My friend Naoise is visiting Barcelona at the end of the month and asked me to share some places I loved with her. Having lived in Barcelona for a year the city really went under my skin and I can honestly say it is my favourite city that I have been to on this planet. It felt extremely vibrant, welcoming and exciting the first time I visited 10 years ago and the initial magic that I felt didn’t disappear after living in it for a year. It’s a city with an incredible soul that keeps giving and surprising you with food, culture, events, dusty streets, street art, a crazy amount of activities and people that just want to live and have a good time. After all that I realised I have never shared anything about Barcelona on At Lucy’s. I will not talk about any major tourist attractions as these would be on any free map you pick up. If I had to choose just one thing to see from all of Barcelona’s touristy gems I would say I’d pick Sagrada Familia, seen from the outside at night, when all the crowds are gone. A book to read during your Barcelona stay is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The book is based in Barcelona with a reference to streets and bars throughout and it is the kind of novel that keeps surprising you and you can never guess right what would happen next.
So here is my Barcelona stroll with more things to do than you can actually fit in, all revolving around food, yoga and art. Click on the names for Google Maps directions.
We are going to start in El Born which I think is the absolute best neighbourhood in Barca. It is not as heavily polluted by tourists and there are still many locals living around, it still has masses of tourists going through peak season but it is a bit calmer than other areas. Crime is a little bit lower here as well. It also makes a good base to stay as everything will be within a walkable distance. The neighbourhood offers a lot of culture and traditional buildings, the building next door to our apartment was apparently 400 years old.
Places to Eat&Drink
Blue Project Cafe where they serve raw, vegan and vegetarian dishes. Everything is 100% Organic and tastes amazing but I always seemed to get raw cakes for breakfast! We also befriended the guys from the hotel across the street called Chic&Basic. They make all sort cocktails but my orders always revolved around their smoothie menu. Prices are quite reasonable compared to other places.
La Taguara– Arepa is a type of food made of ground maize dough, It is popular in Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Panama. They have suggested toppings but you can put whatever you select inside really. Great to bring in the park.
Guzzo-I love this place it has a vintage interior with really cool art. They make very special cocktails and the food is quite good but it all comes at a bit of a higher price tag. However, it is the perfect spot to have a cup of tea/coffee and admire the mural of Miss Van, one of my favourite street artists that actually lives in the neighbourhood.
Cat Bar– This place is well known for its craft beers and vegan/ vegetarian burgers.
La Hamoca – A great little vegetable shop and cafe to stop by for a juice and cake. The guy that runs it is extremely nice and whenever I sat there he always brought a little plate with fruit for Roa, usually pears.
L’Antic Teatre is a hidden away spot, where you won’t find tourists. It has an indoor and outdoor area, squished between apartment buildings with a big tree in the middle creating the unique atmosphere. Great for a drink in the evening when the tree is lit up. It is not that easy to find but really worth it.
La Gelateria del Barri for a vegan ice cream treat.
La Cuidatella Park –I and Roa spent numerous hours here, me doing yoga or napping while Roa is playing with all the neighbourhood dogs. The atmosphere is amazing all around with people doing all sorts of activities: running, fitness, hoops, slacklines, getting high, drumming, singing, bubble making, yoga, acro yoga, silks, tree climbing, juggling, pretty much anything you think of. A lot of the activities are organized and you can join in either for free or a small fee, check out Meetup.com for whatever is happening on the day. The zoo is in the park so we often went in the bushes behind the big fountain where you can check out the wild cats circling around their cages… pretty sad but still cool to check in with the panther and leopard on your stroll.
Montana Spray Paint shop and Gallery –Check out whatever exhibition is on at the time. It is free and they usually have some pretty big international street artists.
Casa Perris– Next stop is a shop I miss immensely. The shop is filled with big sacks of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, flowers, grains rice, superfoods and all sorts of other cool stuff. Grab a little bag of cacao beans and almonds to munch on while you are taking in the streets. If you fancy visit carrer de Flassaders, it is a street full of little boutiques and most importantly the street we lived on! Nostalgic!
Say hi, to the Cat Ladies. There are these 2-3 ladies hanging out at the same spot every day and they bring their cats out, different ones most of the time. My guess is they have hundreds of them at home. They are passionate about cat rescue but mostly about dressing them up with Hawaiian flowers, bringing them in baby buggies, and having chats about cats over sweet rainbow popcorn. It is all very random!
There are numerous cool boutiques in El Born, but here are favourite ones:
Skunkfunk outlet– Skunkfunk is a Spanish brand producing sustainable fashion. Their pieces are often quite arty with a minimalist geometrical feel. Plus you can never beat an outlet.
Two-Thirds is an ethical clothing brand that is deeply connected to surfing and put a lot of efforts into ocean conservation.
In Ozz Barcelona, you can find unique clothing, jewellery, and accessories created by emerging local designers. Look for handmade, sustainable fashion from up-and-coming independent brands.
Barceloneta is the beach neighbourhood and here it is happening every day of the week anytime of the day. During the day it is boasting with beach activities and cool places to eat, while at night it has a big party scene as many of the clubs are located at the beach and a lot of people choose to have ‘picnic parties’ at the beach. A fun fact: The beaches in Barcelona are actually manmade for when the city hosted the Olympic games.
Places to Eat&Drink
Rooftop bar 1881 de SAGARDI – This is a great spot to take in the city. Skybars are usually quite expensive in Barcelona but this one is quite reasonable and serves freshly squeezed juices under cool tunes.
ReBELOT– Which is a 0km Slow food place which means that the produce used is obtained in a close proximity to Barcelona minimising the carbon footprint of the meal.
Bitacora– Now this is a place we visited probably 30 times, where everything is delicious, the prices are good and the portions are very generous. It is not a vegan place but their salads are huge and there are often a good few things you can have on the menu.
Makamaka-This is a cool beach burger place. There is always a vegetarian burger which you can request minus the cheese, as well as salads, hummus and chips. It is also a great place to have a drink and take in the beach atmosphere.
Paddle Board Yoga – Fer takes you paddling along the coast until you reach the little bay in front of the W hotel. There you get to do some yoga and pilates moves and time to try your headstands on the paddle. The water is shallow enough there and you are under palm trees so it’s a really great opportunity to build up some appetite! Find the activity on their meetup page here.
This is probably the most popular area, flooded with tourists. The “old city” in the heart of Barcelona and the “original” Barcelona where the city all started. This area is characterized by winding cobbled ancient streets, a labyrinth of shops, as well as the main shopping street with all the major international stores, wonderfully picturesque architecture, galleries and cafes full of atmosphere.
Where to Eat&Drink
Vegetalia– This place is great variety wise! I only tried the restaurant towards the end of my Barcelona year but Vegetalia produces their own products so their variety of burgers was sustaining me through the year. Everything I have tried tastes great.
Bar Oviso is in the same square as Vegetalia and it is a well worth spot to stop for a drink. The interior always reminded me of Africa.
El Bosc de las Fades– This is a cafe that is part of the Barcelona Wax museum and even though it is quite busy with tourists it is still amazing for a quick coffee/tea break. Its name translates ” the fairy forest” and the interior makes you feel as if you are in a fairytale book. Make sure you stay long enough as every 30 min or so there is a ‘storm’ in the cafe with lightning, thunder and all that.
Yo/Mu Yoga. This is likely going to be the most exciting part of the trip- a yoga evening with Lucy Beckwith and Pepe Arias. Lucy is the most gentle and positive person I have ever met. You can read 10 Questions with Lucy Beckwith here. While she moves you into a Vinyasa flow Pepe Arias plays mixes cool tunes and sounds and finishes it off with a cello meditation. You can also check out the art I did for them in the background.
Visit a Gallery. Not just any gallery though, visit Base Elements. The place is full of cool pieces from local artists and street artists. The guy at the gallery is quite chatty so you can pretty much get a free mini tour of the street art scene in Barcelona. A favourite which you can find there and then try and spot on the streets is ART is TRASH. Another artists I love, Ivana Flores, has some work on display too.
Cos Hop shop – A Little boutique selling locally designed and produced clothing and accessories. Most things are sustainably produced as well.
Hummus Barcelona– here you can be assured that all brands represented have strong sustainability ideals as the owner does not compromise with keeping environmental costs to a minimum. Cool things to look out for are the local brand thinking MU that has artistic printed organic t-shirts and hoodies as well as Elementum by Daniela Pais that presents simple pieces that you can wear in various ways. Worth having a look as they often have very interesting and innovative pieces.
Raval is certainly not the cleanest or the safest area but one could say that it is also the most interesting. There are many seedy areas but we spend a lot of our time there mostly having drinks or buying some local veg from BUBUB and then carrying them back home for 2km through crowded streets – the dedication towards good veg. The southernmost part of the El Raval, near the port, also used to be famous as the city’s red-light district and I think still is. The area has also become fashionable being host to a wide variety of art studios, galleries and trendy bookshops, not to mention the imposing MACBA (museum of modern art) and CCCB which is the neighbouring exhibition centre and the crowds of skaters. Raval also has a very strong immigrant community so stepping into some of the streets it doesn’t feel like you are in Europe which I loved.
Where to Eat&Drink
Nevermind-This place is seriously cool. It is so cool that it is very likely you feel a little uncool in it. It is a bar where street artists and skaters meet, it has an indoor skate ramp, tonnes of graffiti and they give you free popcorn with your drink. The tables and benches are mostly made from skateboards.
Teresa Carles– The philosophy of this restaurant is all about eating better, being happier and living longer. That’s perfectly in line with my philosophy so naturally, I am in love with this place. The portions are generous and the tastes in the dishes are exquisite. The food is also sourced from sustainable sources meaning that most is local and organic. Have any salad and LASANYUKI a homemade lasagna with whole grain flour and 5 steps of real pleasure: spinach & pinions, boletus edulis, masala-chai-style cooked pumpkin, cashew roller cheese, and a sauce made of both fresh & dried tomatoes.
Buy a Souvenir at La Central. La Central is my favourite bookshop in Barcelona. if you go on the second floor there is a little section with little-illustrated books with the different barrios (neighbourhoods) in Barcelona.
Barcelona is very vast and there are much more really cool spots outside the city center but if you are visiting for a short while you won’t have time for it. Hope you loved the stroll as much as I did.