Tapas and Taste: Budget Barcelona
By Elloise Bennett
Heading to Spain is typically a summertime pastime, but it’s definitely worth a visit in January or February. Spanish weather makes it a lovely option, with the days sunny and filled with blue skies — warm enough that you don’t need more than a light jacket, and evenings cool enough that you can bundle up with a tasteful scarf and strut the streets like the native Barcelonans with a stylish leather jacket or wool coat.
Airfare to Barcelona via airlines like KLM or Spanair this time of year is a bargain – and hotels are desperate enough for clients to make a good deal. Look for a hotel in Bario Gothic or El Ravel neighborhoods.
Barcelona is a city where it’s easy to enjoy the feel of history, the art and beauty, and still not over-spend. Cafes are on every street corner and are a good budget option for a cup of ‘
café con leche’ (coffee with milk) or ‘
café Americano’(black coffee which is basically two shots of espresso with hot water) with a pastry or a
- a baguette with
chorizoand cheese or
La Boqueria, the famous market on La Rambla, or, my favorite market,
Mercado Santa Caterina
- Not only are the beautiful stalls and displays a treat for the eyes, but you can easily pick up some fruits, bread, sausages, croquettes tapas filled with cheese and
jamon, wine or
cava(Catalan champagne), and prep yourself for a picnic.
There are plenty of green and open spaces to have a picnic or to enjoy your croquettes. Parks abound, cozy squares abound – but I’d recommend a walk from La Boqueria or Mercado Santa Catherina along the boardwalk to Barceloneta. Sit and enjoy your food on one of the many benches along the bay, while watching boats, rollerbladers, joggers, and tiny ladies with perfectly coiffed hair walking their tiny dogs. All framed by a view back towards the city. Or keep walking towards the beach and dip your feet in the Mediterranean.
Barcelona is of course famous for it’s architecture. It is a truly unique blend of medieval and modern. Take a stroll late afternoon through the Gothic section to marvel at the tiny paths (we’d call them ‘alleys’ but that has a back-road sort of connotation!) the cobbled stones, the chaotic maze of it. At 5:15 p.m., the Cathedral re-opens after the afternoon siesta, and is free to visitors. Seeing it in the lights of the evening is a must.
Parc Montjuicis also a great spot to walk, picnic, or have a cheap beer at a roadside kiosk. The park’s fountains and view of the city are stunning – but my favorite is the building that now houses the
Museu Nacional D’art de Catalunya
- Built for the 1929 World Exposition, the building is modeled on St. Peter’s in Rome and does a good job of mimicking an emotional experience in architecture! The building itself is free – and you can roam the organ pavilion and the terraces at will. To see the art collection there is a fee – and one I would only recommend you pay if you feel the need to be ‘cultural.’ Most of the collection is secondary works by secondary masters. The modern section with chairs designed by Gaudi and a handful of paintings by Miro and Dali is the best part. (There is a whole Juan Miro section of the park that may be more up your alley!)
But Barcelona art and architecture is not complete until you have seen the buildings of Gaudi.
Antonio Gaudi is probably Barcelona’s most famous architect and artist – and seeing his buildings it is clear that he was an artist as well as someone who understood weight-bearing loads. Stroll up the Passeig de Gracia – a more elegant and chic version of the Champs D’Elysee. As you gawk at the shop windows of the designer shops, notice the architecture of this beautiful street – late nineteenth century mixed with modern glass, mixed with Gaudi’s designs.
His famous apartment complex, the
Pedrera, is on the Passeig de Gracia and after you’ve marveled and taken pictures, turn right down Carre d. Provence and head about 15 minutes by foot to see the
You’re going to have to shell out Euros for the entrance fee to the Sagrada Familia – just roll with it and make up for it later by having a flauta in a cheap cafe.
Sagrada Familiais a church that is absolutely worth the visit. A stunning incorporation of nature into design, of thought into function, of beauty into structure – it’s unlike anything that our modern world has produced. Begun in 1882 and not slated to be completed until 2013, this is a masterpiece literally in the making. Try to be inside at noon for their daily 10-minute organ concert so you can appreciate the acoustics.
End the day with a visit to Café Schilling on C. de Ferran. Drinks are extremely well priced, the service is fantastic, the view of the locals taking a stroll before dinner just outside the massive windows is great entertainment, and their
jamonplatter served with toast points dripping with oil and tomato and garlic is worth the six Euros!
Elloise Bennett is a San Diego educator and traveler. Formerly a European history teacher and school administrator at Torrey Pines High School and Canyon Crest Academy, she now teaches online classes at her alma mater, University of San Diego, School of Education and has an educational services business in Carmel Valley. Her flexible schedule allows her to travel, explore, and share those experiences with others. She has lived in San Diego, London, Johannesburg, and now splits her time between San Diego and Amsterdam. You can follow more of Elloise’s travels on