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!


Why should I visit Andorra?

It may be a little further afield for those renting a villa with private pool on the Costa Brava, yet it’s still a popular day trip destination. Many excursions run to this tiny country lodged between France and Spain, in the summer months the flora and fauna is amazing and during winter months it has some of the Pyrenees best ski slopes. So why would you make the 2.5 – 3-hour trip from the coast?

Here are a few reasons:

Firstly, Andorra has a rich and interesting history, legend has it that Charles the Great granted the people of Andorra a charter if they fought against the Moors. The small country previously had a joint allegiance with both Spain and France, in fact during the Spanish Civil war the French troops rallied to protect Andorra. During the second world war the country became a smuggling route from France into Spain, so it’s had its fair share of excitement over the years. These days the predominant language spoken is Catalan (although there is still some French and Castellano Spanish), the country is part of the United Nations and to this day remains independent.

The capital city Andorra La Vella is nestled high in the Pyrenees and enjoys spectacular mountain views all around. The surrounding lush, green country parks and walks are beautiful and in the city there are incredible examples of Andorran Romanesque art and architecture.

There are a variety of mountain sports to enjoy which are suitable for all the family, the two ski resorts have a Nordic ski centre and plenty of alpine ski activities, there is also a special area for children called Naturlandia. Just outside Andorra La Vella is the perfect location for rock climbing with many areas surrounding the city. Dense forests are filled with canyoning adventures and zip wiring and on the main roads cyclists are out in force especially during the spring and summer months.

For Golfers the Soldeu course ascends to 2250 metres of altitude, access is gained via an 8-person gondola, the journey offers unsurpassed panoramas even before you begin to play the course!

In the city itself architecture is typical of a Pyrenean town, grey slate and alpine stone is used to create chapels, towers, bridges and fortifications typical of the area. Visitors will see ancient traditions blend with contemporary lifestyle as they wander the streets. The old stone houses on the outskirts of the city contrast with modern shopping centres and edgy steel sculptures in Andorra la Vella. The shops offer the latest fashions and technologies at reasonable prices which are ideal for a gift to take home.

If you plan on renting your Spain holiday rental for a while and you have access to a car during your stay, take a drive to Andorra, its unique traditions and fascinating culture make for an interesting visit.


Tasty Churros – A Catalan Favourite

Picture the scene, you are strolling around the Sunday morning market close to your Costa Brava holiday rental and you happen to catch the scent of a deliciously sweet aroma coming from a local kiosk. Then you catch sight of locals dipping donut like sugary fingers into a cup of rich, warm hot chocolate and your mouth begins to water. You have just discovered Churros. Unbeknownst to most, you can also make this fabulous sweet treat easily from the comfort of your villa on the Costa Brava, here is the easiest way to ensure all of the family can enjoy a super sweet start to the day.

Firstly, boil the kettle and measure approximately 350ml of water into a jug. Add around 50g of melted butter (for four servings, adjust as applicable) and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Then sift 250g of baking powder into a bowl with a little pinch of salt and pour in the ingredients in the jug and stir until smooth, then leave for around 15 minutes.

When it’s ready put all of the ingredients into a pan and melt until your sauce is shiny and smooth, keep on a low heat.

Now fill a pan with one third of oil and heat a cube of bread until it browns (usually around 1 minutes or less). Cover a tray with greaseproof paper and mix 100g caster sugar and 2tsp of cinnamon together.

You will need a piping bag for the next part, around a 2 cm nozzle tip is a good size for piping. Fill the bag with the rested dough and pipe strips into the pan of oil and fry them until crisp and golden. Remove with a draining spoon and place on the grease proof paper then continue to cook the rest of the strips of dough. Sprinkle a little cinnamon and caster sugar onto the finished churros and you are almost ready.

The sauce is prepared at the same time with dark chocolate chunks, 100mls of double cream and the same of milk, a few tablespoons of golden syrup and a little vanilla extract. Melt the chocolate and add the syrup, cream, milk and vanilla and stir on a low heat until warm.

There you have it, quick and easy churros which you can enjoy in your Spain vacation rental at any time of the day or evening.


Shopping in Barcelona

Looking for some unique gifts and souvenirs to bring back for friends and family from your Baecelona holiday rental? You’re in luck! Barcelona is one of Spain’s best shopping destinations, with many great stores to check out. Here are just some of the best shopping locations in Barcelona that are perfect for browsing:

 

Barcelona Malls

 

If you like to have everything in one place, then La Maquinista is the ideal solution. One of Catalonia’s biggest malls, La Maquinista is home to more than 230 shops, giving you a fantastic selection. It’s here that you can find big international brands, like Adidas, Calvin Klein, and Foot Locker, interspersed with Spanish brands like Cortefiel, Dormity, and Furest. There’s also some small supermarkets, like Carrefour, which is great for picking up supplies and ingredients to make dinner at your villa in Barcelona.

 

Top Brands

 

For those who love top brands, it’s time to take a stroll along Passeig de Gràcia, which is one of the best locations in Barcelona for high end products. Chanel, Gucci, Boss, Mango, Guess, Burberry, Cartier, and Stella McCartney all have stores along this stretch of road, so there’s lots of places to choose from. Shopping is thirsty work, but don’t worry — there’s plenty of cafes and restaurants here, too! If you make it all the way to the end of this long street, you can relax in the beautiful Salvador Espriu gardens.

 

Small Stores

 

If you much prefer smaller, more local shops, then take a walk down Carrer de Verdi, which has a reputation for being one of Barcelona’s most quirky, unusual, and offbeat streets. You won’t find any high end brands here, but what you will find is a range of stores that allow you to make your own jewellery by selecting different beads and gems, shops selling handmade sweets and treats, all manner of recycled wood furniture, and accessory shops which are ideal for picking up some presents!


Holiday in Spain: What You Need to Know Before You Go to Barcelona!

Most people agree that Spain is one of the best holiday destinations in the world. And they are correct for many reasons. If you are planning to take a vacation and heading to Spain, more specifically Barcelona, you should know a few things. This will not ruin your holiday experience. On the contrary, this will enhance your holiday Spain experience because you will be well informed.

Forget Queuing

Typically, queuing makes everything run smoothly, in an organized manner. However, in Spain, queuing is not common. The only place you will find queues is in tourist attraction sites. Even at these places, someone will jump queue unapologetically. Do not mind pushing and shoving, with a smile on your face. Everyone does it anyway. If you are going to Barcelona during the high season, prepare your elbows.

Be Polite but Do Not Overdo It

You are used to saying the words ‘thank-you’ and ‘please’ most of the time, which is okay. These words come automatically without giving much thought. In Barcelona, you will have a different experience. Please note that people in Barcelona are not rude. It is only that they do not use these words unless they mean them. Therefore, use your word ‘sorry’ sparingly. When you are looking for your Barcelona accommodation, be polite but do not overdo it.

Stay Alert

There are many pickpockets in Barcelona. Do not drop your guard once you arrive in this beach city because pickpockets will ruin your holiday experience. You can lose your camera, wallet or any other valuable item within a blink of an eye. All you need to do is stay alert because most pickpockets distract you first before stealing from you. Your holiday in Spain will go smoothly if you avoid suspicious characters who engage in vague conversation. They want to confuse you before taking off with your stuff.

Prepare for a Laidback Environment

You will feel like screaming in frustration if you are accustomed to fast services. You are on vacation anyway so slow down. Everything is laidback in Spain. It will take some time before you get seated in a restaurant (even if you have made a reservation). When you rent a villa in Barcelona, you can practice patience and adjust to this laidback lifestyle. Make sure you allocate extra time for everything you do if you do not want to yell in frustration.

No Shopping on Sundays

You will not rest because you want to; circumstances will force you to. Most restaurants and shops do not open on Sundays. It is a Spanish tradition and perhaps the only thing you will accomplish on a Sunday is booking a villa in Barcelona.


Things to do on a rainy day in Majorca!

Although renting a villa in Spain will get you on average around 300 sunny days, there will be that odd time when it rains. If you have a Mallorca holiday rental, you shouldn’t let this get you down, take a break from the beaches for the day and see what else the island has to offer.
• Visit the caves – Mallorca is home to several large caves, the biggest and most well-known of these are the Coves del Drach, which features huge chambers and even an underground lake. Every day the cave is host to a concert of classical music which is performed by musicians on a lit up boat, which proves to be quite a magical experience. Other caves include the Coves de Campaner of Coves de Arta.
• Spa Trips- Although you can get a villa with a private pool in Spain, there is nothing better than indulging yourself at one of the many spas, many of which offer hydropools, jacuzzies, saunas, indoor pools and a range of treatments. Rent a villa in Majorca in Pollensa or Son Brull to get treatments using only natural products.
• Visit Historic Buildings- There a huge range of historic buildings that are scattered across the whole of the island. The many castles, monasteries, palaces and estates reveal Mallorca’s fascinating past.
• Shop until you drop- If you have a Mallorca holiday rental in Palma, then you have a range local and international shops right on your doorstep. Alternatively head to Fan Mallorca, the island’s biggest shopping centre that is located just 5km from the capital.
• The pearl factory- Mallorca is famous for its artificial pearls, and you can find the Majorca Factory Shop located in Manacor. You will be treated to a guided tour which will show you the production process, view the exhibition space and then get taken to the gift shop where you can buy a souvenir to take back to your Mallorca holiday rental.
• Wine tasting- Just because the sun isn’t shining, it doesn’t mean that you can’t taste some of the delicious local wines on offer. Why not enjoy a guided your of Bodega followed by some wine and tapas.


A Golfing Holiday!

If you are looking for a Golf vacation Spain, the Costa Brava region offers some fantastic courses for both beginner and experienced players. The region boats not only a fantastic climate for the majority of the year, but also four golf courses that are ranked in Europe’s top 50 as well as many other popular courses.
There are many villas to rent in Catalonia that will provide you with the ideal base for your golfing holiday. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular.

Club Golf d’Aro

This course is located high on a hilltop near the coastal resort of Platja d’Aro. The course has spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding coast, and proves to be quite a challenging course with many water hazards and bunkers.

Emporda Golf

Considered one of the best in the Catalunya region, Emporda Golf has four 9-hole courses which have combined to make two 18-hole courses. Take your pick between lakes, dunes and bunkers or Mediterranean pines. If you have a Spain vacation rental close enough, you could spend your whole holiday here.

Girona Golf

Hole #15

There are many villas around golf courses Catalonia, and the region around Girona is no exception. The Girona Golf course relies on the natural hills of the land to provide a challenging course and has a beautiful clubhouse make of natural stone.

Club de Golf Costa Brava

For those looking for both a beach and a golfing holiday, rent a villa in Spain around the beaches of Platja d’Aro and Snt Feliu de Guixol. The course here is surrounded by cork oak and pine forests, a very stark contrast to other courses in the area. Why not spend a few days here and a few days soaking up the Spanish sun on one of the local beaches?


5 Restaurants in Barcelona that Offer Local Cuisine!

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Barcelona is not just a beautiful city with hundreds of things to do. When you’re ready to take a break from your beautiful rental villa, why not check out these five restaurants that offer cuisine local to Barcelona, so you can truly get a taste of what this city has to offer?

1. Cera 23

If you’re looking for a place to find amazing tapas or to go on a special occasion, Cera 23 is the place for you. The restaurant is intimate, elegant, and relaxing, and the staff is friendly and inviting. Though the menu is small, each dish is made with care. Delicious flavors, unique presentation, amazing cocktails, and delicious desserts await you at Cera 23.

2. El Xampanyet

El Xampanyet offers a unique dining experience in Barcelona with a delicious food bar. Just go up to the counter and order what looks good to you! They do, of course, also have a drink bar with nice cold beer and cocktails. The restaurant is a bit tight and cozy, but friendly and vibrant. If you want to be around people, this is the place to be.

3. Tosca Palau

A traditional restaurant with plenty to offer, Tosca Palau’s menu is large enough that you are certain to find something for everyone. If you want tapas and wine, you’ll want to head to this restaurant. With friendly staff, large open windows, and a great atmosphere, Tosca Palau’s makes a great stop before you venture on to your nighttime activities.

4. La Cova Fumada

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Looking for an authentic Spanish dining experience? Look no further than La Cova Fumada. You will be seated with other diners, so you can get to know the local people or other tourists. The cuisine is like eating a family recipe passed down from generation to generation. Each dish is amazing and you’ll want to try more than one. They have plenty to offer, including alcoholic beverages, and you definitely will not be disappointed.

5. La Peninsular

Craving seafood? La Peninsular is certain to satisfy your craving! They offer some of the best and most authentic Spanish seafood dishes in Barcelona. Their restaurant is fun, family-friendly, and casual.
We hope you enjoyed the local cuisine that Barcelona has to offer! Now you can return to your amazing vacation rental, or continue on with your night (or afternoon) in this awesome city!


Barcelona’s Tallest Buildings!

Although Spain is known for its wonderful weather, glorious beaches, and luxury villas with private pools in Barcelona and other popular resort destinations, it’s not exactly famous for its skyscrapers. However, there are certainly a few buildings of note in the country, with Barcelona itself boasting some impressive structures that are well worth visiting. Here’s a guide to Barcelona’s tallest buildings above 100m:

  • Torre Mapfre — 154m

Located in the Port Olímpic area of the city, Torre Mapfre is an office building home to many different firms, spread across 44 floors. However, it’s most famous for featuring Spain’s highest helipad. If you’re staying in a Barcelona holiday rental nearby, it’s worth popping out after sundown to see it all lit up.

  • Torre Agbar — 144m

Opened in 2005, Torre Agbar is one of the newest skyscrapers in Barcelona. Primarily an office building, the unusual (and somewhat phallic!) design of the building is considered to be a prime example of modern ‘high tech’ architecture. Again, slip out of your Barcelona villa at night to enjoy the illuminations.

 

  • Diagonal ZeroZero — 110m

Yet another example of high-tech architecture, Diagonal ZeroZero is another looming office building that can be seen from the streets of Barcelona. With 25 floors in total, this building holds a prime location in Barcelona, overlooking the stunning coast and close to some of the city’s most beautiful beaches.

The Skyscraper that Never Was

While we’re talking about Barcelona skyscrapers, let’s spare a thought for the 148m tall Torre La Sagrera: the Barcelona landmark that was never built! Designed by Frank Gehry, the proposed office building was supposed to me much more than just a structure; it was anticipated to become the hottest location in Barcelona, with a public park, transportation museum, and other attractions built in the grounds.

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