In my second fantasy life, I would like to come back as Anthony Bourdain. Until then, I’m pretending to be him and spending my precious time off in true Layover fashion: 36 hours, a big appetite, and a craving for a true cultural experience (no touristy bullshit).
This time around in Europe, I’ve made it my personal mission to explore Spain. Sarah and I took advantage of our two days off last week and flew down to Barcelona for a night. Thanks to friends that have lived and visited Barcelona in the past, we had a long list of ways to get a dose of Catalonian culture. And by culture, of course, I mostly mean food.
My 36 hours spent in Barcelona can be summed up by these seven tips. Might I add, it was a truly rich – and tasty – Barcelonian (is that a word?) experience.
1. Tapas are everywhere. Eat them.
Upon arriving, a downpour of rain forced us inside for most of the day. Our first order of business was to eat lunch so we ducked into a tapas restaurant by the Monumento á Cristóbal Colón (near Las Ramblas) for some Spanish comida. Our table was quickly full of plates and plates of fried padrón peppers, patatas bravos (potatoes and chorizo in a tomato sauce) and pimientos rellenos (meat-stuffed peppers). I found myself dipping little bits of everything in each mesmerizing and unique sauce. The plates paired especially well with pintxo, slices of bread smeared with a tomato topping, similar to bruschetta. Let’s not forget about our introductory pitcher of sangria, either! Muy bueno!
2. While the Spanish siesta, we drink. And gouté.
After a leisurely afternoon touring the Sagrada de Familia and the many charming narrows streets of the city, we decided to sit down for coffee. Our caffeine boost quickly turned into a wine and cheese kind of break. We snatched a window seat at Taverna del Bisbe just as the rain started to clear and the sun began to shine. A plate of manchego cheese and walnuts and pintxo was the perfect way to curb our hunger until a late dinner. For 6 euro each, it was a pretty cheap snack if you as me!
3. Get up close and personal with the locals.
If you only have 10 minutes in Barcelona, you should spend it at La Champagneria (also called Can Paixano). Within the walls of this small restaurant, you’ll get your fix of local cuisine, libations and people. I was told that we could snag a 2.50 euro bottle of champagne so naturally, we couldn’t resist stopping by before dinner. At 8 p.m. it was wall-to-wall with people sipping on vintage coupes of bubbly in one hand and supporting burgers, bratwurst and other juicy-looking food in the other. Since we weren’t eating, we enjoyed 1 euro glasses of Rosado (the pinkest champagne you’ve ever seen) and croquetas de pollo (essentially chicken nuggets..but better). We left the place debating whether or not to return the next day for lunch but unfortunately due to time constraints couldn’t. If I had another night, we would’ve joined the young crowd and order a burger.
4. Eat late.
We all know how the Spanish like to eat late. Wanting to blend in with the locals, Sarah and I held out until about 9:45 p.m. before surrendering to dinner. A friend recommended we scout out restaurants and bars near Passeig del Born, an area full of hip bars and restaurants. After eying several possibilities, we settled on dinner at Casa Delfín. We shared fried artichoke hearts, seafood paella overflowing with shellfish, and a bottle of Spanish red wine. If you’re looking for a reasonably priced meal in a lively area, definitely consider Casa Delfín.
5. Have a late-night snack (after eating late).
If you know me well, you know I like to snack après barhopping. Luckily a friend had recommended the perfect late-night spot, Wok to Walk, conveniently located down the street from our hostel. Choose your noodles, sauce and toppings and they’ll throw it around in the wok for you. Simple, greasy and oh-so-delicious!
6. Be a tourist and eat by the sea.
I’m a fan of veering off the beaten path, but sometimes you just have to give into the tacky tourist traps while traveling. For us, it was by the Barceloneta Beach. After a productive day exploring Park Guell, our hunger pains left us no choice but to dine in one of the city’s busiest areas. The food wasn’t incredible but it gave me the chance to satisfy another seafood paella and sangria craving by the sea.
6. Go to the market.
My heart belongs to the marketplace. Barcelona’s acclaimed Boqueria Market was the perfect place to meander off Las Ramblas and get a glimpse of fresh Catalonian produce, meat, cheese and seafood. Even though we weren’t buying anything, it was fun wandering around the stalls and seeing the raw ingredients behind delicious Spanish food.
In a nutshell, there’s a lot to do in Barcelona but eating was definitely the highlight of my time spent there. Gracias, Catalonia! And just for fun, I must show this incredible, monstrous vending machine that we spotted in the metro. It contained anything and everything you could ever need en route somewhere.