#LTtravels – Barcelona, Spain
I first became intrigued by this stunning city by the sea in 1992 when I was glued to the TV cheering on the Olympics. Scenes of its cosmopolitan style, quirky architecture and trays of tapas sent it to the top of my travel bucket list. I finally made it there in June 2015. Not sure why it took me that long but after two brutal Toronto winters that bookended grey cool summers, I was craving sun. And Spain instantly came to mind.
I LOVED the architecture. Spain, and Barcelona in particular, is home to a mix of old European, gothic and modern buildings that I found irresistible. Antoni Gaudi’s quirky treasures are dotted around the city – from Parc Guell to Casa Battlo on the Passeig de Gracia to the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia.
Casa Batllo on the Passeig De Gracia (a popular shopping street) is another of Gaudi’s masterpieces. All of his work is an absolute must-see. Be prepared for long lines.
Don’t miss touring inside this masterpiece – the Sagrada Familia. This isn’t your typical European cathedral – its soaring ceilings and contemporary art details such as rainbow hued stain glass windows have a sci-fi feel that will blow away your expectations. Buy your ticket online before you leave home.
I’ve toured a lot of cathedrals in my travels and this one is unlike anything I’ve seen.
Barcelona is unusual in that the city is built around the edge of the beach – all renovated and renewed in time for the 1992 Olympics. It’s astonishing what the city did and how tourism exploded afterwards. Tourism is now the number one industry.
Where I stayed: the Hotel Murmuri pops up on all of the cool Barcelona boutique hotel lists. Designed by noted Brit Kelly Hoppen, the rooms are small but immaculate. The breakfast was delicious, the bar is chic and intimate, and its location on the Rambla de Catalunya is safe, sophisticated and quiet. (Don’t stay near the noisy touristy La Rambla pedestrian mall.) And a big plus, guests can use the rooftop bar and pool a block away at their five star sister property, Hotel Majestic. A big benefit on a 35+ degree day.
Getting around – I always take a Hop-on-Hop-off bus in any city I’m new to. Barcelona’s two routes are particularly good and cover off all of the main attractions including the former Olympic site and expansive beachfront.
Brightside Tours was a treasured find. Sightseeing tours, including stops for tapas, are handled by motorcycle with room for one person sitting behind the driver and the other perched in a sidecar. Watching people’s faces light up as we sped by was half the fun.
Our Brightside driver dropped us off at Lolita Taperia, a fantastic tapas bar, at Carrer Tamarit. Sit at the bar and ask the server for recommendations.
Down at the beach, at one of the many casual bars on the sand, the overpriced watery mojitos (11€ each) were worth every penny thanks to the people watching. For a nicer meal, sit on the terrace at Agua. Expect to eat late. Locals roll into restaurants after 10pm when the tourists are sadly tucked in bed.
Spain is known for their cotton soled espadrilles in bright colours and cheery stripes. Head to Lluis Manuel in the Gothic Quarter on Calle Ferran 37. I picked up two pairs for a fraction of the price at other boutiques.
Barcelona is a direct flight from Toronto on Air Canada Rouge. It’s an easy cab trip into the city. I didn’t take local transportation (buses are plentiful) since it’s a great walkable and bike-able city and cabs are inexpensive.I would visit again in a heartbeat. One of my absolute favourite cities!