Barcelona is a city where people live life to the fullest, or live more laid back. Thanks to the weather we live a lot on terraces, where people love to spend time having a beer or vermouth with friends; this is part of the culture. Barcelona is a city where you can have almost everything without traveling too far. This article aims to help you enjoy this wonderful city, like a local.
First stop – Mountjuic
Last summer my sister Yolanda came for a few days for business and we took the weekend toenjoy our time together. On Friday I picked her up at the airport and after a quick ride we arrived to Hotel Omm, just off of Paseo Gracia. This hotel has a great location and super modern décor.
In addition, it has a Michelin star restaurant and a rooftop terrace with stunning views over the Gaudi house, La Pedrera. We were short for time, so we left the suitcases, grabbed a taxi, and headed to our first stop, Montjuic.
Mountjuic is a Latin term that means “mountain of Jews”, where you’ll find a castle perched high up on a hill within the city. While there are different ways to arrive to Mountjuic, we headed for Plaza España. From here you can use escalators or stairs to get to the top, where you’ll find the MNAC Museum. Furthermore, there are beautiful views of the city, lush gardens, the Joan Miro Foundation, the Greek theater and terraces to eat or have coffee. After a stroll, we decided to walk to the cable car station and took it to the beach.
The cable car offers great panorama with gorgeous views. It’s breathtaking to travel over the port area, part of the old city, and the Cristopher Columbus statue. After this adventure we arrived to the beach neighborhood of La Barceloneta.
Second Stop – Barceloneta
La Barceloneta was a fisherman neighborhood until the Olympic games of 1992. Consequently, the fishermen had to move all their boats, fishing nets and chiringuitos (bars on the beach) to make way for the Olympic city and new restaurants for the athletes. We still enjoy the same restaurants these days.
This delicious dish is something between Paella, risotto, and Mediterranean fish soup. It’s made with small pasta, which you eat directly from a big cooking pot. To eat a Fideua is a great event. This traditional Catalan dish has a social meaning too. It allows friends and families to share a meal together, in front of the sea during summer time. This traditional dish celebrates the Mediterranean life style – fresh, traditional food and quality time with friends and family.
Time for a drink!
On Saturday, the day was splendorous. Hence, sipping on vermouth was the perfect excuse for a drink before lunchtime. Vermouth is a wine macerated with herbs and normally you would accompany it with canned foods. It’s a typical drink dating back to our grandparents’ years, and in Barcelona is quite fashionable. It’s truly refreshing and after two glasses of it you’ll feel very happy, very funny, and you’ll probably start laughing a lot.
So I took my sister and company to Morro fi, a nice, small bar not too far from home. “Morro fi” means good taste and they have their very own brand of vermouth. This is not a tapas bar, rather, it’s an appetizer bar, where eating is much lighter.
There are two ways of serving vermouth. The first traditional way is with ice, one slice of orange, a green olive, and vermouth to the top. It’s so sweet and delicious. While the second one is also with ice, a slice of orange, and the same green olive, but it introduces a twist as one-third of the vermouth is replaced with gin, soda is optional. After this the world changes. And to give my sister and company the full experience of “Vermouth time” we asked for a selection of appetizers. Tuna in olive oil, boquerones, anchovies with a magical and delicious sauce, stuffed olives, mojama and homemade potato chips. All very light and healthy.
Time to explore
After this we went to explore the city center. We found ourselves in Plaza Catalunya and headed for the famous “Ramblas,” the emblematic walk of the city. It runs between Plaza Catalunya, the city’s nerve center, and the statue of Christopher Columbus and the old port. It’s approximately 1,2 km long. There, you’ll find tourists strolling down the street alongside busy side cafes, restaurants, and shops. Ramblas is the main street of the Ciudad Vella, also known as the old city, and divides the neighborhoods of Raval and Gothic.
The walk is bustling with people by day, and this energy persists late into the night. As you near the port you’ll usually pass flea markets, food stands, as well as painters and draughtsman.
Strolling along La Rambla you can see several buildings of interest, such as the Palace of the Virreina, as well as the market of La Boqueria and the famous theater of Liceu, which showcases operas and ballets. One of the side streets off of the Rambla leads to Plaza Real, a quaint square lined with palm trees and buildings adorned with porticos, which host a multitude of breweries and restaurants. Plaza Real is where collectors meet on weekends to sell stamps and coins. We usually don’t stroll down these streets because it’s full of tourists, but when family and friends come for the first time, we make an exception.
Is it time to eat yet?
In Barcelona we have the culture of the tapeo. Tapear is like eating in a very casual way, smallportions on small plates. I love this way of eating. The top tapas you must try are: patatas bravas, jamón ibérico de jabugo, boquerones, pimientos del padrón, pimientos del piquillo rellenos, croquetas de jamón, croquetas de pollo, chocos, chipirones, escalibada and of course, pan con tomate. All is just amazing food! In fact, writing this made me hungry!
By night we ate at Bodega Sepulveda, a spot known for classic Catalan tapas. We ordered anobscene amount of food, starting with the classic, pan con tomate. Pan con tomate is the typical Barcelonan dish and it’s fantastic. I don’t understand why people don’t do it around the world?
It’s a Catalonia quintessential tradition and you can have it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and even as an appetizer! While Cod fritters, veal meatballs with porcini mushrooms, Aldridgemushrooms with egg and jamon, cap I pota en vinagreta, and chipirones with beans round off our meal.
Barcelona nightlife offers a wide range of options. There are plenty of bars, hundreds, or perhaps thousands! There are so many bars, side by side, so you can’t possibly get lost. El Cangrejo, Betty Ford, Moog, Apolo, Shoko, Kentuchy – to name a few. We normally go out to dinner with friends and then have a few drinks. So, to give my sister the full Barcelona experience, we went to a have some cocktails. In Barcelona Gin tonics are in vogue. It’s so refreshing, so cold and so good on a warm summer night. For this we walk through the Raval area to find this nice, small bar called Pesca Salada.
Barcelona is alive longer and later than most cities. And after a night of partying and little sleep, we love to eat “churros con chocolate” for breakfast. This is part of the culture as well. This culinary sin is disgustingly good. You can get a little fat, but I like it.
Let’s not forget a snack!
Sunday is a good time for esmorzar and this includes more eating. Esmorzar is a meal we takebetween breakfast and lunch. You can enjoy it at any bar or, like a local, in a market. Each neighborhood has its own market, full of fresh food and traditional products. People areultimately valuing what’s traditional again. Hence, artisanal products are in vogue. Cheese, bread, stuffed olives, charcuteria are highly sought after. So, for our brunch we went to Santa Caterina, a huge and incredible market in the Borne area.
The food is so fresh and people are very friendly. At Bar Joan we had our traditional almuerzo with Bocata de anchoas, queso manchego, tortilla de patatas and Vichy Catalan sparkling mineral water. After this energizing meal we were ready for another stroll in the city.
Gastronomy and History – the perfect combination
Barcelona is a city full of history especially in the Gothic, Borne, and Raval area. These neighborhoods are part of the Old city and are adorned with architecture from SXIII. On the other hand, heading uptown from Plaza Catalunya you enter the Eixample area, which boasts architecture of S.XIX.
Barcelona – the city of Gaudí, Picasso and el Jamón. Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926) is the icon ofBarcelona and La Sagrada Familia is his major work. La Sagrada Familia is located in the Eixample area and is a large Roman catholic church. Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a must see while in Barcelona.
Our Final Stop
By night, we went searching for delicious wines from Catalunya. Both in Catalunya and Spain, we have excellent wine regions. The Mediterranean climate and soil mixture lends itself to lovely vineyards and very good wines. That night we focus our expectations on Catalunya top wines. To satisfy our palate, we went to Monvinic, where its sommelier Isabelle Brunet recommends the best wines of the region. They have a digital wine list where you can choose the country, the region, and the appellation of origin. We start with a white Cava, the Catalonian champagne, called Cava Rimarts Gran Reserva Brut Nature. Isabelle also recommends a selection of tapas from her menu. To start, jabugo ham, so delicious it practically melts in your mouth.
Then Isabelle recommends a second wine, a red wine, a Syrah from the Priorat region, Planasso. Very good, very expressive. The accompanying tapas include marinated eggplant with honey and cod tripe stewed with black sausage. And wine number three, Scala Dei from the Priorat region as well, was accompanied with ginger grilled pigeon and salamis sauce. An excellent tasting to finish our short but intense weekend, like a local.