With our first full day in the city, we had plenty to explore. We got started a little before 11 am with a walk over to Arc de Triomf.
Built-in 1888 as the main gate to the Barcelona World Fair, today it’s an open pedestrian area full of tourists and street vendors selling selfie sticks and other tourist-centric items.
A short walk away and we arrived in the Barri Gotic district which is full of old streets and historic buildings we needed to explore. Leslie pulled the guide book from her backpack and started an informal walking tour.
Our Walking Tour
The Barcelona Cathedral was built from the thirteenth to fifteenth century. The neo-Gothic facade which we were looking at was constructed in the late nineteenth century with its notable gargoyles still in great condition.
Hidden away in a quiet courtyard was La Placa Sant Felip Neri. The church walls bare the scars of bombs dropped in 1938 by Franco’s air force during the civil war.
Nearby in the Jewish Quarter, we found Spain’s oldest synagogue. A small door leads down to what used to be the street level of the Roman foundation.
One of the busiest stops was Carrer del Bisbe bridge. Linking two medieval buildings the bridge was a relatively new addition constructed in 1928. The bridge is now used to connect government buildings.
The bridge was right near Placa de Sant Jaume, an expansive square that sits in the middle of the old city. The square retains the name of the church that once sat on this site. Now the square is lined with various government buildings.
Placa del Rei, a 14th-century medieval square was the last stop on this walking tour of the old town. Old buildings run into each other with each building or addition visible by the change in brickwork.
It was now early afternoon and lunch was in order. Through the guidebook, we found El Drac De Sant Jordi, a tapas bar with a great special, 4 tapas, a dessert and a drink for 10 euros. We went inside, got plates and selected a variety of local dishes. Leslie and I got selections that included cheeses, ham and tuna. We topped it off with vermouth and creme brulee. It was a great find for a very touristy area.
Our next stop was Las Ramblas, a tree-lined pedestrian walkway that runs in the middle of the street between opposing lanes of street traffic. Lined with cafe seating and street vendors it was also a top place to be pickpocketed.
We’d worked our way down to the water where tour boats docked throughout the day. We took a moment to give our feet a rest and enjoyed the cool coastal breeze on the steps leading down towards the water.
To finish out the day’s tour we started walking towards Montjuic Castle. There is a funicular that runs up the hillside to the castle but after taking a local shopkeeper’s directions we found ourselves walking up the hill instead of going the easy route.
On the way, we witnessed our first attempted bag snatching, the rumors about the city’s crime problems appeared to be coming true.
We were halfway up the hillside with no end in sight. Graham and Angel needed to return to the apartment so it was down to just four of us and we worked our way up the hill.
As we ascended above the tree line we were greeted with a spectacular 180º view of the city around us.
After a sweaty walk up the hill, we finally found Montjuic Castle. It’s an old military fortress dating back to 1640. The fort has been a strategic point in a surprising number of battles throughout history. From the Battle of Montjuic and the Siege of Barcelona to the Napoleonic Wars and Spanish Civil War.
With so much history the building itself is pretty bare. It looks like a fort designed with Legos, 4 walls with an empty inner courtyard. A handful of history displays were on the lower level but the views from the top were incredible.
We wandered the property looking at the large artillery still mounted at the corners and took a peak in the handful of towers that sit at the wall’s edge.
Our walk down the hillside was more picturesque as this route had the gardens we missed due to the trail we had taken.
We opted to use the subway to return to the house to save some time. On our way into the station, we saw our second robbery which escalated to a small confrontation and the thief running off.
Back at the apartment, we whipped up some gin and tonics and a plate of bread, cheese and meats for a late afternoon snack on the patio.
It was nearing 9 pm and the restaurants would start picking up. Leslie found La Bodegueta which was a few minutes walk from the house.
We went inside to add our name to the list for the outdoor seating and ordered a round of drinks at the bar. Leslie and I again opted for glasses of vermouth which I’m starting to really like.
We were seated outside a short time later where we ordered a handful of small plates of the typical fare we’d been eating. It was more cured meats, bread and a side of patatas bravas.
Across the street from the apartment was a small highly rated gelato shop. We dropped in a little before 11 pm to see what it was all about. We got a triple scoop cup with dulce de leche, chocolate chip and cookies and cream. It was excellent and without a doubt, we’d be returning there before we said goodbye to this city.
We returned to the apartment and turned in for the night. Tomorrow would be an early start for a full day of sightseeing.