsic.