Cycling in Catalonia

If your idea of the perfect holiday involves more than lounging around your rented villa with pool in the Costa Brava, then you will be pleased to know there are some exceptional cycle routes in the area too. From the city of Girona to rural villages and coastal cycle paths, there are perfect tours for cyclists and mountain bikers, and beginners to seasoned riders. 

There are kilometres of old railway tracks and greenways awaiting, allowing you to participate in a healthy and exciting family activity. Take a backpack with a picnic or enjoy a tapas lunch in one of the charming villages en-route, you will see more of the picturesque Catalan countryside than you could ever imagine – especially if you are usually the designated driver. In addition to an abundance of fresh, clean air you can enjoy kilometres of lush, green countryside, natural parks, rugged coastline and medieval hilltop villages.

Plan your route accordingly, if you are an experienced cyclist but your travelling party only indulge once or twice a year, choose a route which is suitable for everyone. The terrain needs to be taken into account as well, flat cycle paths are great if you are touring with children, with plenty of stop off points for a beverage and a bite to eat on the way.

If mountain biking is more your thing, leave your Costa Brava vacation rental and head for the Girona Pyrenees area, there are spectacular natural parks, quaint mountain towns, you can also indulge in some downhill biking. Follow the B roads which link the towns of Girona and head off on your merry journey.

If you didn’t arrive at your family villa in Spain by car there are plenty of areas locally where you can cycle along the coastline, and there are places where you can hire bicycles for all the family. Check before you arrive so that you can plan your routes and discover the best that Catalonia has to offer cyclists.


Discover the El Born district of Barcelona

It’s easy to stick to the main tourist trails when you are venturing out of your Barcelona holiday rental for the first time. Sometimes, by doing this you miss out on some of the incredibly vibrant and historically rich areas of the city. There are many areas of Barcelona which remain relatively untouched by tourists, now is the time to visit the El Born district before everyone else discovers its magical allure.

About El Born

El Born has grown into one of Barcelona’s most fashionable districts, located next to the popular and touristy area of the Gothic Quarter, it was originally a settlement which was used to host medieval jousts and celebrations. These days El Born is the place where the hip crowd eat, drink and shop. The cafes and tapas bars are much cheaper than the main tourist areas so you can enjoy a full family meal even on a budget.

It’s not just about the shopping and nightlife either. The Picasso museum is located here with many works of art featured from when he resided in the city. Also if you have an interest in fashion, you can visit the famous textile museum which was home to the textile guilds of Barcelona.

The Church of Santa Maria del Mar has an interesting history and wonderful interior architecture which shouldn’t be overlooked. As these areas are relatively untapped by tourists, there are hardly any queues to visit the attractions and museums (with the exception of the popular Picasso museum).

If retail therapy is your thing, the multitude of shoe shops and boutiques will tempt your purse strings, many international upcoming independent stores have chosen El Born as the place to launch their flagship stores – you may even find the next Gucci or Chanel here!

With great shops, nightlife and café culture it’s hard not to love this area, but it’s catching on quickly, so take a day away from your vacation rental in Barcelona and discover it now while it is still relatively tourist free and reasonably priced.


Top 5 Budget-Friendly Restaurants in Barcelona

You are in your beautiful rented private villa in Barcelona. You look up at the sunset, take a sip of your cocktail, and then your stomach rumbles. Uh oh! Time to find a restaurant! But, just because you’re in one of the most beautiful cities in Spain, doesn’t mean you want to break your bank. So, here are five budget-friendly restaurants you should check out while visiting Barcelona.

1. Viana

Craving an International, Mediterranean, and Spanish menu? Then head down to Viana! This restaurant offers beautifully crafted, unique dishes, each a delectable gastronomic journey you’ll enjoy. Make sure you grab one of their amazing cocktails and delicious desserts. This restaurant mixes a high-quality, fine-dining atmosphere with the laid-back fusion bar vibe that makes this affordable restaurant a unique dining experience.

2. Blavis

Simple yet elegant describes this small and cozy restaurant. Blavis doesn’t have a large menu, but each dish is a delicious, handcrafted experience that you are sure to enjoy pulled from the European, Spanish, and Mediterranean cuisines. The atmosphere is casual, the portions generous, and the desserts a must at this amazing and inexpensive restaurant!

3. Bodega Biarritz

Rustic, intimate, and beautifully modern describe this wine and tapas bar. Bodega Biarritz features a Mediterranean and Spanish menu with unique and delicious dishes you are certain to enjoy. The inside is cozy, with unique lighting and a bar atmosphere. The food has large portions and a lot of choices, so you are certain to find something for everyone. A great place for date night or just a fun night on the town!

4. Bodega Biarritz 1881

Another Bodega Biarritz tapa bar, the Bodega Biarritz 1881 offers a delicious selection of Spanish and Mediterranean tapas paired with excellent beers, wines, and cocktails that make for a truly fun time out with your significant other or group of friends. The food comes in generous portions and each dish is certain to delight.

5. La Caleta de Sants

A rustic yet modern family-friendly restaurant, La Caleta de Sants has a Venezuelan menu with Latin and Caribbean influences. With large portions, delicious dishes, and plenty of bread and beer, everyone in your family or group of friends are sure to find something to love at this restaurant!

Now that your stomach grumblings have left, head back to your Barcelona vacation rental and enjoy a relaxing evening, or go out for more fun on the town with an evening of entertainment and delight!


4 Awesome Places in Barcelona for Tapas

Tapas are one of the staples of Spain. They aren’t a specific food, but rather a small portion of many different kinds of foods – almost like samplers. But many people, tourists and locals alike, enjoy tapa hops, which is like bar hopping (and often does include alcohol), where you head to different bars and restaurants to try a variety of tapas. Some of these may even be near your holiday rental. To help you on your tapa journey, here are four awesome places where you can find delicious tapas in Barcelona!

1. Guru Bcn Food & Cocktails

This Asian-style restaurant and bar may be dimly lit, but it is still warm and welcoming and makes a perfect stop for your tapa hop. You’ll find Guru Bcn Food & Cocktails in the Gothic Quarter of Old Barcelona. Expect Mediterranean flavors from these tapas, and make sure you grab a delicious cocktail or two as well! Whatever you order, it is certain to be delicious and an amazing gastronomic experience.

2. Palosanto

The tapas at Palosanto are from a variety of European cuisines, so expect a unique experience each time you go. This adorable rustic and French-country-style café makes another excellent stop on your tapa tour. The staff is friendly, the sangria delicious, and every dish a tasty work of art. It is a small place so you may want to make a reservation, but it is well worth the wait!

3. 9 Nine

If you want great, meaty tapas look no further than 9 Nine, which is a steakhouse and also includes Mediterranean and International cuisines. Every dish is served with flair and pizzazz. The interior is elegant and modern with a wall of wine. Make sure you get a glass of wine or two to go with your delicious tapas! You may also want a lemon sorbet to clear your palate before moving on to your next tapa stop.

4. Sensi Bistro Barcelona

A rustic yet bright and fun Spanish café awaits at Sensi Bistro Barcelona. Spanish, Mediterranean, and European cuisine make up the menu and the restaurant can be found in the Gothic Quarter of Old Barcelona. The best tapas are the truffle ravioli, so don’t miss out! Their dessert and wine are excellent as well.

We hope you enjoy your tapa hop! Get a taste for Spain and a feel for the culture as you try all new experiences, like your rental villa or apartment that makes you feel right at home!


The Best Loved Cake Shops in Barcelona

We all love a delicious slice of chocolate gateaux or a decadent macaron but Spain isn’t often known for its cakes, preferring to lead the way with tapas, seafood and cava. However, unbeknownst to many, Barcelona is actually a cake haven…here are a few of the best pastelerias you can explore from your Barcelona accommodation.

La Patisseria Barcelona

Vibrant, decadent cakes and pastries are the order of the day at La Patisseria. From the refreshing Llimona tart to a thousand layers with chocolate (mil fulls xocolata) expect to be here a while… You can also take away cakes and pastries to dine on in the comfort of your family villa in Spain.

Bubo Degustacions

Bubo is a group of bakeries and pastelerias dotted throughout Barcelona city centre. You can pre-order for parties and special occasions or simply dine in. The variety of bombons, macarons, pastries, petit fours and cakes are incredible – you will be spoiled for choice. Sip on coffee, take a slice and stay a while.

 

Cosmo

Cosmo is a café and space for contemporary artwork in Barcelona. Their carrot cake and hot chocolate with whipped cream are firm favourites of the locals.

 

 

 

Hoffman Patisseria

Close to Santa Maria del Mar church in the El Born district sits the quirky Hoffman Patisseria. Take away all of your favourites from here including crunchy tiramisu, delicious brioche, chocolate and vanilla cookies, decadent black forest gateau and much more.

 

Forn Baluard

If you seek some of the best bread, pies and pastries in the city then this is the place to be. Try their sourdough or even their dark chocolate and strawberry flavoured bread!

Takashi Ochiai

For something a little different, how about trying some sweet Japanese treats in Barcelona? With a menu of exclusive and traditional creations you can sample such decadent delights as Yokan Bambu which is a combination of green tea, sugar and sweet red bean paste or pasta filo pastry with cream and cherry cream glaze!

Coffee and cake is as popular in Barcelona as it is in France or Switzerland, it’s just a case of finding the best place for you. Hopefully this list will help you find a perfect bakery or pasteleria close to your Barcelona holiday rental.


Family activities in Catalonia and Barcelona

There are many family activities in Catalonia and Barcelona that are suitable for families with kids. Whether you go to the Ebre Delta or the Pyrenees, there are a myriad of options from which to choose that will delight and entertain your little ones. Catalonia has everything that families seek for a holiday in barcelona with children including some of the activities that are listed below.

Bike along a railway track

One of the family activities in Catalonia and Barcelona is biking without having to worry about cars and other vehicles. The Greenway runs from Aragon to Catalonia, which is the same route of the old railway track. At present, the rails are gone and in their place is a well-maintained track that is exclusive for hikers and cyclists, as well as horse riders. The track is relatively flat, which is ideal for the whole family. Just make sure that you bring a flashlight because there are tunnels along the way, and some of them are unlit. The total distance of the track is around 130 kilometres, but you don’t need to travel all the way. The Catalan side of the track takes your family through the Baix Ebre and Terra Alta regions, which are filled with wonderful sceneries.

Parc Guell

Parc Guell is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites found in Barcelona. It was created by renowned architect Antoni Gaudi and feels like a scene right out of a fairy tale. Visiting the park and exploring the grounds is an ideal family activity in Catalonia and Barcelona. Children will be in awe of the Hansel and Gretel homes, leafy plazas, and dragons found throughout the park’s grounds. The best way to get to the park is to take the metro to Vallcarca and then travel up to the park via the escalator to the back of Parc Guell.

Coastline at Lloret de Mar

Kids who love to climb rocks and explore beaches will adores the coastline of Lloret de Mar. A list of family activities in Catalonia and Barcelona is incomplete without a mention of the wonderful beaches in the region. A rocky area just north of the main beach in Lloret de Mar is ideal for children who love adventure, and parents who love stunning scenery.

La Rambla

To complete your list of family activities in Catalonia and Barcelona, take a stroll down the famous La Rambla in the center of Barcelona. Enjoy the various street performers, human statues, painters, animal stalls, flower vendors, and a lot more. La Rambla is definitely a sight that visitors must see in Barcelona before heading back home.


A tapas crawl in El Born

No matter where you choose to rent a villa in Barcelona, you’ll be within walking distance of a great tapas restaurant! The city has plenty of great places that serve up small plates of classic Spanish dishes such as patatas bravas, calamares, and croquetas. However there is one particular location in Barcelona that is especially known for its tapas offerings: the neighbourhood of El Born in Ciutat Vella (the old city). Join us as we take a look at some of the highlights of an El Born tapas crawl!

Stop 1: Tapeo

Begin your El Born tapas crawl at Tapeo. Run by husband-and-wife team Daniel Rueda and Natalia Ferran, the menu features modern, creative tapas that you won’t find anywhere else, and it’s the perfect way to begin your evening. How about meatballs with cuttlefish, wasabi-topped salmon, or a burger with mushroom mayo?

Stop 2: El Xampanyet

El Xampanyet should be your second stop on your El Born tapas crawl for two reasons: first, it’s right across the road from Tapeo, and second this traditional watering hole is extremely popular and it gets busy, so arriving early is essential. Authenticity is key here and you won’t find any ‘crazy’ menu items, just good old-fashioned Spanish tortillas and plenty of chorizo. While the tapas is delicious, many people flock here for the homemade cava!

Stop 3: Cal Pep

A short walk through El Born will bring you to Cal Pep, a Mediterranean-style restaurant famous for its fresh seafood offerings. With menu items changing depending on the ‘catch of the day’, there’s always something different to sample here, and there’s usually more than 70 dishes available, including tapas, meats, fish, vegetables, soups, and salads.

Stop 4: Ten’s Tapas OR Vinya del Senyor

Now it’s time to make a decision: Either head toward Barcelona Zoo and you can visit Ten’s Tapas, run by renowned chef Jordi Cruz, or head toward Port Vell and stop in at Vinya del Senyor, a wine-themed tapas restaurant that commands spectacular views of the Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar from the outdoor patio. If you enjoy people-watching, then this is a true Barcelona hotspot.


Crema catalana: The perfect local treat for something sweet

There are lots of reasons why travellers choose to take a holiday in Spain, but one of the main reasons is the food! Spanish cuisine is arguably some of the best in the world, and Catalonia is famous for its local delicacies. One such dish is crema catalana; a creamy, silky pudding topped with burnt sugar.

Dessert History

When you’re on holiday in Barcelona, you’ll hear that the Spanish invented the crema catalana sometime around the 14th century. If you’re on holiday in France, you’ll hear that it was, in fact, the French that created the dessert, naming it crème brûlée. And if you’re on holiday in England, you’ll no doubt hear that the dessert originated in Cambridge! All three countries lay claim to the pudding, but the reality of the rightful owner is still up for debate!

Crema Catalana 

Traditionally crema catalana has been served on St Joseph’s Day in March, but you can enjoy this creamy dessert at all times of year, whether you’re taking a Barcelona vacation in the summer or winter. Many local restaurants offer this pudding, and it has become a firm favourite of travellers from around the world.

Crème Brûlée v. Crema Catalana

If you can find both crème brûlée and crema catalana, then why not pick up both, take them back to your Spain holiday rental, and do a taste test to see which is better? While both are made in a similar way, crema catalana is thickened with cornflour and is not cooked in a water bath, like traditional crème brûlée. This gives it a little more texture. Many types of crema catalana are also flavoured with citrus and cinnamon, which gives it more flavour. Which one will be your favourite? Try them and see

 

 


What is the secret to a perfect Catalan paella?

When you’re on vacation in Barcelona, you can’t afford to miss out on one of the region’s most famous dishes: paella. Paella is widely considered to be a Spanish staple, but what exactly is it, and why does Catalan paella always seem to taste just a little bit better? Here’s everything you need to know about paella!

What is Paella?

When you’re on holiday in Spain, you’ll find many restaurants offering classic Spanish paella. A typical recipe includes white rice, beans, vegetables, meat or seafood, and a range of herbs and spices. There are different varieties, including the ‘original’ Valencian recipe with snails, and vegetarian recipes, but some say that the Catalan way is the best. So what do the Catalans do differently?

Catalan Paella

While on a Barcelona holiday, you may notice that your restaurant paella is a little different (and many would say better!) than paella you’ve tasted in other parts of Spain. Catalan paella is made with the same traditional ingredients, but the method is slightly different than that of other regions. In Catalonia, the trend is to avoid mixing the paella once the rice has been added to the pot, leaving everything to relax and soak up the rich, bold flavours.

Self Catering

If you’ve decided to stay in a self-catering Catalonia villa rental, then why not try whipping up a Catalan paella on your own? Give yourself plenty of time, as a good paella can’t be rushed, and remember to pair the dish with a local Catalan wine. Paella also tastes better when it’s eaten in a magnificent location, so bring your dishes out and enjoy them by the pool at your luxury Barcelona villa.

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Calçotadas: Catalonia’s onion obsession

Vacation rentals in Barcelona can get booked up quickly during the summer as it is one of the most popular times to visit Catalonia. However, deciding to take a Barcelona holiday in the winter isn’t such a bad idea especially if you like onions! Why? Because it’s calçot season; a time for good food and good wine!

What is a Calçot?

A calçot is a type of onion that is similar to a scallion, spring onion, green onion, salad onion, or the like. They’re harvested during the winter months in rural Catalonia, and are served in a rather unique and interesting way that makes them truly delicious and hard to put down!

Catalonia Calçotades

If you’re staying in a villa in Barcelona during the winter, you may hear the locals discussing the calçotada…but what is IT? A calçotada is a festival celebrating the calçot, where the onions are barbecued, steamed, and then eaten as a snack, usually dipped in a traditional Romesco sauce from Tarragona. There are also grilled meats, crusty breads, and copious amounts of local red wine.

Finding Calçotadas

If you’re keen to visit a calçotada during your holiday in Spain, then consider visiting the town of Valls in January, which is when the region’s biggest annual calçotada takes place. However, you’re sure to find smaller calçotadas taking place in restaurants throughout calçot season, which runs from December to April.

Even if onions aren’t really your thing, Valls is still a great place to visit in the winter months. Spend time in Plaça del Blat in the historic centre of the town, home to the Castells Museum, where you can learn more about another of Valls’ famous attractions: the human towers, which have been a unique Catalan artistic style since the 1700s!

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