Hola! I started writing this blog post whilst in Barcelona itself; if you’re an very efficiently organised planner, you end up at your destination forty-five minutes before your allotted time!
I had a bit of a rough journey into Barcelona. I flew from Luton with Vueling and for some reason I’m still not 100% sure about, I got moved up to priority and so I had ample amount of leg room and a whole row to myself! However, as we headed over the alpine region, we encountered two very unwelcoming bouts of turbulence. My stomach is very sensitive and I didn’t like the drops, particularly as we made our descent over the sea!
However, we arrived 45 minutes early and I found navigation around the airport incredibly easy. One of my friends who had been said she and her friend had difficulties with the Metro; I have to say my experience was very smooth, almost too smooth if that’s a possible complaint. I’d been warned of pickpockets but didn’t encounter any shifty looking people on the two lines I travelled on. Even the centre line, which was a little run down compared to the airport metro line, was far, far superior to the London Underground. All in all, my journey took around 40 minutes to my stop.
The nearest Metro stop to my accommodation was Arc de Triumf. As I arrived earlier than expected, I had to find something to do for an hour and a half before I could check in to my hostel. I ended up walking down the Arc walkway, through the park and to the zoo. One of my friends messaged me with some questioning about my choice here; I must admit, I love animals and I wouldn’t normally visit a zoo in every place I visit. On this occasion, it was simply convenient because of how compact it was and how close to my accommodation it was. I didn’t explore the whole complex, as I reckon you could easily rally up a couple of hours, but I saw most of what I was looking for.
Also, the weather took me by surprise; sunny and very, very warm, almost like early June in the UK. The light cardigan that had been no use in Luton came off in Barcelona!
After my positive experience in Copenhagen, I decided that hostels are the way forward for my spontaneous and short trips. This little gem was £12 per night with a €0.72 city tax per night on top, so I couldn’t complain.
On entering, it was clear that there was a very vibrant and young atmosphere. I was checked in by a lovely lady who happens to be from the same city as me in the UK, so I felt pretty comfortable from the off. I later met my roommates for the night; there was an Australian girl, a lad from NYC and two other blokes from the UK. Later on in the evening, the hostel cooked paella for everyone and we went to a lovely quaint bar called the Limehouse where they serve the strongest drinks I’ve ever had. I don’t drink anymore, but I wanted to try this infamous mojito to see just how strong it was…I probably managed 5 ml before I let the Australian girl down it! They were also heading to Jamboree, the best nightclub in Barcelona because of its eclectic mix of music, however I’m not really a clubber and after 21 hours of being awake on little sleep, I needed my bed!
However, what really stood out to me was how friendly all the guests were. Apart from those in my room, I got chatting to a Danish lady and a another American lady, and at dinner, we were joined by some very happy (and drunk) Glasweigans. One of the guests had been there for two weeks and had bonded with the staff already, so much so most of us thought he worked there! It was great to hear everybody’s travelling experiences; apart from a couple of the girls, most were only doing short stays before going back home.
La Rambla and Barceloneta
I had been told so much about this infamous shopping area/tourist haven that I had to go and see it! What I found fascinating were the pop up restaurants and tapas bars along the pedestrian walkway, in shadow of the shops and restaurants that lay either side of the road. I wandered into a tourist shop, as Brits are compelled to, where I was greeted by the owner who swore down I’d been in his shop four weeks prior. We got chatting a little as I surveyed the goods and he ended up knocking a good €10 off my bill; anything I picked up unboxed he brought me a boxed version, and he carried my souvenirs as I picked out some more. I have to say, everyone I encountered in shops were incredibly warm and welcoming; I only had one instance where a cashier in a supermarket tried to convince me to let him “keep me company” that evening and the next day, but even then I didn’t feel vulnerable and threatened. I shall just take it as a compliment! I did want to go to this chocolate cafe, but it was packed full and as amazing as the food market looked, I couldn’t bring a great deal of the products home.
From this point, I headed to the Barcoloneta area of the city which encompasses one of the major ports and a beach. This is a great idea for trendy seafood restaurants, if you like that sort of food. I however enjoyed the novelty of walking on a beach in mid November! I didn’t stay long but it was lovely to just sit on the sand and watch the waves roll in for a while.
My favourite part of exploring is seeing the “real” city, untouched by tourism. I often wander down residential streets to admire the housing and to just get a feel for the place as a community. In respect to the recent calls for Catalan independence, I saw plenty of Catalan flags and independence material hanging from balconies and windows. However, despite what I’d seen on the news or heard otherwise, Barcelona felt incredibly safe and peaceful. It was nice that I could cross at a pedestrian crossing without worrying I was going to get motored down, which is unfortunately how I always felt when in Sorrento.
Parc de la Ciutadella
This park lies behind Arc de Triumf and was a lovely way to start off my Tuesday morning. There are plenty of benches and paths around the greenery, and I noticed a park run group and a yoga group at work in the communal areas! Elsewhere, somebody else was doing some circuit training. You find all sorts of different people in the park and it’s wonderful to see these areas bring loads of people together. It’s not huge by any means, probably half the size of London’s Green Park from what I can recall, but it’s wise enough that you’re not stepping in each other’s toes. Apparently on the roads leading alongside here there are some fabulous restaurants worth looking into.
La Sagrada Familia
Of course, I had to visit this basilica! I’ve heard accounts from four friends who have been, all independently from one another, who said I had to go. The beauty of the architecture and just the feeling you get inside makes for an unforgettable experience. I just went for the basic package to tour around the basilica without an audio guide or access to the towers. I’m not at all religious but I felt an incredible sense of belonging in here and would have happily joined a mass service had there been one. I think I spent 45 minutes looking around and it was the best €13 I had spent! Definitely book online though because the queues are intense for tickets, particularly as two tour buses drop opposite the ticket office entrance!
Parc de Montjuic
This was a very whistle stop tour on the outskirts of the park before I made the 49 minute journey back to the airport. Unfortunately, the Magic Fountains are closed Sunday through to Wednesday during the winter season and I didn’t have enough time for the castle, so I came for the views. About 120 steps up and your prize is amazing views of the city with the mountains in the distance. I really wish I could have seen more but it made for a really touristy photograph. You could see La Sagrada Familia from here, as well as a building that looked remarkably similar to The Shard in London.
I loved it. Barcelona is definitely my favourite yet! The city is so diverse, but yet everything is in a close enough proximity to get to. I feel although I didn’t get to see certain iconic Catalonian and Spanish things in my time, I would definitely come back in the summer for a proper stay. Apart from the fountains, I’d love to see more museums and Gaudi’s house, as well as watch some Flamenco dancing and maybe even take some classes myself! I would say though, although the Barcelona Express card covered my travel around the Barcelona area for 48 hours, I didn’t get much in the way of discounts. I was supposed to get 20% off at the zoo but they didn’t accept the card, despite being told so at the airport. If you’re here for 3 days plus, definitely look into getting the proper Barcelona card.
Also, if you’re on a tight budget food wise, try McDonald’s. Honestly. They serve a range of products here that I have not had the fast food bloat I normally have at home.