It was 11 years since I first –and last– visited Barcelona; and I must admit, although I had a great time, the city did not leave the best impression on me. Back then, I felt it was too bohemian (see: hippie) for my taste. I went to Madrid in 2012 and, by comparison, thought it was a better fit for me.
Nevertheless, when Spanish bridal powerhouse Rosa Clará invited me to their city for Bridal Fashion Week, I was beyond excited to see how the capital of Catalunya had evolved during the last decade –and of course, beyond excited to relive the magical experience that is looking at wedding dresses!
It’s safe to say, Barcelona made me eat my words. Maybe, back in 2005, I was just there with too many tourists and not enough time. I was only there for five days at the peak of summer, and as a Barcelona rookie and tourist myself, I visited only the attractions that tourists go to;
death tourist traps. Being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people under the blazing summer sun is not my thing and never was, but I couldn’t go to Barcelona and not see Park Güell, for example. Maybe, now I just know how to travel better. Maybe it’s a combination of all said factors; the season, the weather, the crowds or lack thereof… Being a traveller versus being a tourist. This time around, I was free to do the other, more local, activities that one might not have the liberty of pursuing during a first time visit. I had already seen all the Gaudí landmarks, the Mies van der Rohe pavilion (although it’s worth going to a million times more), the Barceloneta, the Ramblas (Never.Again.), etc. So now, I could wander through quaint little neighborhoods, visit the museums I never had the chance to see before, eat brunch, drink coffee at my own pace, do a little shopping, discover brands, read local publications and so on.
And wander I did! On my first day out, I visited the Joan Miró foundation. It was Tuesday and I arrived at around 11am when the line was just beginning to build up. In a manner of minutes, there were already about twenty people behind me waiting to get in. As I approached the counter, I read a sign advertising an “Art Passport” called ARTICKETBCN that allows one to skip lines and visit other museums at only 30€. I was planning on visiting most of its other participating institutions so I decided to purchase it. I highly recommend doing so because it’s much cheaper than buying each ticket separately and it saves tons of time. With it, you’re able to get into six museums including the Miró Foundation, MACBA, CCCB and Picasso Museum. All of which I visited, except the latter, unfortunately.
As for restaurants, Bodega 1900 blew me away. I found out about it months before my trip through Gwyneth Paltrow’s Instagram and I am not ashamed to admit it. Girl knows how, what and where to eat! I didn’t know then that I would have the chance to go some time later, but the logo and menu design featured in Gwyneth’s photo of Bodega 1900 struck me and when the time came, I remembered. That is one of the many reasons why design matters, folks! When in Spain, I would also suggest to visit one of Grupo Tragaluz’s many ventures; I had dinner at Mordisco, which is located next to Boca Chica, a really cool bar. So a fun plan could be to have dinner at Mordisco then drinks next-door. Caravelle and Trópico in El Raval are both great spots for brunch. Another breakfast place is Granja Petitbo. For coffee, one recommended shop is Nømad. Another is Satan’s, which was so good and the staff was really nice! There was one at the lobby of my hotel in a shared space with Mother, a juice bar. Which brings us to my accommodations.
Hotel Casa Bonay was incredible. It really felt like my home away from home in Barcelona. Everyone was welcoming and friendly. The food was amazing at both hotel restaurants; Libertine –the lobby’s “12 to 12” restaurant and bar– and at Elephant Crocodile Monkey; Casa Bonay’s dynamic “living restaurant” with a seasonal menu and a Vietnamese pop-up called Têt serving food every day at lunchtime. Every absolute detail is thoroughly designed and thought of at Casa Bonay. From uniforms, signage and menus; to bath products, wallpapers and furniture. It is a dream of a space!
As for shopping, I’m obsessed with perfume and candles, so whenever I travel I always look for a local perfumery or candlemaker. Les Topettes was great. Santa Eulalia on Passeig de Gràcia is the place to go if you’re looking for a multi brand luxury store. And right next door to it is a newly opened Céline boutique, the first in Spain. If you don’t want to spend as much, or you’d like to get more bang for your buck, a short walk down from Céline and Santa Eulalia is Inditex’s Uterqüe; Zara’s sophisticated, minimalist sister. And further down Passeig de Gràcia is Loewe, a must when in Spain. Even if you don’t shop, visiting the Barcelona store is an experience all on its own. The flagship is located within a historical landmark art nouveau building in the same block as Gaudí’s Casa Batlló. I was lucky enough to score a personal tour through the Loewe Panama team with the very knowledgable and kind Montse Dalmau, who was been working with Loewe for over 30 years and is so passionate about the brand’s heritage and history, as well as its current boom with JW Anderson. Her love for Loewe is contagious –as if I need another reason to want a Puzzle bag! Another great place is Wer-Haus; it falls into the “concept store” category of the shopping spectrum as it also sells objects, art books and publications, in addition to fashion. It also houses a café and gallery.
There are still many, many more things I didn’t get to do and places I wasn’t able to visit: La Boquería, El Nacional and Disfrutar are three places I didn’t get to eat at, for example. However, I’m happy to say Barcelona is now one of my favorite cities in the world. It charmed me in ways few places have in my lifetime and I’m looking forward to my next trip there, whenever that may be! Hopefully sooner rather than later! So thank you, Rosa Clará for taking me back to your mythical, Mediterranean city. I’m grateful beyond words!
Stay tuned for two more posts about my Barcelona travels. One is of course, the Rosa Clará bridal runway show and the other is a tour of Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill’s Walden 7 housing complex.
Thanks for reading!
Photos by me. Made possible by Rosa Clará Spain and Panama.