four days in barcelona
Catedral de Barcelona
A perk that comes with living abroad with the military is that we celebrate American and Italian national holidays. For President’s Day weekend, we spent the weekend in Barcelona enjoying mouth-watering tapas and Gaudí’s beautiful work. Our weekend was filled with tours of the Picasso Museum, La Sagrada Familia, Palau de la Música Catalana, Park Güell and ate tapas at Cal Pep, Bar del Pla, and El Xampanyet — all which we would recommend.
Arc de Triunfo de Barcelona
Our first stop was Cal Pep, a tapas restaurant that was recommended by friends and the hotel staff. Cal Pep is located in the El Born neighborhood. Upon arriving, we were seated at the bar which is where we recommend you sit because it’s right in front of the kitchen. If you’re with a bigger party, there is also a back room with tables. Their menu consists of over 70 dishes, but they recommend the server picks the dishes for you based on your preferences. The server asked us if there was anything we didn’t eat (meat, seafood, fish) and then served us dishes based on our responses.
We started off with a traditional Catalonian dish, pan con tomate, which is tomatoes spread on toast topped with olive oil and salt. We also enjoyed calamari with fried fish, little neck clams in a garlic butter sauce, and a white fish served with tomatoes, potatoes, and a garlic chili sauce. If you plan to eat at Cal Pep on your next visit to Barcelona, we highly recommend arriving within 30 minutes of opening for lunch or dinner to skip a long wait. They are closed on Sundays and only open for dinner on Mondays.
Pan con tomate
Calarmi and fried fish
Little neck clams in a garlic butter sauce
White fish with tomatoes, potatoes, and a garlic chile sauce.
After our first tapas lunch, we headed to the Picasso Museum. Photos and videos are not permitted in the museum, so the only picture we have is outside with the sign. From the website, “The Picasso museum is a key reference for understanding the formative years of Pablo Picasso. The genius of the young artist is revealed through the 4,251 works that make up the permanent collection. Furthermore, the Picasso museum, opened in 1963, also reveals his deep relationship with Barcelona: an intimate, solid relationship that was shaped in his adolescence and youth, and continued until his death.” Whether you’re someone like me who has no clue about art, or someone who actually loves art the museum is worth a visit to see the art from one of the most prominent artists of the world.
Around 08:30 pm, we stopped by Bar del Pla for dinner and walked up to quite a few people waiting. If you plan to visit Bar del Pla, it’s a good idea to make reservations. The hostess told us there was a reservation for 10:00 pm but if we were able to be in and out in an hour and a half the table was ours. So, we sat down, ordered, and were finished in an hour and a half. We shared more pan con tomate, patatas bravas (fried pieces of potatoes served with aioli and a spicy sauce), oysters, a mixture of shrimp, clams, and mussels, and grilled octopus with potatoes.
Bar del Pla
Top: Pan con tomate – Bottom: patatas bravas
Seafood mix with shrimp, mussels, and clams
Saturday, we started the day with La Sagrada Familia, Church of the Holy Family. La Sagrada Familia is an unfinished cathedral created by Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí passed before the cathedral was able to be finished, but he left many drawings and details for it to be finished after his passing. The finish date is projected to be in 2026, 100 years since Gaudí’s passing. We highly recommend the audio tour of the cathedral to learn of all the history and significance of each stained glass color, pillar, and statue.
Really craving and missing some American comfort, we tried the Taco Bell across the street from La Sagrada Familia for lunch. It wasn’t the same, but it was enough to hit the spot until the next time we’re craving something American. I know what you’re thinking, Taco Bell in Barclona?! But when you live abroad permanently and aren’t just visiting for a week or two, you seize the moment to quench your American cravings when you can. We finished the day at Park Güell. The property was owned by Güell who hired Gaudí and put to use his architecual magic. The park was open to the public in 1926 and is filled with beautiful mosaic art garden.
For dinner, we arrived at El Xampanyet at 06:50 pm in an attempt to get there early for their 07:00 pm opening. When we arrived, there was already a line of 30 people waiting for the doors to open. The hostess had seated two Japanese women at a four-person table and they were nice enough to share the table with us so we didn’t have to wait to enjoy dinner. We shared octopus with potatoes, calamari, beef with shishito peppers, and mashed potatoes with a poached egg and vegetables. We went off the hostess’s recommendations and everything was delicious. You really can’t go wrong with any tapas in Barcelona.
Line outside El Xampanyet before opening for dinner.
Beef with shishito peppers
Unfortunately, Sunday Jaime got food poisoning so the day ended up being fairly slow which ended up working out because it was the one day during our trip we had nothing planned. We ordered in for dinner and spent the rest of the day resting and him recovering. Monday morning we had a tour at Palau de la Música Catalana, the Palace of Calatan Music. It was created by Catalan modernista architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner between 1905 and 1908. The sides of the hall are mostly stained-glass panes with a beautiful skylight of stained glass designed by Antoni Rigalt. The skylight consists of gold and blue shades representing the sun and the sky. Many performers love not only the design and artwork of the hall but also the acoustics for different types of music and performances.
In Rome, it’s been extremely difficult to find ethnic food that isn’t American with hamburgers or Japanese with sushi. Craving Mexican food, we ended our trip in Barcelona at a Mexican restaurant called Rosa Negra. The food was nowhere near Jaime’s grandma’s cooking, but it was enough to satisfy the craving until we finally have a kitchen where we can cook our own Mexican food.
During our trip, we stayed at Motel One Barcelona. Don’t let “motel” in the name fool you, the hotel was beautiful, was in a great location (we were able to walk everywhere within 30 minutes), and had a great bar. The Motel One company is based in Germany with many hotels all around Europe. We would highly recommend the hotel and plan to stay in more Motel Ones during our traveling throughout Europe. Fair warning, the rooms are small compared to American hotels, but we spent most of our days out of the hotel room, but it wasn’t an inconvenience for us.
Barcelona was beautiful, the people were extremely nice, the food was amazing, and the artwork was unbelievable. We look forward to our next trip back.