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May 30, 2010 06:32 AM

The Barcelona itinerary challenge

I'm overwhelmed and having trouble planning a short visit to Barcelona. I'd like to hand this over to the collective wisdom of knowledgeable board-dwellers and see what comes up. Here are the parameters:

- Arriving in Barcelona early Friday evening and leaving Tuesday morning (4 nights).
- We'll be staying in an apartment in the Born area.
- Definitely want to see Gaudi stuff, cathedral, Picasso museum (maybe) and absolutely for sure will go to the Dali museum in Figueres. Markets are a huge passion.
- My travel partner has food limitations - annoying but not impossible. She doesn't eat meat or shellfish (of ANY type). She will eat all vegetables, fish, eggs, dairy. I will eat anything.
- Budget is moderate, but could splurge a bit. LOVE more rustic, peasanty food - but might appreciate something more upmarket for a meal or two.

How can we tailor this trip? I'd like to have some kind of sketchy plan - maybe a few targeted eating spots to fit our sightseeing around. And if we wanted to do a tasting menu at, say, Cinq Sentits, would they be able to accommodate my friend's eating restrictions (I'd call ahead, of course). And of course, we have to take into account the fact that one of our days is a Sunday.

As the Dali museum is more or less a full day excursion, we could do that on Sunday maybe. Is there anywhere good to eat in Figueres?

I know what will happen if I don't make at least some basic plan. We'll go out to see things, get hungry and eat at somewhere stupid - thus wasting precious meals pointlessly, when there's so much good eating to be done. I'd appreciate any suggestions - and promise to report on our return.

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  1. Barcelona is a large city but it is not a particularly difficult city to navigate, very much like many of the big cities that you've been to. First, get a good basic guide book such as Time Out/Let's Go to get a general feel of the city. One needs to get a map and check our where Born is and plot the sights you plan to visit. Do this before you do any kind of serious food planning. The old sections of Barcelona of El Ravel, Barri Gotic and El Born/Ribera are clustered together and compact enough to walk. The other main area you will be interested in is the Eixample with the big wide boulevards and modernista architecture. The metro, buses and taxis(relatively inexpensive) will connect the rest. There are covered markets in just about every neighborhood. The most convenient for you are the Boqueria on Las Ramblas and Santa Caterina in Born, both excellent. Only you can plan your own itinerary. Below is an approach in steps that might help:
    1. Plan out your sightseeing and plot them on a map. Sunday is a good time to go to Figueres as Barcelona is quiet with shops and many restaurants close on that day.
    2. Lunch: is it this your main meal or just something convenient in between sight seeing? The place you choose should be convenient to where you'll be or hope to be after lunch.
    3. Dinner: would you prefer to have a leisurely dinner or explore a particular neighborhood such as El Ravel, Barri Gotic, Born/Ribera, Eixample, Sarria, Gracia and eat tapas and pintxos at several places within a neighborhood?
    4. What type places are you interested in eating at? everyday Catalan places, pintxos, tapas. Keep in mind as some pintxos/tapas places are stand up only or with just stools. Is this a limitation? Put your friend's food limitations aside as there will be somethings for her to eat: fish, lots of egg dishes, cheeses, vegetables.
    5. Budget: the tasting menu at Cinc Sentits will be around 60E before wine, etc (that includes service and tax). Other than that, your budget is moderate: what is moderate? it is different for different people. We all eat differently and consume different amounts. Here is a guide line of everyday places: wine/beer is 2euro or less; a meal at a simple everyday place including sit down, tapas and pintxos is around 12-20 euro; designer tapas places such as Santa, Maria, Comerc24, Inopia will be more.
    6. Search this board for earlier posts and pick out places that might fit 1 to 5.
    After doing the above, come back with some specific restaurant choices and ask the board if they are appropriate for what you are looking: ie near particular sights, fit you and your friend's food preference and limitations, within your budget, or any questions regarding to places you've picked. Your current post is too vague and too broad for anyone to respond to.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PBSF

      Obviously you are right. I do need to get myself sorted out a little better before asking for concrete suggestions. I guess I was hoping that if there were someone who had been faced with similar situation, I might get to hitch-hike on their itinerary a bit. It's daunting to plan these trips - the Barcelona leg comes after 2 weeks in northern Portugal, which I've more or less figured out.

      Ok - to narrow things down slightly:
      - I think maybe two evenings exploring different areas for tapas and pintxos. Standing up is fine and I'm sure my friend will be able to find things to eat. I've been to Spain before and I know there are many tapas that would fit within the framework of her limitations. So - can you suggest two different neighbourhoods that would be good for that kind of thing? Are there a few specific tapas places we could aim for in the Born/Barri Gotic area on one evening?
      - I am very keen to include Cinq Centits for one special meal. Do you think they could accommodate her restrictions if I phone (or email) ahead?
      - I'd like one very good Catalan place - typical dishes, prepared well. Simple, fresh and authentic. No problem taking transit or taxi.
      - I think we'll just fit lunch into our sightseeing. With such a short time in Barcelona, I suspect it is more sensible to make the evening meal our main one. I know we'll end up at Boqueria at some point - should we assume it is best for lunch?
      - And yes - I think we'll go to Figueres on Sunday. When we get back to Barcelona, perhaps choose either a simple place (which is open on Sunday evening) for dinner or just do tapas somewhere.

      Thank you for your help - I apologise for being so vague. I'm usually not so befuddled but, as I explained in a previous post, for some reason Barcelona is really getting me all flustered. Its reputation has me all in a tizzy.

      1. re: Nyleve

        Cinq Sentits should be able to accommodate but do call in advance to be sure. For Sunday night I would go to Senyor Parellada, which is in El Born. Get there just before 8:30 and you will get in, or if possible make a reservation a week or two in advance, as it is VERY busy. For a really wonderful traditional Catalan meal, you should not miss La Dama, but check the menu on their website as it will definitely be a splurge.

    2. The board should really make PBSF's reply a must read on top of the page.

      Nyleve, Barcelona is extremely user-friendly. Its public transport is excellent. The old town is easiliy covered on foot. You needn't feel so overwhelmed.

      In general,
      1. I see your stay will be short, for a city with a concentration of artistic, architectural, cultural, culinary wealth. Are you sure you want to make the long trip to Figueras, which takes up a whole day?
      2. Most, most of the tapas bars and restos in Barcelona are quite seafood-oriented without being seafood exclusive (except La Paredeta). Your travel partner should have no problem.
      3. Personally I peg certain places for certain times of the day. Ex: Paco Meralgo, never in the evening. Boqueria: morning or lunch. Barceloneta: around sunset. Born: evening. some of the best bars there are not even open before 5pm !

      The old town (takes the whole day, at least):
      It can be divided roughly into 3 'hoods: El Raval, the Barri Gotic, the Born-Barceloneta.
      El Raval has a lot of wowey cafés. Maybe it's a good place for breakfast, either at La Granja Viader or Plaça de Vicenç Martorell under the arches.
      Then yes lunch at the Boqueria. Try not to go later than noon. My fave: El Qim. My fave dish: cipirones.
      Then slowly walk through the Barri Gotic to the Born. A good tapas stop: Bilbao Berria right outside the old Catedral.
      From the Catedral, it is the shortest walk to Mercat San Caterina. Must not miss the nearby Palau de la Musica. You may want to prebook a tour there.
      The Born is a 3 minute walk from there.
      The Born and Barcelonela is especially vibrant toward the evening. My fave tapas bar: Euskal Etxea on the same street as the Picasso museum. Or Cal Pep. See other threads about when to go to avoid queueing.

      Then another whole day for Eixample:
      All the guidebooks cover the Gaudi and other Modernista buildings. We need not mention here. Besides it gives the mods a shit fit. A good tapas stop around there are Cerveceria Catalana and Paco Meralgo.
      There goes 2 days, and we still have not got to Segrada Familia or Park Guell !

      I hope i have helped you sort out the labyrinth a bit. The board has a ton of excellent recs about restos of all budgets. It is best that you first define where you want to go, then search for eating options in those areas. I think PBSF said that already.
      You will have a great time. Don't freak out now.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Parigi


        Why do you avoid Paco Meralgo in the evening? FYI I am staying near La Padrera.

        1. re: SmokinActuary

          Because it is a mortally boring neighborhood at night. If your hotel is next to it, fine. If not you walk what seems forever, on nondescript blocks after blocks with a hypnotic sameness, to metro stops that seem to be in the next city.

        2. re: Parigi

          Thank you so much for your response. It is exactly the kind of information that I was hoping for. Between recommendations from you and PBSF, I think you should write a guidebook. Very sensible and helpful.

          I understand about the Figueres thing but, to be honest, I am mental about Dali and this is someplace I cannot miss if I'm anywhere in the area. I know I'll be back to Barcelona eventually, but it would make me crazy not to go there this trip.

          And I've already been in touch with Cinq Sentits and they said they have no problem adjusting dishes to omit my friend's verbotten foods. So I think we will make that our one spluge-out. The rest will be tapas or simple Catalan-ish.

          1. re: Nyleve

            For a sit down traditional Catalan meal, I think the above recommendation of Senyor Parallada in Born is a good one. It has a large menu with plenty of choices for a picky eater, very moderately price (about 20euro for 2 courses), a lively well-appointed dining room with good service, open Sunday nights. Make sure you get seated on the ground floor and not in the bland upstairs alcove. The food is decent to good (nothing exceptional) but it is very good value and you will feel well treated. There are some very good inexpensive everyday places such as Sant Joan, Foxos, and Goliard. The food is rustic and homey but for a picky eater, it might come across as heavy. And the décor is bare bone. Fonda Gaig has excellent food and nice ambience but a full meal will cost about the same as Cinc Sentits. The above mentioned La Dama is terrific but definitely a splurge high-end restaurant, more expensive than Cinc Sentits.
            As for tapas/pintxs eating, I would concentrate on these 3 areas:
            El Born: La Vinya de Senyor, a terrific wine bar with good simple tapas and great outside sitting. On the same street is a large branch of Sagardi with a huge assortment of pinxtos. next to it is a good cheese tasting restaurant. Near by on Pl. Montcada is Euskal Etxea, the Basque Cultural Centers pintxto spot, which is always crowded in the evening. Nearby is Bar del Pla and El Rovell. Up the block is El Xampanent, popular for cava and tapas; also Budo for designer desserts.
            Barri Gotic: Bar del Pi, Il Irati, El Portalon, Onofre, Convent dels Angel are good and atmospheric. Just a precaution, be careful at night in the Barri Gotic; stay on the main streets and those with people as some streets can be very quiet and deserted.
            The Eixample,: this large area can be very quiet at night but the Pg de Gracia is beautifully lit. Skip the places on the Passig and head to the streets running from it. There are good places scattered closed enough together enough for a crawl. Go to Tapac24, Cerverseria Catalana, Ciutat Comtal, La Bodegueta, branch of Sagardi and a little further is Taktika Berri, one of the best pintxos bar in the city.
            The above are places that I like but it hardly scratch the surface of eating places. Google them for the addresses. Unless you have a huge appetite and lots of stamina, 3 places if quite enough for an evening, at most 4. Also want to point out the correct spelling of “Cinc Sentits”.