Back when I used to tell people I was moving to Madrid, one out of three times they’d respond with “Barcelona is amazing!” I started to get a an inferiority complex about my soon-to-be city. So when my parents visited back in May coincided with my 30th birthday, I thought “What better place to celebrate the start of my fourth decade on this planet then visit Barcelona, the supposed best, most lively, coolest city in Spain.”
That was months ago, and I’m just now posting this. I think I wanted to wait for another visit to Barcelona to develop a more firm opinion. But after our jam-packed three days in Barcelona, I’d say this: I’m not bummed I live in Madrid. Madrid is awesome! Barcelona is pretty great too. But better than Madrid? I’ll have to make a few more trips north in order to determine that.
My top five from the trip:
1. La Sagrada Familia: I am so over cathedrals. Which is a bummer since Europe probably has more cathedrals than America has Starbucks. But after a while, they all blend together for me. While I don’t really appreciate the religious aspects of cathedrals, I can certainly appreciate the whole “Wow, how could someone build this so long ago? It’s so ornate!” feeling that I have when I’m in an impressive cathedral. Never has that feeling been so pronounced and when we stood in front of La Sagrada Familia, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. It’s a drippy Gothic acid trip on the outside and the inside is all light and air and utterly the opposite of the dark foreboding mustiness of most of Europe’s cathedrals. The $30 entry fee (which got us in to the towers, which I recommend) is steep for a cathedral, but this one is almost worth any amount because it is just so creatively unique and breathtaking.
2. Park Güell: This crazy looking park (which was originally built by Gaudi to be an upper-class housing development) was our first visit shortly after we stepped off our very early morning train from Madrid. All of us were tired. I was stupidly wearing wedge sandals (wear comfortable shoes to this park!), and we were all hungry. We paid our entry into the park (it ain’t free) and sadly dropped major euros on a not very good tiny pizza and beer lunch. Other advice: Eat before you go to the park, food options there are not good. Anyways, after a beer we were all in slightly better spirits and once we started climbing up stairs and discovering various viewpoints, it was clear this park is a must-see. But you didn’t need me to tell you this, because every guidebook in the world already has. And for good reason.
3. La Boqueria: This colorful, bustling, crowded, huge indoor market is right off La Rambla, the touristy, tree-lined pedestrian strip. I love going through markets like this on vacation. This is one of the best I’ve seen. I would die to do my grocery shopping there on the regular.
4. Dinner at Teresa Carles: I’ve mentioned this place previously, but it’s the best vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever been to, so it deserves another shout-out. Highlights included a salad with thinly-sliced shitake mushrooms, celery, fennel and a special Spanish cheese and spaghettini with black truffles.
5. Harbor Boat Cruise: It wasn’t exactly beach weather during our visit, but we wanted to do something watery, being in an coastal town and all. We walked down to the pier and saw we could do a touristy boat cruise around the harbor. I believe it was only 10 or 15 Euros for a 90 minute boat ride, which made this activity probably the most economical of the entire trip. A bottle of champagne on board to ring in my 30th didn’t hurt the experience either.
There will hopefully be a Barcelona Part II post during the next year-and-a-half. And on the next trip, I’ll try to get off the beaten path a bit more.
To unique cathedrals, markets, and (always) to delicious vegetarian food,
The Dame in Spain