Barcelona & Surrounds

One Day In And Around Barcelona

The first time I visited Barcelona was well over a decade ago. Over the course of a month, we traveled all over, and experienced many of the sights, sounds and tastes of Spain. Ever since, I have been in love with the city of dreams (also known as the city of Gaudi). This time round, we spent some time exploring the area directly around Barcelona.  We started our day by sipping on Cava; popped in to see the Black Madonna at Montserrat while listening to the choir sing below; we snacked on local cheeses from the market and explored some of Gaudi’s masterpieces in the city.

A note on Spanish cuisine: Jamón ibérico is to Spain, what baguettes are to France. the process of rearing to curing the meat is arguable the most stringently regulated on the planet- And free-roaming , acorn fed Jamón ibérico is some of the most expensive meat on the planet, easily selling for over $200 per pound.  Just to slice it, you need to be a master carver!

Fresh produce plays a big role in Spanish cuisine, and seafood is the all-star. Paella and a variety of tapas revolve around seafood. Hearty stew-like dishes from the past are also prominent in Spanish cuisine. On the road we mostly ate freshly baked bread, cheese and a variety of cured meats. A great variety of these can be purchased almost everywhere.

What To Pack

Our last visit to Barcelona was over the holidays. The weather was cool, but not cold. Jeans are perfectly suited. Remember a jacket, and pack a lightweight poncho or umbrella for the odd showers. The older generations tend to dress more conservatively, and the younger ones more trendy. Many tourists in the city gives you a bit of leeway in terms of casually, but keep in mind that cities Europe are generally more dressy. (Unless you’re attending a yoga class, avoid the ‘running shoes, vests and headband/buff look’)

Scarves are the accessory of choice for both men and women.  In winter, boots or booties are a must have. Although the leather goods in Spain is great, don’t bank on buying shoes on the spot to wear. It could easily spoil your entire trip.

Barcelona - Montserrat Monestary.jpg
Montserrat Monastery | Barcelona | Spain

How To Get There

Barcelona is situated on the eastern coast of Spain, about 150 km from the French border. You can travel here by road, by rail, by water or by air. The local airport is Barcelona El-Prat (Airport code BCN). As a major port of Spain, many cruise ships and private vessels embark and disembark here. Barcelona Sants is the main railway station, and busses frequently connect the airport and railway station to various parts of the city.

What To Eat

Lunch is served at 14h00, and dinner from 21h00. Do your homework before eating out as not all tapas bars were created equally. Try the following in Barcelona:

  • Tapas of course!
  • Raciones- lightly larger tapas.
  • Pinchos- bite-sized tapas always served on bread.
  • Platos Combinados- a larger plate with a multitude of tapas forming a meal.
  • Jamón ibérico -Spanish ham or cured meat. The black foot is kept on the ham, to prove that it is the real thing.
  • Paella- a seafood and rice dish prepared in a large, shallow pan
  • Patatas bravas- think chunky 2cm cubed French fries often served with aioli or a spicy tomato relish.
  • The fresh food markets are amazing, and public picnic spaces with greenery are plenty.
  • Gazpacho- chilled tomato soup.
  • Crema Catalana- the crème brulee of Spain.
  • Tortilla Española- a quiche-like bake, packed with thinly sliced potatoes.
  • Fabada Asturiana- a hearty white bean stew with chorizo sausage, chunky pork meat, saffron and tomato.

What To Drink

  • Cava – the bubbles of Spain makes a great companion for seafood dishes.
  • Local wine.
  • Moscatel- sweet wine.
  • Agua de Valencia- Cava with orange juice, vodka and gin.
  • Sangria- a red wine based drink with soda, oranges and often gin and/or brandy.
  • Coffee, or
  • Vermut- a fortified, aromatic wine with a bitter aftertaste.
  • Hot chocolate- the cocoa drink served here is thick and gooey.

What To See & Do

In Barcelona:

  • Gaudi masterpieces- including the still-under-construction La Sagrada Familia
  • La Rambla
  • The gothic quarter
  • Sightseeing or walking tours in the city
  • Cooking classes
  • City bus tour is a good way to get around
  • See La Catadral in Barcelona
  • Barcelona is a great city to roam the streets in, and can easily be enjoyed on foot
  • Browse the Mercat de la Boqueria indoor market
  • Discover street art all over
  • Dali museum

Around Barcelona:

  • Visit a winery and sample some wine and Cava.
  • Spend time at Montserrat- this monastery in the clouds is a must see.
  • Nearby sights and towns include: Montblanc, Girona, Figueres, Sitges, Vilanova i la Geltrú, Tarragona and Collserola.

We hope you enjoy the look, feel, taste and smell of Barcelona as much as we did!

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