I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Spain three times in my life. My first encounter took place during my high school years. My parents had recently split up and my father had taken work in Barcelona. Since he was going to be there for an extended period of time, he promised I could come visit. So, at around the age of 14, my brother and I set off on a plane to live in Barcelona for a couple of months. This was an experience I will never forget and I always tell people, I left my heart in Barcelona. Since then, I’ve visited with my family a couple years ago and went backpacking with friends this past September.
This city is unlike any other. The people, culture and food provide such a rich and unforgettable experience every time. The night life is something to be experienced as well. I’ll always remember our first night in Barcelona with my family. Our body clocks were still in a different time-zone, and we were standing on the balcony at 4:00 AM on a Thursday morning. Our apartment was situated across from the Puerto Olímpico where the marina is lined with bars, lounges and restaurants. What we saw wasn’t your typical Thursday suburban morning commute, but a bustling down town city scene with people still leaving the bars and clubs.
On my most recent visit, backpacking with friends, our visit to Barcelona was short but sweet. We only had a handful of days to take in the sights and immerse ourselves in the culture. I have to say we did pretty good with what little time we had. Being so close to the beach (2 minute walk) we had easy access to amazing beach bars and restaurants. This was a huge must for me when booking our stay in Barcelona. I knew I wanted to be close to the water, not just for the beauty of the beaches, but the food and drink options too. Barcelona (anywhere in Spain, really) is the perfect place for delicious Mojitos and Sangrias. They know how to make them right every time and won’t cheap out on the alcohol. It’s an amazing experience being able to lay on the beach and walk only a few steps for a refreshing alcoholic beverage. Many of these little spots will serve tapas and small meals. We shared a delicious bruschetta appetizer and chicken caesar salad during one of our many visits.
We decided that Barcelona would be one of the cities where we would splurge on a fancy meal. We were on a pretty tight budget but at the same time, wanted to make sure we were’t selling ourselves short of any great culinary experiences. I have a favourite restaurant in Barcelona that I visit each time and knew my friends would love it just as much as I do. Restaurante La Barca del Salamanca is one of many amazing restaurants situated at the marina. It’s always busy, but with a huge staff and large dining area, the service is simply outstanding. The wait staff are friendly, kind, funny and always up for a chat. One gentleman I am very fond of has been there each time I have gone with family. Although he doesn’t remember me (I don’t blame him!), I’ll never forget his funny, professional and welcoming demeanour.
We treated ourselves well on this night and made sure to order what we knew we would enjoy. To begin our meal, I ordered Jamón Serrano (cured ham) and my friends ordered Gazpacho (cold Spanish soup), and a seafood plate. Anywhere you go in Spain you’re guaranteed to find delicious, cured hams that are perfect for sharing (only if you want to). Gazpacho is a unique soup made of raw vegetables and is traditionally served cold. The picture above shows the soup we had without the vegetables added. They came on the side so you could put the amount you desired. It is a vibrant, flavourful and refreshing soup on a hot summer night in Spain. Toast rubbed with garlic, tomato and olive oil was also brought to our table. This is a common tapas or starter dish in most Spanish cities and was also delicious.
For our main course my friend and I shared the seafood Paella. When it first arrived at our table I thought to myself ‘this could feed a small country’ but we managed to get through pretty well the whole thing, that’s how delicious it was. Paella is regarded as Spain’s national dish but is traditionally a Valencian dish. Saffron and Rosemary are common seasoning in Paella dishes and the use of a cast iron Paella pan gives the rice and contents a smoky flavour and crispy texture. With a squirt of lemon, this dish was outstanding and a great way to celebrate our time in Barcelona.
At the end of our evening at La Barca, we decided we didn’t need dessert. Mainly because we were so full we couldn’t possibly stomach any more food. That was until, of course, our server brought over a plate of lemon tarts and a bottle each of apple and lemon liqueur. We enjoyed many shots and countless lemon squares which definitely ended our culinary experience on a happy note. If you are ever near the Marina in Barcelona, please stop by and check out La Barca. You won’t be disappointed.
On many occasions during our days out in the city, when needing re-fueling we would stop to grab a quick bite of tapas. Tapas is a Spanish cuisine that consists of small appetizers and snacks. We often ordered Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes with spicy tomato sauce or white aioli), Croquettes (small fried rolls of mashed potatoes and/or meat), toasts (sliced baguette with varying toppings of meat, vegetables and/or cheese) and Caprese salads (sliced tomato’s topped with fresh mozzarella and basil). Selections like these are meant to inspire and invoke conversation as those enjoying them are not focused on eating large meals. You’ll often find places that serve tapas have limited seating as to encourage diners to move around and converse while eating.
In Barcelona there’s something for everyone to enjoy, whether you prefer steak over seafood or are content with a small snack, you can find it here, done right. Rather than a fast food chain on each corner, you’ll be happy to find a small tapas bar or restaurant serving authentic, fresh Spanish cuisine.
If you’re still not sold or have any questions about Barcelona, shoot me a message. I’d be happy to offer my biased opinion and suggestions ;). I’ll just leave these here…