Dates: 12th February – 14th February; 16th February – 23rd February
Arrived via: Plane via Dubai
Stayed at: Murmuri, La Rambla; Melia Sky Barcelona, Poblenou
Cuisine: Cold meats and tapas
Local beer: El Dramm
Local team: Barcelona FC
Barcelona is a fascinating city filled with winding laneways, free-flowing beer, great food, rich culture, excellent shopping and incredible architecture. We spent a total of seven days in the Catalonian capital, stumbling our way through our very basic Spanish (“Uno cerveza! Gracias?”) and hoping to hell we didn’t offend too many people (note: we probably did. Especially when M laughed out loud at the local football team during a match.)
Getting around was surprisingly easy – at the airport, we jumped straight onto the Aerobus (pr: Yarroo-boos) which takes you to three major stops: Urgell, Placa Espanya, and the central hub, Placa de Catalunya. From Catalunya, you have your choice of train, metro, taxi or bus to quickly whisk you to your next destination.
The transport system was relatively hassle-free (M got lost in the subway and caught a few wrong trams, but otherwise survived) and, while we didn’t know at the time, the Barcelona Card grants you free public transport access for a set number of days, as well as entry to various museums, galleries and sightseeing spots.
Catalunya was also the main stop for the two tourist bus lines – both were hop-on-hop-off services with two-three main routes. Both were around €25 for a single day pass, or €35 for two days, and took you to all the major sightseeing spots. The audioguide and discount voucher booklet were quite helpful, so overall the tours were a great way to see all the main areas of Barcelona relatively cheaply. Just a hint – if you’re going in winter, you will freeze on the top decks, so make sure you bring an extra scarf and some gloves.
La Rambla is the main entertainment district in Barcelona, running through Catalunya and the Gothic Quarter, and right down to the harbour. Here you’ll find open-air eateries, bars (cervescias), nightclubs, museums, chains stores and smaller boutiques. The wide road sports a paved walkway down the middle, filled with stalls, living museums, art, musicians and cafes. Take a stroll down La Rambla and you won’t be disappointed!
Apparently, Pacha nightclub is also down La Rambla. We’re not clubbers, so we didn’t visit, but friends have partied til 6am quite happily. We went to the Museo Erotica instead, because why not? There was a free beer with entry!
Sagrada Familia and Park Guell
The never-ending magnum opus of Barcelona’s favourite architectural designer, Antoni Gaudi, is a definite must-see.
Sagadra Familia is easily reached via metro, and is simply magnificent to behold. Started in the late 1880s, Gaudi worked on it until his death in the 1920s (the audio guide from the bus tours will delight in letting you know that he died after being run over by a tram. She’ll let you know what street it was, and also what hospital he died in. They’re a little Gaudi-crazy.) They’ve continued to work on it, drawing inspiration from the plans he left behind and using the souvenir and tickets sales as funding. Completion is slated for 2025.
Good luck getting in there – the lines were stretched around the block and beyond, and moved incredibly slowly. But the souvenir shop was fantastic!
Further towards the north of Barcelona is Park Guell, a public park also designed by Gaudi. There’s some interesting architecture here as well, with wide plazas and winding paths, and a fantastic view over the entire city. Definitely worth the weird trek up the hill to get there.
The Gothic Quarter – or Barri Gotic – is the historical old district of Barcelona. The original Barcelona Cathedral can be found here, and the old buildings and cobblestone laneways are simply stunning. Boutique stores and tapas bars are hidden away amongst these lanes, and its very easy to get lost in the winding streets – in a good way! There are a number of museums and art galleries through here, as well as important civic buildings.
We didn’t get a chance to do it, but it’d be a great idea to get a walking tour through the Gothic Quarter – we were eyeing off this Photoshoot Tour through Trip Advisor.
G also managed to find a bar that sold mojitos for €1 – but he may have gotten a touch too drunk to remember where it was. If someone can find it, let us know where it was!
Once the old slums, the Barceloneta is now filled with restaurants and eateries, with a lot of great seafood on offer. If you have a free night and just want to have a wander before settling on what to eat, it definitely pays to walk through Barceloneta to see what takes your fancy.
From global fashion labels to unique boutique store, Barcelona has you covered. Around La Rambla and Catalunya were Urban Outfitters, Desigual, Zara, H&M, Mango, Massimo Dutti and MAC. Shopping centres like Glories, Mar Magnum and Diagonal Mar all had fantastic food courts and plenty of shops.
For an Aussie shopper, the prices weren’t terrible – pretty on par to what you’d pay in Australia, if not a little bit less with the tax refund at the airport (if you could be bothered filling out all the paperwork).
A tip: Barcelona is known for its high quality leather items. M picked up an amazing leather jacket for $150, and a new pair of brogues for $90 – so keep some money aside for these essentials.
We loved Barcelona – even in late winter. The lanes, the architecture, the food – it was amazing. Had it been in summer, we would have hit the beaches (which still looked beautiful, but was far too cold to go near) – but that certainly didn’t diminish the experience.
It really is a city with something for everyone, from foodies to clubbers, history buffs, romantics and shopaholics.