During our honeymoon in Europe we spent four nights in Barcelona. Neither Ethan or I had ever been there so we really enjoyed exploring together!
I wanted to cover our honeymoon in detail so I split the posts up into a series. If you need to play catch up then you can do that here!
Itinerary – HERE
Paris – HERE
London – HERE
Reims – HERE
Cotton House Hotel in Barcelona – HERE
We figured we would end up taking a train from Paris to Barcelona but when we went to book our travel it actually made more sense to fly. The train was going to take a little over 6 hours and they did not have many time options available. We would have missed the greater part of two of our days in Barcelona by being on the train. But we were able to find a flight through AirFrance that had times that worked well for us, was less than a two hour journey and was pretty much the same price (maybe even a tad cheaper, if I remember correctly). So always remember to look into that option too!
It was so neat to be able to take such a short plane ride and be in a totally different environment. From the second we arrived at the airport in Barcelona, you could tell it was a contrast to Paris. We saw mountains and oceans on our drive in and the language had made the switch to Spanish. It was really exciting arriving!
Overall though, I will say.. I felt more uneasy in Barcelona and less safe than I did in London, Reims or Paris. By the time we left our hotel the first night we were there it was dark and I just didn’t really very comfortable walking around. I am always conscious of my purse and surroundings when traveling but there was something a bit more nagging at me in Barcelona. We did not have any bad experiences while we were there but it was just a feeling that I couldn’t ever really shake. If I am being honest, the only time I felt totally comfortable and really at ease was when we were inside the Cotton House Hotel or the Mercer Hotel.
One of the other overarching things that I could not let go while we were in Barcelona was the smell. I am not (at all) a person who is sensitive to smell. In fact, I would say my sense of smell is really weak. But there was a horrible smell that we kept coming across when we were walking the streets in Barcelona. It was really a bummer because it did make an impression on me–and not in a good way, haha!
Out of the places we traveled to in Europe on this trip (London, Paris and Reims), Barcelona was the spot where we had the most trouble communicating. Even still, it was very doable to be there and only speak English. The staff at the hotel spoke great English and several of the other people we came in contact with spoke enough to where we could get by. It was not a huge barrier for us, just a little challenging at times at restaurants.
&& as far as the cocktails go.. I had kind of a hard time finding drinks I loved in Barcelona. I am sure this was just because I wasn’t educated enough on their culture but the dry wines I ordered always came out tasting super sweet to me and I could never get across that I wanted soda water in a mixed drink. Maybe that is just not something they serve there?
We split up our stay while we were in Barcelona and spent half of our time at a hotel and half of our time at an Airbnb. I have mentioned this before, but I tend to like staying in a hotel more and Ethan prefers an Airbnb so when we travel we do a good mix of both depending on the city, prices, options etc. I think if we went to Barcelona again, I would want to stay in a hotel the whole stay but for this trip it was nice to do both since it was our first time in the city and it allowed us some variety and ability to explore two areas.
I have already done a full, detailed post on our stay here. You can read all about the 5 star hotel and see tons of photos of the grounds, rooms and bar HERE. I will say, we would 100% stay here again if we returned to Barcelona. It was the perfect luxury oasis and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there!
The two nights following our hotel stay, we were in this Airbnb. We chose it because it was affordable, not far from the hotel we were going to be transferring from and seemed to have a Barcelona feel with the two windows.
The apartment worked just fine for us but it was nothing to rave about. The location was central to the middle of the city center (it was closer to the beach from the Cotton House Hotel) but the streets around here seemed less safe. We preferred staying in the area where the hotel was and I slept much more sound there. I did not love the bed or bathroom here either. But there was an elevator (which was so nice for our luggage) and it worked just fine for a short stay. The hosts were very nice and easy to work with!
CAFES + RESTAURANTS + BARS
This wasn’t anything special, just a little cafe around the corner from our hotel. We probably wouldn’t have ended up here otherwise. We were starving and looking for something quick and close by to eat and stopped in here for a pizza. Mine was incredible but I think I was just biased because I was so hungry and the toppings on the one I chose are all of my absolute favorite things that I never have had the chance to have together. It was a pizza with tuna, mushrooms, olives and anchovies!
This was the first place we stopped in for a drink on our first night in Barcelona. It was later in the evening on a Sunday so it might be totally different at a different time during the week, but when we were there it seemed like a kind of sketchy street and atmosphere. The bartender was really kind but the other customers inside were really rude.
We stopped in here the first night we were in Barcelona and it was my first casual dinner with tapas experience. I loved it! There were tons of different small plates sitting out on the counter. You could walk around and select at many as you wanted to try and put them on a tray. Then the server would heat any up that were meant to be served warm. Each little appetizer serving had a toothpick in it. At the end of the meal your server would count your toothpicks in order to tally your bill. At this particular spot a regular toothpick was 1€ and a red toothpick was 1,50€. I liked this type of dining because I got to try several different things! FYI, this spot (and several others we saw like it) are VERY casual!
Sadly, we did not eat here for dinner during our stay (I regret that), but we did have breakfast here two days and cocktails here a few times. I HIGHLY recommend it! If you are in Barcelona definitely make a point to come in and enjoy their huge breakfast spread. It is out of this world and has tons of yummy options to choose from. The craft cocktails are also worth coming in for. Each one I had was fabulous! The one passion fruit on top was my favorite! More details about our experience HERE.
We were looking for somewhere to stop in an get a quick bite for lunch to do when we stumbled across this place. Ethan loves empanadas and I had never had an authentic one so we were definitely game to try a few. They turned out to be delicious! One of my favorite ones had tuna and artichoke inside. These are very inexpensive and easy to eat if you are on the go, walking around exploring.
This was one of the restaurants recommended to us for paella. We were dying to try this dish since it is so popular in Barcelona. We had dinner here at 8:30 and when we arrived there was no one in the restaurant but us. We were a little nervous that it was a bad sign, but it turns out everyone just eats really late dinners in Barcelona. By the time we left there were plenty of other people there.
The interior was clean, fresh, white and beach-y. It is a strong contrast to the other restaurants along the marina that seem like a tourist trap with their dirty posters that sit outside of the restaurant featuring photos of generic food dishes that seem like they were printed randomly off the internet and servers who try to lure you inside. This was more like a minimal decor, upscale restaurant by the water. They also had a patio but it was too chilly to sit there when we had dinner.
The food was really good! We almost liked the small plate appetizers we got even more than the paella so I suggest checking those out if you ever visit. We had black ink calamari croquettes, crunchy bread with tomato and paella with white fish. Note: If you order paella you have to order at least two servings and the price on the menu is per person. If we went back I would try one of the other mains instead. They all looked tasty!
We stopped in here for a couple empanadas one day for lunch. They were really good but we liked the other place we had them even better (here). This one is a chain and felt like it. However, they were still super yummy!
This 5-star hotel is nestled down a cobblestone street and is a complete gem! We wondered in the lobby of the hotel when we were on our way to something else and made a mental note to come back for drinks later that day. The interior of the hotel is stunning. The decor has a minimal vibe that plays up the surroundings. The bar feels like you are cozied up in a luxurious cave. We made ourselves comfortable in the upscale lounge that is sandwiched by 2,000 stone walls and enjoyed cocktails in crystal cut glasses and bar nibbles. It was such a nice night and we found some lovely hotel guests to chat with. I would definitely recommend experiencing this hotel if you are ever in Barcelona!
Such a fun beach restaurant! I would highly suggest coming here for lunch one day. It’s quirky spot by the water that offers several versions of glorified burgers and fries. It really hit the spot one day for us when we were a bit hungover! The fries and dipping sauces were to die for.
We ate tapas at several places but this was definitely our favorite place. We ate at a table outside with candlelight in the cobblestone square. The atmosphere was lovely! And we heard it is also an excellent place to come for a full meal as they specialize in the meats.
We went upstairs to their bar to have a drink one night before dinner. The bar itself is not our vibe at all. They are trying to achieve a cool nightlife, club scene and failing. There are neon purple lights shining all over and cheap couches BUT, the views are incredible (which is why we went). There is a huge glass window where you can look out over the ocean and see all the beach front property! After leaving the hotel we walked along the sidewalk that runs along the beach to our dinner spot and it was really nice.
One of the locals suggested this speak easy bar to us so we looked it up and gave it a visit. If you watch their instagram, sometimes they share the code to get into the bar that night on their instastory. The front of the bar is completely disguised as a blast from the past barber shop (there’s a real chair and employee there and everything) and the back of the bar is a unique bar with craft cocktails. I had a passion fruit mule!
This turned out to be our favorite area. It is between the city and the beach and has tons of little alleyway cobblestone streets. The feel is very old but it is filled with shops, bars, eateries and souvenir shops that you can wonder into. We found a designer vintage shop that we loved looking around in one day and we also found a local designer who had an awesome boutique with street style clothing that we really were drawn to. I regret not buying one of his t-shirts!
EL POBLE SEC
This is supposed to be a fun area to eat and hang out in. I don’t think we gave it a fair shot because it was fairly dead each time we were here.
It wasn’t really beach weather while we were in Barcelona but we still enjoyed walking the sidewalk along the beach, seeing all the sand art that was being created that day and checking out the little casual patio spots.
PASSEIG DE GRÀCIA
Barcelona is supposed to be a large luxury fashion destination. I did not really get that impression while we were there but I did still have to sniff out the street where all the major fashion houses have a store. We window shopped up and down this area for a bit and went in places like Celine, Versace and Gucci. Sadly this Gucci shop didn’t have the tights that I was on a mission to track down while we were on our trip. They weren’t available in Paris or London either so it must not have been meant to be!
We traveled around the city a few times on the Metro. It is fairly easy to navigate and a single ticket is only 2,20€. I was surprised at how clean the stations were.
We took cabs while we were here too because they were easy to catch on the streets. They have stations set up where several wait in a line. As far as I could tell this was not a labeled thing that was easy to track down but we came across them pretty regularly.
Something you should definitely see if you are in Barcelona! It is an enormous Roman catholic church that was designed by a famous architect but never finished. The construction is ongoing but you can still take tours and it is totally worth it! The inside is completely different from the outside. I was shocked. We did not buy the tickets where you can go up in the towers but I kind of wish we had. It would have been really interesting I’m sure.
The arc is definitely worth seeing and the area is lined with palm trees so it is an especially nice area to walk around!
Is a public park up on the hill overlooking Barcelona. It was a little bit of a drive to get up there and to be honest, I didn’t really understand the hype. So many people were paying to get onto an overlook where you could fight to take a picture in the midst of a crowd on a colorful bench. ?? And we went right as the park was closing so I can only imagine the crowd during the height of the day! It was a neat place to walk around though. There were several winding stone staircases, houses with unique architecture and pretty landscaping to look at. I think I am in the minority here, but I think it is something worth seeing if you have the time but not an attraction to build your day around.
We got really lucky with the weather in Barcelona. It was so nice! We were there during mid-February and the high was about 60 everyday and the low was around 43. I was able to wear jeans, a t-shirt/blouse, sneakers and a lighter weight jacket every day. Bonus, there was no rain!
I will say, it would also be nice to visit when it is warmer because then you could enjoy the beach and outdoor dining at restaurants more. We enjoyed not having to worry about being hot or cold and having mild temps though!
Overall, I am really glad we went to Barcelona because one of my all time favorite things to do with Ethan is explore a new city together for the first time. I’m also thankful I got to expand the list of countries I have been to and broaden my travel horizons.
But, I’ll be honest. It is not somewhere I will make an effort to return to. For me, it was kind of one of those–did it, saw it, checked it off the list kind of stops.
Unless, however, I could return to the Cotton House Hotel for a bit of champs in a thick-cut crystal stem glass from their antique table service bar cart. Because THAT.. was fabulous!
If you all have been to Barcelona and have any recommendations for me to share with everyone send them my way and I will shout them out to help anyone who is planning a trip!