The Best of Barcelona

Oh, Barcelona, you confusing little minx you. You’ve got everything going for you…the beach, Gaudí, incredible seafood and and an equally great night life. You’ve also got hordes and hordes and hordes of tourists. And tourist menus. And employees looking to take advantage of tourists.

Though I am a traveler, I can’t stand tourists. Ok, let me rephrase that. I love fellow travelers and think it’s amazing whenever anyone decides to venture out, but I get extremely overwhelmed in crowds and grumpy when the streets are flooded with people taking pictures and staring at maps. Times Square is my personal hell and sometimes the streets of Barcelona seem to be mini-versions of that hell. What a positive way to start off a post, eh?

Well, despite the hellish bits, I can’t say I’ve ever not enjoyed myself in Barcelona. I hopped up in 2012 with a wonderful travel companion and we had a blast eating our way through the city, wandering the quieter neighborhoods and causing trouble after-hours. I knew that Barcelona would never be my favorite city in Spain, nor top 5, but it was fun and lively and an enjoyable escape. An escape I probably wouldn’t jump to take again.

When my mom suggested renting a flat in the city for New Year’s after our whirlwind central Europe trip, I can’t say I was thrilled. I had my sights set on Istanbul or Amsterdam…something more exotic than the much-exploited Barcelona. After some thought, I realized it would be nice to introduce my dad and brother to the side of the city I’d seen, and I agreed to give it another shot.

As always, I was surprised by how much different my experience was this time. It was so lovely to feel the sun warm my bones after a month in Germany and Switzerland, and even better to see the wonder in my father’s eyes as he got to know the second Spanish city he’s ever visited. Sure, there were perhaps even more toursits than there had been on my first visit, but my family’s excitement for the jewels of the city helped me forget the less thrilling parts.




We took a different approach this time around. With a whole flat in the beautiful Gracia neighborhood we got to really live the city, feeling comfortable and at ease with plenty of time to see everything.

We were right down the street from the Gaudí houses, which made for mind-blowing eye candy on each venture out of the house. I tried to take a cue from my dad’s childlike curiosity and focus on the special details of Barcelona instead of acting like a snobby Madrileña with my nose turned up at the very idea of the city.

I was reminded once again how important attitude is in travel as my experience drastically changed once I talked myself out of the scowl that crept up at the sight of the crowds at the Sagrada Familia. The unfinished building is a true wonder and breathtakingly stunning; a couple hundred chattering foreigners should never ruin that experience. Every so often I would catch glimpses of my dad and brother in different parts of the church, passing headphones back and forth as Danny DJ’d the tour with Bach symphonies. They are such a special pair and knew just how to create the most powerful sensory experience for themselves. I realized that I had the power to tune them out and enjoy the jaw-droppingness of it all instead of getting annoyed by the groups pushing their way through, so I did just that.

My family was the perfect group to spend a week with in Barcelona. We ate Spanish breakfasts every morning, complete with tostadas and rich café con leche, complemented by macarons that my mom picked up from the French pastry shop next door.  On New Year’s Eve my dad and I woke up bright and early to pick up the fixings for a feast at La Boqueria market: clams from Galicia, fresh parsley, garlic and lemon, the creamiest jamón de bellota and plenty of cheese. I loved walking down Las Ramblas without a sign of the regular crowds, just locals on their way to work and abuelas picking up the family’s daily bread. I remember thinking that if only Barcelona were like this every day, I just might fall in love.



That night my mom worked on a salad as my dad prepared his linguini with clam sauce with all our fresh ingredients, my brother played his guitar and sang and I sipped champagne while passing the jamón and olives around for everyone. We ate 12 grapes as Barcelona erupted into fireworks and happy shrieks and felt so lucky to be in such a vibrant city to kick off 2014.

Living Barcelona like a local showed us a whole new side to the city, and I’d love to go back and try life outside of the center to get an even more authentic taste.

I may not be in love with you yet, Barcelona, but you’ve certainly piqued my interest.

20 Comments on “The Best of Barcelona

  1. My favorite part of this, aside from your always beautiful photos, was when you spoke about being able “to see the wonder in my father’s eyes.” I didn’t have a great experience with Barcelona my first time around, but maybe Madrid and Granada spoiled me. Sometimes taking a step back and looking upon new cities and places with as a new traveler is what’s needed. I’m hoping that both my mom and dad will be able to visit while I’m teaching in Spain next year. My mom visited when I studied abroad, and it was great seeing the wonder and excitement on her face. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do the same with my dad, especially since I don’t think he’s ever been outside of the US.

    Oh, and I’m really looking forward to giving Barcelona another shot too!

    • Thanks, Mike! I hope your parents make it over here too. It’s really a special thing to share. x

  2. Pingback: Good Eats: Perfecting Paella in Barcelona | Nowhere To Go But Everywhere

  3. Hmmm maybe just maybe I need to give Barcelona another chance. While it has some beautiful sites, it has never been one of my favorites. Perhaps your right, seeing it through someone else’s eyes is the key. Beautiful photos. :o)
    p.s. We are in the midst of Spring tourist hell season here in NYC, bet you miss that- especially during the a.m. commute. lol!

    • Hahaha oh god, my favorite way to avoid that is to head to the Bronx. A day at the botanical gardens with a meal on Arthur ave is such a breath of fresh air during tourist season!

  4. Great photos, they make me nostalgic for Barca! I was only there for a week last August, but I was injured and had a hard time walking around so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’m sure I would now. My interest was peaked as well…guess we both have an excuse to go back 🙂

    • Thanks! Yeah, I think it’s definitely worth another shot…being so convenient and all!

  5. This is exactly how I felt about Barcelona! I think the fact that we live in a city that has so few tourists in any other area besides Sol, Opera, & Retiro has spoiled us. I felt it again in Rome while touring the Vatican, Forum, & Colosseum. I had to keep remind myself that the reason why there were so many tourists is because of the awesomeness of what I was seeing myself. It’s hard not to become a snobby traveler, isn’t it? 😉

    • Agreeeeeed! For some reason, even Rome didn’t seem as touristy as Barcelona to me. Maybe the Romans do it in a classier way. Who knows. Madrid definitely spoils us 🙂

  6. I have also been blogging about Barcelona this week, trying to pinpoint just how I feel about the city. It is indeed a minx! The tourists are indeed an icky low point, and they drive me nuts. (Even though I´m also a guiri…but I don´t think I´m the bumbling tourist like an oblivious guy I saw that hit fellow metro passengers in the head with his souvenir-stuffed bag!)

    I loved what you said about your brother and father choosing the Bach sypmonies and how you saw throught them that you could create your own soundtrack. Great point!

    • Haha oh my gosh, that metro guy is the epitome of Barcelona. I’d really like to go back and truly see it through the eyes of a local. Fingers crossed!

  7. I feel the same exact way about Barcelona and its sea of tourists. When I was in Prague over Semana Santa, I felt incredibly overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the hoards of tourists. I tried not to let it ruin my time there, but it was really hard to shut out completely! You are right, attitude is everything. If I ever go back to Barcelona, I’ll try to live more like a local and find my own ways to tune out the phoniness like you and your family did. Until then, I’ll be thanking my lucky stars that we live in Madrid instead 😉

    • And I felt the same way about Prague. I was there in winter, so maybe it was better, but the crowds simply take away from the charm. Places like these always make me so grateful to come home to cozy Madrid 🙂

  8. I haven’t been to Barcelona yet, but it’s nice to read a real (ie. not a tourist book sounding) account of it. It helps me to temper my expectations (yes, I’ve built it up, lol). Also, your photos are gorgeous!

    • Thanks so much, Estrella! I’d love to know your opinion when you go! xx

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