Feeling in need of a quick getaway, Sam and I headed to Barcelona and Duoro Valley (Portugal) for a few days away from the New York cold. Admittedly, this was supposed to be an add-on to a work trip that never panned out, but since we already had the tickets and hotel, we decided to still go anyway… and really, can you ever go wrong with travel? We think not! 😉
Day 1: Arrival in Barcelona
Like most flights to Europe, we got in early in the morning and by then, were pretty tired. We tried to check into our hotel but it was not ready so we went to a café to get some hot drinks and food. Aptly named Cappuccino, the cute little café we sat in had all varieties of hot, delicious Cappuccino ready to be enjoyed by even the most bleary-eyed of travelers. Europeans absolutely love Cappuccino so this is an absolute must in any European city!
When the room was ready, we got some shut-eye for a bit and then hit the sights! One word of caution: supposedly Barcelona is known for its extreme amount of pickpocketing. We were lucky to have visited without incident but it’s always wise to leave what you don’t need back in the hotel and always keep an eye on your belongings.
First on our route was La Sagrada Familia. This amazing church is for sure not to be missed. The architecture is absolutely beautiful and the sheer size of it alone is mind-blowing! This church has been under construction since 1882. When Gaudi died in 1926, the church was only a quarter complete. It is expected to be fully complete by 2026. To go inside, one must pay a fee of 15 euro. We did not go inside, but it is still very much beautiful and worth it just admiring it from the outside. (These pics really do not do it justice!) Also, for those who love seeing historic sites like we do, this is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Second on our route was Park Guell. Park Guell was cool but we had higher hopes for this park than we actually experienced. To really get the true experience of the place, you need to buy a ticket, which allows you to explore special areas that are otherwise roped off. We chose to forgo the ticket and instead just walk around the open ‘free’ areas. It was definitely a fun, relaxing place to chill out and take it all in.
Last on our route for the day was Las Ramblas. Luckily, too, our hotel was one block away from this iconic street so that made it super convenient to walk around and check out the area. The street is huge and crowded, but is lined with tons of restaurants, bars, shops and even an awesome market, Mercat De Boqueria! There really is something for everyone here and honestly one could spend hours just walking around. We visited the market and the array of choices to eat and drink certainly did not disappoint. (We really love visiting markets like these when we travel. I wish there were more of these type markets here in the States).
One of the great things about this city (among many!) is that its train system is pretty top-notch. It was so easy to get around various areas of the city pretty easily & quickly. We purchased a 10-trip ticket which allowed us access in and out of the train system for the duration of our time there. (Here is some information on the Barcelona metro, which we find super helpful: https://www.barcelona-tourist-guide.com/en/transport/barcelona-metro.html)
After our day out and about in the city, we rested our eyes to recharge ourselves for a night of Tapas hopping. Barcelona is filled with tapas bars and there are so many to choose from. We actually mapped out the route ourselves, but there are guided tours to book that will take you around to bars. We literally just went on Youtube and followed the journey of some other fellow tapas-hoppers, stopping at few new additions along the way they had not stopped at. This is so easy to do and tapas are very enjoyable and inexpensive.
At each place we went to, we tried a different dish. Some places are more known for their drinks than for the tapas but we had a healthy mix of both tapas and drinks. (This is only just a handful of the things we tried on our tapas crawl).
Day 2: Beach / Waterfront & Arc De Triomphe
On our second day in the city, we walked around and decided to check out the beach and waterfront areas, as well as the Arc de Triomphe.
It was pretty warm for March, but the weather was a bit chilly to go in the water so we sat on the sand for a bit. There is a lot going on on the beach. There was a gym set up where people could lift weights, like a European version of LA’s ‘Muscle Beach’ and some chairs to sit in and chill. The boardwalk is long and although it was a cloudy day, many people were out and about. The boardwalk has a vast array of many different restaurants to choose from as well.
The waterfront is a big harbor with boats and there’s a mall and also some restaurants on the water here too. We did not try the restaurants but we did try the ice cream at the ice cream cart outside. Truth be told, ice cream is an essential part of every vacation and we try and eat it as much as we can when we travel. (#NoShame).
From here we proceeded to walk some more, passing some parks and unique structures along the way.
Finally we arrived at the Arc de Triomphe. This is different than the one in Paris and NYC, as it is more of a brownish color. The arch was built in 1888 to mark the entrance of the Barcelona World Fair. It sits on central promenade of the Passeig de Lluís Companys. This is an essential must-see while in Barcelona for sure!
That night after walking around the city all day, we were wanting authentic paella. We found a place called Mino, a few blocks away from our hotel, that had really great paella and sangria. We also tried an appetizer called ‘Orejas De Cerdo’ (translates to ‘Pig’s Ear’ in English) that we did not like at all. The rest of dishes were wonderful and we highly recommend this place!
Day 3: Duoro Valley, Portugal
This day we woke up early to get on a 4am bus to the airport for our flight to Portugal. Our base airport would be Porto, but we actually did not spend any time in the city. Upon landing in Porto, we got our rental car and then began our approximate 2 hour drive to Quinta Nova Luxury Wine Estate in the Duoro Valley. We picked this area of the country because we both really love wine and the wine in this region is some of the best in the world! Admittedly, we never stay at 4 or 5 star resorts, so it is always nice to stay in fancy places every once in a while. (This place was amazing!)
The way up to Duoro Valley can be pretty rough, so you want to make sure you rent a good car. We had a Fiat 500 and we don’t recommend this car, b/c it kept rolling backwards on some of the roads, as they can be steep and narrow. Also, we recommend looking up the directions beforehand if you can as well, because our GPS didn’t know where we were at certain spots and sent us through little villages that the car could not handle. Needless to say we were pretty relieved when we arrived at the winery estate.
This winery estate was so big & beautiful and they tout having their own winery on premises, which, because we stayed there, we got a complimentary tour of. It was really cool to learn all about the process of making wine (it takes forever!) and seeing the barrels and how they are stored first-hand.
We also enjoyed the comfy accomodations and the food and wine at this estate. Is there anything better than a bed this size? (We think not).
Day 4: Back To Barcelona
Sad to say goodbye to this amazing winery, we headed back to the airport in our Fiat to catch a flight back to Barcelona for our last day there before heading back to NY :(.
We had heard about a restaurant on the beach called Chiringuitas de Sardinitas and we knew we wanted to check it out. The paella was amazing and it was nice to have something to compare it to, as we had paella at Mino a few nights before. This paella was thicker and creamier than the paella we had at Mino. Both were delicious and paella is a staple food you must try when visiting Barcelona. Chiringuitas donned beautiful views of the ocean and the beach so try to get a seat facing outward so you can enjoy it.
This was our last full day in Spain before heading back to NY the next morning. We had a wonderful time and in the future hope to see more of Spain and Portugal. Anyone have any recommendations of what city to see next? Did anyone find that Portuguese sounds a lot like Russian? We were surprised by this!
Where We Stayed – Barcelona
Hotel Ingles – Carrer de la Boqueria, 19, 08002, Barcelona
Book it here
Where We Stayed – Duoro Valley
Quinta Nova Luxury Winery Estate – 5085-222 Covas do Douro – Portugal
Book it here
‘Til next time…