As a vegan, when I begin planning my next vacation, the very first question I ask of any city is…”are you vegan-friendly?” Because no matter how many extraordinary sites there are to see if I cannot find good compassionate food or feel welcomed by the people of that city, it is going to be a stressful & disappointing experience. So when I learned that Barcelona was the first city in the world to declare itself a ‘veggie friendly’ city, planning my trip to Europe became infinitely easier!
My time in Barcelona is truly an experience that will bring me joy for years to come. In fact, as much as I wanted to offer a “10 best things to do in Barcelona” type post, there is no possible way I could choose only 10 things! The trip was incredible from the moment I boarded the plane in San Francisco until my return home 2 weeks later.
This being only my second trip to Europe and my husband’s first, we saved all of our rainy day funds to upgrade to the business section on Air France. The seats each have their own music & TV screens; come with slippers, blankets & pillows and turn into single sized beds! The flight is so long that I was served dinner, had a full nights’ sleep and then was served breakfast before landing. They even provide a spa bag with items so I could “freshen up” the next morning. Choosing vegan food for the flight was simple to do through their website. And the amount of food they served – essentially a three-course meaI – was unbelievable. It was easily the best food I’ve ever been served on an airplane. In addition to finding great vegan food, my other favorite thing to do in a new city is to explore. Preferably on foot! I love to wander through neighborhoods and imagine that city as my home. So I chose the Hotel Casa Fuster on beautiful Passeig De Gràcia in the heart of the Eixample District as my home base. In addition to their luxury hotel, they also offer apartment suites. My one bedroom apartment included a living room, full kitchen, washer/dryer and huge terrace. It offered all of the benefits of a hotel with daily room cleaning & free WiFi while giving me the freedom to cook and wash my clothes. From there, I could walk to an endless number of vegan restaurants, gorgeous Park Güell, the famous La Sagrada Familia, the breathtaking Parc de la Ciutadella and Arc de Triomf, the City Center barrios – El Born, El Raval & El Gòtic; and the Mediterranean sea. I loved walking the city of Barcelona so much that I lost 3 pounds in 8 days!
Gràcia was an independent town until the late 19th century before it was engulfed by the city of Barcelona. If I hadn’t been so excited to see all of the city, I could easily have spent my whole holiday in Gràcia. It had a much different feel than the rest of the city. There were far fewer tourists which gave me the opportunity to chat with locals as they walked their dogs and went about their lives. I truly felt like I had discovered something special that was all mine to enjoy! I could easily see Gràcia as a wonderful neighborhood to live in! This Barrio provided everything a vegan could ask for too! Just half a block from my apartment, I found Väcka – an all vegan fast food spot famous for its sweet and savory waffle sandwiches, salads, burgers and desserts. One of my favorite dishes was the savory waffle with walnut “meat”. If you don’t read Catalan well, they have a menu in English! Just one in fact, and it may take them a while to find it! After nearly 24 hours of travel, it was wonderful to walk over to enjoy a 100% vegan meal before beginning my exploration of the city. Askadinya is a Palestinian restaurant located in the heart of Gràcia that offers delicious traditional Arabic cuisine with Mediterranean flair. For less than 18 euros, I ordered the Vegetarian Table – a huge platter with a bit of everything on it. It easily feeds two & just remind them to make it vegan! One of my FAVORITE shops in Gràcia is the vegan boutique Amapola. This lovely little treasure is brimming with vegan shoes, clothing, hand bags, scarves & hats, jewelry and lots of little surprises. I love the green Matt & Nat backpack that I got there! Another unexpected find was the Old Fashioned Gin Tonic
Cocktail Bar. A hopping little joint that is easy to miss and only seats about 30 people. The bartenders are passionate about their cocktails, the tiny room is bursting with beautiful people and they craft some incredible drinks. But don’t make the same mistake I did – they are offended if you offer a tip! Quinoa Bar Vegetarià is known to offer the best carrot cake in the city and guess what? It’s true! And how can I not love a place that has “Meat is Murder” printed on their menus! Dolce Pizza & Los Veganos is a super cute restaurant with a bright green, cheerful decor. I ordered my pizza with pepperoni, pesto, olives and tomatoes and it was perfect! La Besnéta vegan bakery should not be missed. It is a gorgeous little bakery full of the most delectable vegan baked goods I have ever had the pleasure to eat. Quite simply they are the perfect reason to visit Barcelona again! Cafè Camèlia is a sweet little veg cafè with a few small tables & a long family-style dining table that runs through the middle.
After hours of wandering the city and beautiful Park Grüell, it was a cozy little stop to replenish my body with their tofu curry! Park Grüell is a beautiful iconic park that I spent hours exploring! The views of the city are spectacular and the stunning works of Antoni Gaudí are showcased throughout. The park is open year round and offers many trails and green spaces to lose yourself in. It is dog-friendly so I loved meeting all the Catalan dogs as they played. Next visit, Violet will definitely be coming with me so she can share her feedback from a dog’s perspective! It offers a playground, fountains, a skating rink, a bookstore and Gaudi’s life museum. Sections of the Park are monuments to Gaudi and because of the massive amount of interest, it is wise to purchase your ticket online before you arrive.
It was love at first site when I stepped into Barri Gòtic! Located in the heart of Barcelona this barrio encompasses the oldest section of the city with parts of the Roman wall still intact. It is a labyrinth of narrow streets lined with medieval buildings full of shops, flats and food that open into busy Plaças (Plazas). Steve was really excited to visit the Museu de la Moto and since it was located in the Gothic, how could I say no? Barcelona now has the highest number of motorbikes per inhabitant in Europe. There are hundreds of thousands of these two wheeled modes of transportation buzzing around the city so it felt natural paying homage to them! Steve loved the experience touring through hundreds of bikes and seeing the history of the Vespa’s and café racers were the highlight of the tour! Ending with a free beer was a nice touch too! This temporary museum has since closed down but you can visit their much larger facility located in the Catalan pre-Pyrenes near Ponts ans Oliana. Next I found the sweet little boutique Humus. What a treat to find ethical fashion in the heart of the city. All items they carry are fair trade, organic and the clothing production is earth friendly. This is where I found my new favorite clothing line – Armed Angels. The Plaça De George Orwell was another of my favorite spots. A perfect square to sit and people watch surrounded by two of my favorite vegan shops.
Vegetalia is a casual little vegetarian restaurant that offers tasty vegan options. It has three locations and a food truck for festivals and fairs. The food is decent and the restaurants are spread throughout El Born, El Raval & the Gothic so they were very convenient to pop into when it was time to refuel! Addicted Tattoo & Piercing offers vegan ink in the name of respect, ethics, love & equality and believe that ink made with suffering and death can never be turned into art. I have my next tattoo picked out and can’t wait to get it done there! Some of the beautiful historic sites I enjoyed include the Museu Frederic Mares and the exquisite Cathedral of Barcelona. The Museu is located in part of the former royal palace and includes an extensive collection of art & other objects collected by Frederic Marès over his lifetime. The Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. It was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries and in the late 1800s the neo-Gothic façade was added to the exterior with gargoyles & an array of other animals added to the roof!
Montserrat Guided Tour
I don’t often participate in group tour experiences; I tend to like to dig in and explore on my own. But I’m really glad I made an exception and joined the Montserrat Tapas and Wine Tour hosted by Castle Experience Wine Tours. Through Barcelona, our tour guide Albert, introduced us to the history & culture of the city, Catalonia & Spain. As the bus drew closer to the Santa Maria de Monserrat Abbey located 30 miles west of Barcelona in the Montserrat Mountains, he shared the mystical stories that surround this magical Monastery. The jagged, serrated mountains were covered with fog on the bus ride up but the view from the Abbey was well worth getting up early! It was founded in the 10th Century and still functions to this day with approximately 80 Benedictine monks. The mountain views, architecture and art were simply breathtaking. Be sure to see the Virgin of Montserrat – Catalonia’s favorite saint. From the Abbey, the tour’s next stop was the Oller del Mas Castle & Winery. The medieval castle dating back over 1,000 years is surrounded by their organic vineyards and is still owned by the same family! Albert shared their winemaking philosophy, we visited the vineyards and production facility and toured the ancient cellar. Last but not least, I was treated to a delicious vegan tapas & wine pairing! As much as I wanted to enjoy the view on the drive back to Barcelona, it wound up being the perfect time for a siesta! An excellent way to conclude a lovely day!
Cathelicopter at the Port of Barcelona
The helicopter ride was one of the most exciting things I did in Barcelona. Located right on the Port of Barcelona overlooking the Mediterranean, this 12 minute ride allowed me to discover the secrets of Barcelona from the sky! They offer several different tours but the flight over the city was what interested Steve & I the most. The flight followed the spectacular coastline before heading inland over some of the city’s most coveted sites – Sagrada Familia, Plaza España and the Olympic Park to name a few. Though I have been up in small planes a few times, this helicopter ride was a real thrill. The price of $115 Euros per person is worth every penny. This panoramic tour of Barcelona should not be missed! For more details from Steve’s perspective, check out his post!
El Raval Barrio
I enjoyed walking through El Raval because it has its own character & personality. There are sections that exposed some of the city’s poverty. And sections that are completely gentrified & full of tourists. I was glad to experience both sides of El Raval. What drew me to the barrio was the living foods restaurant Petit Brot. They promote conscious, sustainable & ethical health food by offering a raw menu – 100% organic, 100% vegan! Everything they serve is handmade and nothing is heated over 42℃ (107℉). Petit Brot specializes in cold-pressed juices, wheat grass shots & superfood smoothies but also make delicious raw milks, salads and desserts! The space is just how a raw food restaurant should look – soothing & gorgeous. To keep the entire experience healthy, they created the space using walls made of biodegradable materials, non-toxic mineral paint; sustainable bamboo flooring & electricity produced from renewable sources. And, oh my, the smoothies; desserts and salads are delicious. When I finished my meal, my body was surging with life and energy! As I continued wandering, I passed by a sweet little chocolate shop – Chök. There was nothing about it that looked vegan but I walked in anyway. And sure enough, tucked next to the dozens of different types of dairy chocolates, was a small vegan section. Being a bit of a nut for chocolate but an even bigger nut for doughnuts, I left with both. Frankly, I can’t even remember the chocolate BUT I do remember that doughnut! It was oozing with chocolate and is possibly the best doughnut I have ever eaten! Yet another reason to head back to Barcelona.
Known for its modernista architecture, which I found to be spectacular, what I really remember most about L’Eixample was the amazing amount of traffic! It was unbelievable! What drew me to this section of Barcelona was Antoni Gaudi’s most well known masterpiece – La Sagrada Familia. This massive Basilica was designed by Francesc de Paula Villar & construction began in 1881. A year later this gothic project was taken over by Gaudi and was transformed into the most interesting catheral of all time! Still unfinished 137 years later this iconic architecture has become an undisputed symbol of Barcelona. While I enjoyed all of Gaudi’s work, this is truly something to behold! Funded by private donations, the most recent scheduled date of completion is 2026. When I was done gazing at this mammoth construction site, it was time to refuel at La Tocadero. Just down the block from La Sagrada Familia, this vegan burger joint is adorable, inexpensive and tasty! From burgers & fries to hot dogs and salads, it is perfect for casual dining.
El Born Barrio
The Parc de La Ciutadella is a huge city park full of people, wildlife and spectacular fountains, sculptures & architecture. The 18 hectares (45 acres) are known as Barcelona’s urban “green lung”. Built in the late 1800s in anticipation of the 1888 world fair, many relics from this event can still be seen today. Though I don’t attend or support zoos, the Barcelona Zoo built in 1892 is accessible from the Park. At the other end of the Park, the long greenway ends at the Arc de Triomf. I spent much of my time at the waterfall and lake enjoying the birds and beauty of the architecture. It wasn’t planned but my afternoon in the Park ended at dusk just as the Arc de Triomf was being lit up for the evening. It was stunning to see! I had my second meal at Vegetalia while exploring El Born too. The hummus platter was perfect for Steve & I to share when we needed a break from site seeing!
La Barceloneta & the Mediterranean Sea
This seaside neighborhood is home to the Sant Sebastià beach which attracts locals and tourists for sunbathing & surfing. What can I say? It was my first visit to the Mediterranean Sea. The Sea is beautiful and the beach is perfect! Connecting the yacht filled Marina to the Beach is a long, palm-lined Promenade that is excellent for walking. Like Las Ramblas, this area has a very touristy vibe to it. As much as I loved the Sea, Barceloneta wasn’t really my style! I was excited to try the vegan tapas and sangria bar Bar Celoneta but it was closed that day! It is definitely on my must try list for my next trip to Barcelona. For dinner, I had an incredible experience at the Green Spot located on the border of El Born & Barceloneta. Tucked away on a quiet side street it was a lovely refuge from the hustle & bustle of Barceloneta. Steve & I were both a bit confused about where to go when we walked in. But we followed the long dark hall with views of the kitchen that ended in the dining room. Think trendy furniture, wood tables and low lighting. Really gorgeous! The food, cocktails and atmosphere reminded me of the trendy restaurants that I haven’t been able to enjoy since becoming vegan. It was the perfect Barcelona evening. My dinner reservation wasn’t until 10 p.m. and I didn’t get back to my apartment until 1:30 a.m. I felt like I had finally embraced the Spanish tradition of late dinners and afternoon siestas. Though I must admit with so much to see, I didn’t take nearly as many siestas as I should have to make up for my late evenings!
After nearly 8 days of perfection, my time in Barcelona finally came to an end. I have been to some incredible places in my lifetime but the memories of this city will live on for a very long time. It was simple & easy being vegan in Barcelona. You will have no trouble finding great food & fellow vegans to chat with! Even with so much more on this planet to explore, this will definitely not be my last visit to this wonderful city. I’d love to hear about your experiences in Barcelona too! So let’s explore the world together and as always…eat, drink & be vegan!