Beautiful Barcelona

While many first timers to Spain usually visit Madrid, its Catalonian counterpart, Barcelona, is just as magnificent. It is incredibly cosmopolitan, packed with interesting sights. There are churches around every corner, beautiful architecture on every street and Gaudí buildings hiding everywhere. It reminds me of a pristine, less compact, New York City.

Here are my Top 10 Must See Sights:

  1. Plaça de Catalunyagenerally considered to be both the city center and the place where the old city and the 19th century-builtEixample meet.  Some of the city’s most important streets and avenues meet atPlaçaCatalunya;Passeig deGràcia,Rambla deCatalunya, LaRambla and Portal del’Àngel. The large plaza is especially known for its fountains and statues, its proximity to some of Barcelona’s most popular attractions, and for the flocks of pigeons that gather in the center.

    Plaça de Catalunya

    Plaça de Catalunya

  2. La Rambla is a street in central Barcelona, popular with tourists and locals alike. Walking on theRambla is perhaps the epitome of the Barcelona experience (but beware of pickpockets!). A tree-lined pedestrian mall, it stretches for 1.2 kilometers, connectingPlaça deCatalunya in the center with the Christopher Columbus Monument at PortVell. LaRambla can be crowded, especially during the height of the tourist season. The Spanish poet FedericoGarcía Lorca once said that LaRambla was “the only street in the world which I wish would never end”.
    McDonalds & KFC on LA Rambla

    Gorgeous buildings housing McDonald’s & KFC on La Rambla

    Vendor on La Rambla

    Vendor on La Rambla

  3. Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, (often simply referred to as LaBouqueria), on LasRamblas, a typical market unlike anything you’ve probably seen before. There are hundreds of stalls here, selling fish, meat, cheese, fruits, vegetables, candies, snails, and more, something for everyone!
    La Boqueria Entrance

    La Boqueria Entrance

    Some of the many stalls at La Boqueria

    Some of the many stalls at La Boqueria

  4. La Sagrada Familiaone of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona, the towering, still-unfinished cathedral that stands as one of the most ambitious architectural projects ever attempted, is considered one ofGaudí’s most famous works. Born in themid-1800s,Gaudí’s work culminated in the development of this basilica but it was less than a quarter completed when he died in 1926, and it is still unfinished. The work is just now over half done, with funding coming from private sources, and is expected to be finished by 2026, the centennial ofGaudi’s death at 73.  I have visited many churches, cathedrals and basilicas in Europe, but I have never seen anything quite like this, simply breathtaking!
    La Sagrada Familia

    La Sagrada Familia

    Stained Glass interior of La Sagrada Familia

    Stained Glass interior of La Sagrada Familia

    Interior of La Sagrada Familia

    Interior of La Sagrada Familia

  5. Parc Güellanother of Gaudí’s beautiful works, and my personal favorite. The park contains amazing stone structures, stunning tiling and fascinating buildings. At the top ofParcGüell is a terraced area where you get a wonderful view of the park and of Barcelona. Finding a seat in the multi-colored tiled mosaic benches can sometimes be tricky, as everyone is sitting down taking in the views, and non-stop picture-taking going on.  The vibrant colors of the tiles are truly amazing.
    Famous tiled benches in Parc Güell

    Famous tiled benches in Parc Güell

    Entrance to Parc Güell

    Entrance to Parc Güell

  6. Casa Batllómy favoriteGaudí house. This building wasn’t designed byGaudí, but in the restoration he was commissioned to perform,Gaudí made it his own. The locals call it Casa delOssos, or House of Bones. Without any straight lines, CasaBattló is unique and beautiful at the same time. It’s considered by many to be one ofGaudí’s most important works.  Make sure you visit the inside as well, it’s truly amazing!
    Casa Batlló

    Casa Batlló

    Interior wall of Casa Batlló

    Interior wall of Casa Batlló

    Rooftop terrace of Casa Batlló

  7. La Pedrera (aka Casa Milà) This is one ofGaudí’s main residential buildings and one of the most imaginative houses in the history of architecture. Known also as CasaMilà, LaPedrera translates to “The Quarry”, a name it was given due to the extensive use of stone in its construction. What sets this building apart from other Gaudí works is the curtained facade. This building is more a sculpture than a building.
    La Pedrada

    La Pedreda

    Views of city from the rooftop of La Pedrada

    Views of city from the rooftop of La Pedreda

  8. Passeig de Gràcia, is my favorite main avenue in this city, located in theEixample district.  If you’re looking for authentic souvenir shops, you won’t find any here. This picturesque, wide “promenade” houses some of the top designer boutiques,  LouisVuitton, Zara, Loewe, Chanel, Mont Blanc, Yves Saint Laurent,Escada andHermès. The avenue is stunning and its beauty is enhanced by its trees and Art Nouveau street lamps, alongside decorated mosaic benches and pedestrian strips laid with hexagonal paving stones. During the 19th Century, this elegant boulevard was a showcase for Barcelona’s bourgeoisie and it also links thePlaçaCatalunya with the district ofGràcia. The presence of the city’s finest modernist buildings makesPasseig deGràcia an authentic open-air museum. It is also home to Gaudí’s LaPedrera and CasaBattló.
    Passeig de Gracia The 5th Avenue of Barcelona

    Passeig de Gràcia
    The 5th Avenue of Barcelona

    Passeig de Gracia at night

    Passeig de Gràcia at night

  9. Tibidabo The journey to Tibidabo amusement park starts with a short train ride from the center of Barcelona from there you will take the Tramvia Blau which takes you half way up the mountain. If you wish to go all the way to the top of Tibidabo, where the amusement park is situated, (and I highly recommend this if you’re traveling with kids), you will also need to catch a funicular train from the half way point. Once at the top of the mountain you will have the most magnificent views of Barcelona, a small amusement park for the kids, and the opportunity to visit a beautiful church, Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor.  Both kids and adults will enjoy the charming little theme park,built in 1889 and a lot of the rides date back to this time, giving the park a whimsical feel.
    Tramvia Blau

    Tramvia Blau

    One of the rides at the amusement park

    One of the rides at the amusement park

    Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor

    Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor

    Incredible views of Barcelona form Mount Tibidabo

    Incredible views of Barcelona form Mount Tibidabo

  10. Tapa Bar Hopping While this is not technically a favorite “sight”, it was definitely a favorite experience for all of us.  Pretty much you can find great food anywhere in Barcelona, however, our favorites were the tapas!  There are thousands of tapas bars all throughout the city, and it’s probably a good idea to try as many different ones as you come across.  Many locals like to go “tapa bar hopping”, where they can enjoy one or two tapas with a drink, and then move on to another tapas bar. This can go on for a few hours, depending how large your group is. One of our very favorite restaurants was Cervecería Catalana (Calle Mallorca, 236) which does not take reservations, and always has a line halfway around the block. You have to plan your visit there at an off time, but it’s worth it, the food is delicious!
    Yummy tapas!

    Yummy tapas!

    More yummy tapas

    More yummy tapas

    Typical Tapas Bar

    Typical Tapas Bar

In a nutshell, another one of my favorite large cities in Europe, I’m already looking forward to my next visit!  Have you been to Barcelona?  If you haven’t, make sure it’s on your travel bucket list, as I’m sure you will be delighted by this fascinating place!

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Bulla Gastrobar

I’ve been craving tasty tapas since I returned from Barcelona last summer.  I’m always on the lookout for a good tapas place, and on a recent Sunday lunch date with my husband, I finally found one…Bulla Gastrobar in Coral Gables. Bulla (pronounced boo-ya, not bull-ah) is defined as the ability to create a stir; what everyone’s talking about.  And trust me, everyone is certainly talking about this eatery featuring delicious, delicately prepared Spanish and Catalan dishes, in an ambiance that will make you feel as if you’re sitting in one of the many tapas bars on Passeig de Gracia in lively Barcelona.

Photo Courtesy of Bulla Gastrobar

The restaurant is located at 2500 Ponce De Leon, the same spot as the owner’s previous and slightly more upscale restaurant, Por Fin (which I never had the pleasure of trying), but Bulla symbolizes a fun and casual tapas bar.  A great place for a light dinner or a quick happy hour with friends.  The restaurant also features an upstairs dining room for private events and group gatherings.

There are so many dishes to choose from, it took us a while to decide on a few to share for lunch.  A house favorite is the Huevos “Bulla”, their version of the Spanish favorite usually referred to as Huevos Estrellados in Spain (a favorite dish of mine in Barcelona).  Huevos Bulla are prepared with organic eggs, homemade potato chips, Serrano ham, potato foam and truffle oil (sounds heavenly). Another house specialty is the Sangria de Cerveza, which is prepared with Ommegang Witte, triple sec, lemon juice, and pear purée. We decided on the very traditional Pan con Tomate, and paired it up with an order of Jamon Serrano.  We also had some tiny yummy Croquetas de Jamon, Tortilla Española and Buñuelos de Bacalao (codfish fritters with homemade tartar sauce).

Pan con Tomate &  Jamon Serrano

Pan con Tomate & Jamon Serrano

Buñuelos de Bacalao

Tortilla Española

Croquetas de Jamon

Everything was delicious, and very filling, so unfortunately, we didn’t leave any room for dessert. Next time we will have to try a few more dishes and possibly the Cremoso de Chocolate, their three layer chocolate genoise, vanilla ice cream, olive oil, and Maldon salt concoction, which sounds blissful…What are some of your favorite tapa dishes, I’d love to hear?

Bulla Gastrobar
2500 Ponce de Leon Boulevard
Coral Gables
http://www.bullamiami.com