by Lynn Kim Do

Barcelona Travel Guide

Barca, barca. You couldn’t leave me unscathed, could you? Oh, how you lit a deep fire in the pit of my soul. My feet are still dancing underneath me…even thousands and thousands of miles away from you. My heart is still humming tunes from open patios. My stomach is hungry for manchego cheese and crema Catalana. My throat is thirsty for Cava and Aperol Spritz. And my spirit? My spirit is still roaming the streets and sunbathing on the sand. In fact, she’s hanging out on the steps of MACMA watching boys flip in their skateboards. She’s smiling at the young boys kissing on girls and kissing on boys. She’s on her third oat latte of the day thinking, “How do they make it just right, every fucking time?” In the evening, she’s yelling at bartenders for more shots. She’s losing her phone again. She’s chatting the table next to her and pouring cava in their cup. She’s linked arm in arm with her best friend stumbling on the cobblestone as her shoes cut into her feet. She can’t feel it anyway. She’s standing on top of two century old brilliance admiring the curvature and mosaic tiles of a genius before her. The sun is setting behind hills and homes. Burning into her brain the tones of subdued orange and blues. She letting out a sigh.

Meanwhile, my physical body is currently in New York City and my mind is regrettably catching up.

This recent trip was the right concoction of spontaneity, discovery, ciesta, and, of course, fiesta. I am not only recharged but I’m filled with this brand new energy. I am clearer. I am breathing clearer. I am new. Like my old self was pitted and replaced with a new seed. And I am growing. Barcelona was the fertilizer, the rainwater, the sun, and the music. Who knew? I certainly wasn’t prepared, but how could one ever? Thank you, Barcelona, for being the catalyst of change that have been stirring in my bones and creating a space of creative flourishment. 

Are you heading to Barcelona, soon? I got you. Here are some tips for a magical time in this beautiful city.

To Do:

Casa Vicens
The newest Gaudi exhibit to open and my favorite. This house was his first commissioned work. Every single detail in this house is young brilliance at its finest. Be prepared to be in awe at every corner, door, turn, pretty much the whole time.

Beach Day
Cause duh.

Not just the art museum itself but the area around it is very cool to explore. There is a huge skateboarding culture and vintage shopping scene around the museum, too.

Sagrada Familia
This is a must. Gaudi had a vision, a big one, and he worked on it until his passing, and yet in 2018 it still isn't finished. It's a remarkable structure and house of worship. It's currently estimated to be completed in 2030 but trust me, GO!

La Rambla
All the tourists walk this street. All the locals, too. La Rambla is tree-lined pedestrian mall with shoppes that you don't often get to see in America, like Oysho which quickly became one of my favorites stores to buy swimwear and casual wear.

Park Guell
It's worth a visit but wasn't my favorite trip (but maybe it was because I was unprepared for the tickets and lines.) So my advice is to get tickets a day in advance and pack a nice sandwich and snacks for a cute picnic inside the park. I can still remember the music that serenaded us while we ate in the park. Ah, so magical.

Picasso Museum
If you're a huge fan and want to see how he started, his early work, and to get a deeper understanding, I suggest going to this museum. But don't expect to see any of his later works or well known ones.

La Boqueria Market
Super touristy and don't expect to pay local prices BUT it really is still very affordable and an experience on it's own. Get to experience all of Barcelona in one place. Come hungry is all I have to say.

To Eat & Drink:

La Alcoba Azul
One of the most pleasant surprises and favorite meals in Barcelona. This was our first dinner and we were seriously so spoiled because any tapas we had after this mail couldn't even compare to our experience here.

El Xampanyet
Well, except this one. This is a MUST but expect a long wait. It's a typical old school vibe with small tables and lots of energy. Don't forget to get a whole bottle of cava with your meal.

Some of the best Mexican food I've had. Anywhere. Period. Get dessert, trust me!

La Flauta
Recommended by a local and was where I had Crema Catalana for the first time. Lunch is very reasonable and has great 3 course sets. Also....endless complimentary wine and bread. Yes, you heard me right!

I didn't get to go to this restaurant named one of the Top 10 in the world, which is a huge regret of mine so I wanted to include it anyway because I think you should try to go! Make sure you try to make a reservation at least a month in advance instead of one weeks ahead which is what I tried to do. FAIL!

El Nacional
A high end food market. It's an easy and picturesque place to grab a quick drink or a casual sit down meal without sacrificing aesthetics. Also, anyone can find something for them here because of the diversity in cuisine. Think Chelsea Market...but prettier. And Spanish.

Order This:
Manchego Cheese
Cold Cured Meats like Ham and Salami
Aperol Spritz
Pa amb Tomàquet
Crema Catalana
Patatas Brava
Fried Breaded Squid or Calamari (if you're less brave)

To Know:

Currency: Barcelona functions on Euros. 1 US dollar is approximately 1.17 euros. Bring some cash but credit cards with chips function very well and most places accept credit. When they ask you after you swipe to charge euros or US dollars, always choose euros because the bank will just use the day's exchange rate and not a predetermined exchange rate.

Outlet: Bring a converter. Spain's electric plug has two round pins. I have this one which i've used in Asia and Europe.

Tip Culture: Tipping at restaurants aren't expected but feel free to do so if you feel that the service was exceptional.

Pick Pocketing: Please beware of pick pocketers and be super conscious of your phone and bag at all times. I got my phone stolen right out of my zipped up crossbody bag.

Nap Time: Barcelona shuts down in the middle of the day much like the rest of Europe but Barcelona definitely vibes on the more chill side than the rest of Europe. There will be restaurants open of course during the hours of like 3 - 7pm but I would double check restaurant hours before I trek out somewhere. Also, people don't eat dinner until at least 8pm. That's the norm.

Jet Lag: 6 hour ahead of New York City (EST) so yes, jet lag was very real!