Barcelona. How do you describe a city that is somehow one of the largest European cities yet hasn’t lost it’s originality. How do you describe a city like that, which takes a hold of your soul the moment you arrive and dances with it as it you were both the red dancing salsa lady emoji.
A city that truly comes alive at night to the sounds of friends clinching classes in cheers over dinner, right in the middle of the busiest street which, by day, was covered with small fruit stalls, artists selling their painting, street performers and market-pet-shops selling pet turtles.
By day, you feel like one of the tourists. By night, you learn to live the life of a local. You bask in their late afternoon nap culture and begin to make your way out for dinner no earlier than 8 pm. You’re doing as the locals do without even knowing it. You order jugs of sangria and bounce from one Pintxos bar after the other, indulging in heavenly bit sized meals at every stop.
As you find your last spot for the evening, you sit and listen to one of the romantic languages, Spanish, be spoken between the bar keeps and regular patrons. You are served the freshest cuts of thinly sliced jamon [ham] with a piece or two of cheese to accompany, on a paper plate as you continue to sip on Spanish wines you can only dream of taking back home.
All the while, your soul dancing the salsa with the cities alluring offerings.
WHERE WE STAYED; BARCELONA ACCOMMODATION
We chose to stay near the centre of Las Ramblas knowing it was halfway between everything we wanted to explore and wander about getting lost trying to find.
In true Joneses form, we opted for a hotel with historical charm and one with an art deco feel which led us to Hotel Nouvel.
As you enter through the doors, the marble walls and floors take you back in time. You would be forgiven for feeling like you’ve stepped back in to a 1930’s set of a James Bond film [if it existed in film and not just book in the 30’s].
While the rooms were on the smaller side, they certainly still had enough room for the two of us, with the bathroom being wonderfully large. The room we got had a large window you could open but it only looked out to the side of another building. Other rooms have small balconies if you think you would use it.
The hallways on each floor were certainly not overlooked in the styling and the dining area of Hotel Nouvel one you would feel like a king and queen eating in. We only ate at the hotels restaurant the morning we checked out, due to our early morning flight, but opted to venture out for all other meals while we were there, so can’t comment too much on their food and if it’s worth paying to have it included in your booking.
The hotel was really close to Las Ramblas which meant we weren’t dragging our suitcases through the back cobble-lined streets to get to it, as cabs can’t get down these. Something to consider when booking hotels in Barcelona.
OUTSIDE THE HOTEL; BARCELONA TO-DO’S
This was my [Mrs Jones’] second trip to Barcelona. My first trip was with a friend many years ago when we were younger and more attracted to the drinking scene rather than the cultural scene [or being up and sober to see the day to be honest].
This second time with, at the time, future-Mr Jones’, we spent a lot more time wandering about looking for the local dive bars, hitting up the ‘must see’ cultural sights, visiting locally suggested restaurants and of course, watching La Liga soccer games in bars and visiting the FC Barcelona home ground, Camp Nou.
We wandered down to check out the Barcelona beach, which … bless, is an obviously man-made beach. And not that they are trying to pass it off as anything else but if you’re home town has beautiful beaches [like Australia] then perhaps don’t bother heading there for a full day of tanning.
A trip down in the evening as the sunsets for an ice-cream on the other hand, can recommend.
We also did the usual La Sagrada Familia visit, which is of course still being built and completed. We have never bothered paying to go inside but perhaps in 2026 once it’s due to be completed, we will. The outside is incredible to look at but if you plan your day and timing right, there will be crowd entertainers and small markets around it to explore as well.
What we can recommend paying to go and see though is Park Güell by Gaudi. Exploring this park full of his sculptures and wonderful creations almost makes you feel like Alice in Wonderland, seeing textures and shapes for the first time.
The Joneses Rating
Outside of hotels [and retail shopping], it would actually be really hard to spend a lot of money in Barcelona.
The delicious cocktails and beer, pinchos and even full restaurant-style dining fills you up before you even need to consider what the bill will be.
WHAT WE WOULD RETURN FOR; BARCELONA MUST DO’S
Pinchos. Sangria. The people. The language … you get the point we’re trying to make. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again, Barcelona has a hold of our souls.
More specifically though, it would be great to go back for a longer period of time to see more of the surrounding neighbourhoods, like Eixample. While we wandered through this and other surrounding neighbourhoods, it would be great to have more time to get lost in there as well.
Returning to see an actual game played at Camp Nou is also still on the bucket list, as well as finding some other amazing dive bars to watch games at, surrounding by avid fans and locals.
WHAT WE WE WOULD LEAVE BEHIND
Look. There isn’t much we didn’t like in Barcelona. And by much we mean, we can’t think of anything outside us often waking up too early and before the shops and cafes are open, which is hardly an issue when that just meant a coffee in our hotel room and then a second at breakfast.
BARCELONA CITY GUIDE
The Joneses Barcelona
DO EAT …
If you’ve been wandering around all day and are in need of a quick Pintxos hit, or want to indulge again, then look no further than El Pintxo de Petritxol. Open all day and serving in-cred-ible pinchos at all hours, you’ll find yourself wandering in day after day without even knowing.
Do DRINK …
One of our favourite cocktail finds was Ocaña.
This plush furnishings and chandeliers, flamboyant but elegant entertainers and open 24/7.
If those cocktails could talk … !
Do Get Lost …
Wander. Play a game of who chooses which direction to turn, next. Don’t follow a map and pick a bar or restaurant based on its external appearance alone. Not what someone online has suggested. Find a small hole in the wall ice-creamery and indulge. Because, you’ll likely not find it again!
DO, Do …
One of the best tips we were given from a friend was the Pintxo’s bar crawl. About a 15-20 min walk from the main centre of Las Ramblas is where it begins.
Starting at Carrer de Blai, there are streets lined with small Pintxos Bars which you hop from, one after the other.