Top 5 tapas restaurants in Barcelona

The good way to discover 5 of the best tapas restaurants in Barcelona is by word of mouth. It’s all too easy when taking time out from your family villa in Barcelona to just go with the crowds in the main tourist areas, here are a few alternatives, so that you can experience truly authentic Catalan tapas dishes.

 

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La Cova Fumada

It may be off the tourist beaten path but don’t overlook La Cova Fumada. It’s a family run tapas bar which is incredibly popular with city residents. Serving some of the best varieties of seafood tapas there is plenty to whet your appetite. The bar doesn’t have any signs outside, just a large set of wooden doors, but don’t be put off, it’s buzzing with locals inside. The large chalk board menu details the specials and tapas dishes, football posters adorn the walls, it’s laid back and relaxed. If you want to take a break from cooking in your Catalonia villa rental and wish to indulge in some authentic tapas this is the place to visit.

Quimet i Quimet

It’s a small bar but the tapas are worth squeezing in for. House specialities include the montaditos (small sculpted tapas served on bread) or you can try a fusion of Asian/Mediterranean tapas with toppings such as salmon sashimi with honey, soy and cream cheese. Alternatively, if you enjoy fish dishes, the cod, black olive pate and passata will go down a treat. Arrive early if you want to find somewhere to sit or stand inside.

Gata Mala

Gata Mala offers you a dish of tapas for free when you order a drink, it’s a great way to sample the delicacies and decide if you wish to indulge in a larger ración. Portions are generous, they are reasonably priced, friends can share ibérico ham and manchego cheese and a bottle of wine which keeps the costs to a minimum.

 

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La Esquinica

You may have to queue for a while to get into La Esquinica especially on the weekends when it’s busy with locals. Tapas are generous in size, try the ensalada rusa, or the patatas bravas, and the anchovies – the menu is extensive with pinchos kebabs and a variety of meat and fish dishes.

Las Delicias del Carmelo

Located close to Park Güell, Las Delicias serves incredible plates of tapas and would be a perfect stop off point if you have been visiting the famous Gaudí park. The calamares (deep fried squid) and croquettas de pollo (chicken croquettes) are firm favourites here, if you feel more adventurous try something you wouldn’t make yourself in your vacation villa in Barcelona such as baby octopus served with salsa verde or snails cooked in tomato sauce.

If you are renting a villa in Barcelona you don’t have to stay in and cook every night, there are many reasonably priced tapas bars and restaurants across the city just waiting for you to discover them.

 


Visit the Benedictine abbey deep in the Catalonia mountains

The spectacular Santa Maria de Montserrat or Montserrat Monastery as it is otherwise known, was founded back in 1025, it is a Benedictine Abbey perched majestically on the mountainside of Montserrat in Catalonia. Set deep in the heart of Catalan terrain it’s hard to believe it’s a mere 30 miles drive to the west of Barcelona. The monastery can be reached easily from your Costa Brava vacation rental or Costa Maresme holiday rental by train, road or cable car.

 

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The monastery itself is 1,236 metres above the ground level of the valley making it the highest point of all of the Catalonia lowlands. The summit of Sant Jeromi can be walked to from the funicular station. Make sure you travel to the monastery on a clear day for panoramic views of the entire region, if you are really fortunate occasionally you can even see right across the azure waters of the Mediterranean to the island of Mallorca.

 

The Basilica of Montserrat houses a museum which contains rare artworks and sculptures by El Greco, Picasso and Dali. It is also home to one of the earliest publishing houses where the first book was published in the year 1499, the world’s oldest printing press still runs to this day.

 

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The monastery itself has an intriguing history which is ready to be uncovered. It is home to the Virgin of Montserrat also known as the black virgin – Catalonia’s favourite saint. The Escolania Montserrat Boys’ choir sings here; they are one of the oldest in Europe performing during religious ceremonies in the basilica. The school choir sings daily in the basilica around midday in front of visitors and pilgrims from around the world, try to make it there if you can it is an experience which will remain with you forever.

 

The historical references from the monastery range from the Spanish Civil War to the era of Franco and today Montserrat Monastery is seen as a symbol of Catalan Nationalism. It is definitely worth a day trip outside of your vacation rental in Spain to visit the magnificent interior and exterior architecture and take in the most spectacular views of Catalonia that you will ever see.


Inside a master’s mind: A peek into the world of Gaudi

Antoni Gaudí’s architectural masterpiece is the one of the main attractions for visitors to see on their Barcelona holiday. Known the world over, the Sagrada Familia Cathedral has inspired designers, engineers and architects from around the globe.

 

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Gaudí was born in Reus to the south of the city. When he was the son of a coppersmith he began to learn about arts and crafts in his father’s workshop. He left Reus for Barcelona and entered the School of Architecture in Barcelona at a young age, it is here his dream developed into becoming one of the finest architects Catalonia has ever known. His unique modernist art inspired new generations and created a movement the city and its residents had never seen before.

As his reputation grew he was commissioned to design some of Barcelona’s best known projects which he designed and honed into his own interminable style. The famous structures of Casa Milà or La Pedrera as it is also known, and Casa Batlló are two of his well-known buildings in the centre of the city.

 

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He took over the design of the Sagrada Familia Cathedral in 1883, once he realised what a great undertaking it was, he left his other work to concentrate solely on this structural masterpiece. He never did see the end result, but even today the blend of Gaudi’s architectural genius and the more contemporary features which were completed after his death mesh together past and present flawlessly.

Everyone who visits the city is drawn to this Cathedral, it dominates the skyline and offers a real awe-inspiring look into the genius and creativity of one man. It is possible to book tickets to visit the beautiful interior of the cathedral, you can also walk the towers for the most phenomenal panoramic views of the city below. However, the building is just as impressive from the exterior. Whatever you do, don’t leave your vacation rental in Barcelona without seeing it just the once – you won’t regret it.

 


The beaches of Barcelona

Barcelona has over 4 km of sandy, golden beaches many of which are only a fifteen-minute walk from the city centre and close to your Barcelona holiday rental. Here is a guide to a few of the best beaches you can visit in the city of Barcelona.

 

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Barceloneta Beach

The beach of Barceloneta is the nearest to the centre of the city. It can be easily reached by walking down Las Ramblas from the Plaça de Catalunya (one of the main transport links in the city). When you reach the monument of Christopher Columbus you will be able to see Port Vell, a contemporary marine area with a variety or shops, bars, restaurants and also the aquarium of Barcelona.

 

This beach is jam packed with fun things to do for adults and children alike, from windsurfing and kitesurfing to swimming. There are also many beach cabanas and bars in which to enjoy a refreshing beverage or light snack under the warm Mediterranean sun. It is the ideal place to bring a picnic and explore more of the Port Vell area after a busy morning shopping and sightseeing on Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter.

 

Mar Bella Beach

Mar Bella is a nudist beach located slightly on the fringe of the city. There are many people who don’t achieve naked status, who just enjoy it the same as any other beach. It’s a lovely area and worth a visit.

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Icària Beach

Where the Barceloneta beach ends the Icària Beach begins at the Frank Gehry metal fish sculpture also known as Peix. Again, it is a pretty stretch of beach, easily accessible walking from the Gothic Quarter or by tram or bus from the Plaça de Catalunya. Many exclusive hotels such as the famous luxury Hotel Arts line the Icària Beach front.

 

If you would like to venture further afield Sitges is a little further down the coast – a wonderful, fashionable tourist resort, 30 minutes by train from Barcelona Sants Station or alternatively, head north to the pretty areas of Malgrat del Mar or Calella de la Costa by train for a more laid back beach experience close to your Costa Maresme vacation rental.

 

 


Top free activities in Barcelona

You have found your Catalonia villa rental close to the city, and now it’s time to explore. Cities can be expensive, and it’s easy to go over budget if you are not careful. We thought about this and have compiled a list of things to do for free in Barcelona so that you can see the best of the city without compromising your budget.

 

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Las Ramblas & La Boqueria

Considered one of the most famous thoroughfares in the world, Las Ramblas awaits with its outdoor stalls, flower buckets, caricature and mime artists – it is one of the most tourist-driven avenues in the world and one of the liveliest. Starting from Plaça de Catalunya, easily accessible from your Barcelona holiday rental (it is one of the main bus and metro stops in the city), Las Ramblas walks you through a myriad of entertainment, souvenir stalls and music, ending at Port Vell by the sea.

 

On one side of the avenue you have many shops, tapas bars and restaurants, as well as access to the famous Gothic Quarter, and on the other side pretty boutique hotels and La Boqueria St. Josep indoor market. The indoor market is a must see, with rainbow colours of citrus fruits, juices, artisan breads, cured meats and cheeses you can pick up a feast for your Barcelona holiday villa for very reasonable prices. The market is open until around 20.30, so make it your last stop before you depart the city with all your gastronomic goodies, it will keep them fresh and you won’t need to carry them around all day.

 

Gothic Quarter

Explore the Barri Gòtico which is the old medieval city centre, it is also known as the Gothic Quarter. The area is nestled between trendy El Born district with its many bars, restaurants and nightclubs, and Las Ramblas. The medieval streets date back to the Roman settlement of the city, and parts of the old city wall still remain around the areas of Sots Tinent and Tapinera. It is a fascinating labyrinth of streets with some of the best tapas bars, shops and medieval squares in the city. Immerse yourself in the Barri Gòtico and imagine the Barcelona of old. Places of interest include Plaça Sant Jaume, the Church of Santa Maria del Pi and the Presidential Palace.

 

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The Architecture of Antoni Gaudí

No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to see the many architectural masterpieces for which the city is famous. It can become expensive if you wish to view the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Casa Batlló, and Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera) but what if you could see them all for free? There are free walking tours throughout Barcelona, one of which is a Gaudí tour. The tour takes 2 – 2.5 hours leaving from Plaça de Catalunya at 11.00 daily. The tour offers inside information into the great architect’s life and the incredible structures he built which make Barcelona the city it is today.

 

Whatever you decide to do when you holiday in Spain, Barcelona is one of the most fascinating cities on Earth. Whether it is a day trip from your Catalonia villa rental or you are planning to stay for a little longer, there are many things to see and do in the city that won’t cost you a euro. It’s just about knowing where to find them! Use these tips to help you start on the right track.


The best Barcelona spots to visit with children

Cities are often overlooked when planning a vacation with children; however, there are many areas to explore in Barcelona even when holidaying with younger children. Here are a few ideas to tempt you out of your Spain holiday rental and into the big metropolis.

 

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Parc de La Ciutadella and Barcelona Zoo
A family favourite for Catalans, this central park in Barcelona offers a multitude of activities which will suit adults and children alike. With a lake in the centre, you can hire a small rowing boat and paddle around with the children or relax and sunbathe on the calm, still waters of the lake. If you start the day early and take a trip to the market of La Boqueria St. Josep, you can stock up on snacks for a picnic. Sit on the grass overlooking the water with a wonderful array of fresh fruit, cured meats, artisan breads, oils and cheeses. The Barcelona Zoo is ready to explore next, situated in the same park, and houses a variety of animals and educational areas in which to keep the children happy for the rest of the day.

Tibidabo Amusement Park
Situated high above the cityscape is Mount Tibidabo. With arguably the best views of Barcelona, it can be reached by funicular tram or by car. The viewing platforms on the ascent are the perfect place to capture picture perfect memories of your vacation in Barcelona. Don’t worry though, the children are well-catered for, too! The fairground at the top of the mountain has colourful rides and stalls to keep everyone entertained. There are also viewing areas with seats which are perfect to look over the city skyline and enjoy a well-prepared picnic lunch.

 

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The Dancing Fountains of Montjuïc
The area of Montjuïc has so much going for it. From the Poble Espanyol Spanish village to the Olympic stadium which hosted the games back in 1992, there is lots to do for everyone in the family. However, if you just want to please the children, you must take them to see the Dancing Fountains of Montjuïc. The fountains come alive in the evening, illuminated by a kaleidoscope of water jets shooting up into the air as they dance to the music. It is the perfect end to a day’s adventure in the city and shouldn’t be missed before you return to your Barcelona holiday rental.

Don’t discount a holiday in Barcelona if you are traveling with young children. There is so much of interest in the city for all ages that you will be spoiled for choice!


Catalan cuisine: Top 5 dishes to try

As with the rest of Spain, Catalonian people adore good quality food and wine. From fresh seafood recipes to delicious meat stews, there are specific dishes you will only find in this beautiful, picturesque northeastern region of Spain. Luckily, we have compiled some of the best examples of Catalonian cuisine to tempt your taste buds.

 

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Catalan Tortilla

We have all heard of the Spanish omelette and many of us may have sampled it; however in Catalonia, they have their own unique version and it contains chickpeas and spicy diced chorizo sausage. It’s easy to make, filling, and a firm Catalan family favourite especially for sharing.

 

Cadaqués Sea Bass in Salsa Verde

This delectable fish dish hails from the dreamy coastal town of Cadaqués. The town is usually more famous for being the home of Salvador Dali, the world famous surrealist artist, than Catalan cuisine. Many regions in Spain can be accused of offering food that is somewhat bland – not so with this dish. The salsa verde addition to the sea bass is a mouth-watering delight, featuring chopped onion, mandatory garlic cloves, olive oil, fresh parsley, salt, and lemon, the sauce combined with the delicate fish brings your taste buds back to life from the very first bite.

 

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Venison Romesco

Venison may not be to everyone’s taste but it is a popular addition to menus featuring Catalan cuisine. Venison is all too often used in burgers or in stews which tends to mask the flavour, this dish showcases venison chops with a rich Romesco sauce which hails from Tarragona. In addition to the venison, garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, olive oil, and butter are added. The rich spicy Romesco sauce is a combination of chilies, almonds, olive oil, and stale non-crusted bread. It is simply spicy and delicious.

 

Suquet de Peix or Hake with Garlic

This hake with garlic is a perfect meal for a light lunch by the water’s edge, Suquet de Peix could almost be described as a refined fish stew. Generous chunks of hake with ripe beef tomatoes, cloves, and pimentón are combined with a liberal dose of olive oil, parsley, and lemon to create a tasty and light summer, easy-to-prepare dish which your palate will adore.

 

Crema Catalana

We couldn’t end our top 5 Catalan cuisine dishes without a nod to probably the best known of them all. Located so close to the border with France there are many gastronomic influences that reach this region of Spain. The Crema Catalana – a unique version of the famous crème brûlée, a rich, creamy desert with burnished bronze caramelised topping – sums up Catalonia in one simple spoonful. Crema Catalana, or Catalan Cream as it is otherwise known, is not an easy dessert to make. It takes skill, and a tool called La Quemadora which is used to caramelize the sugar – no blowtorches allowed!

On Mother’s Day each year, grandmothers across Spain get to work creating the best Crema Catalana they can for their families. The traditional recipe contains egg yolks, cinnamon, lemon, milk and corn-starch, it’s served in small round terracotta or earthenware dishes and is one taste of Catalonia which everyone should try.

Whether you are a meat or fish lover, vegetarian, or have a wonderfully sweet tooth, you will always find a dish in the pretty and diverse region of Catalonia that will leave you wanting more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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