I returned to Barcelona a battered traveler! After having been beaten up by the elements in Scotland during the week I was happy to be stepping foot back on Spanish soil! I had really enjoyed Madrid earlier on the trip and was excited to give Barcelona another shot. I had first visited this city in 2009 but left in disappointment, having felt the city lacked much of what was promised. Everyone had raved about Barcelona (Stuart being one of the biggest endorsers!) however when I left it in 2009 I felt like it was very much forgettable. When I look back on that trip I recall the Sangrada Familia being covered in scaffolding (it still is!!) and that we enjoyed the cheap boxed sangria Don Simone. That was then (as a fresh university grad) and this is now (as an experienced world traveler…) hopefully this time around the city will leave a better impression!

To kick things off I luckily had done well with my hostel selection. It turned out to be a great place, with very friendly staff and cool fellow hostel dwellers. It enabled things in the city to get off to a strong start and quickly lifted my spirits after the few lack luster days prior. This great establishment is called Pars Tailor’s Hostel, if you are going to Barcelona that would be my recommendation!

I had another Ace up my sleeve in addition to the one which was dealt (being the hostel) I had a friend whom I had met earlier on the trip that was spending a few months in the city studying Spanish. That Ace up my sleeve was Ana Jagunic, who I had met in Berlin!! Special shout out to Juan Salinas (if you’re reading this) for letting me know Ana was living in Barcelona!

My first night in Barcelona I met up with Ana to swap stories on what we had been up to the past months while enjoying some tapas and sangria. We were both having great trips and she was striving to become a Spanish expert. Anyway the big takeaway was that the next day (Saturday) the big futbol match was taking place, El Classico! This is BIG TIME, Real Madrid vs. Barcelona!! Since it was an away match the goal was to find a venue to watch the game that would be lively. She didn’t know anywhere but since she had been in Barcelona for several weeks she had a network of friends who had an idea. The chosen place to watch El Classico, la O’vella Negra. A lively viewing venue where the majority of fans would be pro Barcelona. I was excited for the following day to arrive so I could cheer on Real Madrid and collect my 5 Euros which we wagered on the match when they cruised to victory!

Saturday morning kicked off not with futbol but with a quest for a breakfast spot with my three newly acquired friends who were staying in my hostel room. All were living in Valencia, two English and one German. I had only just met them in the morning before we headed out originally looking for English breakfast but we settled on a restaurant in front of the market which served something with more Spanish ingredients. I can’t recall the name of the restaurant but prior to getting our food the English bloke that was celebrating the birthday treated us all to cheese-shots (literally a small cup of cheese, no alcohol). Well they were disgusting and all four of us almost died from these foul things. I am not sure if they come in several flavors throughout Barcelona or if this was the only location, either way if ever offered a cheese-shot it might be wise to turn it down!

Back to breakfast, it was delicious and the conversation was quite entertaining. A good group of guys and part of the long list of fantastic people who were at the hostel while I was there!

They need to work on their photo taking skills

After eating which was more of a brunch or lunch since it was after 1pm… The hostel group parted ways for the afternoon and I eventually made my way to la O’vella Negra. I was told to arrive at 4pm, turns out the place doesn’t open until 5pm so I was a bit early. The crowds started to arrive around 4:30pm lining up to get in and quickly grab a viewing table. Ana arrived with a bunch of her friends who I was introduced to and now I was surrounded primarily by Barcelona fans, which was going to make the match that much more interesting to watch!

We got in and grabbed an excellent viewing table and everyone I met was extremely friendly! Most of the group was from South America, including Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica so I got to share some of my travel stories from earlier in the trip and continue to practice my Spanish which is always great!

As far as El Classico goes, the outcome was not what I was rooting for from a fan perspective but from a travelers vantage point it was the better result. Barcelona beat up Real Madrid 4–0 so the place was going nuts, every time Barcelona scored fans were jumping up on the tables singing and dancing. It was quite a show and very entertaining!

Mirando El Clasico con Wilson, Me, Ana, Juan
Too many Barcelona fans!! Only others rooting for Real Madrid were Wilson & Ana Maria!!
Normally friends but during El Clasico bitter enemies!

The metro ride post match was more enjoyable for those who were sporting the red and blue. Luckily we came to the conclusion that a bit of aguardiente would help lift everyone’s spirits on the side who suffered defeat! We went back to the apartment of our generous hosts from Costa Rica, socialized for a while and then eventually made our way out on the town as a group to dance the night away!

Sunday morning was another breakfast quest with my friends from Valencia. I would say the Saturday hunt was better as Sunday’s meal was a bit lacking in my opinion compared to the good food we had enjoyed the morning prior. Eventually they made their way for the train to Valencia so I was on my own to explore the city all afternoon. I decided I would walk around for a few hours and made my way through the Gothic quarter, down into Barceloneta, along the waterfront and then back towards the hostel. It was an enjoyable time of roaming the streets with no real plan (something I am fond of in cities that I have visited prior).

I uncovered an excellent smoothie shop on avenue L’Hospital called Juicy Jones, very tasty! I also stumbled across a nice park, no clue what the name was but it’s one of the larger ones so odds are if you visit Barcelona you will find this one!

Saw the Sangrada Familia again. I don’t know if its just me but I can never get over the fact its still under heavy construction! My eyes are drawn to the cranes and scaffolding covering the outside of this building. I still remember seeing on the cover of my Spanish 1 book from back in school and in that photo there was no construction equipment!!

La Sangrada Familia

Monday night we went out with the hostel for some cava & tapas! It’s a local gem of a spot (Can Paixano) that runs a great deal until a certain hour (think until about 8:45 or 9pm but might be wise to check earlier in the day with them). Unbeatable prices for a bottle of cava and 2 tapas plates! The best were the chorizo tapas and of the cavas I preferred the blanco style!

Cava & tapas crew at Can Paixano

I enjoyed some great food over the course of the next few days but really enjoyed the food at 7 Portes in the Barceloneta district. The rucola salad with goat cheese and Paella were both excellent! I would put it as one of the best (if not my favorite) meal of the trip!!

Another excellent option for some delicious food would be to grab some tapas at Ciudad Condal. Fantastic variety and all were excellent quality and very flavorful!

The last day I enjoyed the continued wandering through the streets taking in the architecture and old building that Barcelona has to offer.

Next up after Barcelona, Florence Italia!

Barcelona’s Best:

Lodging — Pars Tailor’s Hostel

Meal / Paella — 7 Portes

Tapas — Cuidad Condal

Smoothie — Juicy Jones