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Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

Singapore, Singapore
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Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

Hi all,

First of all, I would like to thank everyone in the Barcelona forums. I asked my first question here about 4-5 months ago, and have posted several times since. And everyone have been so patient and helpful - so again, thanks a lot! After a lot of research, decision changes, questions, and more research, our trip finally pushed through - and here is my report. Hopefully it can also help someone out in the future.

Food and tapas:

Myself and three of my friends were only in Barcelona for a limited time (4 days), and there are so recommended places to eat at. I therefore devised a strategy that would allow us to maximize our time and try as much food in different places as possible. This may not work for the quiet-dinner types, but it worked for us!

We call it "Tapas Hopping". First step was to plan our destinations in advance, so that we can anticipate where we will be, and research the good places nearby. Then, we listed down the ones recommended here in TA, and decided on those that we want to try. (Gigis-mum's tapas map was very helpful indeed) When we were there, every meal, we would go to 2-3 different restaurants! However, we would only order 3-4 tapas which we would share among us 4. That way, we would not be so full, still can hop to that next restaurant, but we can still try the store specials. We also would order a bottle of Spanish wine or cava so that we don't order too 'little', hence would 'earn' our table. For the next place, we would order 3-4 tapas again, and some dessert. This is easier to do if yours is a fairly large group like ours, and if everyone is game for the adventure! We were in the city for 4 days, but we got to try about a dozen restaurants.

The places we ate at were: Ciudad Condal, La Rita, El Xampanyet, Can Paixano, Sagardi BCN Gotic, Taller de Tapas, Tapas del Born, El Quim de la Boqueria, Pinotxo, and a couple more whose name I forgot (will have to look at my notebook when I get home), the cafeteria in Montserrat, a good neighborhood churroz place in El Born, and several quick espresso and sangria stops in Gran Via

We didn't reserve any of the places we ate at, but most of the places are full or almost full, but luckily we always managed to get a table. For instance in Ciudad Condal, I think we just arrived 10 minutes earlier than everyone else - it was so packed that I think reservations would be necessary especially during the peak seasons.

What is my favorite? Hard to say! I really enjoyed that small shop we stopped at in Gothic Quarter for a quick sangria - I now regret that because of my blistering feet, I didn't get the name of the place. I also enjoyed Ciudad Condal and Can Paixano. But each restaurant was different, and I've never had mediocre food during our stay - and that is a very honest assessment, I think.

Apartment and El Born:

I decided to go with Habitat Apartments, in Princesa 1. The price was fair, and they answered all my questions prior to arrival very promptly. They even accommodated my request for an early check-in of 10am, instead of the usual 11am. The agent who met us was nice and professional, and quickly toured us around the flat. The apartment itself was big enough for four, furnitures were basic, and all the necessary equipments were there. We appreciated the fact that it was clean. Location is about 5 minutes walk to the Jaume I, and just a short stroll to the fantastic restaurants of El Born. The neighborhood was great, and we enjoyed walking and exploring the small streets. It feels like you are staying in history. The place is dynamic without being too noisy and crowded.

Tourist route:

The best thing about travelling off-season are the shorter queues. Did not wait for more than 5-10 minutes in any of the usual tourist spots like La Sagrada Familia. We planned in advance the area we would explore, and matched it with the side-shopping and all the long tedious eating. I allocated a couple of hours a day for the girls - who insisted on shopping since it was the sale season - and patiently carried their bags in the Placa Catalunya/Passeig de Gracia shopping area. We would then grab a coffee, and head off to another Gaudi building/museum. Los Tarantos for a quick flamenco show in Placa Real was cheap and worth the detour. The music, singing and dancing were impressive - not a tourist trap. There are places that we purposely left off for the next trip - like the Picasso Museum. That way, we would be inspired to plan the next visit!

Some issues:

Like most people visiting the city for the first time, we were filled with so much paranoia prior to the trip - what with all the warnings plastered all over the internet! But, we never felt unsafe - even walking past midnight in El Born and Gothic Quarter. We of course took extra precautions, like being alert and not carrying hundreds of euros and several credit cards all the time.

I was also wondering whether it is more polite to converse in Spanish or Catalan. Everyone I encountered patiently accommodated my struggling, but functional, Spanish. In fact, I found locals to be quite friendly, and we never had a bad encounter during our stay.

My favorite moment:

After visiting La Sagrada Familia, eating lunch, then shopping, me and my friends were so exhausted, we just sat at a bench in Passeig de Gracia, and watched all the people walk by, during the sunset, and soaked in the Barcelona ambiance. Sigh....

Barcelona is such a wonderful city, and it is now tied with Paris and Bali as my three favorites in the whole world - each has its own charm and spirit. The things I enjoyed the most are the interesting walks in the Gothic/El Born neighborhoods, the great food and wine, the fact that eating is a relaxed and social event (and dining is very different in Paris and Bali, or anywhere else for that matter), and the lovely architecture and people.

Sorry this report is too long! I got carried away =)

Cheers,

bluegreentravel

Edited: 06 February 2012, 00:00
Toronto, Canada
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1. Re: Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

Hola bluegreentravel!

What a lovely and delicious report! Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it, especially the last paragraph (reproduced below):

" Barcelona is such a wonderful city, and it is now tied with Paris and Bali as my three favorites in the whole world - each has its own charm and spirit. The things I enjoyed the most are the interesting walks in the Gothic/El Born neighborhoods, the great food and wine, the fact that eating is a relaxed and social event (and dining is very different in Paris and Bali, or anywhere else for that matter), and the lovely architecture and people. "

Glad that the Tapas Map helped you and hope visit again for longer. There are still lots of restaurants (esp Catalan ones) and interesting sites to discover.

Merced, California
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2. Re: Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

Thank you for your report Bluegreen. I will be traveling there soon enough so I thoroughly enjoyed it. I not only enjoyed your restaurant reviews but also your restaurant plan of attack! : )

"Sorry this report is too long! I got carried away"... Actually I would have enjoyed even more.

Lara, Australia
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3. Re: Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

Great report bluegreen travel. I especially enjoyed you're comment about sitting and watching people on Passage de gracia. I think some of the best times spent traveling can be when you just sit and watch people and soak it all up.

I am heading to Barcelona in June and your trip report has definitely got me excited!

Cheers

Merrymegsy

Singapore, Singapore
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4. Re: Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

Gigis_mum, now that you've mentioned it, it seems like I haven't tried any local Catalan food. That would be a good reason for a return trip. Perhaps longer than 4 days this time.

drew22, hope you also enjoy your visit.

MerryMegsy, at the risk of sounding cheesy, the best moments when travelling are those when you just slow down and take a breather, and watch the world pass by. Enjoy your trip. Oh and make sure to book your accommodations, tickets and restaurants - it was off-peak season last week, but most of the places we went to were full/almost full; I can imagine it's more crowded during the summer.

New Orleans...
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5. Re: Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

I'm about to travel to Barcelona for the 1st time and feel a little overwhelmed. Its seems like you had a very well planned trip. I would love to know more details. I am trying to create an itenerary for my trip based on location & neighborhood. If you are willing to share your research, it would be greatly appreciated!

USA
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6. Re: Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

Sounds like you had a great trip! I hope you get to return; there is much wonderful Catalan food to be had, and oh so much to explore in the city.

And I completely agree with these words of yours: "the best moments when travelling are those when you just slow down and take a breather, and watch the world pass by."

Singapore, Singapore
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7. Re: Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

oopsy, yes, I'm regretting not having Catalan food. Now I have to go back, asap! :)

t313, that's quite a general question. You can browse around the forums, and look at the very helpful FAQs on the side, so you can get a sense of what you want. You should also ask yourself what your priorities are: what area do you want to stay in? I stayed in El Born, which is less crowded than La Rambla and Gothic Quarter, but with the same charm - those great restaurants and small streets. But I walked in a number of areas, and all have their own pros and cons. How long are you staying? What are your interests - museums, shopping, dining? etc. etc. Yes, can share what I have with you. Read around a bit, if you have more specific questions, just post in this thread or in the forums or message me - people here in TA would be glad to help out.

But yes, planning in advance can give you knowledge that you otherwise would not have known. If I didn't do research, I would probably have stayed in an expensive hotel in an area that does not fit my food, and would have eaten in expensive but mediocre restaurants. So reading up a bit would give you an extra edge, as a traveler. However, don't let plans dictate your whole trip. There are also things you discover on your own - just be flexible and use the advices/suggestions here in TA as a guide.

Cheers.

Edited: 09 February 2012, 22:58
8. Re: Trip Report: Food, Tapas, Apartment, El Born, Safety

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