Continue along Cataluña's Coast
Barcelona (+24hr+ BONUS!)
Because one day is really just not enough….
Fat Tire Bike Tour.
Originally starting in Berlin, Fat Tire Bike Tour has gained world recognition for the integrity of seeing a city by bike. They are currently operating only in Berlin, London, Paris, Munich, and Barcelona but we hope to see them expand even further (they’ve started offering tours in the U.S. also). They offer two different 7-mile routes for Barcelona that each take about 4 hours. We chose the route in the city center and down to the beach, where we were rewarded for our work with a beer. Highly recommended! (Check for military and airline discounts.)
This is one of those super cool things that surprisingly is still on my list to check out myself. You can grab a ride down by Port Cell (the city’s oldest harbor) near the cruise port or up in Monjuïc to check out the city from the sky.
In the “newer” city center that holds many embassies, the current parliament building, and the Barcelona museum, you’ll also find the still-functional Olympic Stadium from when Barcelona hosted the world games in 1988. The stadium sits high on the hill of Monserrat and is still actually usable for sporting activities. If you’re a swimmer and prefer laps over a swim in the sea, here you’ll find an olympic size (duh) lap pool and a nice hike up to the stadium to start your work out.
Take a drive (or gondola) up to the old Jewish quarter of Barcelona. If you look at the topography of the city, you’ll see that Monjuïc actually sits on a small mountain or hill, which is where most of the Jewish population of Barcelona used to live before WWII, hence the Catalan name “Mount of the Jews.” Here you’ll find some of the city’s oldest streets, tallest gothic churches, a castle, and even an amusement park.
If you have at least a few days, you won’t want to miss the beautiful beach town of Sitges, just about an hour south of Barcelona.v The trains go there quite frequently if you are not planning to rent a car, plus you’ll have the chance to take in all the beautiful scenery along the coast. Book your hotel in advance to stay at least just for one night: the rest of the world is starting to find it so the beach front properties are selling out sooner in the year than when we started coming here.
Lloret del Mar.
Another lovely town near the coast about an hour north of the city. This is a spot where you’ll find locals only, as most tourists just stay in the city center. Though it’s on the coast, it’s not really a “beach” town per se, but the views off the cliffs are their own brand of spectacular.
Whether you’re a football fan or not, if you have a chance to stop in for a Barcelona game, you won’t regret buying the tickets and making the short trek just outside the city center to attend one of Europe’s most beloved (and hated) teams. If you’re able to get into one of the VIP boxes, even better! Though the stadium is enormous, you’ll be sure to have a blast watching Barcelona’s favorite sport and their legendary team.
The W Hotel is probably one of the best spots to stay in before docking for a cruise, since it might be one of the closest hotels to the ships (though farther from town). It is actually designed to look like a sail as it sits even farther out into the sea than some of the ships. Even if you don’t stay here, the rooftop might be worth the short trek one evening.
The Novotel Diagonal is pretty centrally located but not in the middle of too many tourist spots. Next to the Torre Agbar (large blue/red lit up building houses the city’s heating and water utility companies), its about a 20 minute walk to the beach and just across the street from Plaza Glories, a large shopping mall complete with a grocery store and metro station. The crown jewel for this hotel though is its rooftop with a glass panoramic of the city along the pool deck.
Food and drink:
Though not particularly “Spanish,” we absolutely love the rotisserie chicken place located behind one of the alleys on the north side of Ramblas (you’ll see the roasting chickens in the front window, which are served with amazing fries). And make sure you definitely stop in for a glass of cava at Bosc de las Fades next to the wax museum on Ramblas with a fairy hanging on the sign outside the door. This ancient bar with a tree growing through it is said to be over 500 years old and supposedly where Hemingway used to hang out. It would certainly fit his odd taste with its fun house mirrors, rooms of dolls, while you feel like you’re sitting in a rain forrest with periodic lightning soundtracks messing with your mind on a sunny day.
Local ref: Xevi Aliguer