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Barcelona help/suggestions?

Hi,

My adult daughter and I are going to Barcelona for 7 nights the last of March. It will be our first time to visit.

We'll be using public transportation only.

We're staying in the Gothic Quarter area.

We thought we would eat our main meal at lunch with menu del dia)

We are on a fairly tight budget.

We hope to minimize wait times and crowds by pre-purchasing any tickets we might need and visit early mornings at opening times.

Overall, we want to visit a few Gaudi sites, go on a Cava tour (I've read that the Recaredo is a good place to visit and a little more personal than the big Cava places), have some wonderful Spanish wines, explore the area and experience the culture, eat good seafood and tapas, and shop a little.

Here's a list of some things we thought looked interesting:

see street art (I found a map of a free walking tour)
Cava tastings (Recaredo?)
wine tastings
a walking tour
Parque del Laberint d'Horta (Labrinth)
La Famila
Casa Botella (outside only)
Park Guell (free before 8am?)
La Pedrera
Picasso museum
Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau
Magic Fountain
Bunker del Carmel (view)
Barcelona Cathedral (early morning or late afternoon--I've read both are beautiful times?)
see other beautiful churches
some markets
see the beach and ocean

For a day trip possibly---
Monserrett

Would you have any feedback and/or suggestions---it would be appreciated!

After we decide what exactly we'd like to do/see, then I'll start work on an itinerary :)

Thanks!

Posted by
1862 posts

Hi, you have certainly done some good research! You will be very satisfied with the Menus del Dia. A number of these places are good options, here are some of my personal favourites you list (in no particular order):

  1. La Sagrada Familia
  2. Parque del laberinto de Horta
  3. Hospital de Sant Pau

To add to your list I'd recommend:
1. Tapas Crawl in El Born or El Poble Sec
2. MUHBA Plaza del Rey (underground Roman Ruins)
3. Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya
4. Castillo de Montjuïc (views)
5. Tibidabo (views + oldest amusement park in Spain)
6. Explore the hip Vila de Gracia neighbourhood

My recommended day trips for March:
1. Tarragona (for Roman Ruins)
2. Poblet Royal Monastery (UNESCO HS)
3. Girona
4. Vic (on market day)
5. Zaragoza (side trip for 1-2 nights)

Hope this helps :)

Posted by
16757 posts

Unless something has changed since 2016, Barcelona Cathedral is free for part of the day and has a fee the rest of the time. I believe the free period is in the morning, but you should verify that. Also as of 2016, the Cathedral had a dress policy that it strictly enforced. Knees and shoulders need to be covered. Whether there's anything else, I don't know. Your guidebook should lay out the rules.

I especially liked the Barri Gotic walking tour offered by the tourist office. They limit the number of tickets they sell, so the groups tend to be smaller than the "free" tour groups.

Of the sights you mention, these are the ones for which I'd urge you to buy tickets in advance because of insane ticket lines and/or the possibility of a sell-out:

La Sagrada Familia
Park Guell if it's not free (I don't know about free time; no tickets are sold at the park)
La Pedrera/Casa Mila
Picasso Museum

Getting first-time-slot tickets is an excellent idea for minimizing crowding.

Montserrat is apparently an easy trip. You just go to the train station beneath the Placa d'Espanya and buy a combo ticket. You'll need to choose what type of transportation you want to use for the last transportation leg. It has been recommended that the ticket including lunch be avoided.

It's wonderful to have seven nights in Barcelona so you can enjoy the city rather than rushing hither and thither, trying to cram too many sights into too few days.

Posted by
13930 posts

Unless you are Picasso fans, I'd skip the museum. It's always crowded and far from the best Picasso museum I've been to. What's missing from your list is the Palau de la Musica tour. The building is a gem. Another gem is the old city hall rooms (Ajuntament de Barcelona), which is open to the public (and free) on Sundays from about 10 to 1.

The 2 TI walking tours I've taken were very good. There are supermarkets where you can buy prepared foods, salads, cold cuts, drinks, etc. that will save you money. The biggest is El Corte Ingles on Placa de Catalunya. Smaller but also good is the Carrefour Market on La Rambla. If you want to buy things in the markets, La Boqueria is the most expensive. Not far from there is Santa Caterina market, where locals shop, becuase prices are lower.

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks so much for the replies!

Chani, we are not Picasso fans, but a friend of mine who's been said we "have" to go to the museum. We have mixed emotions--it's an expensive and very busy museum. We're also wondering if it would be good to give it a miss and see/do something that we'd really enjoy whether it be paid or free. Actually after typing that last sentence, I think it gives us a strong indication that we should skip the Picasso museum :) Although, if we feel compelled to see it, I see it's free on Thursdays from 6-9:30 if we're so inclined :)

I "think" it might be a good idea to swap out Picasso for the Palau de la Musica???

acraven, I may be wrong but, the way I read about the Cathedral entrance fees were that they are a paid admission unless you're going to a service which are the times it's free. Someone please corrected me if I've misunderstood. Actually, we'll be in Barcelona on a Sunday and want to go to Mass somewhere. I have found that sometimes on Sundays, the huge popular churches are packed. Sometimes we've found other equally beautiful neighborhood churches that aren't packed with tourists and offer not only a beautiful space to worship but also have a much calmer and spiritual feel.

Carlos, we're trying to get a good mix of things to see/do. We don't want all museums or Gaudi or ruins or.....You have mentioned a lot of interesting sites! I'm curious about some of the day trips you suggested. Some look too far for a day trip, am I misthinking?? We have all 7 nights reserved at our hotel in Barcelona so we won't be able to go anywhere else for an overnight.

We do however want to do 1 long day trip to someplace interesting and very different from Barcelona. We thought Monserrett looked interesting because of the views, it's a monastery and we could ride a funicular :) We're certainly open to suggestions!

We're definitely doing a Cava tour and I "think" that at this point Recaredo looks to be a good choice for us?

We had read the Boqueria market was very busy but, it's very near our hotel and thought we'd give it a look. We both love going to interesting local markets. We love to browse as well as buy interesting foods. Suggestions?

Daughter and I have some common interests as well as some different ones. We both love markets, foods, wines (she Cava, me still wines), a couple of museums ( I like longer visits than she does), beautiful architecture, churches (I love them more than she does), off beat things, street art (she loves it more than I do), shopping for local things.....

We try to compromise on an itinerary that we both will love, stay within our budget, see/try new things and experience the local culture.

Thanks for the suggestions so far, I would love to hear any others!

Posted by
1862 posts

Hi, regarding my day trips recommended, except for Zaragoza (a side trip), they are all within 2 hrs from Barcelona, and can easily be done as day trips via public transport or on a tour.

Know that Montserrat is actually quite close to Barcelona and unless you are planning on doing a lot of hiking, it's more of a half-day trip rather than a full-day. You may also not have the best weather for views in late March for a visit to Montserrat, it actually can get quite cloudy/rainy up there during that time of year or it could be sunny, it's pretty unpredictable. I'd wait until you are actually in Barcelona before deciding what day to go to Montserrat.

If you are interested in local markets, you could go to la Boqueria, I'd go in the early morning, when the seafood comes in and there are more locals, the rest of the day is swamped by tourists. Now if you want to really have a local experience of a traditional Catalan market, I'd recommend you take the train (1:30 hr) up to to the ancient town of Vic on their market day, Tuesdays and Saturdays in the Plaza Mayor. Vic has been an important agricultural centre, since the ancient Roman days, and its vibrant market has been held there for more than 1000 years, the town is particularly know for its Charcuterie. I guarantee you won't see another tourist or even hear a lick of Spanish ;-)

PS: Vic is also home to one of the oldest Cathedrals in Catalonia, it's unique as it blends Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Neoclassic architecture, the interior will take your breath away.

Posted by
82 posts

Carlos,

Vic looks very interesting and lots to do for a day trip. I LOVE churches (daughter not as much), it has a Roman ruin, an historical walking tour of the city, sausages!!!, and last but not least a huge nontouristy market.

I hadn't thought of the visibility at Montserret in March--good suggestion.

I think Vic might check a lot of boxes for us for a day trip on a Saturday. From the city website, it looks like there are quite a few restaurants too for some good nontouristy eating. Good wines too I would hope???

Thanks for the suggestion! Vic is moving to the top of the list for now.

Posted by
1862 posts

Glad I could help shed some light on one of the more "under-the-radar" day trips from Barcelona, to Vic! I think you will find it very refreshing coming from the tourist packed Barrio Gotico. If you are in search of a good Fuet (local sausage) de Vic, I'd recommend stopping at Xarcuteria Solà S.c.p, just off of the main Plaza, you won't be disappointed, they are very knowledgeable and have a great locally handmade selection.

PS: Close by you will find Pla de Bages DO, one of the smaller wine regions in Spain, just in case you get thirsty ;-)

Posted by
13930 posts

I just looked at the calendar of castelleres performances. There's one on Sunday March 29 in front of the Basilica at Montserrat at noon, with 4 teams. That in itself is a reason to go! Here's the full schedule for March in Catalonia. There are also 2 performances at noon on the 22nd in Barcelona - when exactly are you in Barcelona?

In my opinion, the Picasso Museum is really for fans. There's a lot of his very early work (early teens) which is very traditional, a lot of cubism, and long periods of his work are not mentioned at all. The rooms are small, so when there are more than a few people, it feels very crowded. On the other hand, the Palau de la Musica is a stunningly beautiful Moderism style building. Google it and see a few of the photos. Even the gift shop and cafeteria (prices are reasonable) are worth seeing.

Posted by
82 posts

Chani, Thanks for the info :) We'll be in Barcelona the 23-30. I think we've decided to skip the Picasso museum and do something we'd really love. I also think we've added the Palau de la Musica. Now I have to stop adding things or we'll be overloaded ;-)

Carlos, we both LOVE Charcuterie--the meats and cheeses--aahhhhh. I love the wines and daughter loves the fizzy drinks:)

Posted by
13930 posts

Lastly - absolutely best churros are at Xurreria Laietana, Mon-Fri from 7 to 1.00 and 4.30-8.30, closed Saturday, open Sunday 8-1.30 (hours as of last March).

Posted by
82 posts

Thanks, Chani, we LOVE churros too. We've only had them in Mexico but, fresh churros are soooo good.

Any other food suggestions not to miss?

Posted by
1862 posts

I can confirm that Churrería Laietana is most excellent, along with their Spanish style Churros, consider also trying Porras, which are a larger/fatter style of Churro, usually with a smoother surface. However the Churro is just a vehicle for the main course - which is the Chocolate (Spanish style hot chocolate) hence "Chocolate con Churros". In Spain we like our hot Chocolate more thick and richer and in the USA, one is meant to dip the Churros in it, a bit like a sauce.

You can also try Chocolatería Valor, they are the most famous brand of Chocolate in Spain, they have a wide range of Chocolate con Churros, with different flavours and such. They have locations in all the major cities of Spain.

Posted by
1862 posts

In El Born, there is a pretty good tapas bar called Bar Celta Pulperia, that specialises in Galician Octopus (Pulpo a la Gallega). Personally my favorite tapa they have is called Pimientos de Padron, which is another Galician treat. Bar Celta has two locations, in the Gothic Quarter and one in El Born. There will probably be some tourists but also a good amount of locals too.

My friend, who is a local of La Barceloneta, took me once to a restaurant called Montolio Can Maño their claim to fame is fresh simple local seafood dishes. Note that this place can get quite busy and there may be a bit of a wait; as the restaurant is smallish and very popular with locals (and tourists).

For Paella, two recommendations:

Try a place simply called Barceloneta, I went there with some friends over the summer, it has incredible views of the city and the port. In addition to Paella and Fideuà, they also have a pretty good Arroz Caldoso, which is a rice dish made with a lobster fumet. Another local dish they make there, that's pretty good, is called Arroz Negro, it is like a Paella but made with squid ink, so it is very visually unique.

The second recommendation is La Barca del Salamanca. It's located at the Port Olímpic, which is about 2 km north of the Barrio Gotico, close to the beach. The place has a great (and reasonably priced) 3-course set lunch (Menu del Dia) during the weekdays which includes, Paella, Arroz Negro, and Fideuà among many things.

The other thing I would suggest, if you want a truly authentic experience, is to go out for Paella during the lunch time (around 2 pm). Locals won't eat Paella during dinner time but rather at lunch, which is the main meal of the day. The reasoning being that Paella is too heavy of a dish to eat at night, that's why we go out for tapas at night.

Posted by
82 posts

Can I just say my mouth is watering!!!! I have all these places noted. Chocolate is yet another LOVE of ours!

We're trying to eat our meal of the day at lunch--cheaper and a little more authentic foods?

As soon as I put together an itinerary, maybe some will help us fill in the eateries???