a short & sweet guide to barcelona


Okay, so the title doesn’t lie on this one. This guide is going to be literally short and literally sweet (we kind of / sort of ate a lot of chocolate and pastries this week, so we have some unhealthy suggestions, it was my birthday week, after all).


I touched on the food scene in Barcelona in yesterday’s post, but I’m going to repeat those restaurants here, too, just in case someone doesn’t feel like reading that more general update of how much we loved it there (no biggy!). I’m going to group things into things to do and see, where to eat dinner, and where to drink coffee (& sweets).


I should also throw in here that Barcelona has a ton of shopping, I mean a ton. There were probably seven H&Ms and at least twice as many Mangos just in the city centre. There are boutiques that carry ethical lines here and there, but it’s for sure not what makes up the bulk of the city and they tend not to be in any of the major areas, but on less heavily trafficked side streets. We don’t really shop as a rule, unless we have a literal need to replace an item or have come to realize something we brought along for this trip we’re just not wearing ever because it A. fits funny somehow B. isn’t comfortable or C. got damaged (if something gets super stained and it can’t be washed out, we aren’t going to keep wearing it until it can be. I’ve learned pretty quickly that Porter and sauce is not a great mix, and to hold gelatos away from me if I plan on eating ice-cream on the go). Items in those categories we still keep in our luggage, but have marked as give-away or donate items for when we get home.


But back to the guide! Okay, here we go…


Where to Eat Dinner


1. El Japones – Mentioned this in our last post but it’s all Asian-infused tapas, quick service, and very original Spanish-flair sushi rolls. Porter begged me to go back again, but we try really hard to enforce a no repeat policy (we tend to only be in one place for four or five nights and it feels silly to go somewhere with an amazing food scene and miss out on potentially great places just to return to one you know you already love), but without a doubt this is where we would want to go our first night back in Barcelona and take all our friends to.


2. Gut – Incredible boutique, date-night atmosphere without being stuffy, and so many amazing vegetarian and gf options. Port got the chicken wok I got the veggie stir fry. Usually I won’t finish everything on my plate and Porter will, but there were some hurt feelings that night because it was so good that I didn’t let him try any…worth it.


3. Mordisco – Again, mentioned this in our last post, but it’s worth going just for the vegan tacos. They tasted so much like legitimate tacos that I called the waitress over just to make doubly sure that I wasn’t eating meat. She insisted it was tofu, but never in my life have I had tofu that is so crunchy, sweet, and doesn’t have that kind of mushy-blah flavor for at least one millisecond at some point. Porter inhaled the crunchy grilled avocado starter. Kudos, Mordisco.


4. Bar Lobo – Another Group Tragaluz restaurant that is absolutely phenomenal and so so aesthetic. You won’t go to any restaurant in this group that doesn’t have an incredible layout / decor / inventive menu / overdelivers on everything. We only went to a handful of their fourteen but their consistency never let up even a smudge.


5. This one’s a tie between Surf House & Agua – both are down by the beach so give you a completely different feel for Barcelona and both are phenomenal. If you have time, don’t skip either, or mix in a  brunch!


Where to Drink Coffee (& Eat Sweets)


1.Chok – we received so many DMs on Instagram saying this was an absolute can’t miss and I’m so glad we went! It’s more or less a pastry-style donuts specialty cafe with great coffee, cronuts, and all kinds of other sweets. They even had vegan and gluten free options, and the flavors were crazy and so much lighter than you’d expect (I’m not a huge fan of donuts, but even I would go back for the  raspberry dark chocolate cronuts here).


2. Flax & Kale – Fresh-pressed organic juices, gorgeous natural light, amazing brunch. GO.t


3. Nomad Coffee – will not disappoint on depth of flavor and just overall goodness. We’re slowly becoming intensely snobby about coffee, which isn’t something we’re proud of (I think just always having too seek out a good spot at the risk of not liking it and knowing it’s going to color the start of your day) but we both LOVED this place.


4. Slow Mov – Amazing, high quality French coffee. Porter didn’t say it was better than Dunkin’ Donuts out loud, but he said it with his eyes (*he’ll claim this isn’t true).


Things to Do & See


1.Walk Along the Arc de Triomf – This was easily my favorite way to start the day or spend late afternoon. I couldn’t get over how beautiful / different Barcelona was in that it has a palm tree lined pedestrian walk leading down to its Arc de Triomphe. We badly wanted to photograph here but made the oversight until waiting for a weekend morning, when it was absolutely swamped. Probably my only regret during our time there. We’ll get there next time at dawn..


2. Go to Park Guell for Sunset – Don’t pay the fee as you’ll have to wait for half-hour segmented entry times and just opt to wander through the park, which honestly feels like a Spanish rainforest, and head up a million steps to the craziest views of the city. You don’t realize how mismatched and diverse sections of Barcelona are until you’re seeing it from above…it’s like five different phases of a city’s history all laid out in one.


3. Go to El Born & Las Ramblas – Both of these areas have that Old Town vibe and tend not to have so many fast fashion chains or food chains. This is where Barcelona feels nothing like a modern, American city, and more like a Spanish Firenze. These were also the areas where we had the most success strolling around to find random coffee and tapas stops (the Passeig de Gracia was just a bit too touristy for daytime food / drink stops for us).


4. See Barcelona Cathedral At Dawn – This is what our photos above are from and it was such a beautiful way to begin our time in Barcelona (this was the first morning we arrived). We woke up early, but not too early (sunrise wasn’t until past 8), got coffees, and walked through the city until we arrived at that little street. I love when my first impression of a city is in soft light, especially with statement architecture like this church….it just makes things a little more dreamlike.


5. Just Wander – Barcelona isn’t a city that requires you to have a huge checklist. Have a few things you want to see, and then just wander. I felt a whole lot more like we were experiencing the authentic city getting lost in different sections than the tour groups jumping from one modernist building to the next. This is all well and good if you’re into that sort of thing, but don’t stuff your time here with so much to do and see that you can’t just float around and find sections that speak to you. This method doesn’t work in all cities, but because it’s super walkable, it works in Barcelona.


We’re in Majorca now (leaving for Morocco in just a few days!) and are working on putting together a city guide that has better visuals (the kind where everywhere we suggest has photos of what we’re talking about so you don’t have to be clicking through the links to see what’s up). I probably should’ve done this for Barcelona, but sometimes you just gotta leave the camera behind because it’s heavy and your husband knows you will only carry it for a few blocks before asking if he would mind taking it, and (because he’s nice) he will, but he won’t be happy about it.


Hope you enjoy the pics!




Anna Lisa

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