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Friday, April 15, 2016

Highlights Of Five Days Exploring Sunny Barcelona

After two incredible weeks in Portugal we jumped on a plane to Barcelona where we were greeted by sunshine, beaches, sangria, tapas, Gaudi and much more! Barcelona is a gorgeous city and I honestly don't think I've ever heard anyone say that they didn't like it and now we can see why! We had an incredible five days exploring the city and its many sites and here are our many highlights and tips to make the most of your time in this fabulous, cosmopolitan, sunny city!



COTTON HOUSE HOTEL
We arrived in Barcelona bright and early after an extremely early flight from Lisbon and so it was such a lovely feeling to be welcomed by the wonderful staff at the five star Cotton House Hotel. The hotel was ideally located in central Barcelona, is the ultimate in luxury and has the most incredible rooftop terrace with a gorgeous pool! It also helped that our bed was wonderfully soft, smelt like flowers and we've both agreed was one of the best hotel beds we've ever slept in. We had an amazing two nights at Cotton House Hotel and it really started our time off in Barcelona to the most fabulous start! If you're looking for a luxurious, stylish, relaxing and super welcoming hotel in Barcelona then we'd highly recommend Cotton House, we were really sad to leave!






SAGRADA FAMILIA & GAUDI'S OTHER INCREDIBLE WORKS
Antoni Gaudi is one of the world's most famous architects who greatly influenced the face of architecture in Barcelona. Gaudi's work is spread all through Barcelona and you will see stunning examples of his work all around the city. His work is admired by architects all around the world as being one of the most unique and distinctive architectural styles. Gaudí adorned many of his buildings with coloured tiles arranged in mosaic patterns. This adds another important dimension to his buildings which is so often overlooked by architects - the use of colour. The combination of original design, interesting shaped stonework, and vibrant colours in Gaudí's work give the viewer a truly breathtaking visual experience. Our favourite buildings were of course the unfinished but spectacular Sagrada Familia, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila which is better known as La Pedrera. Gaudi was truly remarkable and his wonderful legacy is well and truly alive in Barcelona for all to see!






PARK GUELL
Without a doubt the magical Park Guell was a highlight of our time in Barcelona. Park  Guell is one of the most beautiful iconic sites in Barcelona and showcases the work of Gaudi. Park Guell consists is a public park with a ticketed monumental zone filled with amazing buildings, sculptures and mosaics. The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as such there is a limit on visitors. Only 400 people are allowed in the monumental zone at a time and the first few days of our time in Barcelona all time slots were booked out but we managed to book for our last day! You can book tickets online and you even save a euro by booking online and we highly recommend pre-booking as this is a site you wouldn't want to miss! The Park offers magnificent views of Barcelona and Gaudi's works are truly remarkable!











LA RAMBLA & LA BOQUERIA
Beautiful tree lined pedestrian La Rambla is one of Barcelona's most popular places with visitors to the city! The street stretches for 1.2km and connects Placa de Catalunya with Port Vell and located just off La Rambla is one of the most famous markets in the world, La Boqueria. La Boqueria is filled with some of the most mouthwatering, freshest produce in all of Barcelona and is a wonder to walk around! Just a word of warning... it is extremely pricey so if you're on a budget stick to one of their delicious €1.50 fresh juices! We'd arrived in Barcelona after a really early flight from Lisbon and were starving and so were easily sold on the first restaurant we saw near the back of La Boqueria which turned out to be a pricey, touristy, low quality meal of Sangria and Paella. It looked great but tasted really bland and cost more than any meal we've had in our whole month of travelling. We've since learnt that Paella is actually from Valencia and so we have made a note to try it again when we visit Valencia for the real deal! We didn't let it impinge on our day at all but learnt that we shouldn't let our hungry stomachs decide for us in the future! We booked a fantastic tapas tour for the next evening and it was an incredible foodie experience that was a highlight of our time in Barcelona and which we'll talk about more soon!












TAPAS LOVER TOUR
We booked a Tapas Lover Tour with Food Lover Tour for our second night in Barcelona and our only regret was that we wish we'd booked it for the first night! After a disappointing meal the day before we were excited to see what foodie experiences we'd have on our tour. The tour was fantastic and over four hours we were taken to three local, authentic, high quality tapas bars where our small group tasted over 17 different types of tapas all paired with local wines and beverages! It was an amazing night and we loved visiting local restaurants and tapas bars which were completely off the tourist path. We'd highly recommend booking a tapas or food tour if you're heading to Barcelona as there is so many touristy places that are not selling authentic Catalonian food and are selling it at a highly inflated price. In addition to our fantastic evening of food our guide also emailed us the next day with a huge list of recommendations of further amazing places to dine during our trip. We cannot recommend them more highly for a delicious, authentic and quality evening of Spanish food and wine!





ARC DE TRIOMPHE & MARKETS
Whilst out exploring on Saturday we came across the Arc de Triomphe which is very different to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris but beautiful all the same. We also stumbled across an amazing market that was set up along the road leading to the Arc de Triomphe which had an AMAZING range of international food and drink options all at incredibly cheap prices. We joined the huge crowds of locals and tourists and found ourselves a deliciously healthy vegetarian lunch which we enjoyed on the grass in the sunshine! We love stumbling across places like this when we travel that we didn't even know existed and are also huge fans of market street food so were both very happy! If you are in Barcelona on a Saturday then we highly recommend strolling out to the Arc de Triomphe to check out the markets which sell a huge range of items and incredible food!







STROLLING THE BEAUTIFUL NEIGHBOURHOODS
A simple one but certainly a highlight! Barcelona has the most beautiful tree lined streets, beautiful buildings, sundrenched placas (squares) and beautiful fountains! We felt completely safe throughout our entire time in Barcelona and were told constantly by locals that Barcelona is safe and the worst crime they have is petty pickpocketing! Whilst there are a huge number of sites to visit and tick off your list in Barcelona, make sure you take the time to appreciate the beauty around you that is located all around you as you stroll throughout this gorgeous city!







OUR APARTMENT
We had five wonderful nights booked in Barcelona and decided to split them between a luxurious stay at the incredible Cotton House Hotel and a relaxing apartment stay with Sweet Home Abroad! Sweet Home Abroad have an incredible range of apartments all over the world and if you have been following us for a while then you will know that whilst we love staying in gorgeous hotels we also love to experience life as a local in a new city through an apartment stay! We love the freedom, privacy and relaxation that apartments offer and we had a fantastic stay with Sweet Home Abroad that we'll be writing about in more detail soon! We stayed in a fantastic one bedroom apartment that was within walking distance to all the main sites but also a little off the tourist trail which we loved as we felt like true locals and weren't swamped by other tourists every time we walked out the front door! We've booked a number of apartment stays over our next few months of travel and Dan has decided that he wants to cook meals using fresh, local produce and make full use of our kitchens when we have them! He even whipped us up some delicious tapas after he was inspired by our Tapas Lover Tour!




GOTHIC QUARTER
Barcelona's Gothic Quarter is a must visit during your time in the city! It is located in the centre of the old city of Barcelona and many of the buildings date from Medieval times, some even from as far back as the Roman settlement of Barcelona! It is a wonderful (mostly pedestrian) area to walk around and get lost amongst the narrow, winding labyrinth-like streets! There's also plenty of gorgeous placas (squares) which are great to relax and enjoy the beautiful, relaxed surroundings. We found the Gothic Quarter to be a beautiful, historic and lovely area to stroll around and admire the buildings and cobblestoned streets.






BEACHES & PORT
On our second last day in Barcelona we donned our walking shoes and walked to Barcelona's Port & Beaches from our apartment which was a fair hike but well worth it and was also great exercise! The Port is beautiful with sparkling blue waters and huge fish swimming below you and lavish, luxurious yachts - many of which could rival those in Monaco! From the Port we walked along the water until we reached the beaches! Barcelona has actually been called the "best beach city" in the world by National Geographic even though their beaches weren't even used for leisure until 1992! It wasn't until the city's redevelopment for the 1992 Olympic Games that the city moved their industries and converted the seaside area into beautiful beaches which included the improvement of two beaches and the creation of five new beaches for the enjoyment of tourists and locals alike! Today, you wouldn't even know that the beaches are man-made because they are beautiful!











Have you ever been to Barcelona? What were your favourite places?

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