A locals guide: The perfect weekend in Barcelona
Barcelona is a magical, tasty, chaotic hot mess of a city. For us Aussies, we’re always trying to squeeze in as many countries as we can while in Europe. It feels nearly impossible to see everything, but somehow we do it while getting ABSOLUTELY shit faced the night before and still making it on the train.
When I first arrived to this Catalan capital, I was lost and clueless on where to eat and what to do. I’d end up doing your typical cliché shit (‘segway tour’) and eat average tourist food (‘Las Ramblas)’, and feeling like I was wasting time and money. And DEAR GOD, I truly was. I don’t want you to go through this. You don’t have to visit that museum that you really don’t care about and you don’t deserve to eat another bad paella. I haven’t included any museums or historic sites, this guide is for the foodies that just want to eat, drink and chill.
Working as a bike tour guide in Barcelona, I found a deep pleasure in giving travellers advice where to stay and how to make your tastebuds explode, legally. All while avoiding the tourist traps. Anyone that knows me understands that food is the way to my heart and how to understand a city. Through discovering a culinary culture, you get to know the history of a province or neighbourhood. I was determined to avoid the crowds and discover how to enjoy Barcelona the right way.
FIRSTLY // Where do you stay?
Hotel Miramar Barcelona
After travelling for one year and staying in some seriously horrific places, I am the newly appointed ambassador for will-only-stay-in-comfortable-and-amazing-hotels.
Choosing where to stay in Barcelona might be a difficult task as it’s a small city with many options. My partner and I were lucky enough to stay at the newly renovated and very luxurious palace, Hotel Miramar Barcelona. Not only because you’re staying in a historical, five-star contemporary hotel, but it’s the ONLY hotel on top of Montjuic that also offers panoramic views of Barcelona. I was constantly impressed by the facilities and incredible service.
In addition to sleeping on something similar to clouds or HEAVEN for that matter, the room comes with it’s own private terrace. Fun fact, Miramar is the only hotel in Barcelona where you can enjoy these views from your bath, and most importantly with champagne.
Upon arrival, which includes a welcome drink (they were off to a good start) we were shown the facilities and blown away that we had exclusive access to the sauna, Turkish bath, jacuzzi, indoor heated pool and fitness centre. My partner and I relished in the idea that it was perfectly acceptable to walk around the hotel in a robe and slippers. Hotel Miramar Barcelona also includes spa L’Occitane (make sure you book an appointment) and you can even find these products in your room.
Located on top of Barcelona, you are surrounded by the lush gardens of Montjuic and nearby castle. Surprisingly, you’re only an 18-minute walk (1.9kms) to the city. You can reach La Barceloneta and the beachside an alternative way via the Teleferic de Montjuic (cable car) which is conveniently located right outside the hotel.
The exterior of the building has preserved the original 1920’s façade. Whoever designed this hotel was a social visionary. I was very impressed with the interior, the grand features of the hanging lights and touch of Danish minimal furniture design.
The outdoor pool and bar area are reminiscent of the 1970’s “Californian modern” architectural design. The contemporary space offers big double beds while soaking up the Spanish sun.
Let’s be honest, we found ourselves in deep, extreme comfort and didn’t leave the room that night (very strange, we are never usually like this?). Studio Miramar is the hotel’s restaurant offering a Mediterranean style cuisine, using only local products with an incredible wine list. They also have free candy at the bar. Did I already mention this place resembled a kind of heaven?
Barcelona is an abundance of incredible food, historical sites and a great nightlife. A resort-like sanctuary for the night leaves you feeling revitalised and excited to walk another 10kms the next day. Why not treat yo’ self to a little serenity after a full day of sight seeing?
Hotel Miramar Barcelona offered this and more. It made such a lasting impression on me that I would highly recommend it to every single person I meet for the rest of my life. For me, it’s seriously the small things that make me remember a place; they say hello and goodbye as you come and go, when lost they LITERALLY walk with you because they understand that sense of direction just ain’t your thing. Bless.
The facilities are pristine, the rooms are perfect and at breakfast I was even encouraged to order my third café con leche. The staff are all exceptional and make you feel relaxed. Total A+ in delightfulness, warmth and helpfulness. Need I say more?
Click here to book through the website.
SO YOU HAVE 36 HOURS in BARCELONA…
8PM // ARRIVAL
Head into my favourite neighbourhood and friendly labrynith; El Born where the perfect seafood restaurant awaits. Located near the Cultural and Memorial Centre, this self-service restaurant allows you to choose to the weight of your seafood while it’s still moving (SORRY VEGANS), and have it cooked fresh for you. This barrio transcends into the new and old parts of the city with many restaurants and a great place to do bar hopping. After dinner, start the bar hop at Crepes el Born, Bar 9 and Bar Brutal.
9:30AM // BREAKFAST
Sometimes we run into people that change our life for the better. These people are called Baristas. It’s hard to find good, quality coffee in Spain, and when you find someone who makes a better double-shot flat white than an Australian, you befriend them immediately.
Located on Carrer de Muntaner, a buzzing gastronomic area in Eiaxmple, the team behind Manglar (WARNING, extremely sexy waiters with accents) are serious about coffee just as you are. Plus the décor is basically a ready-made Pinterest board
An infusion of Latin and Mediterranean flavours, they only work with organic and fresh products. The chef, Fede, is friendly and passionate; his ceviche and Octopus are exceptional. It’s a great space for co-working as well.
10:30AM - 1:00PM // ACTIVITY
Passing through the glorious tree lined streets after breakfast, you enter further into the newer city district of Eixample, literally translated as “extension,” recognisable by the more spacious streets and sophisticated atmosphere. Start the day with a showcase of Modernisme in Passeig de Gracia, a shopping district with international brands as well as the worlds most recognized architects such as Gaudi and Montaner. Stop and have a drink in El Nacional and admire the incredible interior.
1:30PM // LUNCH
After shopping, head towards Placa Catalyuna and make your way into the gritty bohemian area of El Raval. After a recent facelift from a history of crime and violence, Raval is now abundant with a buzzing youth culture with hip cafes and bars. I would always recommend Flax and Kale as a delicious healthy option and instagramable meals, but if you want something more Spanish try Bar Canete for good tapas.
3:00PM // ACTIVITY
Raval became one of my favourite neighbourhoods, weird characters and all. It’s a haven for skateboarders and you’ll find everyone down at MACBA (museum of contemporary art) drinking a beer while watching the skaters.
Take a stroll and discover the independent record labels and second hand shops such as Flamingos Vintage, Holala and my absolute favourite – Produit National Brut (PNB). This place has an incredible selection of hand picked clothing and furniture.
NOTE: These vintage stores in the city are more expensive (20 euro per shirt). If you have time and you’re a true bargain and treasure hunter, try Humana at the end of the month when everything is 1 euro or head to Encants – a huge flea market every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
After you’re done shopping or after dinner, have a drink at the quiet and comfortable La bodega del Notariat - they are experts and offer a great selection of local beer and wines. They also always have Argentinean music playing, BONUS. People-watching is great at Bar Kino and 33/45 Bar & gallery constantly has rotating artwork inside with a cool vibe. Not in the mood for a drink? Head to The Departure – also really good coffee and carrot cake.
8:30PM // DINNER
La Barceloneta is the seaside neighbourhood where thousands of people race each day to enjoy thr sun. A friendly reminder that prices are always higher because of the tourists. Given the location, you can’t come to Barcelona and not eat paella? I would consider this option to be very popular among tourists but DAMN, do they serve good paella. Salamanca Restaurant leaves you feeling ridiculously full with its generous serving sizes. I also love the food at FOC which offer Latin American food at a good price (try the ceviche and tuna and avocado patacones).
9:30AM // BREAKFAST
Spend your morning in one of Europeans most iconic and oldest districts, Barrio Gothico. Popular amongst tourist, the Gothic Quarter is one of the best places to Brunch. I would recommend Alsur Café or Milk Bar & Bistro. Cafe el Magnifico are also experts in coffee and serve a great flat white.
10:30AM - 1:00PM // ACTIVITY
Discover more of the medieval and deep roots of Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter through its iconic ‘squares’ or placas. My favourite square is the romantic and very quiet Placa Sant Felip Neri which features a small fountain and a church. Majority of the times when I come here, I am completely alone.
Plaça del Pi is another square that is surrounded by art galleries and small local boutiques. On the weekends you can find a small market here where artists sell their paintings. Other more popular placas include Placa Reial and Plaça de la Generalitat.
Most recently I discovered a hidden gem among the chaos in the Gothic Quarter, Cafe d’Estiu. Located in a small courtyard of the Frederic Mares Museum, next to the Barcelona Cathedral, it’s away from the crowds and such a peaceful place for a meal or coffee.
1:30PM // LUNCH
The Arepa. It’s so good it deserves a capital ‘A’. The taste of Venezueala in an oversized sandwich that will blow your mind. Need I say more? The family owned business is constantly flowing with its loyal customers. A very casual place for a quick bite, it is a seriously delicious.
Thirsty? One of my favourite areas to people-watch is at Quillo bar. When you’re finished, take a stroll through Arc de Triumph and head to Ciutadella park (Barcelona’s Central Park) and watch the acro yogis do their thang.
3:00PM // ACTIVITY
Dating back to the 13th century, El Born is one of the most popular neighbourhoods, which is why you need to go back. It is a mecca for independent boutiques and stores by local craftsmen and designers. Here you will find handmade jewellery, hats, leather goods and designer clothing. Walk around the maze of backstreets.
8:30PM // DINNER
Gracia is one of those places tourists don’t know about. The bohemian and more local neighbourhood of Gracia is only a short commute from the city, yet you feel like you are in a different town. I would recommend exploring this much-loved area and experiencing the authenticity of Spain.
Eat some of the best tapas by moving at your own pace in the small, windy streets. My favourite restaurants are La Pepita, Barravas and Polleria Fontana. Walk around and choose a place you would like to try yourself. That’s the best thing about exploring.
For more detailed information about Barcelona, read my previous article here