I'm back from a delightful week in Barcelona, already missing the easy warmth of the people, the amazing food, and the time to simply meander around admiring the beautiful architecture.
And this is the perfect city for meandering.
Although we did our fair share of sightseeing I am glad we did not over-schedule our days, opting instead for slow afternoons by the pool and at the beach, siesta, shopping, and the time to linger over a meal with the people I love. We were able to experience a beautiful city, but more importantly, one another.
Below I'm sharing what I packed, the things we did (and what I wore), and where we ate. I'd love to hear your Barcelona favorites—I know we will be back.
- Dominique Paye, Founder
What I Packed
Field Trip reversible flutter sleeve in black + Tibi skort and sandals to watch flamenco
Here's the Cliff's Notes version of the clothing I packed (I included specific outfits each day in the itinerary section). When I pack, I typically choose a navy base or a black base. It makes it easier to economize on shoes and accessories. This trip, I focused on black. I also try to bring items that can be worn twice or in more than one way. I love options, just not overpacking.
I actually wore everything I brought. The only thing I wished I'd packed was another lightweight dress for the hot days (I purchased one instead) and my own hairdryer as the hotel version required you to continuously hold down a button to operate it. :/
- Field Trip white flutter sleeve
- Field Trip black flutter sleeve (pictured)
- Field Trip white balloon sleeve
- Field Trip black half sleeve
- Field Trip white v neck (from 2021)
- Field Trip black v neck (from 2021)
- Kule's The Modern Long t-shirt in cream and navy (dark enough to read as black)
- A lightweight boyfriend cashmere sweater in gray (for the plane and hotel and any nights it turned chillier)
- Nili Lotan elevated joggers in black (similar to these)
- James Perse elevated joggers in black
- A pair of dark wash, straight-leg, mid-rise ankle jeans with a slightly frayed raw hem. The dark wash allows them to go casual or chic. I actually cut off the bottom hem years ago and let it naturally fray; it adds a touch of texture without looking too distressed.
- Xirena Draper Pant in black
- A Tibi jacquard skort with an asymmetric hemline (pictured).
- Leigh Ann Barnes' woven leather tote
- Emme Parsons Bari Sandals in black
- Tibi wrap sandals in black from a few years ago (pictured)
- Waterproof Birkenstock Madrid sandals
- I previously wrote about the travel accessories I brought and I'm happy to report that they all performed beautifully.
What We Did
A mosaic sculpture on the rooftop of Gaudí's Casa Milà
The main concert hall at the Palau de Música Catalana
La Sagrada Familia
Exploring the Barri Gótic
Fresh catch at La Boqueria Market
Meandering around the seaside town of Cubellas
IMMERSE YOURSELF IN MODERNISME
Barcelona is the center of Modernisme, so I'd highly encourage you to take advantage of experiencing the hub of such a unique movement. Seven works of Antoni Gaudí, as well as the Palau de la Música Catalana and Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau hospital by Lluís Domènech i Montaner are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. So that's pretty telling.
La Sagrada Familia is a must. Gaudí worked on this church for 43 years before his death...and construction continues on it today. It is an artistic feat and an architectural feat. The guided tour provided some nice additional insight, so it was worth spending extra money on, but I wish we'd spent time post-tour just sitting and being in the space. An advance reservation is a must.
Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera): there are a handful (maybe more) Modernism homes you can tour in Barcelona, but I figured my crew would only want to see one, so for this trip I chose Casa Milà by Antoni Gaudí, located four blocks down from the Block of Discord. It is absolutely worth seeing. From the undulating rooftop with its mosaic statues to an attic that feels like you are in the upside down hull of a ship, it was everything I didn't expect. I recommend getting a morning ticket time as the elevator wait grows as the day progresses. We arrived at 10:30 and didn't have a wait.
Block of Discord: Appropriately named, this single block contains three Modernista buildings designed by three different famous Spanish architects, creating a visual cacophony of sorts: the candy-colored Casa Batlló by Antoni Gaudí, the Moorish- and Gothic-inspired Casa Amatller by Josep Puig i Cadafalch, and the intricately-balconied Casa Lleó Morera by Lluís Domènech i Montaner. We did not tour any of these particular homes, but next time I would consider touring Casa Batlló—especially if we were traveling with kids. I am personally intrigued by the interiors of Casa Amatller, so that's what I'd tour if going solo.
Palau de la Música Catalana (the Palace of Catalan Music): a stunning Modernista concert hall designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner (who also designed one of the homes on the Block of Discord and the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau hospital). They offer tours of the building during the daytime, but as this is still a working concert hall, you can also experience the space as it was intended and get tickets for one of their many shows. Make sure your show is being held in the main hall (and not the petit one). As I wanted to see flamenco this trip, we booked tickets to the Gran Gala Flamenco show (more below).
Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau hospital: We had some time between brunch and our tour time at La Sagrada Familia, so on the suggestion of a friend, we walked to see this hospital. Calling it a hospital does it both service and an injustice. This is the most beautiful hospital I've ever seen, but it is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest Art Nouveau complex in the world. We didn't have time to tour it, but next time we are in Barcelona, I will. From there it was just a few blocks to La Sagrada Familia.
We did not get to the Park Güell, but we will next time.
Picasso lived in Barcelona from the ages of 14-23, so fittingly, the Picasso Museum is focused more on Picasso's earlier works. The museum is arranged by his stages in life and art and I found it interesting to see how his style and focus progressed. My favorites were the ceramics room, his dove paintings, and his 40-piece study of Velasquez's masterpiece Las Meninas. I thoroughly enjoyed the museum...and so did my kids who range in age from 9 to 18. I found it's smaller size to be the Goldilocks of digestibility—I got enough to satisfy me, without experiencing any Picasso overwhelm. In fact, I ended up remembering more of what I saw. I would recommend purchasing tickets online in advance and taking advantage of the free audioguide. They have a kids' version that our youngest enjoyed.
TAKE IN THE OLD CITY
The Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is the original Barcelona. It is where Barcelona was centered until the 1850s when it expanded past its ring of protective walls. It is the other end of the spectrum from Modernisme. Its winding narrow streets are worth exploring, and it is full of historic sights you can appreciate without going inside.
- Barcelona Cathedral
- Picasso frieze
- The Royal Palace
- Plaça de Sant Jaume and the nearby air bridge
- Columns from the Roman Temple of Augustus
- The Jewish Quarter (El Call).
WALK DOWN LA RAMBLAS
Starting at Plaça de Catalunya, we enjoyed a walk down La Ramblas, a wide pedestrian-friendly avenue of shops and restaurants. This isn't where I'd recommend doing any shopping (unless you are looking for cheap sunglasses and a Barcelona snow globe, which my kids were), but it is great for people watching and there are some beautiful buildings and interesting things worth seeing, including:
- A Roman necropolis
- La Boqueria Market: a market hall filled with stalls of fresh seafood, produce, candies, and restaurants. We pieced together a meal from multiple stalls, trying fresh fruit juices, grilled octopus, patatas, and cones filled with sliced hams and cheeses (my personal favorite). There are also a number of counter-service restaurants so you can linger and people watch. It's a fun scene.
- A Joan Miró mosaic located right in the middle of the walkway
- Palau Güell, a private home designed by Antonio Gaudí
Book tickets for the flamenco show at the Palau de Musica Catalana. Although not from this region, I wanted to see some real flamenco while we were in Barcelona. We booked tickets to the Gran Gala Flamenco show at the Palau de la Música Catalana (the Palace of Catalan Music), which has been running for 15 years. The show was fantastic—the dancers are true professionals and were accompanied by a varying combination of Spanish guitar, violin, and vocals. My three boys, aged 9-18, all enjoyed it. There are plenty of bars in town that offer up-close flamenco shows. From what I read, they are tourist traps that often require you to also purchase subpar food and drinks at above-par prices. I can't speak from experience, but I'd do some research before booking one of those.
Take a day out of the city. The last day, we visited the beach town of Cubellas. Our original plan had been to go to the popular beaches at Sitges. But my husband had been in Barcelona for the 1992 Olympics and Cubellas was the town where they had rented a house, so he wanted to revisit. It is just a couple of train stops further than Sitges and remarkably, those two extra stops weed out all of the other tourists. If you want to get out of Barcelona and really have to practice your Spanish, this is the quickest way to do it. The train station was located just a short walk from the hotel, and the ride was under an hour, so it was pretty effortless to get there and back. We walked around the town center, where we happily discovered Mallorqui sandwiches with sobrassada and cheese—almost like a grilled sandwich with minced chorizo. I could've eaten ten of them. We meandered around the town's narrow winding streets and then hung out at the beach for a couple of hours before training back to Barcelona. Many of the beaches in Spain are topless. Personally, in Cubellas it wasn't at any level where we felt uncomfortable or odd for our kids to see, but that will vary by the beach and by your personal comfort level.
Ride the metro back to the hotel. My husband believes that taking some sort of public transport at least once every trip should be a requirement of foreign travel. I have to admit, I get a real sense of achievement from figuring it out...and it makes you feel more like a local.
See a more residential part of town. One day we walked to the Gracia neighborhood to meet our friend's friend who lives there with her family. We chatted for a while with her family in their delightful back garden and then meandered around the streets and squares in the area. It was nice to see a more residential part of town and get some insight into how locals live.
Where We Ate (and Wished We Ate)
Fried sardines and white wine at Bar la Plata
Shrimp at Bar Cañete
Grilled octopus at Casa Rafols
Paella at O'Returno
Miso ramen with pork at Grasshopper
Churros and hot chocolate at Granja Viader
Bar Cañete: The best meal of the trip. We kept this to an adult-only dinner and ordered room service for the kids at the hotel. Not that kids wouldn't enjoy it, but it was the most elevated (and best) meal of the trip. Our waiter was lovely, the food was amazing, the ambience was lively and intimate, but you could still hear one another talk. So it's not surprising that Bar Cañete is not a secret. The corner booth we sat in had a signed wall by Gwyneth Paltrow and there are wine bottles lining the walls signed by other famous patrons (we sat close to the Leonardo di Caprio bottle). My husband jokingly offered to sign our bottle, and it is a testament to our delightful waiter that he was able to decline our offer with such good humor. Like I said, I was charmed by the easy warmth of the Catalan people. The next time I am in Barcelona, you can bet I will be back at Bar Cañete. I will note that we made reservations three months out. I'm not sure you need to plan that far in advance, but if you know you are going, I'd highly recommend you hop on their website and secure a spot. It was simple to make the reservation online and it's totally worth it. And the Pa Amp Tomàquet (bread with olive oil and tomatoes) here was the best we had all trip. Ensure this is on your itinerary.
Madre Taberna Moderna: A college friend of mine who lives in Paris (and always makes the effort to meet us when we are traveling in Europe) arrived with her daughter for a couple of days. The seven of us had an amazing tapas dinner here. I would highly recommend it. This was the second best meal we had in Barcelona. It is definitely a more elevated tapas experience, but there were options for more advanced palettes as well as things we could find for younger kids. We sampled more dishes than I can even remember, but the burrata was a standout. I recommend for menu, service, and ambiance.
Casa Rafols: A more upscale tapas restaurant in the Sant Pere neighborhood. This is where we ate our last evening in town. The ambience is lovely, the service warm and friendly, and they had pizza options that pleased our kids (who were tiring of traditional tapas at this point). And I was all about their grilled octopus, so everyone was happy. It is larger than most restaurants we saw, but still felt intimate, so it might be easier to secure a table for a larger group. I would still try to secure a reservation if you can. I recommend for menu variety (especially with kids), ambience, and larger groups.
Can Framis: Two doors down from Casa Rafols. This is where we had a lovely, albeit fast, tapas dinner before the flamenco show. A solid option if you are in the Sant Pere neighborhood and can't get a table at Casa Rafols.
Bar la Plata: a small, traditional tapas bar located in the Barri Gòtic quarter. This is more of a grab-and-go type of tapas place. We ordered small plates of fried sardines and bread topped with olive oil and tomatoes (a Barcelona hallmark called Pa Amp Tomàquet), along with small glasses of white wine. The bread wasn't the best we'd have while we were in town (that honor belongs to Bar Cañete), but the sardines were worth trying. I think of it more as a cultural experience than a culinary one. You can try and snag one of their six tables or eat standing at the bar like we did. Fun note: indie band Tame Impala was there a couple of days after us. Go for the experience.
Restaurants for next time: There were two places we couldn't score a table. In El Born at the more traditional El Xampanyet and near the Palau de Musica Catala at the more upscale, intimate Casalolea.
Pez Vela: a beachfront restaurant in Barceloneta where we had a paella lunch on our first day. Located on the ground floor of the W Hotel, the patio was lovely and we had a great view of the ocean. Frankly, the paella was just okay (we would have great paella at O'Returno), but a slow lunch by the ocean was exactly what we needed our first day. We were jet lagged and utterly exhausted, and it was a convenient opportunity to experience an area I knew we probably wouldn't see otherwise. Bonus is that if you are too tired to walk back (which we were), you can easily catch a cab at the W hotel. If you are having only one paella lunch, I'd go elsewhere. But the patio seating and ocean view were great for a drink. Another paella-by-the-sea option in Barceloneta that I heard good things about is La Mar Salada. If anyone has been there, let me know your review!
O'Returno: restaurant in the Eixample area specializing in Galician food and paella. At first I was skeptical as the restaurant didn't look anything special and was practically empty when we arrived at 8:00, but it soon filled to capacity (as Americans, we got there earlier than a typical dinner time). We had the lobster paella, roast chicken, bread with olive oil and tomatoes, and Galician sausages with peppers and frites. Yes, we ignored the advice of eating paella only for dinner. I am so glad we did. It was amazing. I recommend for the menu. The location and ambiance are nothing extraordinary, but don't judge this book by its cover.
Cremat 11: a cute brunch spot located in a nice courtyard and conveniently next door to the Picasso Museum (our main destination that day). This was our first lesson in asking for sauces on the side, in particular when ordering for kids. Compared to what I'm used to in the US, restaurants in Barcelona can be heavy-handed with sauces and toppings, so asking for them on the side can be the step that determines whether it gets eaten or not. The salted caramel pancakes my kids ordered fit into this category, but the avocado toast with salmon was good. I recommend for the location and the ambiance of the courtyard outside. The food was solid, but not standout.
Funky Bakers: located in the Eixample area. It was definitely more interesting than a chain, but didn't quite live up to the reviews I'd read. To be honest, brunch became my least favorite meal in Barcelona. A lot of it is the heavy-handedness of the sauces discussed earlier. On this day, the service was also a little scattered and we had to ask multiple times for things we'd ordered/requested. Next time I'd try brunch at Picnic or the curiously named Billy Brunch. Brunch seems to be popular in Barcelona, so I'd highly recommend making reservations (if they take them) or arriving early.
GRANJA CAFES + PATISSERIES
Café Granja Viader: located parallel to La Ramblas down a small alley, it has been around since 1870. We popped in and had coffee with churros dipped in cups of thick hot chocolate. Other options we didn't try are Granja Dulcinea and Granja La Pallaresa, both in the Gothic Quarter.
Mauri: An old-fashioned-feeling patisserie with a beautiful painted ceiling and a counter full of pastries that stretches the length of the store. Located a couple of blocks from Casa Milà/La Pedrera, we stopped here for coffee, pastries, and pre-made Iberian ham and frommage sandwiches after our tour.
Grasshopper (ramen): Not Spanish, I know, but anytime we are out of town we seek out ramen as it is not something we can get in our hometown and it is something both of us love (as an undergraduate, he studied Japanese and spent a semester there in college). We snagged counter seats at Grasshopper and had the miso ramen and gyoza. The ramen was solid (we ranked about an 8). The gyoza, a 10. They also have some solid craft beers we didn't see anywhere else in town.
Itinerary (and Outfits) Day-by-Day
Couldn't get enough of the mosaics
- Drop bags at hotel. We stayed at the Hotel Catalonia Passeig de Gracia ideally located near the Plaça de Catalunya
- Meander through the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)
- Grab a quick bite at the traditional tapas bar Bar la Plata
- Walk to Barceloneta
- Paella lunch in Barceloneta at Pez Vela
- Cab back to hotel for siesta and early bedtime.
- WHAT I WORE: My outfit from the plane: a Field Trip black v neck shirt from 2021, James Perse joggers, and Emme Parsons sandals. Not only did it keep me comfortable through 24+ hours of airports, planes, customs lines, shuttle buses, and two miles of walking through Barcelona, I still looked and felt chic enough to walk into the W hotel.
- Walk down La Ramblas, with stops at:
- A Roman necropolis
- La Boqueria Market
- A Joan Miró mosaic located right in the middle of the walkway
- Palau Güell, a private home designed by Antonio Gaudí
- Café Granja Viader for coffee and churros dipped in cups of thick hot chocolate.
- Cut across to the Barri Gòtic area for more focused sightseeing than the day before, including the Barcelona Cathedral, the Picasso frieze, the Royal Palace, the Plaça de Sant Jaume and the nearby air bridge, columns from the Roman Temple of Augustus, and the Jewish Quarter (El Call).
- Galician/paella dinner at O'Returno.
- WHAT I WORE: The weather was pretty mild, so I wore a Field Trip white flutter sleeve, ankle jeans, and Tibi wrap sandals. Chic but comfortable. I carried the black woven cross body tote from Leigh Ann Barnes, the perfect size for carrying the basics...and carting back snow globes. :)
- Stroll through the El Born area
- Brunch at Cremat 11, next to the Picasso Museum
- Peruse the handmade espadrilles at La Manual Alpargatera.
- Picasso Museum
- Lunch and exploring in El Born
- Poolside siesta
- Tapas dinner at Madre Taberna Moderna
- Metro back to hotel
- WHAT I WORE: I wore a Field Trip white balloon sleeve, ankle jeans, and Emme Parsons sandals. Chic but comfortable. Again, I carried my black woven cross body tote from Leigh Ann Barnes.
- The Block of Discord
- Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
- Mauri patisserie for coffee, pastries, and a sandwich
- Shop along Passeig de Gracia
- Dinner at the amazing Bar Cañete.
- After dinner drink and people-watching at Ocaña in Plaça Reial.
- WHAT I WORE: This was one of the warmest days of the trip—it hit 90 and although the humidity wasn't as bad as in the southern US, the sun is more intense. I wore the black cotton poplin Field Trip dress (it covered my arms from the sun, while also providing a lot of airflow underneath) along with the Emme Parsons sandals and black woven cross body tote.
- Brunch at Funky Bakers in Eixample
- Walk to see the Recent Modernista de Sant Pau hospital
- Tour La Sagrada Familia
- Stop for empanadas and ice cream
- Dinner at Can Framis
- Flamenco show at the Palace of Catalan Music
- WHAT I WORE: It was another intense sunny day with highs at 90, so I wore the Bassike cotton jersey dress and Tibi wrap sandals. For dinner and the show, I paired a Field Trip black flutter sleeve with the Tibi wine-colored jacquard skort, and Tibi wrap sandals. I carried my Leatherology wallet on a crossbody strap since I didn't need or want to manage a larger bag in the concert hall.
- Roaming around El Raval, La Ramblas, and Barri Gòtic
- Siesta at the pool
- Ramen dinner at Grasshopper
- WHAT I WORE: During the day it was warm again, so I paired the Field Trip black flutter sleeve with the white shorts I bought and black Birkenstock Madrids. For dinner, I wore the Field Trip black half sleeve tucked into the Nili Lotan pants, which felt on point for ramen. I brought along the cashmere sweater in case it turned chilly and carried the black woven leather tote all day.
- Train to Cubellas
- Grab a bite at the cafe in the center of town
- Walk around the narrow winding streets of the town center
- Grab a beer and some ice cream
- Hung out at the beach
- Train back to Barcelona
- Dinner at Casa Rafols
- WHAT I WORE: For the beach, I wore the Bassike cotton jersey dress over my bathing suit and paired it with my Birkenstock Madrid sandals. I carried the travel tote and beach towels I mention in my earlier post (see here). For dinner, I wore a Field Trip white v neck, black Xirena pants, and Emme Parsons sandals.
THE FLIGHT HOME
- WHAT I WORE: The Kule long sleeve t-shirt with Xirena Draper pants and Birkenstock Madrid sandals. Just as comfortable as sweats, light enough that you can haul luggage without sweating, yet with enough coverage for the chilly plane.
We obviously loved our time in this amazing city. If you've been to Barcelona, I'd love to hear your favorites, too! And if you have any questions about the above, don't hesitate to contact me directly at email@example.com!