To start off 2022 for the New Year’s holiday, my husband and I decided to go to Barcelona. I had been to Barcelona over the summer with my sister and absolutely loved it, so I was excited to go back. I find Barcelona to be a relaxing place that can feel homey, even to outsiders. When we walk the shady blocks of this well-designed city, there are many people sitting outside, snacking on tapas, drinking wine, and laughing with a big group of friends. The way people dress here is a bit more casual than a city like Paris, but still quite savvy.
In addition to the carefree atmosphere, Barcelona is designed to be extremely walkable, using a rigid grid road design to create even blocks. There is also ample shade, which is fantastic in the Spanish summer heat. While exploring the city, you’ll notice the beautiful architecture that is a unique take on French and Spanish styles.
Of course, you can’t talk about the architecture in Barcelona without bringing up the famed architect Gaudi, who designed many of the city’s most esteemed locations like the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Park Güell.
Over our short weekend stay, my husband and I were able to revel in the many beauties and wonderful tastes that Barcelona has to offer, I have shared the highlights below.
Ayre Hotel Rosellón
There is nothing I love more than a wonderful view, and thanks to Ayre Hotel’s prime location near the famous Sagrada Familia, my husband and I were able to score a room with a view of it. Getting to wake up and see its brut and captivating mass in the morning and watching over its softer and more mysterious glow at night was such a treat. The hotel also has a rooftop terrace with views of Sagrada Familia, so we were able to ring in the new year up there. It was amazing to see the skyline of Barcelona come to life at midnight with dozens of fireworks displays from different points of the city. While the interior of the hotel was pretty standard, I would recommend this hotel for its fair price point, views, and location.
Restaurant Los Bellota
On our first night strolling the streets of Barcelona, we stumbled upon a tapas restaurant about a block away from the Sagrada Familia and near our hotel. It had a cozy ambiance and served a plethora of traditional Spanish tapas. Now, as much as Ja and I love to taste test the local fair, we sometimes find tapas to be a hit or a miss – there tends to always be at least one dish we don’t care for. However, this was not the case with Los Bellota because we loved every single thing we tried! Our absolute favorite tapa was the garlic shrimp which we may have ordered 3 times because we simply loved them so much.
Simply put – this is one of the best brunches I have possibly ever had. Since Ja and I live in a small town in southern Spain, there are not a ton of brunch places that serve brunch in the way my American palate is accustomed to, so finding a cute brunch place was important to us. After having about a 10-minute wait, we were able to score a table outside which was fantastic for people watching. Ja ordered the American Breakfast and I ordered the English Breakfast. Ja’s meal came with piles of sausage and bacon, eggs, and pancakes that were stacked so high he could barely see over them and my portion was so big that it took up half the table. We couldn’t finish our food due to the sheer portion sizes, but we tried our hardest because the flavors of the food were absolutely fantastic.
On New Year’s Eve, we wanted to go to a nice dinner and discovered this restaurant called 9 Nine that had stellar reviews. Upon arrival, we were greeted by a table decorated for the holiday with some star confetti and a winter-themed napkin placement. They also gave us a goody bag filled with fun New Year’s accessories like a sparkly hat, streamers, a fluffy lei, and a blower. The dinner was a preplanned menu where you chose 3 appetizers, an entrée, and a dessert from a strong array of delicious-sounding options.
For our 3 starters, we chose the truffle croquettes, garlic shrimp, and mussels. All of these were absolutely incredible. I especially liked the mussels and loved the unique, elevated take of truffle in the croquettes. For our main courses, Ja picked a ribeye and I picked a filet minion. Both were an additional charge from the fixed menu price but hey, we were there to celebrate! The steaks were just as juicy as you could imagine and they even brought out a hot plate so that I could cook my meat just a tad bit more. The most amazing part about all of this is that even with the upcharges, two glasses of welcome champagne, the starters, steaks, desserts, and a bottle of wine, the total came out to be a modest €105 (about $118). I thought this was a fair price considering how much we ate and drank and for the exceptional quality of the food. We were beyond impressed with this restaurant and will 100% be returning on our next trip to Barcelona.
The Casa Batlló was a residential building bought by an affluent family and redesigned by Gaudi in the early 1900s. Located on Passeig de Grácia, one of Barcelona’s most busy avenues, the fantastical house is covered in cool-toned mosaics and is quite hard to miss. Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site and you can take a tour of the house using headphones that are able to sense what room you are in and tell you information about that room. This was my second time doing the tour but I always enjoy marveling at the unique style that Gaudi created using fluid, organic elements as opposed to more traditional, rigid building styles. The rooftop offers a quaint view of the city skyline and there is a bar to enjoy a drink midway through the tour. The tour concludes with an immersive digital experience at the end. Overall, I think this is a fantastic experience to immerse oneself in Gaudi’s work and learn more about his style.
Barcelona is one of those cities that I could completely see myself living in. Despite the fact that it is a large, international city with many people, it never feels too overwhelming. The city itself is beautiful, the food is fantastic, the people are friendly, there is a beach nearby, and the atmosphere overall feels warm and inviting. I can confidently say that Barcelona is my favorite city in Spain and is the perfect city for a relaxing (but vibrant) weekend getaway and I hope to come back many times in the future.