Barcelona – Day 3 – Montjuïc, Barceloneta, La Pedrera: The Origins

October 23, 2018 (Last Updated: August 30, 2020)
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a beach side hotel in the distance

Today is the first day of Lucy’s conference, and the first day of my solo explorations. Our original plan was to visit Montjuïc, the biggest hill in Barcelona, on our arrival day but we opted to nap instead. I shuffled around my plans for the day a bit and headed over to Montjuïc first thing after breakfast.

overhead view of a plate of breakfast food

A close up of a pastry on a plate

There’s actually a few ways to get up to Montjuïc including the city bus, the Bus Turistic (the hop on hop off bus), the Montjuïc Funicular, or the Teleferico del Puerto (cable cars). Since I already had to take the Metro from our hotel, for me it was most cost effective to just take the Funicular from the Paral-lel Metro stop, which is included in the price of your Metro ticket. I also had no plans to go all the way to the top of the hill to visit Montjuïc Castle, so I saved myself some time and effort and just started my explorations from where the Funicular dropped me off.

a photo of a map

view of train tracks in a dark tunnel
View from the front of the funicular

I checked out some parks along the way as I headed to my main attraction for the morning, the Olympic Stadium. There are actually quite a few parks on Montjuïc. All you hear as you’re walking around up here is wind rustling through trees, birds chirping, and buses and cars. There seem to be many bus routes up here as it isn’t easily accessible by other modes of public transportation.

distant view of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

A bird perched on a tree branch

A large stone statue in a park

A tree growing through stone steps

A garden with a walkway down the center

As I was nearing the Olympic Museum, I happened upon a traditional Armenian khachkar with photos of Charles Aznavour taped to it, flowers laid upon it, and candles in front. Charles Aznavour, a French-born Armenian singer who was incredibly popular and famous in Armenia, Europe, and much of the world passed away only the week prior. I personally was quite devastated by his death, and was stunned at my fortuitous observation to find this random khachkar near the Olympic Museum on Montjuïc.

a stone wall in front of a bunch of trees

close up of a stone cross with pictures of a man taped to the front

After passing the Olympic Musuem, next on the horizon was the piece de resistance, the Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium from the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. HOLY MOLY! This was so high on my to do list when visiting Barcelona, you can’t even imagine. Although it’s a popular spot to visit, for me especially being as Olympic-obsessed as I am, it was pure gold (see what I did there?).

an Olympic stadium across an empty street

closeup of the Olympic stadium in Barcelona

A large stone archway leading into the Olympic stadium

The Barcelona Olympics were one of the few in Olympics history that didn’t financially debilitate the city hosting the games. Barcelona was smart. They invested money in the infrastructure they already had instead of simply building from the ground up. This resulted in a more modern Barcelona for its citizens and not just a fancy setting for an Olympic Games.

the stands inside the Barcelona Olympic stadium

the track and field inside the Olympic stadium

a woman jumping inside an Olympic stadium
Obligatory jumping picture!

There was more to the Olympic Park than just the stadium, so I explored a bit of that as well.

exterior of the Barcelona Olympic stadium

The Palau Sant Jordi is a sporting and concert arena which during the ’92 Olympics hosted the men’s and women’s gymnastics competitions, the men’s and women’s handball finals, the men’s volleyball quarter- and semi-finals and finals and the women’s volleyball semi-finals and finals.

a building and tower inside the Barcelona Olympic complex

A large building

Here we also find the Torre Calatrava, or Montjuïc Communications Tower, which was built to transmit television coverage of the Olympic Games.

a tall white communications tower
reflection of a tall white communications tower in a window
Reflection of the Torre Calatrava in the window of the pool complex

The Piscines Bernat Picornell is the pool complex that was used for the Olympics. There’s a large indoor pool as well as the more well-remembered outdoor pool which was used for the actual Olympic swimming events. The Olympic diving pool is also on Montjuïc but it’s not in the complex. I wasn’t able to visit that one.

A group of people in an indoor swimming pool

an outdoor Olympic swimming pool with seating on either side

A close up of text on a white background

It had started to lightly drizzle as I headed down the hill to Plaça Espanya. By the time I made it to that area, and to the Magic Fountain and the Arenas de Barcelona it was raining more steadily, and I was pretty famished.

a large building at the top of a hill

A view of a city street filled with traffic surrounded by tall buildings

a huge brick arena across a city square

I had planned to eat lunch at my next stop in Barceloneta, the beach district, but decided it was more important to get some shelter, WiFi (so I could check the weather radar), and something to eat before heading back to the Metro. This is my only food regret of the trip. I had hand-picked a much more exciting lunch location, but settled for what I could find conveniently in the rain in Plaça Espanya. Tapa Tapa seems to be a “chain” tapas restaurant, but they had food, shelter, and WiFi, my 3 needs at the moment, so it is what it is.

A close up of a restaurant menu

The staff wasn’t particularly friendly or helpful. They never checked on me. They kind of just ignored me once I had been fed, but whatever. I tried the salt cod fritters which weren’t too bad, had a crisp exterior and pillow soft interior, but they were just too salty for me. I couldn’t finish the plate. A dipping sauce of some kind might have helped.

A plate of fried fritters

I also got some pan con tomate because it seemed like a fool-proof option. It was a bit stingy on the tomato, but hell, these were carbs I very much needed at this point after walking all over Montjuïc for hours this morning.

A piece of bread rubbed with tomato on a plate

Finally, I tried the beef filet and mushroom skewer, which was tender and juicy. This was the best of the 3 dishes I tried, but was by no means exceptional. I’m a little bitter about this lunch experience because I had much better plans, but part of traveling means you may have to change your plans on the go based on different circumstances. Today, my hunger and the rain forced my hand and stomach.

a skewer of beef with mushrooms on a plate

I headed over to Barceloneta for a quick afternoon jaunt. The weather was still so-so, but the rain held off pretty well from this point onward. Barceloneta is also part of Old Town Barcelona, features narrow parallel streets, and honestly seemed kind of dirty in areas until reaching the actual beach. I feel like that’s part of the authenticity and charm 🙂

A narrow city street with cars parked on the side of a road

The beach itself looked nice, but there were no swimmers or sunbathers as it wasn’t really appropriate weather. The water was relatively calm with small waves. Pigeons rule the skies here as well, no sea gulls.

an empty beach with a storm in the distance

view of city buildings from the beach

A sign on a beach

closeup of a sign on a beach

A sandy beach with buildings in the distance

The W Hotel is by far the nicest building in the area, and offers quite a view. You can also see tons of planes flying parallel to the shore before turning behind the W Hotel toward the airport.

closeup of a glass-covered hotel building on the beach

I didn’t spend tons of time in Barceloneta. My feet hurt, and I was ready for a break. I headed back to the hotel and took a dip in the indoor pool/jacuzzi for a bit before meeting up with Lucy after her conference wrapped up. Tonight we would be checking out La Pedrera: The Origins, the guided tour and projection show on the roof-terrace, however first we would be grabbing dinner nearby at Entrepanes Diaz.

a red tent covering restaurant seating on a sidewalk

Amazing. First of all the ambiance is everything. Old colorful floor tiles, bright red stools, distressed looking mirror. The staff wear uniforms of white button-downs with black bow ties and suspenders. We’ve got fun music, ceiling fans, and funky lighting. Just lots of love for this hole in the wall with minimal seating. Indoors there’s about 5 small tables plus some seating at the small bar, and about 5 tables outside too under a tented area, but the smokers outside were not ideal dining neighbors for us.

interior of a small and cozy restaurant

reflection of diners in a large mirror in a restaurant

2 people sitting on bar stools in a small restaurant

funky colorful restaurant interior with red chairs and tile floors

Entre panes literally translates to “between breads,” or sandwich, so it’s no surprise that Entrepanes Diaz specializes in sandwiches as part of its more extensive menu.

chalkboard restaurant menu

A close up of a restaurant menu

A plate of green olives hit the table along with a couple glasses of La Comedia red wine recommended to us from the table next door. Olives and wine are a very Spanish start to a meal. We’re on track for delicious foodie memories.

A plate of green olives

A close up of a glass and bottle of wine on a table

We started with prawn tortas, which were super thin and crispy fritters. The flavor reminded us a bit of RI clam cakes. These were not unlike American seafood fritters, but were totally flat and crispy instead of round and puffy.

A plate of fried shrimp fritters

We also tried the pan con tomate, which is a tried and true favorite, and yet it’s always slightly different everywhere we have ordered it. These super crisp thin bread pieces are topped with an ample amount of grated tomato, a drizzle of olive oil, and flakes of sea salt to finish. Simple.

A piece of toasted bread rubbed with tomato

Our favorite item of the entire evening (drum rolll!) was the beef stew bomba or potato ball. This has a great combination of flavors and textures with a crispy exterior, and soft interior of mashed potato wrapped around a filling of tender stewed beef.

2 fried potato balls on white plates

The whole shebang sits atop a spicy mayo and is then topped with a drizzle of something sweet, a dark syrup of some kind, but not sure what. Each bite was a medley of magic, just such good flavor from beginning to end. These bombas are popular here at Entrepanes Diaz, and they were some of our favorite bites of the trip!

a fried potato ball cut in half to show meat filling

Let’s not forget that they are also known for their sandwiches here, hence the name of the restaurant. The sandwiches are actually quite small, so you can easily eat more than one, or supplement as we did with some additional tapas. The calamari sandwich was my favorite of the two sandwiches we tried.

A close up of a fried calamari sandwich with white and black mayonnaise

It could have used a touch of acid, but I liked the dryer bread texture which held its own quite well against the filling of fried calamari and two alliolis, a traditional and a black squid ink allioli. Overall this was a great presentation and flavor.

2 halved sandwiches on a plate
Cut in half because sharing is caring!

We also tried the rabo de buey or oxtail sandwich, which was also good but not my favorite of the two. The bun was filled with tender meat and more of the spicy mayo on top.

A close up of a sandwich on a plate

In general the sandwiches were good but a bit over-hyped in my opinion. The bomba was the best item we tried, and it was impossible to stand up next to that.

wide view of Casa Milà at night

After dinner we made the short walk over to La Pedrera for the nighttime experience called The Origins. It includes a live guide who shared some additional facts about the building we hadn’t learned the previous day from our audio guide.

view looking up at curvy, ornately carved balconies at night

For example, there are 3 families who still live in this building, and they have been grandfathered into their residences. Originally, the Milà family had a much larger apartment than the other residents. Their apartment was over 1300 sq meters, and included 35 rooms for the 2 people who lived there. The Milà family was jealous of the nearby Casa Batllo, and commissioned the same architect, Gaudi, to design a home for them a little further up the same street. They later had a falling out with Gaudi and refused to pay him. Gaudi took them to court, and they were forced to pay him for his work.

view looking up at a curved opening in a building at night

La Pedrera was the first home with a garage in Barcelona to house the first car in Barcelona. It was actually an underground garage, and they could drive right through the door and into the building to park.

columns holding up a colorfully painted ceiling

For the Origins tour we only visited the courtyards on the lower level, the attic, and the roof-terrace, not the Pedrera apartment, so if you want to see that you’ll have to do the regular tour. Once we reached the roof-terrace the light projection show began. It was really beautiful, and focused on nature as that is the most obvious and major influence over Gaudi’s work.

a nighttime light show on the roof of La Pedrera

illumination of a jelly fish on the side of a stone chimney at night

illumination of fish in the ocean on the side of a stone chimney at night

flowers illuminated on the side of stone chimneys at night

flowers illuminated on the side of stone chimneys

stone chimneys illuminated with colorful images at night

You can actually watch almost the entire show below. Thanks, YouTube!

We followed the show with glasses of cava (Spanish sparkling wine), orange juice, or water, as well as sweets. The little cookies seemed to be tuiles that were folded up into little clumps and then drizzled with chocolate.

glasses of sparkling wine on a table

a plate of cookies

What a wonderful way to wrap up our evening after a delicious dinner and beautiful roof-top light show atop one of Gaudi’s greatest masterpieces! Come back tomorrow for another day of fun in Barcelona.

a nighttime view inside an open courtyard
Good night from La Pedrera!

Barcelona – October 2018

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