Barcelona is like paradise. The beach mixed with stone cobbled alley ways opening up to town squares against a backdrop of incredible architecture.
1. Do the walking tours.
There is the Gothic walking tour centred around the Gothic area (surprise, surprise) which goes through the beginnings of Barcelona and Catalan history. This is where you will learn how to tell this difference between gothic and neo gothic architecture and understand the Roman influence on the city. There is also the modern tour which focuses on Gaudi and modernism. Seriously that man was insane. But then aren’t all creative geniuses insane?
2. Park Guell and Sagarda Famillia
You can do these both in one day and they are both so incredibly worth it. Gaudi’s work is genius. You actually can’t describe it other than to say it was outrageous for his time and still to this day, pretty out there but it is ingenious and the Sagarda Famillia is hands down the best church I have ever been in. Full of colour and life and completely unconventional and amazing.
3. Mercat de La Boqueria
If I have any advice for this place, it is simply, do not eat before coming here. You will want to be able to eat everything in sight. And I mean everything. So much colour. So much variety. So much goodness. So much goodness. Make sure you take your camera, it’s like nothing you have ever seen before. If you’re vegetarian or don’t like seeing your food raw, this is not the place for you. If you are food lover, go nuts!
4. Tableo de Carmen
Flamenco dance and music is passionate, fierce and mesmerising and Tableo de Carmen is one of the best venues in Barcelona with some of the best Flamenco stars of Spain performing there regularly. Beyond that it is quite simply a cultural must. The guitarists alone are some of the most incredibly talented musicians and do not even get me started on the dancers and their formidable talent…. Oh and the costumes. Incredible.
Make sure when you go to Barcelona you check out the festivals that are on. La Merce Festival happens each year in September and honours the patron saint of suprisingly, mercy. What is means is Barcelona turns into a wild street party for 4 days. SO MUCH FUN! Music, dance, food, people, all in the city squares each night, so incredible.
Side notes; check out the art galleries, they have some incredible exhibitions on at various times, like the photo-documentation of Steve Jobs and Apple over the last 20 years by photographer Doug Menuez and the This Is Not a Love Song exhibition - from Warhol, Madonna, and Jimi Hendrix to Iraqi pop stars; looking at how pop music and video has influenced culture today. Mind blowing.
What can one say about San Fran other than to make sure you have at least one week there….at least. I can’t really explain why this city is so amazing, perhaps it’s the rich cultural history of the city, the fact you can visit Janis Joplin’s and The Grateful Dead’s house or the fact that when you are walking through the Castro area you might just come across a man in his 50’s sitting outside a cafe enjoying the paper and his morning coffee completely nude. Completely. I will put the disclaimer out there for him that at least he had the courtesy to bring his own towel to put between him and the chair.
1. Ride the Powell-Hyde Cable Car
It’s fun and you just have to.
Catch it from the city out to the bay, have a picnic or;
2. Hire a bike and ride over Golden Gate
It’s very windy but its very cool. You can either ride back or catch a ferry which is really not a bad way to get back to the city. Afterwards you can walk back down the hill or catch the 30 Muni through Chinatown. Which is super vibrant in San Fran, probably the best China Town I visited on my trip.
3. Go Twilight Sailing.
Umm really no explanation needed.
It’s twilight sailing. It’s awesome.
There’s beer, there’s views galore, and there’s a wild view of AT&T park and the game. And its sailing. In San Francisco.
4. Go watch the SF Giants play at AT&T Park
The tickets are really cheap and the park has recently had an upgrade and apparently in terms of baseball parks, is quite fancy. All I know is that American’s are quite happy to explain the rules (from what I understood, it’s kinda like cricket) and there is garlic fries! Garlic fries! OMG. You won’t be kissing anyone for a week, they cost almost $10 and they are epic. Fries. Garlic. Garlic fries.
5. Hang out in the Mission and the Castro
So much to do here other city’s most vibrant areas.
Bars, shops, food, aforementioned public nudity. Weave in and it of streets and wind back and forth, check out some live music or visit the old theatre there is so much to do here. You really need three days just for these two places.
Side eating notes-
Yank Sing, it was raved about by locals and tourist and if you like dumplings and dim sum, you must go. In terms of Yum Cha, it was without a doubt one of the best and most fresh places I have ever visited.
New York has Cronuts, San Fran has Ice Cream. It just seemed to be a thing there. And there were some amazing places with selections of organic ice cream. Which I am still not quite sure how that works but you go with it.
The Smile - 26 Bond St - really delish and gorgeous fit out - tungsten chandeliers and old world general store vibes ($$).
Momofuku Milk Bar - 251 East 13th Street - crack pie and cereal milkshakes mmm, and also now available in Williamsburg.
Northern Spy Food Co - 511 E12th Street - my fave - local simple elegant and affordable - if you’re there for breakfast share a side of the biscuits and apple jam while you wait for your mains; they are to die for.
Dumpling Man - 100 St Marks Pl - great dumplings - go for pan seared in any flavour, and definitely save room for the dessert pumpkin and cinnamon ones - so cheap too.
Baynyard Cheese Shop - Ave C and E9th, Alphabet City - great takeaway sanwhiches and amazing deli - cheeses, prosciutto etc. They own a wine shop around the corner on E9th too (Brix).
Caracas Arepa Bar - 93 E7th St - Venezuelan Arepas - yum and cheap - get a side of the sweet plantains too.
Diner - 85 Broadway, great for a casual lunch and drink.
Marlow & Sons - 81 Broadway next door/same owners as Diner, local produce, amazing seasonal menu ($$).
Five Leaves - 18 Bedford Ave Greenpoint at the junction of Bedford, Nassau and Lorimer St (breakfast, burgers) - you HAVE to try the truffle fries.
Egg - 135 N 5th St (really really good breakfast & lunch, get a french press here or espresso round the corner at blue bottle or toby’s after).
Commodore - 366 Metropolitan Ave OR Pies’n’Thighs 166 S 4th St Williamsburg - both of these are a little taste of southern home cooking: fried chicken and biscuits, totes unhealthy but totes an American dream. www.piesnthighs.com
Calexico Mexican - Manhattan Ave around the corner from Bedford Ave Greenpoint - get the fish burrito yum!
D.O.C. - N7th & Wythe - Italian Trattoria - looks like a house from exterior so make sure you look it up on a map before hand. Great tapa-size sharing plates and wine.
Fette Sau - 354 Metropolitan Ave - southern BBQ… you must go with friends, as you order meat by the weight and it’s a totally shared experience, but soooo good. www.fettesaubbq.com
Also if you feel like making the effort to head UPTOWN in Manhattan (potentially after visiting the MoMa or Met), there’s a fun burger joint at Le Parker Meridian, a fancy hotel at 119 W56th St, head into the foyer and look for the corridor with the little burger-icon neon sign. It’s very diner, in the best way. Cash only.
Coffee: (there’s only three worth going to)
Blue Bottle - N 5th & Berry
Toby’s Estate - 125 N 6th St
Stumptown Coffee in The Ace Hotel
The Standard Hotel Beer Garden or Lounge - at The Standard obvs.
Employees Only - 510 Hudson St - prohibition style hidden bar ($$).
The Woods - dive bar local in S w’burg - $5 beer+shots, taco truck out back - karaoke on Tuesdays from 11pm.
Hotel Delmano - N9th & Berry - straight outta the 20s - great cocktails ($$).
Union Pool - huge beer garden out back, tonnes of hipster kids - Union Ave & Rodney St (Lorimer stop on the L train).
The Ace Hotel Lobby - fit out is amazing, plus free wifi - ask reception for a passcode!