We found our apartment on airbnb – you can read my review.  It was located at 301 Avinguda Diagonal, which is close to the Sagrada Familia. The host, Clara, stayed long enough to show us around and go over a map with recommendations. She was happy to answer questions – she also recommended a restaurant, Tapeo, that we didn’t get a chance to try.  The whole building is vacation rentals, one per floor.  We liked the apartment for a first stay in Barcelona, but we’d choose to rent in the Gracia neighborhood if we returned.

The Barcelona metro is so easy to use. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Buy a 10 ticket card at the machine. Single rides and multi-day really aren’t worth it. My local friend says the T-10.
  2. Mind the advice about pickpockets – my friend had his phone stolen while holding his toddler’s hand.  It’s an opportunity crime city though, not violent crime, so don’t let that scare you!
  3. You don’t need taxis. Set your fitbit and you’ll get up to 23,000 steps, which are necessary to counteract the churros and gelato!

There are 4 things to do in one small area (a few blocks) that we found on our first day, so here’s an itinerary for when you’re near the Born center:

Tapas at Bormuth: For being in a touristy part of town this place is great. My friends have gone twice and say both times the food was delicious.

Casa Perris: a charming bulk food store. You have to see it to see why it’s worth going to, especially if you’re staying at an airbnb or place with a kitchen.  There’s a great description of the store and others in the city from Culinary Backstreets.  Some of the stores have been open since the 1800s.

Bosque Palermo – well priced seafood paella.

La Paradeta – we didn’t try it, but a friend who lives in Barcelona recommended this place.

Chök – doughnuts, really. The best ever.  This was our “make your own food tour” stop and we only had room for the tiny chocolate filled ones. Amazing.

Xurreria (Churreria) – this place had our favorite ones in the old part of the city and wasn’t too busy.

Churros!! Plain and Chocolate

Museu de la Xocolata – workshops for kids here too, and there were same day vacancies.

El Born Centre Cultural i de Memòria is a must see.

Mercat de la Boqueria – this is pretty touristy, but all 8 of us traveling together enjoyed it. Try El Quim, one of the restaurants inside (it was recommended by a chef my friend knows in Los Angeles).  Stay away from the typical tapas-style or fried foods on the menu though and just go for the grilled fish, garlic shrimp and some other dishes! It was fantastic.  Oh, and save your receipt, you can use it to get into the restrooms.  Be sure to also try the fresh juices on the way in or out. You won’t believe how good they are.  Here are 2 of our favorite dishes we had at El Quim.

barcelona_Fish El Quim
Grilled fish

Museu National is a free musem with a collection of art of Catalonia. There is a huge fountain out front that is constantly changing (and has a lights show at night with lots of people who come to watch).

One of the benefits of vacation apartments are the kitchens.  We found an excellent organic grocer, Ametller Origen, near the Verdaguer metro station.

Labyrinth – this is really a must with big kids!  Bring a book and read outside! Free on Sunday and Wednesdays. It gets crowded later in the day.

Olympic pools – don’t miss this!! Most amazing pool view I’ve ever seen.

Barcelona Olympic pools