A vegan weekend break in Barcelona!
If you are feeling in a funk, down in the dumps, a little bit blue, then I recommend a weekend away.
After three days in Barcelona, I have shaken off the ‘mehs’ and I’m feeling disgustingly puppyish about everything. (The human equivalent of wagging your tail is writing ideas down in notebooks, by the way.)
I think a weekend away just about anywhere is great for clearing out brain fog, although Barcelona may be particularly good at reigniting enthusiasm. Everything about the city is beautiful and interesting. A bit like New Orleans, the combination of beauty and history with a touch of ramshackle eccentricity makes the whole place feel full of potential.
We took the bus from Montpellier Friday morning, and arrived in the city at lunchtime with two and a half days ahead of us. Here’s what we did…
I have managed to do and see a lot of things on holiday for free. If you are going to pay for one thing in Barcelona, however, make it the Sagrada Familia. Sure, a few years ago it may not have been worth the €15 entry price because most of the interior was still behind scaffolding…and sure, they still have 8 (EIGHT!!!) towers to complete before 2026… It’s absolutely still worth it.
We paid the extra €7 for the audioguide because we wanted to learn more about Gaudí and the history of the building. The guide was okaaay, but it could have done with more information and it was inevitably overshadowed by the building itself.
The interior of this incredible Gaudì building is now pretty much complete and, well, it’s not really like anything I’ve ever seen. While the outside looks like a melted candle in the shape of a nativity scene, the inside is like walking into central hall of Minas Tirith, the fortress in Gondor, or Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Disney is green with envy.
My favourite part of the church were the huge modern stained glass windows by Joan Vila-Grau along each side of the aisles. One side was given over to blue glass and the other side, the side with the most sun, was all glowing yellows and reds. By far the best stained glass windows I have ever seen and I’ve queued for Notre Dame and stood in awe in front of the ‘Autumn Landscape’ Tiffany window in The Met. I do love me some leaded colored glass.
Having seen at least one of the sights, we could, without guilt, head for a shady square and get a beer.
The very best part of Barcelona is, in my opinion, the small section of the city called Gràcia. Gràcia has everything I love– the faded glory of 19th century architecture, the little corner shops with products piled right up to the ceiling, the bars that still have zinc counters and then, mixed in, a café that sells kombucha (such great fizzy weirdness).
Everything you need in one square mile or so. The streets are mostly pedestrian (this neighbourhood PROVES that cities are better when they are pedestrianised), the buildings are painted pink and orange, there are splatters of stencil art, graffiti and mosaics, the restaurants and cafés and bars are a perfect mix of slick, cool and unchanged since the 70s.
For our first beer of the weekend we headed to Plaça del Sol and loitered by the busy tables of Sol Soler until we could sit down. The squares and bars in Gràcia can get busy so it can be worth letting the waiter know that you want a table and then just waiting for a while. The key to enjoying Barcelona is to give up on doing things quickly! Or early!
We ordered two canyas (the Catalan name for a small beer, usually about 33cl) of Moritz which is the typical beer of most of the Barcelona bars and, thank the lord, is tasty, cheap and vegan.
As it was only 6pm, despite being famished, we knew we would have to wait until at least 9 before we could order the patatas bravas we longed for…
The friends we were staying with came to join us at the bar and, after several rounds of ‘canyas’ and some excellent patatas bravas, we headed back to their apartment to order delivery pizza. It was 10pm and officially okay to start thinking about dinner.
We ordered vegan pizzas from Dolce Pizza y Los Veganos and were eating three vegan chorizo pizzas off of cardboard by midnight.
The Dolce pizzas were pretty good. We’re always grateful to have any kind of vegan option, and delivery pizza is always fun. Balancing food on your lap makes it taste better. However, their pizzas were outshone the very next night, when we went to have dinner at Vegetalia and shared a seitan burger and vegan pesto pizza. That was a great pizza- soft dough, great vegan cheese and lots of strong tasty basil pesto. The burger was soft and tasty too.
Vegetalia also has vegetarian food (pizza with real mozzarella!) and it’s in a really pretty, quiet square right next to the busy centre of Las Ramblas, so it’s a great place to go for lunch, drinks or dinner if you’re visiting the city.
Saturday morning we got up and did my favourite thing- we went straight out for coffee and breakfast. Our friend Eva (an amazing photographer) recommended Mecanic, which is a great warehouse café with a photography gallery and bookshop attached.
The it was on to one of my main reasons for travelling to Barcelona, which is the vegan croissants. OR vegan chocolate croissants to be precise.
Having grown up in France, ‘patisseries’ are one of my great loves and, as a vegan, they are incredibly hard to find. Barcelona has several bakeries that oh-so-casually include vegan croissants in their range of daily pastries. Forn de Pa Santa Clara, on the lovely Traverssera de Gràcia, was kind enough to provide us with two chocolate croissants and two other pastries that were essentially chocolate croissants in sausage roll form. For the very best vegan croissants we’ve ever had, make time to go to CroisSants Bakery near Sants station.
If you want to do some shopping, or ‘window licking’ as the French call it… then check out Amapola Vegan Shop, also on Travessera de Gràcia. They have a great collection of vegan shoes from brands like Melissa, Muorexe, and Nae. As well as lots of interesting clothes, scarves and Matt & Nat accessories. Matt&Nat’s design is a brand that have really grown into themselves, don’t you think, they’re bags and shoes are really beautiful and chic now.
Finally, last recommendation- chök. There are two outposts of this incredible chocolate and cake shop in the city. Even their packaging is cool. I loved the shop on Astúries, in Grácia, but either one will do.
We bought an excellent vegan Nutella donut and a chocolate molten cupcake and spilt them on the bus home. Sugar highs all the way back to France…