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Barcelona Travel Guide

The first stop on our tour of Spain was Barcelona. Checking out this city’s amazing architecture and vibrant culture has always been one of my dreams.

I always thought Catalan was more of an unofficial language in the region, but a few days before heading out I decided to learn a few words and phrases. Catalan is definitely the primary language but the city is pretty international so English and French are commonly spoken alongside Spanish. It’s definitely nice to know some phrases but you won’t be lost at sea without it.

Stay

We stayed in an adorable apartment in the Gothic Quarter, close to the water but just out of view. It’s such a convenient location but you should also consider staying in Eixample, the gayborhood.

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Eats

Everyone knows I hate eating at chain restaurants, but Sensi Tapas, a Barcelona chain, had been highly recommended. A narrow space with exposed stone walls, it’s got a cool modern vibe and delicious bites, so it made the grade for me. You’ll want one of everything and at least one pitcher of sangria.

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Barcelona made me break another rule, when traveling I hate hitting up the same spot more than once. But El Casal was an adorable cafe just a few steps from our apartment. It was such a convenient spot for “breakfast” when we were rushing out of the apartment at midday. If you make there before noon, they have a breakfast menu that includes a smoothie, coffee, and pastry.

I probably didn’t get the memo, but why doesn’t anyone in Spain eat breakfast? I mean real breakfast like eggs, bacon, and toast. If you’re starving for a traditional English or American breakfast, check out the Alice in Wonderland themed Milk Bar. We loaded up on mimosas and made friends with the other Americans that packed into the place.

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Like all good gays, we carved out an afternoon for shopping and were fortunate to stumble into Bosco for tapas and cocktails. It’s a trendy corner spot just out of the tourist’s view. Surprisingly, they have several veggie tapas on menu. After eating multiple meals made of meat, fried food, and bread, it was such a relief to get greens back in my diet.

On our last night in the city, we opted for a bit an upscale seafood dinner. We headed for the Barceloneta neighborhood, which is full of touristy diners near the beach. You can probably eat at any of them without noticing a difference, but we chose Can Majo, which some friends had recommended.

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Drinks

Set out early for the Sky Bar to get a gorgeous view of Barcelona. Watch out for drink prices. We had two gin and tonics for 16€ each. Ouch. We also made the mistake of visiting around midnight and found the entire city was pitch black from that vantage. It was pretty peaceful, though.

Since our trip to Barcelona fell on the early half the week, most of the gay bars were on the slow side. As we were making our way into Arena, I noticed some other guys were handing the bouncer cards for free entry. I asked where I could get one and he sent me a few blocks away to Cafe Bar Punto. We ordered some drinks and the bartender handed us free passes to Arena. This is where we discovered quite possibly the best thing about Spain’s gay bars: free potato chips. Matt was beyond ecstatic for the chips.

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After we polished off a bowl of potato chips, we made our way back to Arena. We headed down into the basement for more cocktails and dancing. It might have been slow, but definitely not sleepy. I’m still not sure how it was suddenly 4am when he stumbled out. If you’re looking to make friends, check out the dark room.

We also checked out Metro Bar but unfortunately it was pretty empty that night.

Shop

One of my favorite things was wandering through the market places for fresh fruit and juices. La Boqueria market is the most well known, huge but full of tourists. There are also plenty of small restaurants and bars in the market and nearby. Mercat Santa Caterina is a beautiful modern structure with fewer tourists.

If you’re looking to score some new outfits for your journey, Passeig de Gracia has plenty of clothing stores. We spent an afternoon grabbing cheap Zara and Bershka threads.

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Sights

Our trip was inspired by Rick Steves’ Spain Guidebook and we actually followed several of his walking tours. I definitely recommend taking a stroll around town to see the Gaudi architecture.

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As if we hadn’t been walking enough, we also spent an afternoon hiking around Park Guell. It’s a bit farther away from the city, but well worth the trip. There’s also a gated area you can pay to visit. When you hike to the top you’ll get some incredible views of the city.

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You also definitely have to check out La Sagrada Familia church. It’s an unfinished Gaudi masterpiece. Their ticketing system lets you purchase tickets for a set time in advance, so instead of waiting in line you can lounge around a cafe with sangria. The foundation has an ambitious goal of completing the church by 2026, the 100 year anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

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Art museums are easily my favorite places to visit. The Picasso Museum gives you an in depth look at some of the lesser known works by the artist as well as plenty of historical context. Do yourself a favor, don’t do the math on the dates in the exhibit. I’ll just say Picasso was extremely accomplished at a very young age.

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Barcelona was such a fun place to visit and I’ll definitely have to be back, at least in 2026 for the completed Sagrada Familia church.

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