By Regina Winkle-Bryan
You’ve read the guide books and know that you simply must see La Sagrada Familia, Gaudí’s still unfinished sand castle-looking building, and wander aimlessly around the baffling lanes of the Gothic Quarter. You know La Rambla is the hub of ‘touristville’ Barcelona, but worth a stroll nonetheless. For a more local and unconventional experience in the city, let my 72-hour guide fill in some blanks in your itinerary. Here we go…
*Check into an apartment. The Scoopettes like www.ainb.net for apartments in the city center. Booking an apartment instead of a hotel has become popular lately because it ends up being about the same price and you get a bit more (usually). Flats make for a smart choice for families, friends, or those who want to have their coffee and toast half naked (you could also do this at a hotel, though only if they have room service).
*Sleep? You’re beat. You have jet lag. All you want to do is go to bed because you just spent 18 hours flying across the USA and Europe (or from some other far-off destination) in the middle seat. One of your legs is cramped. DON’T GO TO BED! We all know traveler’s sin #1 is falling into a deep, needed sleep upon arrival…stay strong.
Vanquish jet lag aboard the Barcelona Bus Turístic during a spin around the city. Super touristy? Yeah, but you don’t have to walk or negotiate the metro. All you have to do is sit on the bus and get an easy tour, in your language, of the metropolis. This is also an excellent way to get your bearings in the city for further exploration tomorrow.
You can get a ticket on the bus or at the tourism office. There are two routes which last two hours each, and a third, shorter route which lasts 40 minutes. A one-day ticket is €26 for adults and €15 for kids. You can get on and off the bus as much as you want, but my suggestion is to just stay on it and enjoy the views. www.barcelonabusturistic.cat
*Drink up! You’re still awake but fading, so you decide to spark your second-wind with an espresso strong enough to strip paint at Café del Born.
-Plaça Comercial, 10, El Born
*Skip it. Sure, you could go to the Picasso Museum, which is right around the corner from Café del Born. Buuuuuut, you know it’s overrated and the lines are long so you decide to bag it and alternatively walk over to Santa Maria del Mar Church, one of the prettiest religious buildings in town. The book Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones is based on this impressive structure. Go in, take a look around. Locals like to get married here, so if you’re lucky you might see a wedding party coming out of the mammoth entranceway, flower petals hovering in the air.
*Hit the sack early, but not before dinner. Take your taste buds on a tour through Mediterranean Spain at Somorrostro in La Barceloneta. Here you’ll find a creative kitchen and extensive wine list, as well as some organic offerings. Somorrostro is a small restaurant, so make a reservation on the weekends. About €30 a person.
-C/ Sant Carles 11, Barceloneta
*Rise and shine. You’re up early and feeling refreshed! If you’re in an apartment, now is the naked-toast-coffee time. If not, have breakfast at Café Laie in downtown.
-C/ Pau Claris 85, Downtown
*Set out. Today is the day to see one of your ‘biggies’, whether that be La Sagrada Familia or Park Güell. Personally, I’d see La Sagrada Familia from the outside and the park from the inside. Or do both if you have the time and the money. Note that from October 2013 onwards you will have to pay to get into Park Güell.
* I’m famished! Avoid the tourist traps around Park Güell and Sagrada Familia and instead have lunch at Monvínic, the city’s finest wine bar. Don’t expect a normal menu for lunch. The day’s special is projected on a wall near your table with slow food dishes. Hundreds of wines to choose from in a space that exudes peace and professionalism.
-C/ Diputació 249, Eixample
*Learn some factoids to impress your friends with. Take a guided tour of the Gothic Quarter with Juan J. Pardo Eimil who heads Juan Ciempies Turisme Cultural. His personalized tours are affordable and will let you see Barcelona’s old town as it was hundreds of years ago. No, he does not carry a little red flag around and talk to you with a megaphone. This is a low-key tour that feels like a stroll with a really informed friend.
See the full review of his tour here: TOUR
*How much? Spend some time shopping around El Born in its many boutiques. Don’t buy anything on La Rambla. El Raval also has some unique shops as does Gracia.
*Yum. Have dinner at Onofre near the Cathedral before crossing the street to La Palau de la Música for an evening concert. Palau de la Música is one of the city’s many architectural treasures, so be prepared to have your socks knocked off, big time!
-Onofre: C/ de les Magdalenes, 19, Gothic Quarter
-Palau de la Música: http://www.palaumusica.cat/en/
*Buenos días….Get up and pull on your apron on for a morning in the market and in the kitchen. You’re off to a Catalan culinary class with Joel from Papa Serra. You’ll have a lesson in where to get the choicest ingredients at the Boqueria Market and then head to the lab to cook and eat lunch. See our Scoop review of this experience here: COOK
*Pedal power. If the day is fine, rent a bike and zip on down to the beach. Lock up your cycle and spend a few hours on the shoreline, maybe taking a dip in the Mediterranean Sea. It’s not hard to forget that Barcelona is a seaside city due to all the off-sand attractions. From May to October it’s a privilege to be able to splash in the calm sea, an enormous urban pool. I prefer Bogatell beach and Mar Bella to La Barceloneta for swimming and sunbathing, although La Barceloneta is good for going to have a coffee or snack.
*Cava anyone? Have an after-beach snack at El Filferro in La Barceloneta. Their terrace for drinks is especially leafy and they cook up simple tapas at reasonable prices.
-C/Sant Carles 29, La Barceloneta
*Take a nap……you might need it.
*Party animal. Head out for a Spanish dinner at 10pm. Yes, 10pm. Nibble tapas at D.O. Restaurant in Gracia, one of the metropolis’ liveliest neighborhoods. D.O. also carries numerous Spanish and Catalan wines by the bottle and glass.
-C/Verdi 36, Gracia
*Good thing you’re not driving….Hop from bar to bar like the Spanish do, having one drink in each venue. Gracia offers superb bar-hopping, or take a metro down to the Gothic Quarter and check out l’Ascensor (C/ Bellafila 3, Gothic), Milk (C/Banys Vell 6, Gothic), and Ginger (C/ Palma de Sant Just 1, Gothic). If you’re still up at 2am, search out one of the city’s many night clubs and dance ‘til dawn.
*Have you been to Barcelona? What would you add to my 72-hour list?