Barcelona – What To Do & Where To Eat

beach-barcelona

A few years ago, I visited Barcelona in a rush. I couldn’t quite remember what I saw and I ate. There were a few days of public holidays at the end of April and beginning of May. One of the days was declared an off day to the public in the UK due to the Royal Wedding. A lot of people had taken the advantage to book 3 days off to get a total of 11 days of holidays! Well, I didn’t do that but just booked 1 of the days off for a super long weekend! Since long haul flight to elsewhere was out of question, we decided to fly to somewhere near. Initially, we were thinking of going to Marrakech. I really thank God that we didn’t go there as a bomb attack took place at a cafe, near to Djemma el Fna in Marrakech on the 28/04/2011!

We opted for Barcelona and spent fabulous time there! Our breakaway was with a theme of free & easy. We didn’t particular plan the activities for our trip, though, I did research for some restaurants that I wanted to visit. I think, this trip can be described as relaxing and food orientated. We appreciated the time we spent at the hotel, chilling and did almost nothing but enjoying the sun and music by the pool side. I felt refreshed and thought it was pretty different to other of our holidays, such as in Vietnam and Cambodia, where we spent most of time sightseeing.

We stayed at W Hotels Barcelona, which is in Barceloneta area. W Barcelona is pretty brand new as it has just been opened for 1.5 years. Getting to the hotel from the airport takes probably 20 minutes by taxi. There is a total of 473 guest rooms including 67 suites, which all have been beautifully decorated. Compared to the Westin, which is also part of Starwood Hotels. W Hotels is a more contemporary and design-led lifestyle brand. Our room has one of the nicest views of beach and the Mediterranean sea. Deco wise, it is very chic, trendy and minimalist. Bliss products of travel size are provided and I have fallen in love with the Lemon & Sage one! It smells really invigorating!

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pool-side

During our stay there, we spent most of our time at the Wet Deck, soaking up the sun by the pool, listening to lounge music and sipping cocktails. I particular love W Cosmo and Vanilla Mojito! If I had a chance to turn back the time, these are the drinks that I would have ordered a few more! Well, you would probably be very interested to know what I think overall of the W, right?

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Thumbs up for: comfortable bed; friendly staff and great service overall.

To be improved: poor or no Wi-Fi signal at the pool area, occasionally in the ‘Living Room’; chargeable Wi-Fi in the room should be made free since a lot of hotels do this nowadays; lack of breakfast choices (maybe because I am comparing to the breakfast options available at Starwood Hotels in SE Asia!);  need more choices of food, perhaps held occasional buffet options.

TOURISTIC STUFF TO DO:

1) La Rambla

A popular street in the centre of Barcelona that is very popular amongst the tourist. For me, one of the MUST visit is Boqueria Market. Here, you can see all the freshest seafood, vegetables and meat. You will also get the chance to buy some Charcuterie too. Arnaud and I love Iberian ham that we bought some back! 😉 Just super delicious. Do shop around to compare the prices and ask for tasting before you buy. Of course, there are some Tapas bars there. Please see ‘eating places’ section on this post.

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2) Casa Mila – La Pedrera

Also known as La Pedrera, this is a must visit architecture building by the famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi. It is near to Passeig de Gracia, which is one of the main shopping places. Just take your time to appreciate the wonderful design by Gaudi, just amazing and breathtaking!

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3) Sagrada Familia

This is another creation of Antoni Gaudi, which is probably the most amazing and beautiful Catholic churches that I have seen so far. Though the construction is incomplete and still being completed, this gigantic church is not to be missed. It is now one of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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4) Poble Espanyol

If you have a bit more of time to spare, check out this place, also known as Spanish village. It is an outdoor open-air architectural museum where the architecture, style, and culture of various locations from around Spain were preserved in a single place. The aim was to produce an ‘ideal model’ Spanish village.

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EATING PLACES:

1) Cal Pep, Placa de les Olles 8

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You have perhaps seen the name of this Tapas bar online or in some guide books. It was pretty late when we got there and a long queue had already formed. The guy in the above photo acknowledged us and politely asked us to join the queue. We were later being asked what drinks we wanted while waiting. We both had Spanish red wine, Rioja, which I am normally not a fan but it turned out really good!

I have to say that Cal Pep is definitely a great Tapas place. This place now run by Pep’s son, who is friendly and looks after his customers really well. He doesn’t only serve the food himself but always make sure to have conversations with his patrons. He recommended all the dishes in the photos and all were super delicious! You can taste the real Mediterranean style cooking and there are lots of seafood choices. Very relaxing and great little Tapas place that makes you feel home. It is opened on Monday from 19:30 – 23:30, Tuesday to Friday from 13:00 – 15:45 & 19:30 – 23:30, Saturday 13:15 – 15:45 and closed on Sunday.

Clams with Pancetta in White Wine

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Fried Calamari & Whitebait

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Deep Fried Peppers

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Cal Pep Special Omelette

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Baby Squids with Chickpeas

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2) El Qium de la Boqueria, La Rambla, 91

This is another Tapas bar, that at the Boqueria Market. Very different from Cal Pep, yet very delicious too. If you go there, please order and eat sardines on behalf of me, that I missed! And I forgot to take a photo of a mussels dish!

Fried Eggs with Ham

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Omelette with Artichokes, Herbs & Onions

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3) El Vasi De Oro

Don’t even go there! We went in and it was full. It is said to be famous for its beer. No one had taken any interests to welcome us. When Arnaud took one bottle of the beer arranged at the bar to check out the label, the bartender was staring at him. So, that sent us away within 5 minutes. I can’t comment on the food unfortunately but worst ever service to welcome customers!

4) Xurreria, Carrea Dels Banys Nous

A fan of Churros? This is definitely a place to get the most authentic and tasty churros. We walked pass this little shop by luck, I have to say. It was the first day when we arrived. We were wandering around the old town. Then, we saw this tiny shop that sells Churros. The shop definitely looks to have been there for a long time. We got a small packet and both thought it was really tasty! We went back on the last day before we left. Obviously, the first time when we stopped by, I didn’t take down the street name. So, we spent quite some time walking around old town, trying to find the shop. When, we were about to give up, I said if we were lucky, we would find it and we did! We even managed to catch a glimpse on the making of churros almost from scratch!

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5) Euskal Etxea, Placeta Montcad, 1-3

This place has a new concept in serving Tapas food. All the choices are presented nicely on serving platters and each portion has a cocktail pick. All you need to do is to ask for a plate, then go around the bar area to check what you fancy. Choose and put on your plate, eat and keep all the cocktail picks. Each portion or rather each cocktail pick is €1.50. You will be charged according to the number of cocktail picks you have on your plate at the end of the meal. I find this a nice concept, except some people may ‘cheat’.

Artichoke & Pepper Tarts

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Tartine of Cheese & Compote

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Artichoke, Mozzarella Cheese & Sun Dried Tomato

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Cream Cheese Tarts

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Pork Pate with Onion Chutney Tartine (right), Filet of Mackerel with Chilli Pickles (left)

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Well, that was it – our trip in Barcelona. However, I still have one more that I will share, it’s food related but I will leave it for next post! Meanwhile, if you plan to go to Barcelona in the future, I hope this will give you some ideas of what to do and where to eat. There is this map here that was given to me at the W Hotels concierge. It is a great map to help to plan your activities for a day. If it is too small to read, please email me to get a scanned copy. 🙂