Best of Barcelona

Over the past two years Las Chicas have enjoyed the expat life and the chance to call Barcelona home. Along with many trips outside Barcelona, we have come to know and love the Barcelona in guide books and beyond.

Here are some of our favorites.

The Mediterranean Sea provides endless amounts of enjoyment and refreshment.

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Some of the most wonderful times for Las Chicas are visiting the sea on our bikes.

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IMG_3586 Gehry Fish Sculpture

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Another short bike ride from home, or a short hike from school, is Collserola Park.

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View of Barcelona from the Carretera de les Aigües, Collserola Park

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Spring Opuntia blooms, commonly referred to as Prickly Pear cactus

It’s great to retreat to the hills of Collserola,

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to hike,

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walk,

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run,

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bike,

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or explore via strider,

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and at certain times of year, enjoy the wild asparagus and plums in the park.

Another way we enjoy the great outdoors is admiring the modernist architecture across the city. We visit the famous works of Antonio Gaudi, like Sagrada Familia,

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Sagrada Familia, Nativity Entrance

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Entrance dedicated to the Passion of Christ

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Ceiling in the sanctuary

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Sagrada Familia on fire with color

and Gaudi’s Park Guell. During one of our visits to the park, we discover the stairs to the left of the main entrance, providing free access to the hills above the park for morning walks.

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Park Guell_gecko fountain

We visit Casa Batlló in early summer,

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Casa Batlló roof, spine of the dragon

and regularly visit the less well-known Gaudi building, Casa Vincens in our neighborhood of Gracia.

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Other favorite Modernista buildings include Hospital Sant Pau,

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and the Palau de Música, both designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner

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Barcelona is also a city full of art. Las Chicas especially love the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya,

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One of our favorite paintings on display at the museum.

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Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem by Ramon Casas

We enjoy the light show at the magic fountains of Montjuic with a friend is visiting from the states.

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Formal art gives way to great street art everywhere.

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While wandering around we work up an appetite and visit Barcelona cafes and bars to sample Catalan cuisine.

Tapas are a must for anyone spending time in Barcelona. The tortilla (it’s like a mix of an omelette and a quiche), jamon iberico and patatas bravas (potatoes with sauce, not pictured) are found on most any menu.

Tapas at La Xampanyet

Everyone has their favorite spots, and we have a few.

Blai 9 in Poble Sec provides a wide range of choices you can select from on top of the bar. Often crowded, there is also plenty of standing room.

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le cinquante huit, or 58, on Rambla Poble Nou has a great mix of traditional and contemporary tapas.

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Cuitat Comtal (Cuidad Comdal) is a more traditional tapas restaurant with the exception of it being open most of the day and evening. It’s a great place to take visitors, often not accustomed to the later dining times.

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The back room of Cuitat Comtal 

The markets in Barcelona are exceptional. Some well-known markets include La Boquería and Santa Caterina markets.

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Las Chicas’ “go to” markets are in Gracia. Mary regularly visits favorite vendors at the Mercat de l’Abaceria, like the chicken lady with purple hair, the nut ladies and the bread ladies at Sant Tirs bakery. On the way home from the train, Lisa often stops at the Libertat market to pick up dates, ginger and have Catalan lessons from La Granja’s mother/daughter team.

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We also discover the delicious EatWith events.

We participate in Marta’s Famous Paella Cooking Class,

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and enjoy an authentic 7-course Chinese meal with friends to celebrate Thanksgiving.

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Las Chicas make our home in the neighborhood of Gracia. To us, Gracia is the heart of Barcelona, and we live in the center of Gracia on a street the relocation agent referred to as “lively.” We live between two squares, a block in each direction, and soon come to understand how these gathering places are where life takes place in Gracia.

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Plaza Virreina

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Sant Joan Church in Plaza Virreina

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Across the way our neighbors are often kind enough to decorate for us.

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There are at least 5 bakeries within a few blocks of our apartment. Mary’s favorite is the bakery just out the front door and across the street, which is more like a sidewalk’s distance away.

In the evenings we take a stroll to one of the gelato shops around the corner.

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Gracia also has several stations, estacios or estaciones, for Bicing, the bike share. Always convenient. Usually empty at peak times.

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Another highlight of the Gracia neighborhood is Festa Mayor de Gracia. Every August like clockwork, this festival takes over the entire neighborhood for what has been called the biggest block party in Europe. Different streets come together and create themed displays for everyone in the city to enjoy. Always spectacular.  The Festa begins around August 12, and continues for about 10 days. During the Festa, Gracia never sleeps, and I mean never.

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Celebrations and festivals are happening all the time in Barcelona.

In January, streets are closed in the Sant Antoni neighborhood for the Sant Antoni Tres Tombs festival. Tombs translates to mean “tours”, and in this case, the parade makes it way around the neighborhood 3 times.

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One of the very special parts of the parade are the animal blessings with the priest.

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Another great celebration is the Calçotada. Events happen all over the city and countryside during the months of February and March. Fires are stoked, calçots are grilled and served with romesco sauce, along with plenty of wine and other fixings. Calçotadas are a great excuse to eat, drink and enjoy the casual atmosphere.

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Mary ready to dig in:

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The streets of l’Eixample come alive with the Fira Modernista de Barcelona happening in June. Las Chicas have a blast joining the Modernista Bike Ride as part of the celebrations,

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including a visit to the Museu del Modernisme Català (Museum of Catalan Art Nouveau).

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At the end of the ride we see unique activities like the ferris wheel made of toilet seats,

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and the gigantes on parade.

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We develop new friendships and enjoy the rich cultural diversity in Barcelona. The city fills us up with great new experiences while slowly improving our ability to speak Spanish and begin to understand more about Catalan culture.

En route from a bike ride one day, we make our way down Verdi to our apartment by this bodega we visited on our first trip to Barcelona. But on this particular day, something new appears. We see this long hose attached to a truck winding its way into the bodega. It’s time to fill the wine barrels.

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Perhaps one of our favorite parts of Barcelona is the unending supply of surprises each day. Little surprises.

At the end of our time in Barcelona, we visit another ancient gem hidden inside the Catalan Excursionist Club building.

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The remains of Templo Augusto remind us that the  city of Barcelona was born in the time of Caesar Augustus. Via Augusta, the original Roman road,  is still a main thoroughfare in the city.

Las Chicas feel lucky to experience daily life and surprises in this amazing city!

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

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