My Winter Guide to Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona is the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region, well-known for its art and architecture. The city attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, particularly during the peak months of May, June, and September. Winter is by far the cheapest season, which is why we chose to go during this time. We were there from February 5th through February 10th but visited Madrid in between. As a result, we were only in Barcelona for 3 full days, all of which we enjoyed to the fullest.
We took advantage of a deal on momondo with direct flights from New York to Barcelona for $300. We flew Delta out of JFK and slept through a long yet comfortable 8-hour flight.
Temperatures in Barcelona ranged between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It rained 75% of the time we were there, which limited the number of activities we were able to do on this trip.
Where to Stay
Set in a former 19th-century palace, this arty, upscale hotel is opulence at its best. The rooms come with original works of art, marble bathrooms, and plush sofas. We were upgraded to a suite with an upstairs living room and a luxurious bathroom. We couldn't be more happy with the level of service we received.
The hotel welcomed us with friendly service and a glass of cava as soon as we arrived. We booked with the hotel directly and received a complimentary bottle of wine during turndown service that evening. Every room comes with a mobile phone that can be used as a mobile hotspot. This came in handy when we needed to use our maps or communicate with our family back home.
It's easy to get around Barcelona. The hotel where we stayed was steps away from the Passeig de Gràcia metro station and some of the bus lines that will take you to the popular sites.
Because it was four of us on this trip and it was constantly raining, we mainly took taxis and split the cost. Our rides averaged $8 - $10 Euros depending on the location, but you can save some money by taking the train or bus.
But we didn't take taxis the whole time we were there. On day 2, Samuel and I bought a T-10 card for 9.95 Euros. The card afforded us ten separate journeys, with changes between methods of transport within 75 minutes.
Buses operate daily, roughly from 4:00am or 5:00am until 10:30pm. The Metro operates Monday to Thursday, plus Sundays from 5:00am until Midnight. On Fridays and on public holidays, it runs from 5:00am to 2:00am. On Saturdays, it runs for 24-hours.
Where to Eat
The food in Barcelona is phenomenal. In fact, it is the best food I've had on any vacation. I prepared very well for this trip and mapped out all the restaurants I wanted to experience. My fear is to enter a tourist trap and have a negative perception of the cities I visit.
Most restaurants and bars include service in the price. Locals leave only a few cents or round up the change for a coffee or a drink, and a euro or two for most meals. Fancier restaurants would expect 10-15% tip.
Tapas 24 was one of our first stops in Barcelona. Located a few blocks away from Hotel Claris, the restaurant has some of the most delicious tapas you'll eat in this city. We ordered Jamón Iberico, pan con tomate, croquetas, and of course, patatas bravas which we washed off with some good cava. We also ordered the Bikini sandwich with iberico ham, truffle, and burrata cheese which was simply to die for!
Paradiso is a speakeasy with a great atmosphere and even better cocktails. The place was a little hard to find at first, mainly because its hidden behind a pastrami bar, but once you find it, you'll be mesmerized by all the drink choices they have available. I enjoyed the Caipirinha, but also had fun looking at everyone's cool and elaborate drinks.
Tapeo is an unassuming tapas spot located near the Picasso museum. We didn't make reservations but were promptly seated towards a hidden part of the restaurant in the back. The restaurant serves both classic and elaborate tapas. We ordered the lamb, ribs, croquetas and the popular Fideuá negra de sepia. The ribs were our favorite, so much that we ordered a second round.
Arume is a cute little restaurant located in an alleyway in El Raval. We went in without a reservation, and although the place was packed to the brim, the staff was able to accommodate our party of four. We tried the duck paella, and it was the best we had in Barcelona. I recommend ordering the blackberry mojito as well as 'La Torrija de Manuel' for dessert.
Mercat de la Boqueria
La Boqueria is more than just a place to eat, it is a landmark and an experience all on its own. The market is a foodie's paradise where you can sample all kinds of goodies in just one place. It gets very crowded, so if you need some peace and quiet, I recommend going towards the back and into a small restaurant called La Gardunya. The restaurant serves a fresh menu with items purchased right off the market. I recommend their seafood platter- it was fresh and absolutely delicious.
We finished off our trip by dining at El Informal. This place knocked our socks off as if we weren't already blown away by the food in Barcelona.
El Informal offers fresh interpretations of traditional Catalan and Mediterranean cuisine by Michelin-Starred Chef Marc Gascons. We had the Galician style octopus, the patatas bravas the chicken roast croquettes, and the traditional Catalan rice with sausage, local black sausage, pumpkin, and rosemary. And that was just to start. By the time my fillet of veal came out, I couldn't even breathe.
What to See
We tried to see Park Guell, we really did, but the universe had other plans. We took the bus and got off at the wrong stop, only to walk for more than 30 minutes under a thunderstorm. After we arrived, we found shelter around the ticket station but the rain wouldn't let up. After fifteen minutes of waiting, we decided to call it quits and hopped on the public bus to the safety of our hotel.
I was very disappointed that I couldn't see this iconic spot. I would love to come back to Barcelona, and if I do, Park Guell will be the first thing I do on that trip.
La Basílica de la Sagrada Familia is the largest unfinished Roman Catholic church in the world. Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the church has been under construction since 1882 and is expected to finish by 2026.
Every aspect of this church is very symbolic. That's why I booked a guided tour ahead of time. The experience allowed us to learn about all the things that makes this place so unique.
Casa Batlló, also known as the “house of bones” is another one of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces. This is another one of the 'must see' places that I didn't get to see on this trip.
Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera or "open quarry", is a modernist building also built by Antoni Gaudí.
What to Do
Wine & Cava Tour
Barcelona has a wide selection of wines, and you can experience most of them by going on a wine tour.
We booked a 6-hour vineyard tour with Castle Experience and couldn't have been more pleased. Our guide Ana was fun, friendly, and very knowledgeable, and the wines and cava we sampled were top of the line.
The tour picked us up from Barcelona and took us through the wine regions of Penedes and Pal de Bages. We visited boutique wineries in each of these areas, sampling cavas and wines paired with an assortment of meats and cheeses.
We started our journey in Ca N’Estella, a beautiful country house with a modern technique to winemaking. We sampled three different types of Rabetllat i Vidal cavas, the sparkling wine famous all over the world. Shortly after, we went over to Oller del Mas, a 10th-century castle with a traditional style of winemaking. We tried ecological château wines and learned the techniques of cava and wine production.
We ate, drank, and made new friends. This was an unforgetable adventure, and I recommend everyone books something like this next time they're in Barcelona.
Know before you go
Barcelona is known for pickpockets, so avoid backpacks, keep your wallet in your front pocket and do not carry documents or large amounts of cash with you. It's also highly recommended that you make copies of your documents beforehand.
U.S. Embassy: Passeig de la Reina Elisenda de Montcada, 23, 08034 Barcelona, Spain +34 932 80 22 27
Emergency: Dial 112 for ambulance, police and fire services- Ambulance 061, Fire service 080, Police - Guardia Urbana (092), (Mossos d’Esquadra (088) or Policia Nacional (091)