5 Top Catalan Things to Do: Barcelona


The best food in Spain is paella, and the best place to learn how to make it is Marta’s Famous Paella Cooking Class. Las Chicas sign up to learn and eat when our fabulous friend Fran visited us in March. Marta shares her secret recipe for perfect paella, explains the process and ingredients, then puts us to work. Chopping, slicing, dicing, making the base of sofrito (pepper, onion, garlic) and sauteing assorted ingredients in olive oil spiced with a smoky paprika.

PaellaIngred sml

Other ingredients include fish, shell fish, pork, chicken, and fish stock, and rice. Marta takes over the cooking on her terrace that Tetuan Plaza and the Torre Aigues. We see a beautiful Barcelona sunset. We meet international guests including our first Finnish friend. Time to eat and drink wine!



The best way to see the classics of Modernisme (same as the French “art nouveau”) architecture is on foot. For those who like to run rather than walk, 360 Running Barcelona offers a great tour in English of famous modernisme buildings, and it’s all downhill!  360 Running Barcelona offers tours of other parts of the city as well–in English, Spanish, and Catalan. Along Passeig Sant Joan, we visit the courtyard of  Palau Macaya, with its Islamic stylings.  Here, we also see interactive displays about the history of this building and the nearby Eixample neighborhood.


tiles sml


Of course, we also run past Sagrada Familia and the “block of discord” on Passeig de Gracia.


Visiting chica Fran with Barcelona chica Mary.


Catalans celebrate spring early with the calçot harvest. These green onions, that have been specially treated with extra dirt piles around their stalks to make them tender, are grilled to black, and wrapped in newspapers.  The rest of the calçotada buffet includes grilled sausages (botifarra) or other meat, grilled bread with tomato (pan tomate), and much wine and beer.  Plazas and restaurants have calçotadas starting in February, but this year, we head to our friends’ house for their party. We peel the blackened skin from the calçots, then dip them into Romesco sauce from the traditional terracotta plate. Wine is spilled and a Frisbee is lost, a great Sunday afternoon.


Grillmaster Travis is ready to feast on calçots dipped in Romesco sauce.


Lisa helps Hugh drink wine


Calçots on the grill at Plaça Vireina in Las Chicas’ neighborhood. 


Catalans love their open spaces and Collserola Park is a massive green area on the northern edge of the city. Take a funicular from Peu Funiclar station and get off at Carretera de les Aigues–“road of the fountains.” It’s a wide dirt road on the edge of the hill with magnificent views of the city and the Mediterranean Sea beyond.  Strollers, hikers and their poles, dogs, runners, cyclists share the road. Mary even saw wild boars on the Carretera during an early morning run. Drinking fountains provide refreshment at various points along the way. Almost every weekend we’re in the city, Las Chicas bike and walk along this popular route.   Out and back is the easiest way to enjoy the park, if you want to make a loop, be prepared to climb up  hills to the highest parts of the park. Another option is to take the local commuter train to Baixador de Vallvidrera and get a trail map from the Collserola Park Visitor Center. On this side of the park, you’ll be in the forest until you climb a trail that offers views of Montserrat and even the Pyrenees on a clear day.



View from Carretera de les Aigues: blooming prickly pear cactus, city, sea.

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Downhillers like the steep trails.


Wild boars, “jabilies” in Catalan, graze along the Carretera.


View of Monsterrat from Collserola Park ridge.


This fantastic museum houses displays the great artists of Catalunya including works by Joan Miro, Fortuny, Casas, and Picasso (who isn’t really Catalan, but still). The museum also displays art from ancient to modern times; and you can see furniture designed by architect Antonio Gaudi.


Mural by Joan Miró.


Painting by Ramon Casas.

If you time your visit just right, you can see the “Magic Fountains of Montjuic” along the sidewalks, escalators, and plazas that lead to the museum. Watch the fountains  change colors and “dance” to classical, country, and rock and roll, with a backdrop of the city lights. Not Catalan per se, but surprisingly enjoyable.




Bonus Roman Temple to Visit:


Built when Barcleona was called Barcino, the Roman trading town, the ruins of this temple are somewhat hidden in the narrow passageways of El Born. The people of Barcino worshiped Augustus Caesar here. You can find signs to direct you to this Roman site in Placa de Sant Jaume. It’s part of the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya building; in fact, these ruins were discovered during construction of this building.



Roman ruin excavations continue today, along the street named Sots Tinent Navarro. In this area, old Roman walls are visible in the lower sections of Mideval churches and other buildings. The photo below shows male archeologists studying ancient walls, “hmmm, this looks like the corner of the room,” while female archeologists dig, sift, and sweat.


© 2015 by Lisa Howells and Mary Reynolds. All rights reserved.


One response to “5 Top Catalan Things to Do: Barcelona

  1. Wow!! Looks like much fun and many things to see and do!! Thanks for all the wonderful pics and vicarious fun.

    Sally G

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