A weekend or so ago we spent a couple of days in Barcelona. The primary reason for our visit was that finally our reservation at El Celler de Can Roca which we had had to book 13 months in advance (yes an entire year!!) was upon us. But it was also a great excuse to spend some time in a city I’d been longing to return to since my first trip a decade ago. but more on that on Wednesday.
On our first evening we visited Tickets one of the restaurants set up by Albert and Ferran Adrià of El Bulli fame. This casual tapas restaurant has quickly become the must have table in the city. Combining theatre with incredible quality local ingredients, Tickets had a lively, friendly atmosphere and delicious, inventive food. Highlights of our meal included the ‘olives’, tomato dish – especially the tomato tea which was unbelievably delicious, and the King Oyster mushroom ‘spaghetti’.
I started the following morning with a (very refreshing!) dip in the pool at our lovely hotel, the Hotel Arts (Carrer de la Marina, 19-21, 08005 Barcelona).Despite the brevity of my swim I reasoned that the chill factor alone meant that I could justify a cinnamon bun from the very popular Baluard bakery (Carrer del Baluart, 38, 08003 Barcelona). Trust me, it is worth the queue and the calories!
After lunch at El Celler de Can Roca (more on which on Friday) we decided to stretch our legs and catch the sunset at Parc Güell (Carrer d’Olot, s/n, 08024 Barcelona).
The park – commissioned by Eusebio Güell for Barcelona’s aristocracy – has been a UNESCO world heritage sight since 1984 and was one of my favourite places on my last trip to Barcelona so I was sure to fit in a repeat visit. Even though it is a bit far out of the centre of town I would really recommend taking the time for a wander around. The park is a great example of Gaudí’s designs during his naturalist phase including some incredible stone structures,
and detailed and vibrant tiling.
For those people out there with a thing for tiling…Barcelona is a great city to visit!
The park also boasts some killer views out over Barcelona.
We hadn’t really planned to eat that evening and after our mega lunch I’m not quite sure how I was hungry, but following a trusted recommendation we tried to get a last minute booking at Hoja Santa (Av. de Mistral, 54, 08015 Barcelona), an upmarket Mexican restaurant inspired by Albert and Paco Adrià’s visit to Oaxaca. Unsurprisingly, the culinary delights of this restaurant do not seem to be a secret and so we ended up in the sister restaurant Niño Viejo for a more casual affair. Niño Viejo offers Mexican street food in a lively atmosphere. The highlights for me included the delicious tuna tostada and sirloin taco which were packed full of flavour.
Although the food was brilliant at Niño Viejo, our friend had described the Corn, Chocolate and Cajeta dessert at Hoja Santa as the best dessert she had had this year and given the two restaurants are in the same building it was just too tempting…luckily we managed to persuade the staff to let us move for dessert.The dessert was very good – the corn ice cream adding a really unusual twist to the very rich chocolate, but I’m not a huge caramel fan so personally I preferred the Margarita with coconut cloud which was a little more refreshing and particularly easy on the eye. Given the quality of desserts I will definitely be booking in advance for Hoja Santa next time I visit Barcelona!
On our final day I made a beeline for Casa Batlló on Passeig de Gràcia – one of the most famous Gaudí buildings in Barcelona. The facade is designed to look like it is made from skulls (the balconies) and bones (the pillars).
No detail is overlooked – features constantly grab your attention as you wander through the mansion, from the window’s
The roof was a particular highlight for me. It is thought that it was designed to look like the back of a dinosaur with the lance of Saint George (the patron saint of Catalonia) plunged into its back.
And the view isn’t too shabby either…
For our last Catalan feast we headed to Rías de Galicia (Carrer de Lleida, 7, 08004 Barcelona). The dishes were a bit hit and miss but the highs definitely outshone the lows. The octopus Galician style was probably some of the best octopus I’ve ever had,
and the black chocolate 70% with blood orange sauce and cake pistachio was, imho, the stand out pudding of the trip albeit very rich (i.e. definitely one to share).
After lunch my other half was relieved from further sightseeing by an early flight, while I walked back along Passeig de Gràcia and past Casa Mila (another of Gaudí’s masterpieces). I couldn’t face another queue so I took in this building, which is designed to resemble an open stone quarry, from the outside only.
In terms of sightseeing I saved the best for last and wandered over to the Sagrada Familia. My top tip when it comes to the basilica would be to book in advance (especially if you want to go up the towers) as the queues are LONG. I actually booked online from my phone while standing in the ticket queue and that saved me at least an hour!
Designed by Gaudí (who died in 1926) there has been some controversy surrounding the interpretation of his plans but the basilica is undeniably spectacular.
The basilica’s entrance is through the incredible naturalistic detail of the nativity facade. Gaudí wanted this facade to draw people into the basilica.
Despite the fact that the basilica has been under construction since 1882, the last time I came to this incredible basilica, ten years ago, the roof wasn’t yet finished and there was barely an interior so I was amazed to see how things had progressed.
In particular, the way the light hits the pillars and roof blew me away.The style of the sides of the cathedral are totally different – on the way out you are faced with the angular and stark Passion facade. Designed to strike fear into the onlooker…
I definitely feel like I made the most of our time in Barcelona but regret not having an extra day or two to fully explore the city (especially as almost an entire day was given over to our meal at El Celler)…on the list for next time Boqueria market, La Ramblas, brunch at Picnic and drinks on the W Hotel’s famed roof terrace. And of course the Sagrada Familia again to see how things keep developing.