Arriving in Barcelona I didn’t have high expectations, I actually didn’t know what to expect at all, but wow Tyler and I absolutely loved it! Spain, the home of paella, sangria, siestas, bull fighting, la Tomatina festival, flamenco dancing, 45-degree weather and tapas! From beautiful hot beaches to the hustle and bustle in the streets, it is now our favourite city in Europe! Here’s why;
We only had 2 days in Barca, but would definitely recommend at least 4! This city has such a cool ambiance and there are so many free things to do like watch street performers (there are heaps!), participate in the local street festivals, eat your way through the food markets, walk around the gothic city or just hang out in a park. It is a very modernised artistic city with heaps of hip, healthy cafes (yay for me) with a young hipster vibe, some of the nicest beaches in Europe and loads of history to see as well. It’s like you get the best of both worlds all in once city!
After a late start to the morning (someone snoring like an elephant all night, there is always one…), we decided to smash all of the sight seeing in one day. We walked to Casa Batllo and saw the stunning building from the outside, we decided not to go in because it was 21.50 euros each, which I kind of regret because it did look amazing. Originally a house, Casa Batllo was redesigned by Antoni Gaudi in 1904, who is famous for his highly individualistic designs as well as three-dimensional creations, gothic architecture and mosaic patterning.
Next we found our way to La Rambla Street, the famous tree-lined pedestrian mall running for 1.2 kms. Fact, it is the most pickpocketed street in the world!!!! What a scary thought! Tyler and I always keep a lock on our backpack (every country we travel to, because we have met so many people on our travels that have stories of pickpockets) and I carry a small bag across me. Just off La Rambla street we discovered the La Boqueria markets which I’m almost positive that you would have seen photos of somewhere on the Internet, because they are incredible! They sell everything from 1 euro cups of fruit, fresh smoothies, every coloured lollie you can think of, nuts, a smorgasbord of cheeses, meats and seafood. When we arrived they were only just setting up so not every store was in full swing, but maybe it was a good thing as our juices were fresh and we were the first of the tourist mass to swarm in for the day. It supposedly rakes in 45000 to 50000 tourists a day and in 2013 welcomed a record of 7.5 million visitors. I’ve also read that on Friday’s and Saturdays security escort tour groups out of the area, so locals can do their weekly shopping, after many complaints of overcrowding. Although I’m not 100% sure of this, keep it in mind, as well as the markets being closed on Sundays.
After that we kept walking, wanting to make our way down to the beach, and came across a fair down near the port, Tyler couldn’t resist a bag of freshly cooked churros. We found Barceloneta beach and we wished we had more time to soak up some vitamin D and have a dip, but we kept walking to Parc de la Ciutadella. Which was a lovely park for families and it also has a zoo, museum, lake and water fountain. It was nice just to have a stroll through.
More markets and wine testing tents, we got some pictures of Arc de Tromph and then found the best vegan restaurant I’ve ever eaten at (even beats the amazing ones on the Gold Coast!). At the ‘Veggie Garden’ restaurant, I had Japanese udon noodle salad and homemade dumplings and Ty had an almond milk smoothie and a pumpkin gnocchi cake. If you’re in Barcelona definitely check it out! It came up on the ‘Happy Cow’ app, which has been so helpful on my travels and if you haven’t heard of it, it searches the area you are in to find vegan, vegetarian and gluten free restaurants as well as health food shops, WHICH IS THE BEST THING EVER! It’s perfect for when you’re craving healthy fresh food like home, rather than all of the processed takeaway travelling food we’ve been eating for 9 weeks haha. My carnivore boyfriend even loved it, and that’s saying something!
After lunch we caught the metro to ‘Lesseps’ station taking us to Park Guell, another masterpiece by Gaudi. TIP – Make sure you buy your ticket online so you don’t have to wait and you can skip the line, as they have specific times for people to enter. Once you’re in, there is no time limit you can spend as long as you like (it cost us 7 euro each). The area you pay to see is quite small but the park itself is fairly big and easy to explore (there are paths everywhere, if not go off the beaten track you might find other viewing points). The park is full of stone structures, stunning mosaic tiling, and unusual buildings; it is a visual playground for the mind and provides views over all of Barcelona city.
We had traditional paella for dinner and then went and saw the magic fountain of Montjuic, where Tyler was in photography heaven haha! We watched a light, motion, colour and water show and when they are combined into one, you end up with pure magic! We climbed up a pillar to get a good view and observed the mesmorising show for over an hour! You definitely have to check times before going (look online or ask your accommodation) as they change as per season and day. Oh and the best thing of all it’s FREE!
On day 2 we woke up super early to make our way to Montserrat monastery. It was 19 euro each return for 2 trains and over an hour travel time to get there. Not only is Montserrat monastery of significant religious importance, the natural beauty surrounding it is so picturesque. Once you are there you can take a funicular even further up the mountain for 10 euro each up and back, which lead to multiple hikes and views of the Catalonian countryside. There is a beautiful church to see, but lets be honest we went because Tyler wanted climb the ‘stair way to heaven’ stairs. We were disappointed to see a construction fence up blocking the stairs, but it didn’t stop Tyler from getting that picture perfect photo haha! Tip – buy/make your own lunch for the day as there are limited options on the mountain (expensive and unhealthy crappy food) and you could have a lovely picnic view instead.
Soon as we got back, we went and had a late lunch back at ‘Veggie Garden’ because we loved it the first time! Then we headed straight over to the famous 133 year old Sagrada Familia church. The construction started in 1882 and has an anticipated completion date of 2026. See photo above of the scaled model, the brown is current and the cream colour is what is left to be built. Once finished, the 18 towers will be an extraordinary sight and provide a sense of elevation to the central tower dedicated to Jesus Christ, which will reach 172.5 meters. The interior of the church is honestly mind blowing, when the afternoon sunlight shines through the multi coloured stain glass windows, it lights up the main entrance to the basilica. It reminded me of looking into a kaleidoscope, seeing abstract three-dimensional shapes, bright colours and uneven jagged points. It is another prime example of something so beautiful, it’s hard to explain. Tip – Buy this ticket online too! It’s the same price as when you get there, and you get to walk straight in instead of wasting half your day waiting hours in line! It was 15 euro each (without a guide) and you get given a time slot to enter (so make sure you’re there on time! haha) and then you have as much time as you want inside. You can also pay an extra 4.5 euro each to go up the 65 meter tower, but since we already saw city views at Park Guell we opted out for that. Sagrada Familia is something you definitely cannot miss seeing!
We stayed at Sant Jordi Rock Hostel, even though we walked 3.5km (with our 25kg backpacks on) to get there, it was well worth it (we never get taxis, we always opt for walking then we don’t feel bad if we get dessert!). I highly, highly recommend this place! We found it on ‘Hostelworld’ (best app ever) and booked it from the amazing reviews it had. The hostel has different themes for each level, painted with bright colours, cool artwork and they even have party lights as you walk into reception. The staff were very helpful, rooms were very new with clean bathrooms, electric lockers for every bed to put your bags in, an awesome cinema room, modern kitchen, rooftop area with a pool, chill rooms with bean bags and heaps more, it is by far the best hostel I’ve ever stayed in, and it was cheap! They even provide a free pub crawl so you can meet other travellers staying in the hostel and they always inform you of any street festivals and fun things to do that are on at the time.
We had a huge 2 days, we would have walked at least 15km a day, so we were absolutely buggered! There are still so many things we didn’t get to do/see while in Barca like going to Port Aventura (a huge water and theme park an hour south, that has Europe’s biggest rollercoaster), watch a soccer/’football’ match with some of the highest paid players in Europe, go to a bar with a skate park in it, get wild in famous nightclubs where names like David Guetta come over from Ibiza to play at and I also would of loved to have day tripped to Sitges which is suppose to be the St Tropez of Spain or have gone to Menorca Balearic islands. See there is just sooo much to do!
I love love love this city!
TIPS – One of the hardest things to figure out while travelling is trying to navigate throughout different cities without Internet! I don’t know how many times I’ve said, oh I’ll just Google it, whip out the phone and remember dam I don’t have Internet. But I managed to find a really good app, which is similar to Google Maps (not quite as good, but still very helpful) called ‘Maps.Me’. You download the app and then download whatever country you want and it is basically offline maps you can use without Internet. Keeping in mind it has a few flaws but it always manages to get us to where we need to go. We even used this handy app when we hired a car in Greece as a GPS. Also with things like sneaky taxi drivers we look at the app to see if they are taking us in the right direction. Very very useful! Also if you plan on using the metro a lot, buy a 10 stop pass for 9 euro, otherwise the metro is 2.15 each. Tyler and I always opt for walking even though they are small amounts, after 6 months of travelling it can work out to be a lot! We did use it twice, one to get to Park Guell and to go to Montserrat (because they were long distances).
FOOD – Food was fantastic! Traditional food is sooo good but there are heaps of other options, which are always great for a bit of variety. As much as we love Italian food we were certainly over eating just pizza for over a week. As I said earlier, Barca is full of trendy cafes with menus like ones in Australia! Poached eggs, acai smoothies and they even have avocado! Woooooo! Heaps of choices!
LOCALS – Locals are great! Very happy and seem to be always willing to help! We had a couple of locals that really helped us with the language barrier at a train station and a woman actually stood at the counter and translated for us so we could book our ticket. What a legand!
MONEY – Currency used is EURO! Only tip I would have to say about money is not to carry too much with you. I mean that should go for every country, but especially because La Rambla street is the most pickpocketed street in the WORLD…. that may be saying something.
NEXT UP – TOURIST TIPS TO VISITING CINQUE TERRE!