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Relaxing In Barcelona: Enjoying Spanish Culture Near The Mediterranean Sea

Posted by rafael on January 2, 2013 in Tourist Destinations

Barcelona is a multifaceted city, and thus tends to sidestep simple descriptions. Those who envision a sleepy atmosphere under the warm Mediterranean sun will find exactly that. Those who expect to find a bustling nightlife will also be pleased. And travelers who arrive in Barcelona hoping to see awe-inspiring cathedrals and other religious structures won’t be disappointed. The fact is, this gorgeous city sitting on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea offers something for everyone.

Let’s suppose you’ve never ventured into Barcelona and are planning your first visit. It’s a big place and there’s a lot to see and do. Where do you start? What types of activities should you do during your stay? And how do you find the best places to grab a bite to eat? It’s a bit daunting for the first-time visitor. We’ll give you a head start in the following guide. Here are several tips for making the most of your trip.

Fun Things To Do While Visiting Barcelona

Think you’ll be bored in Barcelona? Think again. Once you arrive and get settled into your hotel, you’ll be racing against time to fit everything in. There are hundreds of great activities to enjoy in the city. For example, take a trip to Foment de les Arts i del Disseny or enjoy a lazy stroll down La Rambla, one of the world’s most celebrated boulevards. Catch some live music at the Gran Teatre del Liceu or visit the Barrio Gòtico. Take in some sightseeing at Guell Park before getting in some shopping at La Boqueria. Bottom line: there are plenty of things to do from morning to night. The biggest challenge is picking and choosing from among them. Here are 3 places we highly recommend adding to your list of “must do’s.”

Relaxing In Barcelona-1

Relaxing In Barcelona-1

#1 – Visit The Cathedral Of Santa Eulalia

Barcelona is filled with huge churches and other religious buildings. The Cathedral Of Santa Eulalia is one of the largest. It was originally built in the 14th century and today serves as the official seat of the city’s Archbishop. The main structure of the cathedral has a very Gothic exterior, complete with an array of gargoyles. Meanwhile, the interior architecture is breathtaking with 20 separate chapels extending from the main hall.  Make a point of stopping by the Cappella del Sant Crist de Lepant. Legend has it that the statue of Christ miraculously leaned to one side in order to avoid a cannonball during a battle in 1571. Cost of entry: free.

#2 – Visit Casa Batlló

The Casa Batlló is a large building designed by famed architect Antoni Gaudí. It’s memorable for a number of reasons. The exterior façade has the appearance of a skull and bones, which form the balconies and pillars. The locals call the building “Casa dels ossos,” which has a literal meaning of “House of Bones.” Unlike most buildings, there seem to be few straight lines. From the ground to the roof, the façade is curved and arched. It’s worth a visit just to observe the unique features of this one-of-a-kind structure. Cost of entry: approximately $27 for adults. Children under 7 years of age can enter free.

#3 – Visit Montjuïc Castle

Built in the 17th century, Montjuïc Castle stands near the apex of the hill of Montjuïc. It has been used both to protect the city from attacks and to attack the city, as was done in 1842 when the castle was under the control of the Madrid government. Over the last 300 years, the structure has also functioned as a prison and execution site. Today, Montjuïc Castle is a museum, giving visitors a spectacular view of the city below. One of the best routes to the top of Montjuïc hill is by the Transbordador Aeri del Port (the cable car). Cost of entry to the castle: approximately $4.

Best Dining Bets In The City

Most of the restaurants in Barcelona specialize in Spanish and Portuguese dishes. There are also several places to enjoy Mediterranean food. However, if you’re willing to look for them, you’ll also find restaurants that cater to those who love Italian, Mexican, and French fare. For example, if you’re in the mood for Italian, visit Bestial in the Vila Olímpica quarter or Murivecchi in La Ribera. For Mexican food, it’s hard to beat Cantina Machito in the Barrio Alto. If you’d like to enjoy a French meal, reserve a table at Jaume de Provença or Neichel. Both serve high-end dishes that are rated well among travelers and locals. We recommend visiting Comerç 24. It’s a cosmopolitan restaurant located in the La Ribera neighborhood of Ciutat Vella. The place is operated by Carles Abellán, a famed chef renowned for his creative use of spices and seasonings as well as his emphasis on impeccable timing. You’ll enjoy some of the best Spanish cuisine Barcelona has to offer.

Relaxing In Barcelona-2

Relaxing In Barcelona-2

Start with a few tapas and a side of marinated tune doused in a mild soy sauce. Move on to the sea bass ceviche (Comerç 24 serves several delicious fish dishes). To finish the meal, order the Mel i Mato, a traditional local dessert. It is prepared with honey, cheese, and a helping of ice cream. Expect to pay $100 or more per person at Comerç 24. Your next stop should be Cinc Sentits, an upscale, family-run restaurant that specializes in Mediterranean food. Operated by master chef Jordi, it offers two tasting menus, one with inventive dishes and the other with simpler fare.

The Sensacions menu (the more creative of the two) includes 1 tapa, 2 starters, 1 fish, 1 meat, cheese, and 2 desserts. The Essència menu includes 3 starters, 1 rice, 1 meat, and 1 dessert. You’ll find a wide variety of tasty treats, such as caviar, onion stuffed olives, and a creamy foie gras with caramelized crust. Expect to pay approximately $85 per person. 7 Portes is a quaint restaurant in the Barceloneta district. Having debuted in the 1830s, it specializes in Spanish cuisine. The facility offers several dining rooms that offer an “old world” flair. The atmosphere tends to be lively and casual with long-aproned servers bustling about to deliver meals to the tables.

Start with a prawn cocktail or mixed leaf salad with mustard vinaigrette. Then, try the fish and seafood stuffed cannelloni. Move on to the poached Hake with rice or the casserole of clams in basque country style. If you prefer a non-fish dish, try the escalope of veal with french fries, or the farmhouse chicken with mushrooms and moscatel. For dessert, order the delicious rum and raisin flan or “Paco’s special ice cream dessert.” The entire meal will cost approximately $60 per person.

Where To Reserve A Hotel Room In Barcelona

Barcelona offers hotels in every price range. You’ll find luxury accommodations designed to cater to your every need. And you’ll find mid-range and budget hotels that offer simpler lodgings for a much lower rate. If you’ve visited the city before, you may already have a keen grasp of the types of hotels you prefer. If this is your first trip to Barcelona, consider staying in one of the higher-end hotels. You’re more likely to have a pleasant experience. The best time to visit the city is in June. That’s the time of year when the temperature starts to climb into the 60s (Celcius), providing gorgeous weather. With that in mind, we recommend booking a room in one of the following 3 hotels.

Relaxing In Barcelona-3

Relaxing In Barcelona-3

The Hotel Bagues has an art deco appearance, both in the lobby and the guest rooms. It is located in the center of Barcelona, providing quick access to the Gran Teatre del Liceu and Boqueria Market. The Bagues offers an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a bar and lounge. Each guest room comes with air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and minibar. Room rates during June are between $300 and $350 per night.

The Gran Hotel La Florida is located on the peak of Mount Tibidabo, several kilometers from the center of Barcelona. From its vantage point, you’ll enjoy a gorgeous view of the Mediterranean Sea and Pyrenees Mountains. The hotel offers a day spa, fitness center, and a unique stainless-steel pool. There are more than 70 guest rooms in the La Florida, with each equipped with a large plasma TV, marble bathrooms (the floors are heated to keep the morning chill at bay), and a great view of the city and surrounding countryside. Rates during June tend to hover between $350 and $450 per night.

The Pullman Barcelona Skipper is a 5-star hotel located downtown near the beach. Also nearby are the Parc de la Ciutadella and Port Olimpic. Guests can enjoy a full-sized pool (complete with poolside bar), full-service spa, and 2 restaurants (the Blend Lounge and Syrah). Each of the 240 rooms comes with air conditioning, climate control, DVD player, CD player, and soundproofing, among many other amenities. During June, you can reserve a room for approximately $300. But do so well in advance of your trip since the Pullman sells out quickly.

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Relaxing In Barcelona-4

How To Travel Throughout The City

Like many popular travel destinations, Barcelona boasts a variety of public transportation options. The best option for getting around the city is the Metro. The lines will deliver you to most of the places you’ll want to see during your stay. There are seven different lines, each of which is coded with a different color. That makes it relatively easy to find your way and map your routes. The Metro is always on time and moves efficiently throughout Barcelona. Another option is to hop on a bus. Keep in mind that traffic in the city can become congested at various times of the day. Unlike the Metro lines, the buses can – and often do – get stuck in this traffic. That creates delays. If you’re not in a hurry, it can be a good option for short trips.

Taxis are everywhere in Barcelona. That means you won’t have difficulty hailing one. The downside to the city’s taxi service is that long trips – or frequent short trips – can become expensive, especially at night when the fares tend to rise. If you’re thinking about renting a car and driving yourself around the city, be prepared to confront a few challenges. For example, a lot of the roads in Barcelona were built before the city hosted vehicles. The roads are narrow and difficult to navigate. That’s also one of the reasons traffic can become congested in the city. We recommend sticking to the Metro, bus lines, and taxis.

Getting To Barcelona And Back: How Much Will It Cost?

Round trip airfare to Barcelona can be expensive, especially during June and July. Those are heavy tourist seasons, which creates more demand for seats. It’s also worth keeping in mind that very few non-stop flights are available. When they are, they tend to carry a hefty premium. If you’re are planning leave Toronto, a round trip ticket will cost between $1,500 and $1,800. A flight leaving Montreal will be more expensive, costing between $1,900 and $2,100. Airfare from Vancouver is just as costly with tickets ranging in price between $1,800 and $2,200.

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There’s a lot to experience in Barcelona. The city offers a fantastic mosaic of culture, art, and architecture. If you’ve been thinking about taking a trip there, use our guide above to make the most of your stay.  If you plan-ahead you can often find cheap tickets and accommodations.  This can also provide you the opportunity to comparison-shop for your travel coverage, and find a great rate.

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