Barcelona is a destination that has it all, the attractions of a city coupled with long stretching golden beaches. We spent 5 nights in the city, but could have easily spent much longer.
We stayed at the Hotel Catalonia Gran Via BCN on the busy Gran Via. It was a perfect location on a leafy street with plenty of restaurants, bars and shops around. It was just a 5 minute walk from the popular Plaza de Catalunya square, yet we didn’t feel slap bang in the middle of tourist spots, which is always a good thing! Having a pool at the hotel was great too, and something I would recommend you look out for when searching for accomodation. It was great to be able to come back to the hotel after a busy day of sightseeing and relax whilst catching the last of the days sun. I’d highly recommend Hotel Catalonia Gran Via BCN , it was very clean and modern and the staff were all so friendly and helpful. It was pretty affordable too, considering it was in such a great location and had a pool – something that can be a rare find in Barcelona.
For transportation, we found that bus and metro were the easiest, fastest and cheapest way to get around the city! The metro is so convenient, and with Google Maps you can’t go wrong (coming from someone with absolutely no sense of direction!). We purchased a T10 ticket (10 journeys for €10.20) which could be used across the transport network including buses, metros and trains. It was super handy as it was also multi-person meaning we just needed one ticket between us. You can purchase these tickets in any metro station. Avoid taxis as these really are a waste of money, and you can get stuck in the busy traffic which seemed to never calm!
Here are some of my favourite parts of the city and tips for before you visit.
Named as one of Barcelona’s most iconic sights, the building is 136 years in the making. It’s a spectacle to see, and although its scheduled completition isn’t until 2026, the detail on the exterior is truly amazing. Get the subway to the ‘Sagrada Familia’ stop (funnily enough) on Purple Line 2 or Blue line 5, and you’re right there. You can pay a €18 entry fee to view the inside, which I’ve heard is pretty amazing too, although we just spent time aweing at the outside of it. There’s the small but scenic Placa de Gaudi Park directly across from it, with some benches at the pond perfectly positioned for a packed lunch with a view! Restaurants and bars around this area have hiked prices as you would imagine, so avoid eating around here if you’re on a budget.
The Magic Fountains
One of my favourite parts of our trip, and even better – it’s free! The ‘Font de Magica de Montjuic is a must-see for a trip to Barcelona. The magical water and light show runs at the on Wednesday – Sunday evenings, every half hour between 9.30pm – 10.30pm (1st June-30th September, times vary throughout the year so check before you go). Make sure you arrive there at least 15 minutes early to avoid the metro rush and get a decent position for viewing. We stood on the pedestrian bridge (one at either side), which was perfect as we were elevated above the crowds and weren’t right in the middle of the madness. The steps are also a great place to watch the show, but were full by the time we got there. The show lasts for half an hour, but we felt we had seen enough after 20 minutes so left a bit early, meaning we avoided the crazy rush at the end of the show! It’s wonderful to see, and we had a clear night with a lovely sunset which made it even more beautiful.
Barcelona has numerous beaches, from the bustling Barceloneta Beach to the (semi) peaceful Nova Icaria beach. We opted for the latter, situated in Barcelona’s Olympic Park. It’s not as crowded as the main Barceloneta beach, but still has the convenience of resturants and bars along the marina. If you don’t fancy lying on a towel on the sand, you can rent a sun bed for 10 euros.
Paradiso Pastrami Shop (Secret bar!)
Paradiso is one of Barcelona’s hidden gems! A little Pastrami shop with a hidden bar behind a fridge door, it was named as one of the top 50 bars in the world in 2017. I couldn’t recommend it more, the service was exceptional and our cocktails were out of this world! Forget your daiquiris and mojitos, the drinks in this bar are on a whole other level. My taste buds really didn’t know what had hit them! Despite the extraordinary quality, the prices are very affordable. Most cocktails were 10-13 euros, which is great value considering the bartenders rank amongst the best in the world. Enter via the fridge door on the left as you walk in, and be transported into a little coven of cocktail paradise!
Another one of Barcelona’s most photographed attractions, Park Güell is well worth the 40 minute bus journey from the City Centre. Famous for its unique architecture by Gaudi, and vibrant colourful tiling, it’s the perfect place to get stunning panoramic photos of the city.
There is an area to the park which is free to access, but to get to the vibrantly tiled ‘memorial area’ (the part you see all over Instagram), you need to buy a ticket. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance, as we made the mistake of buying tickets on the day, and by this point they had sold out! We returned the next day, and split the free/paid areas over two days, which actually worked out pretty well as there’s a lot of up hill walking and it was very hot! It’s worth going up to the very top of Park Güell, located on Carmell Hill, for great views of the whole city.
Brunch & Cake
If you don’t want to be surrounded by insta-loving millennials then Brunch & Cake is not for you. However, if you do love a meal that you spend more time photographing than eating, this popular cafe will be your cup of tea! Known for its insta-worthy cakes and unique dishes, Brunch & Cake has become a popular spot for young tourists. It’s always busy, so if you can, book a table in advance. There was a 45 min que out the door when we arrived so we opted for take-out, which may have not been as aesthetically amazing, but tasted just as good, which is the important part right? We had the red velvet cake which was amazing and the portion was big enough to share (and I never share food!).
Check out Brunch & Cake’s Instagram if you need any more convincing. Yes, that is a pineapple they are eating from…
La Rambla is of course Barcelona’s most popular and well known street, although it wasn’t for us. It was super busy and you felt like you had to be on edge all the time as it’s a hot spot for pick-pockets. A 10 minute walk down the street on the way to catch a metro was enough for us! However, The St Joseph Market was cool to see, with traders selling all kinds of delacacies from fruit pots to local Spanish delicacies.
I’ll soon be posting a price guide to Barcelona, so keep an eye out to find out how to do Barcelona on a budget.
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