Barcelona, everything you need to know before your trip!
In case you didn't get it from the title of this post Barcelona is my all time favourite place in the world. I've been travelling for three years now and out of the 23 different countries and countless cities that i've passed through along the way, the crazy and beautiful capital of Spain still takes the cake. What is it that makes it my favourite place? well... where do i even begin?
The most standout reason that makes Barcelona so easy to fall in love with is the fact that you get the best of everything. You go to London and it's incredible, this enormous, crazy, heaving, diverse rat race of a place - the ultimate big city life experience. But you visit london for a fast paced city break not a chilled out beach one. For that kind of holiday you might head to the sleepy, scarcely populated seaside town of Sicily where, like London, you know exactly what's in store for your trip. My point is that for most holiday destinations you either get one or the other, but in Barcelona you get the very best of both! that's what i love most about it. But that's not the only reason! it's so many things, from the best food that i've ever had in my life - tapas, paella, seafood, my mouth is watering as i write this! to the gorgeous parks, the rich history, the incfredibly friendly and welcoming locals, the steamy summer weather, the unique architecture, and did i mention sangria?...! the whole place just has this alluring and effervescent, but relaxed at the same time vibe about it - its addictive! you have to experience it for yourself though to fully understand... so book your flights right now! and let me give you some tips for your upcoming trip;
Where to stay and how long for;
Each time that i've visited Barcelona i've stayed in an apartment and it's an option that i highly reccomend. I don't know about you guys but i really enjoy a little home away from home, it's nice being able to wake up in the morning at your leisure and have a coffee in bed or out on your balcony with no pressure to wake up before the hotels breakfast buffet finishes! i hate that, which is why i always opt to stay in apartments over hotels when I can. Location wise you want to be based somewhere in the middle of the city, between the beach and the Segrada Familia (Barcelona's biggest tourist attraction but more on that later) a good place to stay is close by to the Arc de Triomf - yes, Barcelona has one too! my partner and i stayed in an apartment right around the corner from there and we found it to be the perfect location thanks to it's approximity to everything. The area is a 10 mintue walk to the beach, 10 minutes in the other direction to the segrada familia, 5 mintues to parc de la ciutadella - a stunning park that's home to Barcelona zoo, and a 15 mintute walk through the gothic quarter to la rambla. the gothic quater is the cities beautiful old town and la rambla is the busiest and bustling main strip in the city. In terms of pricing, we paid just under £100 per night which is a little pricey and i wouldn't normally pay that much but i splurged for that trip! we stayed in the most beautiful little rooftop apartment. There are hundreds of apartments available to rent in the same area for half the price. I would suggest spending no less than four nights in Barcelona, we stayed for five the last time we went but I've never spent less than 4 nights there. I personally don't think 3 is enough! there's just so much to see and do... plus its nice having a little extra time to relax about it all. If three nights is all you can manage though i imagine it would be enough to give you a taster, but you risk feeling like you didn't spend enough time there.
Where and what to eat;
You are in for such a treat! spanish cuisine is up there as one of the best. Tapas is my favourite thing ever, i'm not even kidding. If you've never had or heard of tapas before, it's a meal made up of lots of different and small savoury dishes which sit in the middle of the table for you to share and enjoy with your company. It's not just the novelty of being able to have a little bit of everything that i love so much about tapas, alrhough it is nice not spending half an hour trying to decide between two meals and then suffering from food envy when you realise you made the wrong choice! but i also love the social aspect of a tapas meal. You're sharing everything with your companions which means there's none of that head down inhalation of food going on whilst not one word is spoken and zero eye contact is made! tapas encourages conversation. And all that aside, it also tastes sooo good! my favourite tapas dish would have to be a squid based one, i love the way the spanish flavour and cook their seafood. It's always so fresh, very lightly battered or no batter at all and commonly flavoured with lemon or chilli. i also love a good chorizo dish and my god croqeuttas are to die for! i could go on all day with this. the spanish are very good with seafood so you cant go wrong in that department! paella is another of my favourite meals, i love a good seafood paella. to get good quality, fresh and authentic spanish food though you really do need to venture outsiude of the cities main hub. along the beach and around the surrounding streets of la rambla you'll only find tourist trap resturants where the food will be average at best and way over priced. I'm going to give you the name of a little place thats a bit of a trek to get to, maybe a half an hour walk from the arc de triomf through the back streets and a little off the beaten track! but its 100% worth it for the top quality food at very reasonable prices. it's called 'Can Eusebio' and it's by far my favourite resturant, not just in Barcelona but in all of Europe! so far 😉 I think there might be another resturant with the same name so to avoid getting mixed up here's the street address; Carrer de Vila i Vilà, 84, 08004 Barcelona, Spain. We just stumbled across it one afternoon when we were hungry after a long day of exploring. The menus are all in spanish and the waiters hardly speak a word of english but that's all part of the experience! for more in depth detail on avoiding tourist trap resturants and finding top notch local cuisine check out my top five pieces of advice; Five invaluable travel tips you'll be glad you knew
What to drink;
SANGRIA!!! need i say more? if there's any of you who might not know what sangria is, it's red wine mixed with coca cola and a few slices of orange thrown in... i know, it sounds weird. When i first found out what it was i said - and i quote "ew gross" but then i tried it and my eyes were opened to all the happiness and joy that sangria can bring to ones life. It's delicious. Estrella is a popular and yummy spanish beer which is worth trying, although i prefer San Miguel. I also love those lemon flavoured beers you often find across Europe, it's literally just lemonade mixed in with beer so nothing spectacular! but sipping on one of those on a hot summers day is so refreshing.
Barcelona isn't overly expensive but i wouldn't say it's cheap either. It sits somewhere in between Norway with its utterly bonkers pricing and Thailand where everything is dirt cheap. We were there for 5 nights and spent about £400 between the two of us, if you seriosuly budgeted though (which we didn't) you could get away with spending less. A tapas meal for two will likely set you back around €30/40 depending on what dishes you order and how many! and a reasonably priced paella shouldn't cost more than €10. Beers will cost you on average €3/4 a pint and sangria between €8 and €12 for a jug. A taxi from the airport into the city centre will cost anywhere between €20/€30, its a 20 minute/ half hour drive.
8 things you absolutely must do!;
- Check out the Segrada Familia - and not just from the outside.
the outside of this place is amazing, so much so that you wonder how constructing such a thing is even possible! it looks like a magical castle straight off the set of Harry Potter. But when i walked inside of this enormous church i felt amazement like i've never felt before! that sounds cheesy i know, but bearing in mind that i've been inside St Peters Basilica so this wasn't my first time inside a magnificent and ancient church - it just took my breath away. Walking around the Basilica i was impressed of course but at no point was i frozen on the spot staring with my mouth agape! the interior of the Segrada Familia had that shock kind of effect on me. It was designed by famous and renowned architect Antoni Gaudi, whose unusual and original designs inspired by the natural world can be found all throughout Barcelona. Construction of the church began in 1882 and is still ongoing to this day, it has an estimated completion date of 2026! thats how intricate the design is. Now, this is a very important note so pay attention! if you rock up at the Segrada Familia on the day you want to visit you will spend hours, literally up to 3 or more hours standing in a queue waiting to get in - that's if you get in at all. Most people see the line and leave without having seen inside but trust me you need to see it and there is a solution! The secret is to go online a couple of days beforehand (you can book months in advance of you prefer) and book your tickets; http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/tickets/ just print them out (there's internet cafes everywhere) show the guards your ticket and you can waltz straight in! past the hundreds of grizzly tourists who've been baking away in the sun for the last 3 hours. You must book no later than the night before you want to go though, you can't book online the day of. You'll have a time slot of one hour to walk around inside which is more than enough time to take it all in and tickets cost €15 - worth every single cent.
- Explore Park Guell in all its extra ordinary beauty.
Park Guell is so cool, it made me feel like i was on the set of an indiana jones film in some parts and then in a warped candyland in others. The park itself is free to explore but to check out the sculpture park (the candyland part!) there's a fee of €7.00. This is another attraction that gets really busy, so as with the Segrada Familia it's worth booking your tickets online beforehand and taking a print out on the day so that you can just walk straight in https://www.tiqets.com/en/barcelona-c66342/park-gell-p973888?gclid=CjwKEAiApOq2BRDoo8SVjZHV7TkSJABLe2iDayYWSpyLcQ4XnMRGWmradYg4ScFiKuvdAVTbTVfamxoCoEfw_wcB queuing is such a waste of time! it's one of my pet hates and i avoid it at all costs.
- Spend a day relaxing and people watching on the beach.
If ever there was a prime people watching spot it's Barceloneta beach. If you're offended by nudity then best you skip this one! it's a big part of European culture to sunbathe naked so if you do fancy a beach day, prepare yourself for seeing boobs and occasionally vaginas and willies. I love this beach - not for the nudity! get your minds out of the gutter... i love it for its lively vibe, the warm crystal clear meditteranean water and the fact that you can get table service! we spent literally an entire day lazing about on sunbeds (for a small fee) and jumping in the ocean every now and then while waiters brought us frozen mojito after frozen mojito! heaven. Tip; watch your belongings! and i wouldn't reccomend buying a cocktail from the guys who walk up and down the beach selling them. We were being waited on by one of the beach bars/resturants which we were sat close by to. It's not that i think you'll get roofied by those guys on the beach, but they'll rip you off big time! €5 for a shitty luke warm mojito or €6 for a delicious and icy cold one from the bar?... there's also the most amazing icecream shop along the Barceloneta strip, they have a coconut, chocolate and pistachio nut flavoured icecream... omg literally the best icecream I've ever had in my life.
- Take a walk through and have a picnic lunch in Park de la Ciutadella.
It's lovely! Start at the Arc de Triomf and walk through it, continuing down the enormous pedestrian strip towards the park. There you can take a stroll around the grounds and marvel at all the different and beautiful parts of it including the Cascade Fountain which is one of Gaudi's many astounding works. You can then pick a spot to chill out amongst the gardens and the cute little Quaker parrots with a scrummy picnic and of course a few of those refreshing and delicious lemon beers...
- Stroll the streets of the gothic quater.
The gothic quarter may sound a bit unscrupulous but it's just the old town of Barcelona! And like every old town across Europe, it's stunning with its winding streets and ancient buildings. It's also where you'll find the main shopping hub and loads of cute little bars and restaurants.
- Take a walk down La Rambla.
La Rambla is the busiest and most popular strip in Barcelona filled with bustling markets selling everything from flowers and souvenirs to street food and paintings. If you start at the top end of the street and make your way down it will lead you to the marina which is also lovely and worth a stroll along. The marina will eventually lead you to Barceloneta and the beach too. Tip - beware of thieves and scam artists along La Rambla! for more info keeping your belongings safe read my post on safety tips; Travel safety 101
- Head outside of the main hub and off the beaten track.
And find an authentic spanish restuarant where you can enjoy some seriously amazing food - see above under 'where and what to eat'
- Check out Gaudi's architecture.
Antoni Gaudi's work can be found in various spots around the city, i've already mentioned some of them - the Segrada Familia being his most famous and i must say most impressive legacy. Park Guell is also Gaudi's work, him having designed the park and the Cascade Fountain is another of his works which i've already mentioned above. There are many other awe inspiring buildings designed by the man himself scattered around the city that are well worth a look too, Casa Batllo and La Pedrera are two gorgeous buildings that you wont see the likes of anywhere else in the world.