Welcome to Barcelona! The palm trees are swaying in the wind, some cool surfers are passing us by on the way to the beach, and there are several plates of Tapas (or, as the locals say, Pintxos) waiting for us to devour them. Barcelona is Spain's second biggest city, and it's the capital of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as the cities' residents will immediately point out to you should you accidentally call them "Spaniards".
That's not to say people here aren't friendly. On the contrary! Barcelonans are a loving bunch, always ready to help you out and extremely welcoming to strangers. The city seems to attract creative people who open up shop left and right. Look forward to some beautiful cafés, great museums and an eclectic mix of old and new. As always on our website, we'll leave most of the tourist spots out of our guide. Instead, we'll once again focus on some great spots for food and design, and on some hidden treasures you might otherwise miss out on.
Still, you might wonder about a few locations missing here. Why does it have to be Tapas for dinner? What about the great museums in the city center? And, seriously, how could they visit Barcelona and not go to the beach? Well, we didn't forget these things. They are all in our second 12hrs in Barcelona, in which our friend Nuria shows us her favorite spot. It's coming out next week, and we are excited to share it with you! But for now, let's focus on today. We have a lot to do, a lot of great coffees to drink and quite a few meters to walk ahead of us. So put on your sandals and don't forget the sunscreen, let's spend 12hrs in Barcelona!
10am // Federal Cafe
Let's start at the beginning, with a good breakfast. Barcelona has some great cafés, and it seems like new ones pop up every month. You can get excellent coffee in lots of them, and some delicious cakes and snacks on top. But the one coffee place that stole our hearts more than any other was Federal Cafe. Owned by two Australians and named after a small town down under, Federal has everything we are looking for in a cafe. The staff is friendly, the drinks are amazing, and the space is extremely stylish while still being inviting. It's located in the up-and-coming district of Sant Antoni. Right around the corner are two other nice cafés, Cafe Cometa and Tarrana. So should all the seats be taken at Federal (did you look upstairs?), you can just head down the street.
Federal Cafe // Carrer del Parlament 39 // Mon-Thu 8am-11pm, Fri 8am-1am, Sat 9am-1pm, Sun 9am-5.30pm // website
11am // Carrer de la Riera Baixa
After breakfast, let's start exploring. Walk in the direction of the city center, and you'll soon enter El Raval, a part of the old town known for its diverse population and vivid nightlife. Since it's a bit too early in the day to start bar hopping, let's focus on some of the shops around here.
Barcelona is a great city for vintage shopping. And Carrer de la Riera Baixa is one of the best streets to do that. Tucked away in Raval, you can find treasures here that would sell for considerably more elsewhere in the world. Several second hand and vintage stores sell their goods on this street, each one of them with a carefully curated selection of used items, some quirkier than others.
Carrer de la Riera Baixa
11.15am // Satan's Coffee Corner
Although we just had breakfast, we'd be amiss if we didn't point out two favorites for coffee in this neighborhood. Maybe you can use a second dose of caffeine, maybe you want to save the tips for later, but definitely don't miss our next two locations.
Pardon the pun, but: don't get fooled by the name. Satan's Coffee Corner serves heavenly brew. In fact its owner promises you "the best coffee in town" and we might even agree with him. The tiny shop was founded by Marcos Bartolomé, a barista at Federal Cafe. We've heard that to open his shop he claims he had to make a deal with the devil. In reality, it was his mother and grandmother who helped him get his business started. Satan's Coffee Corner started out as a little window shop in a gift and stationary shop. By now, it has moved a few houses down into a bicycle shop called Bicious. Bartolomé creates his own blends and names them after rock stars. He also offers homemade sweets and sometimes teaches coffee classes.
Satan's Coffee Corner // inside Bicious Bicycle Shop // Carrer de la Lluna 3, Tue-Sat 10.30am-6pm // Facebook
11.30am // Caravelle
Caravelle, a short walk in the direction of the city center from Satan and his coffee, is another favorite. This is a great place to sit and meet up with friends or work. We loved the look of the place and thoroughly enjoyed it here. This is another cafe that makes great coffee, and the kitchen staff churns out some solid lunch options made from fresh ingredients. But today, we'll have our lunch somewhere else, so let's continue exploring.
Caravelle // Carrer del Pintor Fortuny 31 // Mon 7.30am-5pm, Tue-Sun 7.30am-11pm // Facebook
12pm // Chök
Walk all the way across the old town towards La Rambla. This boulevard is one of Barcelona's main attractions, but we much preferred the smaller streets around it than the crowded and often quite tacky stores on this main street.
So instead of tourist masses, we'll focus on something far more pleasing: Chocolate! Just like us, the owners of Chök can't get enough of it, so they aptly gave their store the subtitle "the chocolate kitchen" and try to incorporate the sweet stuff in as many gastronomical creations as they can.
When entering the small shop, you'll immediately be amazed by the donut display. There are pegs coming out of the wall with donuts neatly arranged on them right behind the counter. Chök offers more than just donuts, of course. We had our very first European Cronut here, for example – croissant dough fried like a donut, dreamed up by New York pastry chef Dominic Anselm. The Barcelona version comes topped off with dark chocolate.
Chök // Carrer del Carme 3 // Mon-Sun 9.30am-8.30pm // website
12.30pm // El Born Centre Cultural
Cross La Rambla and walk to our next destination. You are passing through one of Barcelona's most beautiful areas now, Barri Gòtic (the Gothic Quarter). This is the center of the old town, and most of the houses here date back as far as the Middle Ages or even the time of the Romans. The mood on the streets here is so much friendlier than on the crazy busy Rambla. Take your time to explore a bit, then continue to the area called El Born.
Here, you'll find some of the more upscale shops and restaurants. But first, some culture. From the outside, you could easily mistake the Born Centre Cultural for yet another of Barcelona's many beautiful food markets. But step inside, and you'll be surprised. It's an excavation site and a museum, showcasing centuries of Catalan history and giving you a glimpse in the storied history of the region. Admission to the general exhibition is free, but if you want to explore the excavation site, you have to pay a small fee.
El Born Centre Cultural // Plaça Comercial 12 // Tue-Sun 10am-8pm // Admission free // website
1.15pm // Doméstico Shop
Back outside, take a peek into Gidlööf, a shop that sells upscale Scandinavian vintage furniture. Then, let's go to our last stop in the area.
Doméstico Shop sells furniture and design objects, and we just loved their selection. They sell the classics from Vitra as well as very contemporary designs, mostly by Scandinavian producers and brands. Even if you're traveling and obviously won't be buying any large items for your home, don't miss out on this one. We promise you you'll find something you'll love!
Doméstico Shop // Pl. St. Augustí Vell // Tue-Fri 10.30am-2.30pm & 4.30pm-8.30pm, Sat 11.30am-3pm, Sun 4pm-8.30pm // website