[A sidebar to this post about our August 2017 trip to Spain.]
We spent two nights in Barcelona before driving out to Costa Brava area, where we’d rented a house in Torrent for the week. It ended up having some problems and we left after one night, landing in a quite heavenly house in Ullastret (about 15 minutes away) instead. We spent two more nights in Barcelona before heading home. We used a similar arrangement of time last year in Portugal (dividing time between Lisbon and the Algarve region) and like it a lot — a lot of running around in the first couple days, a week at a slower pace, and ensuring we’re not a multi-hour drive from the airport the morning we need to leave. It also allows you, should you decide at the last minute that you want to see one other town, to nix the last days in the big city to go elsewhere before you have to go home.
We had a massive list of restaurant and market recommendations that we pulled together from friends and friends-of-friends and you, yes you. These are some of our favorites from Barcelona:
• Bar Cañete: A really fun, delicious tapas restaurant that we went to on our date night. Would go back in a heartbeart.
• Bar Mendizábal: More backstory here but indeed they were the best patatas bravas we had in Spain, and the other tapas weren’t half-bad. A great lunch after a morning at the Boqueria.
• Bar Kasparo: Don’t miss this one, not only was the food lovely (we tried black vermouth for the first time and loved it) and relaxed, there’s a small playground across the path. Vacation achievement: unlocked.
• Boqueria Market: Wouldn’t miss this, just a wonderland of Spanish treats and lots of things to try. Bought many food gifts here.
• Casa Gispert: I was told to go here for smoke-roasted marcona almonds and also that they have an excellent romesco sauce and indeed, I tried. Twice. They were never open when I was there.
• Chocolate Amantller: We picked up several tins of chocolate-covered almonds and other treats for gifts.
• Pastelería Hofmann: A few tiny blocks from Gispert, a lovely little bakery. The parmesan cookies with tomato jam came recommended, as did the mango-filled croissant. We had the mascarpone croissant and took away some butter almond-chocolate cookies, none of which lasted.
• Taverna El Glop: Family-friendly Catalan food; the tomato bread is delightfully DIY
• Turrons Vincens: Many locations, excellent turron for gifts.
• Xurreria dels Banys Nous: One of several xurrerias (churros!) that came recommended (also: Xocolata Xurros), but the only one that was open when we got there. Made right in front of you to order, it was the best I’ve had.
A few things we didn’t get to in Barcelona, but would next time:
• Cal Pep: Came recommended repeatedly for a date night dinner.
• La Cuina d’en Garriga: Came recommended for lunch and also for almond cookies.
• Montjuïc Magic Fountain: Truly regret missing this because I thought the kids would love it (we had to choose between this or date night, so I perhaps don’t regret my choice as much as I say).
• Parc Guell: Honestly the photos look so gorgeous it pains me we didn’t make it. We’ll have to go back, obviously.
• Sagrada Família: We ended up just walking around it (great playground in the back!), but word is that you should pre-book your tickets. The beach nearby is supposed to be lovely too.
A few great things in and near Costa Brava:
• Hostal de la Granota: One of my favorite meals of the whole trip, as much due to the ambiance as the life-changing gapzacho, we stopped here for lunch on our way from Barcelona to our town on the coast and I might have to write you a strongly worded letter if you do not do the same.
• Cadaqués: One of the most beautiful seaside towns in the region, you cannot go to Costa Brava and not spend a day. Compatir is a well-regarded restaurant where everyone (without 5 kids in tow) should go.
• Girona: A fantastic small city. Don’t miss the Rocambolesc ice cream while you’re there. (Although I think they might also have a shop on Las Ramblas in Barcelona.)
• Pastisseria Masvidal: An excellent pastry shop (the croissants are fantastic) not far from where we stayed.
• Toc al Mar: In Begur, we were told not to miss this restaurant and we (sometimes) do as we are told. Really wonderful food but while they are kind to kids, there’s almost nothing for non-adventurous kids to eat. Best to go with adults.
• Can Quel: Right down the road from our house, this is an unassuming cafe-looking restaurant where we had one of our favorite meals. Not fancy food, just very good, and the kids can play safely while you take your time.
• Iberic: A nicer restaurant in our tiny town; we had a great dinner and when my daughter stood up in her highchair and yelled at the top of her lungs “I. WANT. CAKE.” they also didn’t kick us out.
• Pals: The beach we liked best. There’s an ice cream truck outside (Alafresca, it says on it) that is no ordinary ice cream truck. Every flavor — don’t miss the strawberry or coffee or hazelnut especially — was outstanding. And the ice cream cones!
More Costa Brava: It perhaps goes without saying that Costa Brava is full of tiny, gorgeous towns and you should see as many as you can. Of them, we most regret missing the Dali Museum in Figueres; promise you won’t.