Barcelona and I go way back. Back further than any other foreign city. From my travel beginnings on Carrer de Varsóvia, studying Spanish at the age of 16 with a Spanish family, to Jo and I making our first Shut Up and Go travel video from a bench near Barceloneta at 2:30AM, to this current moment of me chilling out in a Sandwichez at Tarragona. Barcelona is yet another one of those cities I keep coming back to.
And for good reasons. To me, Barcelona really nails it on so many points. You’ve got the beach, and the mountains (ahem, Los Angeles). It’s small enough that you can walk the entire day and see a lot of the city, but big enough to not feel guilty after taking the metro a few stops. The culture is interesting in that it’s a city that siestas until 10:30pm when people finally decide it’s an appropriate time to eat dinner, but wait nope, they decide on patatas bravas, una tortilla, or gazpacho for tapas instead.
Barcelona has really got the makings of a city that almost anyone would fall in love with, but if you need some extra assistance, here’s your Barcelona Bucket List.
Catch the view from Bunkers
Day or night, you will have breathtaking 360 degree views from this abandoned/repurposed civil war bunker from the 1930s. I went up at 9:30pm, which was a pretty sketch decision, but then I found students playing cards, locals drinking cava and sangria, and the occasional imposter local/tourist like myself who somehow found out about this more or less undercover hot spot.
Order the Red Curry at Bangkok Café
Even after a three week trip gallivanting around Thailand, I must say Bangkok Café has the best Thai food I’ve ever eaten. Located on an unassuming side street, with the entrance in a cute back alley, you’ll find a small restaurant that’s buzzing amongst locals. You might have to dine 2.2 inches away from your fellow patrons, but if you order the vegetarian spring rolls and red curry, it’ll all be worth it. The peanut and coconut curry with tofu (although I had to pretty much force them to add tofu to my dish) from Banna, was also highly, highly, highly recommended.
Sip on a smoothie from Veggie Garden
If you find yourself eating 65% of your food in purée form (me), get one of the smoothies at one of the two Veggie Garden restaurants near Universitat. They have an €8.50 lunch menu with an entrée like hummus and carrots, a main dish like seitan balls (sounds so appetizing, I know) in a special sauce (ok, sorry, I’m really bad at describing food), and a desert. I then went above and beyond by ordering an avocado and pistachio smoothie for €4. I’ve now had that smoothie three times and the coconut, chocolate, banana smoothie three times. Get. On. This. Level.
Visit La Sagrada Familia, of course
Although I’m almost convinced they’re purposely taking forever to finally top off La Sagrada Familia for marketing purposes (“They’ve been working on it since 1882 and it’s still not finished! It’s amazing! It won’t even be done till 2027!”), I still think it’s totally worth a visit. The cathedral is representative of Spanish culture and the famous architect Gaudi himself, not to mention downright majestic. You put one VSCO filter on this bad boy and it has you feelin’ like you’ve nearly made it to Hogwarts. You can most definitely find better views of Barcelona elsewhere, but this is a Barcelona icon that deserves to be seen up-close and personal.
Take the €4.10 day trip to Sitges
The quiet Mediterranean town of Sitges is first known for its gay culture, and secondly known as a chilled-out getaway – or maybe that just depends on the time of year you go. On a random Saturday in early December, the city was packed with families, teenagers in groups near the beach, and ok, I did have a small chat with a drag queen at some point. At only €4.10 and one hour to get here, it’s honestly a no-brainer to take a day trip. Café Montroig, a brunch spot, was beautiful, btw.
Chill to R&B music at Hidden Café
While taste is subjective, I can say that this coffee was my favorite in all of Barcelona. And trust me, I’ve been to Satan’s, Somewhere, Werhaus, and Federal Café. And set aside the taste of the coffee, you then add in the ambiance being clean and cool, AND KEEPING THE DOOR OPEN FOR AIR FLOW, and boom. I’m here.
But that’s not all either. Once your other senses have chilled out, your ears perk up and you start to hear…wait, is that Drake playing? Wait, hold up, Jhene Aiko? Stop. Frank Ocean? Yes, even if you don’t like coffee and are looking for a place to catch up with friends, you could make it all happen here.
The runner-up for the Coziest Coffee Shop of Barcelona totally would go to Molika Café.
€1 smoothies from La Boqueria
They’re one euro, questionably healthy, and everywhere you look at La Boqueria. I’m not too sure how natural the natural juices are, since they taste more sugary than Minute Maid mixed with Juicy Juice. A stroll around the La Boqueria is almost a requirement if you’re visiting La Rambla – it’s a third fruit and veggie market, a third meat market, and a third to-go food restaurants.
Spend the day around Port Vell and Barceloneta
The beach in Barcelona? An obvious choice. Try Barceloneta if you don’t feel like walking far, Nova Marbella for a more local scene, and Marbella for a (gay) nude beach if you’re into trying something new. The area around Port Vell has an aquarium, a mall (Maremagnum), and Plaça de l’Ictineo for picnics.
Bus it up to Tibidabo
Mount Tibidabo – that “castle” on top of the mountain overlooking your every move in Barcelona – yeah, did you know there’s also a fully-functioning amusement park up there? The park is mostly for children, but that shouldn’t stop you from going up and admiring the highest viewpoint (and maybe riding a roller coaster) anyway.
Google how to get to the park and you’ll figure out that it’s the most confusing thing ever. From my searches, there was no simple, clear-cut information, so I’m going to give that to you right now. For the quickest and cheapest way to Tibidabo, take the €3 bus from the North part of Plaza Catalunya. It’s a direct bus and drops you off 45 minutes later in front of both the amusement park and SkyWalk viewpoint. You’ll save on time, money, and hassle, and still get some of the view that the famous funicular offers.
Go anywhere in Gràcia
Gràcia and I just vibe it out every time I happen to stroll upon the neighborhood. I recommend going around 8pm and getting off the metro at Fontana and taking Carrer d’Astúries until Plaça del Diamant or Plaça de la Virreina – there will be life in the streets. Maybe get take-away burritos at Teicaway, vegan food at Café Camèlia, or a €7 Asian meal deal at Àsia amb Gràcia. Also, the last Sunday of every month, if you’re anywhere near Gràcia, find your way to Plaça de La Virreina – it should be relatively easy as the swing music reverberates through the alleys. It’s pure magic. Then again, I’m sensitive to movie moments.
Watch the “performers” in Parc de la Ciutadella
If you like feeling like you’re at a circus with acrobats and tightrope walkers, without the guilt of potential animal abuse in the back of your mind, you’ll be in for a treat at Parc de la Ciutadella. Total bohemian vibes, where new-age Barcelonian hippies can be found huddled in groups around a picnic blanket and one guy with locks playing a ukelele. Some play frisbee with their German shepherds while others bring their own their stilts and walk around the park like it’s totally normal. Aside from the unexpected performances, the park itself is beautiful.
Barcelona Bucket List | Honorable Mention
- Watch the Montjuic fountain show
- Spend a night at the touristy, yet still fun nightclubs near the beach (Shoko, Opium, Pacha, etc.)
- Find your way out of the maze at Parc del Laberint d’Horta
- Get a drink at Café Antic Teatre
- Get lost in Barrio Gótico