Since we decided that beach vacations aren’t really our thing, we have been going to Barcelona for our Winter getaway! With temperatures in Barcelona in the high 50’s to mid 60’s and NYC with snow and low teens, we think this was a pretty good choice. Loved this trip and already planning to come back next January / February.
We stayed two weeks in the heart of Barcelona (Eixample District), one by ourselves and the second with our wonderful friends Janet & John. It was their first trip to the city and we loved showing them our favorite neighborhoods, sites, and restaurants. They too fell in love with this glorious city and are returning with us next year!
It is always fun to get out of the city for a couple of days to visit the beautiful hilltop towns, vineyards, the beach, or the countryside. We prefer private or very small group tours and found a few that we booked this trip. Enjoyed them all.
Montserrat – Castlexperience Wine Tours – We really enjoyed the trip to Montserrat but skip the “gourmet lunch” and wine tasting. You might want to look for a different tour company if they can’t accommodate just the Montserrat visit.
Montserrat is a multi-peaked mountain range about one hour North West from Barcelona that inspired Gaudi in his building of Sagrada Familia. The town has a spectacularly beautiful Benedictine monk mountain retreat that is not only of significant religious importance, but the natural beauty surrounding the monastery is simply breathtaking. There are some interesting walks through the mountains where you will experience magnificent views of some of the most unusual rock formations. You can take a funicular to the top of the mountain, and from there you can choose a number of different walks, all with amazing views of the Catalonian countryside.
Sagrada Familia – The Tour Guy – We return every visit to see the progress that has been made on Gaudi’s magnificent church. And each time we are awed by the architecture and range/color of light inside the cathedral. The interior is finished and they expect the exterior to be completed by 2028 – 2030 (more than 100 years since they began).
Girona & Costa Brava – Viator – Girona is a city in Spain’s northeastern Catalonia region, beside the River Onyar. It’s known for its medieval architecture, walled Old Quarter and the Roman remains of the Força Vella fortress. Landscaped gardens line the Passeig Arqueològic, a walkway following the Old Quarter’s medieval walls, which include watchtowers with sweeping views.
We also visited Pals, a small, picturesque medieval town situated on a hill overlooking Platja de Pals, a pretty beach town. It is one of the most beautiful on the Costa Brava with it’s charming cobbled streets, its walls and its Gothic buildings. Crowded in the Summer we had the town almost to ourselves this time of year.
Costa Brava is one of the most beautiful and rugged coastlines you’ll ever see. These seaside towns are home, in the summer, to the wealthy from Barcelona, but quiet and beautiful during the rest of the year. We visited the fishing village of Calella de Palafrugell and watched the waves crashing against the sea wall and rocks as we dined in a casual restaurant a few feet from the ocean.
Mediterranean Cooking Class – Just Royal BCN – Three other people were part of our cooking class and we couldn’t have asked for better company. Loved them so much we spend the rest of the afternoon touring the city together.
Our cooking experience began with a tour around the nearby market La Boqueria. The chef/guide explained about traditional foods and the most popular Catalan products.
Then back to their studio to begin our cooking experience. The chef had waiting for us an array of Tapas, originating from various cities within Spain. Accompanied by wine & local beer, he explained the history of Spanish cuisine while we eat and drank our Tapas appetizers! And now the cooking began. Everyone participated and our menu included
Tortilla de Patatas (Potatoes Omelet), Seafood Paella and for dessert Catalan Cream. We sampled the Tortilla while we were cooking (delicious!) and then sat down in their dining room and was served the dishes we prepared. A very fun, and delicious, afternoon.
La Pedrera-Casa Milà – Pg. de Gràcia, 92 – Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, is certainly one of the most famous and impressive buildings of Modernisme. It is the last building constructed by the brilliant architect Antoni Gaudí, in 1912, before he devoted himself entirely to the construction of the Sagrada Família. It was named after the wavelike design of the stone exterior. Casa Mila is a work of art featuring a ripple-like façade and a surreal sculptural rooftop. The construction and function of the building, as well as the ornamentation and decorative elements, break with the architecture of Antoni Gaudi’s’ time.
If there is one building in Barcelona that you must see then Casa Milà is definitely it. It is one of Gaudi’s’ most famous works and rightfully on the UNESCO World Heritage List. There is something timeless and mysterious about it, but you will see for yourself…
We returned to some of our favorite restaurants and added a few new ones. I am always amazed at the difference in price dining in Barcelona verses NYC. It is one-third to one-half the price for an equivalent meal (the low price of wine is one of the big differentiators)! The list below is arranged by most loved to least enjoyed.
Fismuler, Carrer del Rec Comtal, # 17 https://www.fismuler.com/barcelona/ (in a charming neighborhood, El Born) – Our #1 favorite, but that was to be expected, as it is run by three ex-el Bulli chefs. They opened a new restaurant that we will definitely try next trip, Molino de Pez – Carrer Corsega, 346.
Hip vibe and stylish decor that is welcoming and comfortable. The menu changes frequently, and as expected, presents haute cuisine techniques. They had a very good selection of starters, meats and fish. And to finish the experience in the best way, they offer homemade desserts, including their cheesecake which highlights the famous menu of three distilled cheeses macerated in the premises.
The place is a modern space of 300 square meters inside the Hotel REC Barcelona, very close to l’Arc de Triomf. The open kitchen is in view, and they have two types of tables; large tables designed to share with others and more intimate tables.
If on the menu you must have the razor clams, pork cheeks on brioche with black truffles, tomato salad with cumin and the chickpea salad.
Paco Meralgo – C/ de Muntaner, 171 – https://restaurantpacomeralgo.com/ca/el-restaurant/ – Though there are a ton of tapas joins in Barcelona, sadly, only a few ever get serious about sourcing top-quality, seasonal food. Paco Meralgo is one of them. The menu may look similar to what you see elsewhere, but the quality is so much better. For a selection of classic tapas, you can’t go wrong with patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy sauce and garlic aioli), tuna salad with tomato and onion, the “Obama” cuttlefish croquettes, fish tapas and Gambas al Ajillo (Spanish-Style Garlic Shrimp).
Paco Meralgo is a play on words: Said quickly, it becomes “pa’ comer algo,” which means “to eat something”—perfect, since that’s just what we’re here to do. This sophisticated-looking tapas bar has high stools lined up along the bar and a comfortable dining area at the back. The dining room is a good choice for a romantic dinner, but sitting at the bar or one of the high tables is way more fun.
Cruix – Carrier d’Entenca, 57 – https://www.cruixrestaurant.com/ – A Michelin Bib Restaurant that was contemporary and informal, friendly and delicious! Owner-chef Miquel Pardo’s (had worked in multiple Michelin Star Restaurants) cuisine is focused around two very reasonable tasting menus: Classic Cruix (7 courses for 35 Euros) and Grand Cruix (11 courses for 58 Euros). Every dish was delicious with the main course a superb rice dish which retains a special crispy texture at the bottom of the pan. Dessert included one of his signature dishes; “sad day on the beach”!
Elsa y Fred – Carrer del Rec Comtal, 11 – https://elsayfred.es/en/ – One of our old favorites and dined here three times during our trip (lunch and dinner). The restaurant is located in a small alley in the Old Town district Born and is named after an Argentinean film, Elsa y Fred. It feels like a cosy, old-school-glam living room, with a wooden fireplace, mirrored pillars and sink-down leather armchairs. The young staff is friendly and helpful; a real party atmosphere at all times.
The menu features gourmet tapas such as mandarin and orange salad with goat’s cheese, scallop and BBQ pork Bao, zucchini carpaccio, and grilled baby squid with yuzu emulsion. If you go for lunch, don’t miss the Tuna Burger.
LLamber – Carrer de la Fusina, 5 – https://llamber.com/ – We have been dining here for years and love each visit. Don’t let its commercial outdoor tint fool you, as it looks like every other tourist cafeteria near the city’s cultural center. This popular, hip gastro tapas bar serves star level food at low prices. Although most restaurants at this price range focus on taste and not on details, presentation at Llamber is also equally important with taste. Also has a great wine list.
Cerveseria Catalana – C/ de Mallorca, 236 – https://cerveceriacatalana.com/ – They don’t take reservations and the lines of locals wrap around the block to get into this amazing tapas and pintxos restaurant. We dined here twice for lunch, and had hardly any wait as locals dine at 2PM and we arrived at 1PM. This restaurant is a must.
La Rita – Carrier d’Arago, 279 – https://andilana.com/locales/la-rita/ – A good reasonable neighborhood restaurant that features Catalon food with a Asian twist. They have been in business for more than 25 year with dishes like octopus with onions, chicken cannelloni with trumpets of death, prawns with kimchi, fried rice, and stir fried vegetables and shitake. They also had amazing Patatas Bravas.
Restaurant Ca L’Estevet – Carrer de Valldonzella, 46 – Reminded me of old school red sauce restaurants in NYC’s little Italy; not a favorite of mine in any city. One of my two dining mistakes this trip. Skip it.
El Nacional – Pg. de Gràcia, 24 – A large hall with multiple spaces to dine. Fun to walk through, maybe have a drink, but don’t eat here. Very touristy and food was mediocre at best.
Our second attempt at an Airbnb and this time we struck gold (stayed in one last year and it was just ok). The place was lovely, spacious and in a great part of the city, the Eixample District. Our charming host was “Patricia Chic Room” and we will be booking with Patricia again next year!