Whether the destination of Barcelona, Spain is all-new to you, or you’ve already seen the tourist hotspots of the location, then listen up! Our resident travel expert, Aida Mollenkamp of Salt & Wind is right here on the blog with us today, and she’s sharing everything you need to know about the sips, sights, and stays in this must-see European location—sans the typical tourist recommendations. That being said, if you want an insider’s look at beautiful Barcelona, Spain, then keep that page scrolling for the only travel guide you’ll need next time you’re planning a getaway…
Hi, dears! Aida here from Salt & Wind sharing another city guide and travel-inspired recipe of a place that I’ll always say yes to: Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona needs no introduction as it’s one of the most visited cities in Europe but, to be honest, it’s easy to get lost in the touristy side of the city and not see the real Barcelona.
You could spend your whole trip eating mediocre paella, wandering La Rambla, and fighting crowds at Sagrada Familia and leave more frustrated than inspired—which would be a total shame because this corner of the world is one of the most vibrant, creative, and interesting places out there.
There’s no shame in doing a touristy thing or three to make sure you hit up the Barcelona basics but you want to make sure you do it the right way and simultaneously get an insider’s view, too. Here are my recs on where to stay, where to eat, and of course, what to do in Barcelona:
Room Mate Anna
As you know from my Milan guide, this Spanish hotel chain is our go-to when it comes to affordable boutique hotels. There are a few Room Mate properties in Barcelona, but the central location of the Room Mate Anna in Eixample, reasonable price, and decent room size make this particular location our top pick in Barcelona.
W Hotel Barcelona
To be honest, most of the time we stay away from American hotel chains when we’re abroad in favor of local boutiques. But the W Barcelona is an exception. Just outside the bustle of the tourist center on the waterfront in Barceloneta, the W Barcelona has one of the best pool scenes around so you can feel like you’re simultaneously on a beach and a city vacay.
Soho House Barcelona
The location near the water on the edge of the Gothic quarter is reason enough to stay at the Soho House Barcelona. But add in stunning design, a picture-perfect building, a spa, impeccable hospitality and the only problem is making sure you leave the hotel. Oh, and P.S. you do not need to be a member of Soho House to stay there!
Even if you’ve never had vermouth before, pinky promise that you’ll dip your toe into the vermouth scene when you’re in Barcelona. And, while there are a lot of places you could go only for vermouth, we’re partial to the casual but classic bar that is Enterpanes Diaz where you can get excellent bocadillos (sandwiches) to pair with your sips.
The other must-have drink in Spain? Sherry. And the perfect place to get a taste of excellent sherry with some modern tapas is Palo Cortao. I went there for an episode of Off Menu and loved that it was nothing but food-loving locals (and that they had ah-mazing jamon dishes)!
The brainchild of the El Bulli alum Mateu Casañas, Oriol Castro, and Eduard Xatruch, Disfrutar is a high-end dining experience that’s worth the price tag. Be sure to splurge on the chef’s menu with the wine tasting and don’t be in a hurry—promise it’ll be an unforgettable experience.
This is one of the most visited parts of the city by tourists so plan to explore it in the morning or later evening when there aren’t crazy crowds. It is home to the oldest buildings in the city with winding Medieval streets and even part of a Roman wall.
Just adjacent to the Gothic Quarter but with more locals in the mix is the eclectic El Born neighborhood. It’s a largely pedestrian-only area so it’s the perfect place to wander and check out everything from vintage shops and indie boutiques to the gorgeous green space of the Parc de la Ciutadella.
Once you’ve strolled the city center areas—from the Gothic Quarter to Eixample and over to El Raval—make sure to make time for Gràcia. This large neighborhood extends from the center of town to Parc Güell and is worth exploring.
You could visit Parc Güell just for the view back on Barcelona or to get a peek into the inspiring architecture of Gaudí, but no matter the reason, you should make sure to visit. It gets crowded quickly so do your best to get there as soon as they open.
The climb up to Montjüic can be done on foot but we prefer to hop in the cable cars because the trip up the hill gives you some of the most incredible views of the city. And, once you’ve taken in the panorama, give yourself time to explore the whole area as it has everything from the 1992 Olympic swimming pool to a castle, a theater, and a handful of museums.
At the edge of the city is Mount Tibidabo, which has the highest view of the city. You can again hop a cable car to make the ascent up the mountain or take a car up there on your way in or out of town.
Most people go to Barcelona seeking out sangria and paella but we love it for the tapas, bocadillos, vermouth, and sherry. On our last trip there, we fell hard for the sandwiches at Entrepanes Diaz and one in particular stood out. Totally over the top with chorizo, shoestring fries, and a sunny-side up egg, this Bocadillo Antxón is the kind of thing you could have as a late night snack or as a midday recovery from a long night before.
Have you ever felt such an urge to hop on a plane to Spain? We’re definitely adding this to our list of must-see destinations, and can’t thank Aida enough for letting us in on the bests of Barcelona. For more travel tips and travel-inspired recipes, head to Salt and Wind or follow Aida on Instagram.
Xx Team GM