It’s easy to lose yourself amongst the beautiful, narrow streets of Barcelona.Â Especially when you’re tipsy on wunderlust, epicurean dreams and Rioja. Or so we learned the hard way.Â When my husband and I ventured to the Catalonian capital, we stayed in the L’Eixample neighborhood along the expansive Avinguda Diagonal. After gorging ourselves on tapas one evening, we decided to pop in for a nightcap near our hotel.
The bar was dark and sparse with clientele, but knowing that nightlife starts late in Spain, we bellied up to the bar and ordered two Estrella Damms. After an hour, only a few pretty girls sat at the bar, sipping water. An Eastern European woman showed my husband all the soccer books he could handle, butÂ said little to me. Something felt off, so I asked for the bill.
“25â‚¬.” said the woman.
“25â‚¬? For two beers?” I balked.
“It’s part of the deal.”
We didn’t want to know what was included in “the deal.” And stiffing didn’t feel like an option. We agreed on 20â‚¬ and left it at that. Afterward, Google told us the bar bills itself as an “alternative” club.
You live and learn, right? While the lesson of the night was that it pays to do your research, we weren’t too hard on ourselves. We almost saw how easy it is to make questionable decisions in Barcelona. The food, wine, art, architecture and beautiful people create a delightfully dizzying effect that leaves you buzzing for spontaneity and tipsy with curiosity.
And there is something to be said for spontaneity here. It’s the perfect place to plot a few destinations and wander in between. Let’s get lost, shall we?
Drink in the colors of Gaudi:
Barcelona is wildly picturesque in part due to the eccentric, colorful architecture of Antoni Gaudi. Perhaps his greatest masterpiece is the still unfinished Sagrada Familia. The views from outside are much more impressive than from the inside, especially for the 13â‚¬ entrance fee. Some say the elevators up the tower are worth the admission plus the additional fee, but it was too windy to find out the day we visited.
Take in some of the best views of the city from Park Guell. Pack a picnic and admire the colorful mosaics and lush gardens in the park that Gaudi originally intended to become a neighborhood for Barcelona’s elite. If you’re lucky, you might spot a feral cat or two. And if you’re brave, you’ll climb the railless panoramic viewpoint. I wasn’t.
And if you’re not exhausted with Gaudi yet, Casa Mila is worth checking out, if nothing for the rooftop views. Spot a theme here?
Sip in the sea(side):
It isn’t quite bikini weather yet in Barcelona, but there’s plenty to do and see seaside in Barceloneta and Port Vell. We rented bikes and rode along the beach, taking in the salty Mediterranean breeze and sights like Frank Gehry’s Fish.
After your “exercise,” reward yourself with paella atÂ one of many seafood restaurants nearby. You can get paella almost anywhere, but we took it a good sign that outdoor patios here were swarming with locals.
It’s touristy, but you should probably spend time wandering down the Barri Gotic, or the Gothic Quarter, on La Rambla. It’s pretty hard to miss. It’s a long, tree-lined street filled with vendors, street performers and souvenir shops.
There are loads of restaurants that line the Gothic Quarter, but beware of tourist traps. We had our taste of the good, the bad and the unappetizing around here. One gem off the main strip is Irati Taverna Basca, a cute, crowded pinxtos bar. You pick what you want and settle your bill based on the number of toothpicks on your plate. And the Rioja…oh my. At 3â‚¬, it was some of the best wine I’ve tasted.
This post could certainly go on for days with things to do, see and eat in Barcelona, but you’ll just have to get lost yourself and make some almost questionable decisions. Salud!