For an unforgettable city tour hop on the back of a classic sidecar motorcycle with Brightside Tours. Brightside’s mission, in addition to showing you the highlights of Barcelona, is to give you an authentic feel for the sights, scents and beat of this vibrant city—to make you fall as madly in love with Barcelona as they are. Originally from Portugual, Joao, a long time Barcelona resident started the company in 2010. Last summer, I did the Night Rider tour with my daughter, and it was a highlight of our trip! We asked Joao to give us an ideal day in his adopted city.
Joao and his team are extremely personable and professional. They were very flexible in changing the time slightly to accommodate our schedule, and dropped us off at our dinner reservation at the end of the tour rather than back at our starting point. Barcelona is one of Europe’s hottest destinations, especially in the summer months, so book in advance to cruise with Brightside!
Breakfast: One of my favorite places is Bar Lobo, with a beautiful terrace right off La Rambla in the Raval district, it’s a great place to start the day with a hearty breakfast and a hip atmosphere.
Wander: Around the corner from Bar Lobo is the uber-famous promenade of Las Ramblas. Meander down the promenade thru the “Rambla de les Flors” section – the highest concentration of flower shops in Barcelona! You’ll then arrive at the vibrant Boqueria food market, the most colorful and lively of nearly 40 markets in Barcelona.
Old City: A short stroll away from the Boqueria market is Plaça del Pi. To me, this little square is one of the most beautiful in Barcelona and home to an open-air art market every weekend. The church of Santa Maria del Pi (“Pi” means pine tree in Catalan – you will see where the name came from when you arrive at the square) is one of the biggest buildings in the Catalan-Gothic style in Barcelona. The inside tower is the best viewpoint in the old city! Continue your walk towards the Born district, find your way to Plaça Felip Neri – an icon of the Spanish civil war, this tiny square is one of the most enchanting in the old city. The Neri Hotel is perfect for a quick stop to sip a coffee on the terrace. Continue your Old City stroll thru Plaça del Rey – the King’s square – surrounded by historical buildings like the Palau Reial Major, the King Martin watchtower or Casa Padellàs. Inside this 15 century palace you will find the entrance to the Old Roman city: underneath the square and the medieval buildings, you can visit the world’s most extensive underground roman ruins.
Lunch: One of the best options in the area for traditional Catalan cuisine is Senyor Parellada. The beautiful décor may be deceiving, this is a quite reasonably priced restaurant and you will find yourself surrounded by locals. “Las croquetas” are just one of the many house specialties! Make sure to save room for desert in one of the many terraces you will find as you wander. This part of the old city, known as El Born, has a lovely atmosphere, great local designer shopping and lots of history, architecture and art too! The Picasso Museum and Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar are among the most striking.
Beach Time: On your way to the Beach, make sure to grab an Italian artisan gelato at Gocci de Latte, located at Pla del Palau – this gelato will be your best friend during the beautiful walk around the old port until you reach the Barceloneta Beach. Time to relax, soak in the Mediterranean sun or jump in the water to freshen up (be careful about your belongings!)
Dusk: Head to Park Güell , one of Gaudi’s masterpieces and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the early evening after the crowds have left. Here you will be dazzled by the spectacular mosaic work and gorgeous views over the city of Barcelona. Walking down from Park Güell towards the city center, you will go thru the Gracia district – the local’s favorite district to relax, grab a coffee and meet friends after a long and busy day. Plaza Virreina and Plaza Vila de Gracia are some of the most charming, but the whole district is abundant with local flare, cafés and tradition.
Dinner: Located right on the border between the traditional Gracia and elegant Eixample neighborhood, La Pepita is one of my favorite places for tapas in this area. It’s a great option for a delicious, fun and laid-back meal. After dinner, just another short walk away is Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona’s most luxurious avenue. Here you can admire more of Gaudí’s masterpieces, but now at nighttime. In the evening, when Casa Batlló and La Pedrera / Casa Mila are all lit-up, they truly come to life--unforgettable!
Late Night: To wrap up an ideal day in Barcelona, you should join the locals for a drink after dinner! The rooftop terrace bars around Paseo deGracia are pilgrimage sites on summer evenings and there are many options – Hotel Omm is one of my favorites! For the party animals, the night continues around Tuset street: night clubs like Sutton , Bling Bling or Luz de Gas will go on till 6:00AM!