If you’re just tuning in, this post will make a LOT more sense if you read about my first day in Barcelona first. But, if you’re ready for Day 2, read on!
With a full day ahead, I woke up at 8 am and was out the door by 9. (But first, selfies in this so very Spanish apartment!)
The 70-degree temps made for perfect walking weather, and I happily breathed in all the fresh air and city sights during my 25-minute walk to the Gothic Quarter. An Instagram friend raved about this old Barcelona neighborhood, and my inner architect was sold on wandering the narrow stone streets to gawk at centuries-old buildings. So that’s just what I did, walking and gawking without a plan for about an hour. Each intersection was a struggle because the discoveries around every corner were more delicious than the last. And I’m not talking food! Wannabe architect me was hungry for all the charm of this classic quarter!
But, the aimless meandering did make me hungry for actual food, too. Thankfully, my next stop was La Boqueria Market – also in the Gothic Quarter, so I could eat AND prolong my time in what wound up being my favorite area of Barcelona.
Established in the 1200s, this fresh food market is iconic for its historic contribution to the city, as well as its international renown as a market of the highest quality and visual appeal. Yes, visual appeal. La Boqueria is absolutely a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach! It took all of two seconds for me to commit to walking every aisle, past every vendor, before deciding what to eat for lunch. I knew it would be nearly impossible to choose, but I had to see allll my options.
But, it’s a BIG market, guys! Bar-style restaurants, fresh (even live!) seafood, hanging meats, local produce, nuts and candies by the bulk, and mounds of gelato assailed my senses till I needed a snack to appease my screaming stomach. Fresh fruit cup to the rescue! It was just enough to tide me over till I finally ordered a taco salad bowl from this especially enticing vendor.
La Boqueria seating is limited and reserved for diners at specific eateries. Since my taco bowl did not come with complimentary seating, I found an empty bench just outside the market and dug in.
If you read my Paris post, you might recall my love for vintage hunting when I travel. During my trip research, I discovered a Kilo Store near La Boqueria that I hoped might be similar to the one I shopped in Paris. It was a short walk from the market; however, to my utter disappointment, it was closed. Noooooooo. But, ever the optimist, I kept on down the street, hopeful I’d find more local shops to score a non-touristy souvenir or two. Oh the power of positive thinking! Literally 30 steps away (ok, so I didn’t count, but I’m also not exaggerating!) I stumbled upon not only a cool shop, but a cool VINTAGE shop. For real. I mad-dashed inside and spent probably 45 minutes browsing everything, trying on a few items, and chatting with the guy behind the counter. And, I made a purchase! A sterling and yellow gold ring etched with dolphins (so Florida!) that fit the bill for a one-of-a-kind Barcelona souvenir that I’ll always treasure.
Shopping done, I said adios to the Gothic Quarter and began the 45-minute trek upward toward Montjuic Castle. Situated on a hill overlooking the marina and Mediterranean, the castle promised views that I could not pass up. While buses and cable cars make regular trips to and from the castle, I opted to walk for the fresh air views, exercise, and oh, because walking is free! If you have the time and can handle a serious quad and glute workout, I encourage you to use your own legs as transportation for this one. I did stop along the way to snap photos from various heights and angles – which also served as an excuse to rest my legs! Partway to the top, I passed a hotel (Hotel Miramar) and restaurant, which offered some of the best photo op views of the city and sea.
With all the pit stops, it did take me longer than 45-minutes to reach the castle – but, I gave myself permission to go off schedule a bit and just enjoy the journey. (SO important!) Plus, I had no intention of actually touring the castle. I only ever wanted the views anyway, so the hike to the castle was the experience for me! Even if you decide you want the castle tour, I still recommend walking all the way up. Alllll the way. Or, at the very least, take the cable car up, and walk down.
It was nearing 5 o’clock by the time I descended the hill – and I needed warmer clothes before my evening excursions – so I opted for a 15-minute metro ride to my apartment vs. an hour walk. And, I still had a LOT of walking ahead of me!
Dressed in layers, I again hopped the metro to the stop closest to Park Guell (Alfons X on the L4). From there, I walked 20 minutes uphill to the park.
(Note: I copied this Park Guell recap almost exactly from my Top 3 Must-See Views in Barcelona post. New words wouldn’t do it any more justice than the original.)
Now, I’m not talking the main touristy part of the park where you can see Gaudi’s famous architecture with view of the city below. No. Behind all that, the views only get better. Follow the walking path to the northwest corner of the park and keep hiking up, up, up, until you reach the crosses on the hill. This is the highest point of Park Guell and offers an unobstructed, 360° view of the entire city. Mountains. Mediterranean. Sagrada Familia. You can see it all from up here! And (as if you needed another selling point) it’s absolutely free! As long as you’re okay with a distant look at the Gaudi portion of the park, you don’t have to pay that admission fee.
(I also copied this recap from that Must-See Views post, almost word-for-word.)
This spot isn’t nearly as popular as Park Guell – mostly because it’s kind of a trek, and just not as well known. All the more reason to go here, in my opinion. The Bunkers are about a 20-25 minute walk from Park Guell, so I hit them both back-to-back – which I highly recommended if you decide to do both. And, if you do, this’ll be your leg day workout because, ohhh the inclines! (And that’s not even counting my earlier hike to Montjuic Castle!)
But you really must visit the Bunkers at sunset. The views from this vantage point are mighty incredible any time of day, but it’s almost criminal not to experience them at sunset. If you do, you’ll find a crowd of young people (or younger-than-me people) who I assumed were mostly locals. Don’t let the word ‘crowd’ scare you, though. There was still plenty of room to sit or stand – or walk around and take in all angles of the city, like I did. And, if you like food with your views, you won’t be out of place if you bring some snacks and beverages. One group made a picnic out of it, with blankets, booze, and pizza. I also saw a quiet couple with an array of fruit and cheese – and wine, of course!
So, yeah. Make sunset at the Bunkers a priority.
As you can tell, it was another moody sunset – like my first night at the beach – so I left before the official sunset time to better see the path on my way back down. If you stay past dark, I recommend bringing a flashlight so you don’t tumble down some preeeeettty steep steps. I brought one along per a friend’s recommendation, and would’ve been grateful for it had I stayed even 30 minutes more.
By this time, I was desperately hungry, and assumed I’d find a café near that Alfons X metro station. It was slim pickins, though, so when I spotted a grocery shop I rushed inside. Five minutes later and arms full of potatoes, veggies, and Greek yogurt, was ready to check out. It was then that I realized I had entered through the unlocked exit door, and the store was actually closed. Oops! The employees just let me do my thang, but I could tell I was the only thing standing in the way of them leaving for the night. At least I was fast! So, uhhhhh, don’t be like me. Check the hours on the door of all shops before you bust right in at night!
Back at the apartment, I nuked my food (sans yogurt) and scarfed it down around 10 pm. Locals eat late, so I guess it was fitting!