Barcelona: Where beach and city go hand in hand

Barcelona has it all. Beaches, urban life, culture, art, shopping, and, not least, delicious food. In addition, it’s a city that welcomes everyone. Here, you will find people from all parts of society, whether you enjoy the skate park or sipping champagne while mingling with high society.


Gita Simonsen

My girlfriends and I finally made it happen - all our talk in the group chat about a holiday abroad turned into reality. We headed to Barcelona, where none of us had been before (not for many years, at least). This was a city we were going to explore together.

Sant Antoni - local and pleasant

We chose to stay in a neighbourhood called Sant Antoni, which turned out to be absolutely perfect for us. It is located very centrally in Barcelona, but not in the middle of the tourist bubble. Sant Antoni is home to many cosy cafés, restaurants, bars, shopping streets, and a metro station.

You will rarely make mistakes when it comes to the food here. We stumbled across several restaurants where we had nothing but good experiences. The area is about a 15-minute walk from the popular pedestrian street La Rambla.

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imageCourtesy / Mercat de Sant Antoni

Start your day in the food markets

You will find anything your stomach craves at the food market Mercat de Sant Antoni in Barcelona.

We stayed right next to the Marcat de Sant Antoni, a traditional market from 1882 built in an old Spanish style. This market is filled with culinary treats including fresh fruit, seafood, chocolate, cheeses and hams. Most locals shop here, and a visit gives you a taste of what markets were like in the old days. Shoppers chat casually with merchants, and the sense of community here is every bit as important as the quality of the food. On Saturdays and Sundays, a market is also held where antique books, comics and other small items are sold.

As we were a group of six women travelling together, two of whom were pregnant, it was also very nice to stay somewhere we could return on our own without worrying the others. The area feels safe, but full of eccentric characters. It should be said that some of the streets have not always been as safe in the past, but the area is now more patrolled by police and filled with tourists - even in the evenings.

Barcelona is unfortunately notorious for pickpockets. Although we did not experience this ourselves, we heard about someone who lost their passport, mobile phone, and wallet. It’s therefore a good idea to carry your bag or backpack at the front of your body when walking in crowded streets.

imageLogan Armstrong / Unsplash

Barcelona is a big city

At first glance Barcelona's size may seem a bit overwhelming, but thanks to a great public transport system it is easy to move around

Shopping - paradise

In my opinion, Barcelona has everything you could ask for when it comes to shopping. We were far from checking everything out, but spent just enough time to get a little taste of what Barcelona's shops have to offer.

Vintage in every price range:

Barcelona has many vintage shops and markets scattered throughout the city. One shop that is well worth a visit is Lullaby Vintage Boutique. This shop is located in Carrer De La Riere Baixa, a street that has several vintage shops.

Lullaby Vintage Boutique is run by two Spanish sisters, who have a major penchant for second-hand and vintage. Here you can find nightgowns from the 40s, jewellery from the 60s, bags, shoes and unique clothes that are unlike anything you have seen before. The shop has both well-known brands such as Christian Dior and Chanel, as well as more obscure brands – or brands that are less well-known by most people, in any case. The sisters are highly knowledgeable about the articles they sell and are happy to share you the story behind them. The prices are good, and we all found a treat here. I purchased a ring, gold earrings and a small purse - all for just 45 euros.

Flamingos Vintage Kilo is close to Lullaby Vintage Boutique. Located in Carrer de Ferlandina 20, it’s a large vintage and second-hand shop where you can find most anything. You will not find any luxury goods there, but other well-known brands such as Levi’s and Wrangler, as well as vintage sportswear, dresses, and accessories. Flamingo Kilo is part of the rapidly expanding Kilo chain, where you pay for what you buy by the kilo. They have several shops in Barcelona, and throughout Europe. Definitely worth a visit! There are also several other vintage shops in the area.

imageIan Kenshall / Unsplash

Mighty Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya has great collection of arts and history. Just the building itself is well worth a visit.

La Rambla - the iconic main boulevard

La Rambla is a very-known street for most tourists visiting Barcelona. The boulevard runs through the heart of the city centre, from the beach to the centre of the city. Here, you will find big shopping centres, and international shops such as Zara, Sephora, Pull & Bear, Primark, H&M, and Footlocker.

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Treasures abound in the streets around La Rambla

Shopping in Barcelona offers so much more than just La Rambla. You don't have to venture far if you want to bring home something a bit more unique. I have the impression that every street around La Rambla has something exciting to offer. Right next to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, you'll find the museum's graphic art shop, where you can spend hours browsing all the cool prints. Prices range from 25 euros to several hundred euros. I secured three prints that I can't wait to hang up at home.

Outside the museum, you will find a number of vintage and second-hand shops all around, as well as a lovely spot to enjoy a little lunch. We ended up at Doña Rosa, a very nice café with good food and a great patio.

A stone's throw away, I got my first proper Panama hat at Up Headwear, a shop that has hundreds of caps, hats and everything in between. The shop is located on one of the side streets by the museum.

Vila De Gracia

Not far from the famous (and very beautiful) Park Guell, lies the Vila de Gracia neighbourhood. This area is known as an artist enclave, with many narrow, cosy streets. The area feels like a small village, filled with various galleries and independent shops where you will find unique clothes and other great swag.

imageJorge Fernandez Salas / Unsplash

La Rambla - popular shopping area

La Rambla is one of the most famous shopping streets in the world. Just remember to beware of pickpockets.

You can find the renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi´s creations all over Barcelona.

Tourist attractions in Barcelona

Barcelona has a number of well-known tourist attractions well worth experiencing. There are too many to cram into a long weekend, so we chose to focus on a few of the most amazing things to see.

Park Guell

If there was one thing we really wanted to do, it was to visit Park Guell. We took the metro to the nearest stop before walking the rest of the way to the park. The nearest metro stops are Lesseps and Vallcarca. It takes about 15 minutes to walk from the metro to the park, and it's a bit of a workout. It’s a steep hill, so we bought both ice cream and cola for the walk. When we got to the top, tickets to the park were sold out (!), so we booked for the next day instead. It’s therefore a good tip to book in advance so that you are certain you can enter the park. 

Park Gruell is Barcelona's most famous park and is an enormous garden filled with beautiful and spectacular architectural elements and buildings. The park was designed by renowned Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, who has a distinctive and beautiful style. His creations can be found in several places in Barcelona, including the famous cathedral of Sagrada Familia, which we will describe more below. Gaudi famously said, "there are no straight lines or sharp corners in nature. Therefore, buildings must not have straight lines or sharp corners." He therefore created structures and creations that are completely unique and beautiful, and of course completely free from straight lines and right angles.


Park Guell - a park by Antoni Gaudi

Park Gruell is Barcelona's most famous park and is an enormous garden filled with beautiful and spectacular architectural elements and buildings.

The charming Gothic Quarter

The charming Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic, has narrow mediaeval streets filled with trendy bars, clubs, and Catalan restaurants. The quarter features craftsmen selling leather goods and jewellery, as well as flower stalls and street food. In addition, there are a number of delightful shops along the narrow streets. We ended up strolling around here after dinner, and it was a wonderful experience. The dark streets were lit with cosy lanterns, and laughter and chatter echoed above the cobblestones.

Around the corner from the cathedral, a small crowd had gathered, and we witnessed some formidable operatic singing by a busker. One of the spectators joined in - he sang just as beautifully as the street musician. We had a front row seat to a show in the perfect surroundings. Although the shops are naturally closed in the evening, a stroll around the quarter after the sun has gone down is definitely recommended.

Gothic Quarter Market, or Mercat Gotic, is an outdoor flea market in Barcelona's Gothic Quarter. We never made it to the market, as it's only held on Thursdays, but I wish we had managed to visit. The market first opened in 1978 and sells antiques and collectibles. Today, you can find many special treasures in the market. The market is held in Plaza Nova every Thursday in the summer until early August.

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia is perhaps Barcelona's most famous attraction. It is a large basilica (a special status some Catholic churches are given), which was designed by Antoni Gaudí, the architect who also designed Park Guell.

We bought tickets in advance, which is highly recommended. Sagrada Familia is Barcelona’s most famous attraction, so there are big crowds. The basilica is huge, and there is an enormous amount of detail. Make sure you take the time to study the fascinating carvings and shapes, both in the interior and on the exterior. Like other spectacular religious spaces, this one also gives you a unique sense of majestic tranquillity. The light from the outside shines through the stained-glass windows, illuminating the wall carvings perfectly. The basilica has not yet been completed, since it was first granted a further building permit in 2019. The project has mostly been financed through private funds.

Moco Museum

The Moco (The Modern and Contemporary Museum) has built on its success in Amsterdam by launching a new space in Barcelona. The museum focuses on modern art and is also an exhibition space for new artists. Here, you will find works by famous artists including Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat, KAWS, Keith Haring, Damien Hirst, Yayoi Kusama, and more.

If you're not super interested in art but think cool Instagram photos are fun, then Moco is the right museum for you. In addition to highly Instagramable art, they also have a light installation that is ideal for your feed. The museum shop also has a large selection of coffee table books, at a good price. The museum was created to attract a wider and younger audience, and if you ask me, that's exactly what they've succeeded in doing.

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Montjuic is a hill that offers fantastic views of Barcelona. A gondola takes you up to the park, which overlooks the whole city. We took a taxi up, bought some delicious food and drinks, and watched the sunset. Around us sat other tourists, but also locals, who were painting, reading, and simply enjoying each other's company. If you have the time, there are several nice things to see up there. Both the Botanical Gardens and a number of museums are located there.


Barcelonas most famous attraction

La Sagrada Familia translates to the Holy Family, and is probably Barcelonas most famous attraction. It was designed by Antoni Gaudí, and the construction startet in 1882 - and is still not finished.

Barceloneta Beach

Barceloneta is Barcelona's most famous beach, offering lively crowds, restaurants and street vendors. It may sound intimidating to many, but to us, it was absolutely perfect. We never dined at any of the beach front restaurants, but in retrospect we see that we should have. "Good vibes" is the slogan here, everyone seemed to be really enjoying themselves.

If you fancy a slightly quieter beach experience, you can always walk along the beach towards Badalona. If you have time for it, this trip is worth walking or cycling. I rented an e-bike and took in all the experiences along the beach. You cross several pleasant squares and gardens and get to see a lot of exciting people.

If you love beach volleyball, this is definitely the place to go – join in on a game with one of the many groups playing along the beach.

imageMarc Fanelli / Unsplash

La Barceloneta

La Barceloneta is the most popular city beach in Barcelona

Food and drink - dine at an exciting new place every day

Culinary experiences are an increasingly important part of going on holiday. In the past, my friends and I didn't put much effort into our culinary experiences, but the older we have grown, the more important it has become. Luckily, all six of us agreed - we could spend a little extra on eating out, but not too much. A selection of great dining experiences from our trip to Barcelona follows below.

Dual Café - breakfast and lunch

Just outside where we were staying in San Antoni we came across Dual Café, a very charming and pleasant breakfast/brunch/lunch (and in fact also dinner) place. Here, they serve both healthy food options such as avocado on sourdough bread, eggs benedict with salmon, ricotta on delicious toast with strawberries and ham, but also delicious croissants, pancakes and much more to satisfy your sweet tooth. They also have a wide variety of homemade juices as well as absolutely delicious cappuccino. We went back twice, thanks in large part to its incredibly friendly service. They also have menus in English.

Speakeasy and The Dry Martini

Speakeasy is a hidden gem of a restaurant, located in the same venue as the Dry Martini Bar - which many claim is the best bar in Barcelona. Here, they serve delicious drinks in a venue that takes you back to the 1920s, but it quickly becomes full - so make sure to arrive early. We decided that we also wanted to test out the Speakeasy restaurant. When you enter The Dry Martini you are led through the bar, through the back door and past the kitchen, before arriving at the restaurant.

The restaurant is filled with bottles of all kinds, and there are large round tables. A very friendly server guides you through the evening as good jazz music plays in the background. Our waiter, Alberto, was extremely knowledgeable. We ordered the catch of the day, which was a fresh and traditional seafood dish. Two of us were pregnant, so we ordered some lovely mocktails that we enjoyed with the rest of the gang. Although not exactly a budget place, it’s not too bad pricewise!

Boca Chica - a hip and fancy cocktail bar

Two floors up from Boca Grande restaurant, you'll find glamorous Boca Chica. The interior features original wood panelling and Persian rugs, and vintage photos adorn the walls. In summer, the terrace is open, and is recommended. The bathroom is also something completely different from what you've seen before - it has its own DJ booth, picture wall, lots of mirrors, and a separate bar. The drinks are good, but expensive. Don't be surprised if a single drink costs over 20 euros. But a visit here is definitely quite an experience.

La Terrazza Barcelona – the outdoor club that never sleeps

After lots of googling to look for nightlife venues in Barcelona, we came across La Terrazza Barcelona. The journey to the club is an experience in itself. It is located inside a very nice fenced "mock" village, next to Montjuic. The club is outdoors, open from May to October, and plays electronica music. La Terrazza Barcelona does not close until 6am, so this is a place you can dance all night long until breakfast.

Placa Reial – a plethora of cocktail bars

After dinner in the city centre, we strolled around town and turned a corner to something entirely unique. Although we found Placa Reial by chance, it’s a popular place for tourists and locals alike. Despite the fact that this is a tourist spot, the atmosphere was really pleasant in the evening. Light links are strung from the trees and traditional Spanish buildings line the square, which features lamp posts designed by Gaudi. We ended up lounging in a bar that was down in the basement of one of the restaurants (it sounds duller than it was). The bar was in a Mediaeval style, and old episodes of Mickey Mouse were projected onto the wall. Small treats and popcorn were set out on all the tables, and a DJ played lounge music that created the atmosphere perfect. There is another bar just across the hall, where both the interior and music have a Mexican style.