One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
I’ve learned the hard way not to overestimate my destination. Some cities just can’t compete with their sensationalized reputations. Maybe that’s how I let Barcelona sweep me off my feet. I was totally unprepared for this beautiful Mediterranean city.
Like most of my vacations these days, this trip was inspired by an unbeatable Travelzoo deal. I had not really considered Barcelona among my top destination contenders but I had learned the hard way that when a good deal comes along, you have to jump on it or lose out.
The first thing I noticed about Barcelona was its unapologetic embrace of the good life. I was traveling from New York, where the phrase “time is money” seems to sum it all up, but in Catalan culture, there’s always time to slow down and enjoy. Your meals should be as long as a feature-length film and your daily checklist should be thrown by the wayside in favor of a simple stroll.
As much as the various works of art by Gaudi and the countless museums inspired and amazed me, it was my unplanned walks through the city that I remember the most. My hotel was right on Las Ramblas, a large tree-lined avenue filled with tourist shops and a steady stream of pedestrians. It was a great location for reaching the biggest sites, but my favorite neighborhood was just a short walk to the east -- Barri Gotic.
This district has the romantic winding streets that come to mind when you picture a Mediterranean city. I snapped hundreds of photos of the Gothic architecture, but my photographic jackpot came when I happened upon the Catedral de Barcelona. Every detail was stunning, from the lush inner courtyard filled with white geese and fountains to the cathedral’s towering stained glass-covered walls. If you find yourself here any day but Sunday, pay a few extra Euros to take the elevator to the roof for some truly spectacular views.
The cuisine was another unforeseen delight. Once I escaped the overpriced tourist restaurants near Las Ramblas, I found the most amazing food. The paella along the waterfront was otherworldly, but my favorite dining experiences were at tapas bars. Rather than choosing just one dish, here it’s customary for a table to sample several small plates. Olives, aioli-covered potatoes, grilled artichokes, seafood croquetas and more, all washed down with sangria and followed by tres leches cake. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten better.
Barcelona was everything I had secretly hoped it would be. When you’re planning your trip makes sure to leave time to lose yourself on a long walk or two. My unplanned adventures always seem to be the most memorable.
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