SPAIN

Barcelona Spain has been our starting or ending location for about five different cruises over the years. We have got to know Barcelona quite well and enjoy always spending a day or sometimes two before or after a cruise. Dining is to another level in this town, and there are more than enough sites to keep you busy for some time!

Barcelona and Palma de Mallorca are where we have spent most of our time in Spain and will feature these two locations in this article. These are also the two most popular places in Spain to visit along with Madrid. More Spain travel tips as well!

It begins!

Most of you visiting Spain for the first time, or every time for that matter will land at Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport. Aka: Barcelona airport. It is about 10 miles from the city center. This is one of the few places around the world that has managed to thwart Uber, so you will be using a taxi most likely to get to your hotel. They do have a set fee of 35 euros for the trip to any hotels near the city center, so pretty reasonable! 

La Rambla

La Rambla is the most visited place in Spain, and you will most certainly want to spend a long day here at least. There is just so much to see! Walking through La Rambla is a unique experience. There, a melting pot of tourists and locals take place at all times. As a result, La Rambla is fully crowded and busy all day long. Once you start walking, you’ll notice typical newsstands, kiosks selling souvenirs, cafes, restaurants, fruit and flower shops. The architecture all around is incredibly quite stunning! As the walk progresses, more non-traditional establishments and peculiar characters start to appear, such as the human statues and street performers, a must-see spectacle on La Rambla. The Columbus Monument marks the end. Walk a bit ahead and you will find the Rambla de Mar, a wooden bridge over the sea that connects with Maremagnum shopping center, that offers incredible views of the Port Vell marina.

Dining on La Rambla

Two of our favorite restaurants in all of Barcelona are both walking distance from La Rambla, in fact, one of them is directly on the street. Ironically they are Vienna and Viana restaurants. Quite the coincidence right!?! Vienna is a great breakfast spot as well as lunch. They have the most incredible "world famous" sandwiches here. New York magazine wrote an article years ago about this spot, and it has been a big hit ever since. A must stop! Viana is a very small, moderately upscale restaurant located in a back alley in Barcelona. Be sure to google Viana Barcelona to find photos and reviews for this place. Not only will their reviews astound you, but the entire experience is one of the most special places we have been to on planet earth. I highly recommend a reservation for this place, they are always fully booked. I know what your thinking ... where are the photos! Kind of silly I know that we have never taken any from this place. Just check out the above hashtag for all you will need. A MUST experience!

Located in the also must see Maremagnum Shopping Center was another first for Lorie & I, a pay toilet! 2 the loo yes, 2 the loo! For the low cost of only 2 euros, you can have a private toilet experience all to yourself! Naturally, we both had to give this a try. It was a nice clean place to spend a few minutes, lol. Not only was it immaculate but there was even a nice salesperson inside to assist you with anything you may need to purchase as well. Well ... what did you think they were going to assist you with!?! Like most places, there are public toilets as well for you thrifty folks!

There are several can't miss cathedrals in Barcelona, but the standout here would be La Sagrada, familia. Located just north of the Gothic quarter of Barcelona this spectacular cathedral, also church will surprise you, not only because of its massive size but especially because of its avant-garde architecture, which perfectly shows off the genius of its architect, Antoni Gaudí. And surprisingly even to this day it still remains unfinished, despite it's beginning all the way back in 1883. Be sure to arrive here early, because we have heard from many that the crowds quickly become unbearable most times of the day!

The best way for certain is to see this city is on foot. I’m not just talking about ambling down La Rambla, either. In Barcelona, it’s all about the alleyways! The narrow passages are the city’s vital capillaries. On these pedestrian streets, Lorie and I have stumbled across under-the-radar boutiques, old-school tapas joints packed with locals, Instagram-ready laundry strung from rusted balconies and plenty of places to raise a glass. We have spent quite a few days wandering the labyrinth of backstreets  off of La Rambla and other parts of the town. One Friday evening, we stumbled on #barbrutal one of Europe’s best natural wine bars (outside of Scandinavia, anyway). A couple glasses of the briny, crisp Catalonian white wine fortified us for the weekly dance party a few blocks away in the vast courtyard of the Museu d’Història de Barcelona, which sets the stage with stunning Gothic architecture. If it were not for the DJ's, the museum would be easy to miss, tucked away as it is along, you guessed it, an alleyway. Just wander around and you will find gem after gem around every corner. There are many different food market areas with fresh fruits, meats, vegetables all spilling out right into the walkways. Every time we come to Barcelona we just find a different direction we have not been to before. A plethora of adventures awaits those willing to keep going to that next turn up ahead!

Palma de Mallorca

For those of you find yourself on a cruise via Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca will more than likely be on your ship's itinerary, due to its close proximity just SE of Barcelona. This island serves as a gateway to the Mediterranean sea. Palma is a resort city and capital of the Spanish island of Mallorca (Majorca), in the western Mediterranean. The massive Santa María cathedral, a Gothic landmark begun in the 13th century, overlooks the Bay of Palma. The adjacent Almudaina is a Moorish-style Arab fortress converted to a royal residence. West of the city, hilltop Bellver Castle is a medieval fortress with a distinctive circular shape.

Palma is a real stunning location. Rising in honey-colored stone from the broad waters of the Badia de Palma, this enduring city dates back to the 13th-century Christian reconquest of the island, and to the Moors, Romans and Talayotic people before that. A richly studded area of historical sites, Palma also features a seemingly endless array of galleries, restaurants, craft studios and bars and is without a doubt Mallorca's greatest treasure. Wander in any direction from the awe-inspiring Gothic Catedral at its geographic and historical heart and you'll find medieval streets lined with aristocratic townhouses, incredible churches, bustling public squares, vibrant bohemian neighborhoods and markets overflowing with all the bounty of the island. You could spend days in this city alone we have been told, and still uncover fresh finds every day. Because this only a one-day port stop on cruises, Lorie and I do plan on visiting it longer the next time we are on a non-cruise near Barcelona. 

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