Contributed by Christine Carty. Christine is an Irish girl in her late twenties, who was diagnosed with celiac diseas at the age of 24. She currently lives in Dublin. Her favorite things to do are play Gaelic Football (Ireland's national sport), travel and discover new and fun places to eat gluten free
I knew very little of what to expect from Barcelona. I've heard such amazing things about it, but also a definite "watch your bags for the pick pockets". Barcelona is similar to Dublin in the sense that it doesn't really do high rises, but never have I seen a skyline with such varying structures. After one weekend there I finally understood why Gaudi was considered to be left of field, and I am now ever more grateful that not all of mankind has chosen to live as sheep.
Using our stealth direction (OK maybe a map and turning down a few random streets) we found our hotel. The Acta Atrium Palace on Gran Via de la Catalanes is a 4 star boutique hotel, which surprisingly manages to fit in a small pool and a jacuzzi. There couldn't be any more than 60 rooms in this little gem of a hotel, and as well as being a perfect spot in Barcelona, the service is impeccable. On entering our room, we were presented with what can only be described as the best stocked room I've ever been in; a bathrobe and slippers for use when taking the lift to the pool, the biggest variety of toiletry essentials from a comb to a toothbrush, as well as soap and shampoo and two fluffy pillows each.
After our obligatory swim, we were so hungry that eating was a must. We decided that a ramble down "La Ramblas" was also in order. Getting outside into the air made us even hungrier though, and we were running on empty, so much that practicality took over authenticity and our eyes lit up at the thought of a big fat juicy steak in the Hard Rock Cafe (inventive I know!).
The Hard Rock Cafe is set in Barcelona's main square Plaça Catalunya, and just around the corner from La Ramblas. On seating in the restaurant, we explained to our server that I was a celiac. She was extremely helpful and understood perfectly that it was important to eat gluten-free. She said the steak was fine, but with a salad instead of mash potatoes and fries as she explained the fries are done in the same fryer as the deep fried dishes. This can be fine for some celiacs, and not for others, so she said the salad was the safest thing. Also, no steak seasoning just in case. Out came this amazing steak, so juicy and tender, absolute perfection. With such a knowledgable and friendly staff with great English, this is a definite recommendation.
Barcelona has two main sightseeing tour companies, both of whom operate two different bus routes in the city. We thought it best to take a bus tour as we're a) lazy and b) it took care of our travel. We chose to use the Bus Touristic, but I think it's much of a muchness between them. You can pay a hop on hop off price of €21 for one day or €27 for two days. We chose the two day option, which worked out so much cheaper, but it also meant we could do one route a day and get to explore the entire city. It meant we didn't have to deal with the metro and also gave us a bit of history along the way.
Barcelona is like any European city in the sense that it has Gothic style architecture on many corners, but what makes it unique is definitely Gaudi. The buildings that Gaudi designed are truly unique and help give the city its unique sense of style. From the mid construction Sagrada da Familia Cathedral www.sagradafamilia.org (completely funded by donations) to Park Guell, you cannot but respect Gaudi's inventiveness, attention to detail, and sense of nature. You also have a versatile city in the sense that it has a long stretch of beach, but is also surrounded by hills.
For lunch, there are a lot of choices in Barcelona, as it contains a wealth of places to eat tapas, but like every good celiac, you have to be careful. In general, lots of cafes and tapas bars will have beautifully cured meats, chorizo, tortilla espanol, melon with cured ham, fruit and salads. You can also take a stroll down La Ramblas, which is the main pedestrian thoroughfare in Barcelona. About half way you will find the "Mercat de San Josef de la Boqueira" (www.boqueira.info), a huge market that contains fresh produce as well as locally produced crafts. It's definitely worth a browse, especially if you feel like a picnic, but be aware that it is closed on Sundays.
On a recommendation or two, we were told that the best place to have some seafood was down by the port. On further investigation, we also found that it's one of the best parts of town for bars, so we decided this would be our port of call (pardon the pun) on our last night. We came across many nice looking restaurants, all who promotion staff promisingly said that gluten-free was doable, but in the end we settled on Restaurant Miravent. The lady promoting the restaurant wasn't too pushy with us and had amazing English. After explaining I was a celiac, I was told my longing for some grilled Monkfish was not a problem. It came accompanied by seasonal vegetables which were all roasted together in a pot. She double checked with the chef and assured me that the vegetables were roasted in wine and oil, and no flour was added. Hurray! Boy were those vegetables comfort food. Add in a jug of Sangria and our meal was complete. To finish off our night, we wandered around the bars that surrounded our restaurant, took in the local atmosphere and went home full of lovely food.
I was sad to leave Barcelona, but boy was it a nice trip! Definitely bring your celiac eating out card in Spanish, but the locals are more than happy to help you find something to eat, so smile and take in the atmosphere.
Useful Spanish Celiac Resources:
There are 4 celiac societies that look after the different regions of Spain. The society serving Barcelona is:
S.M.A.P. Celiacs de Catalunya
(Serving: Barcelona,Costa Brava, Costa Dorada),
Comtal 32 5e 1a, Barcelona, 08002 Spain
Telephone: +34 (93) 412 17 89; fax: +34 (93) 412 03 82;
The website currently only operates in Spanish, but here is the list of the restaurants in Barcelona that are linked to the society website. According to the society, these restaurants either have shown a good knowledge of celiac disease or the owner is a celiac. There are currently 21 restaurants on this list in the Barcelona area. Many of the restaurants listed have websites and contact details. As a precaution, you should always discuss your menu choices with your waiter before ordering.
Celiac Society Catalunya Restaurant Guide
Resources in this Post:
Acta Atrium Palace
Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes 656,
08010 Barcelona, Spain
Hard Rock Cafe
Plaça Catalunya 21
08002 Barcelona, Spain
+34 93 270 23 05
Moll del Mestral, 8 y 9, 08005 Barcelona, Spain
+34 932 214 420
"Mercat de San Josef de la Boqueira"
La Rambla 91
08002 Barcelona, Spain
+34 93 412 13 15
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