This is a great place for some down time in Barcelona. Located close to the University of Barcelona's Campus on Diagonal, and children's hospital Sant Joan de Deu, this park is a beautiful place for a stroll, or to sit outside and play with your smart phone, tablet or laptop (free wifi). Come spring, it hosts Barcelona's international Rose competition and because the weather in Barcelona is so mild, that means roses spring, summer and a good chunk of fall.
Getting There: The park is close to metro stop Zona Universitaria (L3) and the Zona Universitaria tram stop.
Hidden Gems in Barcelona
Barcelona is full of quirky shops, unusual attractions and beautiful green spaces. So forgo the subpar paella in Las Ramblas and skip the endless lines to see great works of art by Gaudí, Picasso and Miró. After over seven years living in Barcelona, I've learned which attractions are worth braving the crowds and where to find authentic local eats at a reasonable price. Oh, and I know the best places to shop, too.
Visit Pavellons Güell, a somewhat lesser-known Gaudi masterpiece in Barcelona's posh Pedralbes neighborhood. Especially spectacular is the property's wrought-iron dragon gate, it's writing serpentine form strongly resembling a cross between a bat and a snake.
The nearest metro stop is Palau Reial (L3) and you can also get there in Barcelona's trolley system, stop Palau Reial T1, T2, and T3.
Saturday and Sunday mornings you can reserve a guided tour in English, Spanish or Catalan for a small fee, but you can pose for silly pictures with the dragon gate from the sidewalk daily, free of charge.
Take a tour around the Sinagoga Major, in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter, once home to the Call, or Jewish neighborhood. For a small suggested donation, you get information about the two rooms to be visited, their contents, and the history of the synagogue.
Nearby, you can sign up for a guided tour of the Call, or shop for books and kosher products at the Barcelona Call Store. The synagogue is open Monday through Friday 10:30 to 5.30 and Saturday and Sundays 10:30 to 2:30.
The nearest metro stop is Jaume I (L4), but the synagogue is within easy walking distance of Plaça Catalunya.
See a concert or watch acrobats swing from great heights in this beautiful early 20th century bull-fighting ring. If you're passionate about bull-fighting culture, La Monumental is also home to Barcelona's Bull-fighting Museum (Museo Taurino) where you can admire elaborate bull-fighting ensembles, tools of the trade and the heads of famous bulls.
The nearest metro stop is Monumental (L2).
Tibidabo is worth the somewhat complicated trip to the top even if just to enjoy sweeping panoramas of Barcelona.
Apart from the amazing views, there's Sagrat Cor a beautiful neo-gothic church where the faithful can pray, and photographers can take an elevator to the top for still higher-up perspectives of Barcelona.
Another attraction at the top is the kitsch and charming Tibidabo Amusement Park, built in 1889. Take a spin on the ferris wheel, or the park's emblematic plane ride.
Getting there: Grab the L7 train from Plaza Catalunya and get off at Avenida Tibidabo. From there take the Tram Blau in Plaza John Kennedy to the end of the line, where you can then hop the funicular train to the top.
Soak up the sun and stroll the grounds of this centrally-located Barcelona park. Home to Barcelona's zoo, the Catalan Parliament, this park hosts interesting events (and political demonstrations) throughout the year. During La Mercé (Barcelona's city-wide festival), there are open-air concerts and events here.
But by far the biggest attractions are Josep Fontseré's massive fountain with its gorgeous central waterfall and sculptures, and a large lake, where you can rent a paddleboat for a few euros.
There's also a silly sculpture of a mammoth that kids (and the young at heart) like to climb.
If you find yourself in need of some caffeine while you're there, in the glass and iron greenhouse (el invernadero) there's a coffeehouse.
The nearest metro stops are Arc de Triomf (L1) and Ciutadella/Vila Olimpica (L4)
Oh-Barcelona has apartments throughout Barcelona so that you can enjoy Barcelona like a local. The apartment pictured above with its rooftop terrace and views of Sagrada Familia is hard to beat.
The best part of staying in an apartment, as opposed to a hotel, is being able to shop for amazing eats at Barcelona's open markets (think La Boqueria) and prepare them yourself. If you have friends in the area, you can even entertain.
Even if you're not very interested in floral arrangements, Dada Flor is worth a look around. This shop combines quirky elements with beautiful flowers for a surprising effect.
Also, the shop sometimes has preserved flowers or other non-perishable art for sale--who knows what interesting Barcelona souvenirs you may find...
After seven years living in Barcelona, I'm more than aware of the limited variety of traditional Catalan and Spanish sweets. Most truly traditional recipes (mantecados, roscón) are powder-dry and really must be consumed with coffee or wine, and the rest of the Spanish dessert canon has been imported from other parts of Europe: Crema Catalana is just crème brulée, and brazo gitano (gypsy arm) is really a swiss roll.
No matter, Barcelona is experiencing a dessert renaissance of sorts, and bakeries like Strata are popping up around the city.
Strata specializes in delectable favorites like brownies, black forest cake, apple pies, cheesecake, carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies and even has savory pastries for friends that aren't into sweets. Add to that top-notch coffee and a wide variety of teas available and it's the ideal afternoon delight.
Oh, and Sundays they do a buffet brunch for...
Covered in a very stylized graffiti of a massive tree, La Carbonería is the best-known Okupa house in town. Okupas are people that "occupy" abandoned buildings and spaces throughout Europe in an effort to protest the economic difficulties in obtaining a home, something that the okupas view as a right, not a privilege.
The building is near El Mercat de San Antoni, which is an edibles market during the week, but on Sundays has stands selling second-hand books, comics, movies, coins, collectible cards, stamps and magazines.
Hotel Villa Emilia is ideally located in Barcelona's safe and trendy Eixample neighborhood. It's perfect for visitors who want to be close to the city center, but are looking for a good night's sleep away from Barcelona's incessant noise. Within walking distance of Barcelona attractions in Montjuïc, Plaça Universitat, Passeig de Gràcia and Plaça Catalunya and near public transport, this swanky, four-star hotel features modern, eclectic design and has two great spaces for a meal or a drink: the Zinc Bar and La Terraza. Both the street-level bar and the rooftop terrace regularly feature live music. During warm weather, the rooftop terrace has a happy hour buffet---free appetizers with a drink purchase and during the winter months you can cozy up to a beautiful fireplace in cushioned chairs at the Zinc Bar.
Prefer to explore Barcelona via bicycle? While non-residents can't at present use...
Barcelona's Fira de Santa Llúcia may not be as big or diverse as some of the Christmas Markets in other parts of Europe, but it has some very unique decorations. There's the Caganer, a long-time figure in Catalan nativity scenes, that's most often outfitted in traditional clothes, shown pants down and relieving himself. Supposedly this tradition Of course, the caganer is so popular in Catalonia that some locals collect them, and so at the market there are also caganers of celebrities, politicians, and historical figures. Explanations for the presence of this strange figure in Catalan nativity scenes range from humor and good luck, to the idea that all men are equal, as all men defecate.
Another decoration unique to Catalonia is the Tió de Nadal, a log propped up on two legs, with a face painted on it, sometimes wearing a red blanket or a red hat. The Tió de Nadal, also sometimes...
Based in Barcelona since 1992, Holala! Plaza is the best Barcelona shop for vintage clothes, furniture, video games, accessories, books and more. It's hard to leave empty-handed, but even if you don't have cash to spare, stop by to check out their awesome window dressings.
This shop is within walking distance of pretty much anywhere in Barcelona's city center, but the nearest metro stop is Universitat (L1, L2).
A lot of the best places to eat on the cheap in Barcelona are a little out of the way. For a truly local experience, and the fastest tapas in town at ridiculously cheap prices, try on La Esquinica (the little corner) for size. Do as the Barcelonans do and drink vino turbio (house wine shaken until it's frothy) and sample a little bit of everything. Croquettes, bombas, patatas bravas (potatoes with garlic mayonnaise and hot sauce), stuffed mussels, and grilled Spanish meats, all prepared in house and served up in a matter of minutes.
Note: Like so much Spanish bar food, this is not light cuisine, or particularly vegan or vegetarian friendly. Also, if you go during typical Spanish meal times on a weekend (2-3pm, 8.30-10pm) expect to wait in line to be seated.
The nearest metro stops are Vilapicina and Virrei Amat, L5.
This Gothic Monastery houses collections from Barcelona's City History Museum, but if you've only got an hour a so, skip the exhibits in favor of a walk around. Founded by King James II of aragon in 1326, the Monastery or Monestir in Catalan, is a welcome oasis after time spent in Barcelona's hectic city center. Three floors of cloisters frame a beautiful garden crowded with orange trees and palms. In their shade, watch goldfish swim through the green waters of the garden's central fountain. If you've got a little bit more time, don't miss the 14th century stained glass windows in the chancel.
Opening hours are 10am to 2pm Tuesday through Saturday October through March, and extended to 5pm April through September. Sundays the Monastery is open until 8pm, and admission is free after 3pm. Get there via FGC, L6 , Stop: Reina Elisenda
Learn to cook traditional dishes, and modern twists on old-favorites with the chefs at Barcelona Cooking.
Sign up for an evening cooking class and learn to prepare dishes like seafood paella and Crema Catalana (the Catalan version of Creme Brûlée) and other regional dishes with seasonal ingredients purchased from Barcelona's celebrated Boqueria Market.
Interested in learning about how to select the freshest ingredients? You can accompany one of the school's Chefs on the hunt for ingredients at La Boqueria.
In this activity you will learn about the life and traditions of the Jewish community of Barcelona in the Middle Ages. Sefarad includes a guided tour to the ‘call’ or Jewish quarter, visit to the Great Synagogue and the elegant halls of the Casa de la Seda (built in 1763 and headquarters of the Veil and Velvet Maker´s Guild of Barcelona), where a Kosher recipes tasting dinner will be served. After dinner, you will enjoy a talk about the history and lifestyle of Barcelona’s Jewish community.