Barcelona Tips and Tricks

Sleeping

We stayed at the Silken Diagonal Hotel, and as you can see it was absolutely beautiful. Totally luxurious, with large windows surveying Barcelona, a gorgeous roof terrace and bar with a little pool, and glass walls to the en suite showers. And, of course, the ever essential air conditioning which worked flawlessly. The service was excellent, and the hotel was really perfectly placed for exploring Barcelona. A two minute walk (if that) to the Metro, and only four stops from Las Ramblas. Next door was the Torre Agbar building, which is like the Gherkin during the day but at night is all lit up red and blue, and just down the road from the Glories shopping centre - perfect for browsing Zara and picking up a crepe for breakfast. Plus, it's the hotel in this advert:

[youtube="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbwDOlLgnmo"]

That said, if I was to visit again, I would book an apartment (probably from Go with Oh, I can't vouch myself, but friends have used the service with success and the apartments look brilliant). It was wonderful to stay somewhere where the bed was made for me every day, but I missed having a kitchen, and a bit of relaxing space for when you've got time to kill. Barcelona is not overly expensive, although not cheap, but eating out at every meal can get expensive. Being able to make lunch or breakfast would have meant that we could have ate out at the more expensive restaurants in the evenings, or just had more where we did eat!

 Eating 

The best meal of the holiday was definitely at Cafe De L'Academia. The guidebook suggested booking, but we managed to sneak the last table without a booking. It could not have been more perfect - so if I were you I would book so you are not disappointed (or you can eat at the bar). We sat in a little square in Barri Gotic, lit by candles and serenaded by buskers sat on the steps of the church opposite all night. Perfectly cooked steak and a beautiful pear, rocket and parmesan salad were definite highlights of the holiday. At 3 courses each and a bottle of wine at 80 euros, it didn't break the bank and was worth every penny.

The other restaurant which stands out for me was Bo, off've the Avenue Diagonal, in the Gracia region of Barcelona. Again situated in a little square, a bit of the beaten track - have the mussels (the biggest I've ever seen), and the prawns in garlic oil. The service was excellent, the waiters were very friendly and relaxed! Afterwards, we walked back the the Metro via Petrus Soul Bar where I had the strongest Tequila Sunrise I've ever had - definitely worth the 8 euros!

Other than that, I would skip the patatas bravas (usually piled with mayonnaise rather than alioli - boo!). And you should definitely eat some Crema Catalana - a Catalan version of creme brulee with cinnamon and orange flavours (although I swear I could usually taste nutmeg as well). Absolutely gorgeous. I will be trying to recreate it, and posting my efforts soon!

 Visiting 

 By far and away the best tourist site we visited was Mercat De La Boqueria - the massive marketplace just off Las Ramblas (get off at Liceu). It is a pure cacophony of beautiful sights, sounds and smells (apart from the fish stalls!). Fresh juice in an exciting mixture of flavours, the best of which being Strawberry and Pineapple in my opinion, for only 1 euro. Whole legs of Iberian ham for near on 100 euros. And everything in between. Every kind of meat and fish that you can imagine, cheese wheels, deli meats, huge piles of brightly coloured sweets, dried fruits, and a lovely bakery at the right hand side. Grab a cheeky breakfast or lunch at one of the stand up tapas bars - perhaps the coolest place to eat in the city, and the produce couldn't be fresher. Mercat de La Boqueria is the very definition of a cornucopia - and yet another reason why I wish we had had our own kitchen.

I am never sure about tourist attractions. The Gaudi bits and pieces were impressive, but I wouldn't bother paying to see the inside of La Padrera if you are not super fussed about it. Save your money for an ice cream in Parc Guell instead. I would have liked to go the Picasso museum, I think.

But really, what is travelling about if not eating and drinking? The interesting sangrias that can be bought at quite a cost on the beach-side restaurants are worth a go, since you pay for the location as well as the drink. I had a vanilla, strawberry and coconut sangria. It. Was. Amazing. Similarly, a wander around the bars and coffee shops of Barri Gotic, or similarly beautiful areas of Barcelona is never going to steer you wrong. But you didn't need me to tell you that, did you?

Miscellaneous 

The Metro is the best thing ever. It is efficient and air conditioned and cheap - all things that public transport should be. Get yourself a T10 card for 9ish euros and whizz around easily.

Watch out for pickpockets. That's the advice everyone gives if you are off to Barcelona - we had no problems at all but we were very careful - keep your bag securely fastened and don't advertise your expensive cameras and phones to all and sundry. Same as you would anywhere else really!

Wear comfy shoes. 'Nuff said. There's a lot of walking.

We used the Rough Guide to help us navigate around and choose what we wanted to visit - it comes recommended from me, the metro map was useful and there was all the information we needed.