Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and one of my favorites of the entire country. It is spread amongst the mediterranean coast and split down the middle by the famous La Rambla street. On this street you will find restaurants and shops that head straight for the newly renovated pier… but travelers beware! There are a lot of tourists traps, and as tempting as that ginormous glass of sangria looks (you can see a photo of it in my profile picture.. yes… I AM one of the idiots that fell for it), not only is it totally un-sangria-ish, it’s like €20+. But, hey, it does make for a super cool photo opportunity, so, weigh out the pros and cons yourself!
There is so much to do and see in Barcelona, and my personal favorite attribute is how comforting and welcoming the city is. I ventured off solo, and never once did I feel like I was going to be lost or uncomfortable about my surroundings. Now, I definitely would suggest not roaming dark streets alone at night in a city you’re unfamiliar with, but if done smartly, it’s nothing to worry about.
I stayed at the Be Sound Hostel, located so close to La Rambla that it might as well be right in the middle of the bustling street! The hostel itself is a few small blocks off the main street and extremely close to the pier, which makes for ample access to all things amazing. The hostel, while it does not sport a bar, does have a rooftop patio that serves drinks for a few hours a night, plus a small lounge area downstairs with WiFi. Not many amenities are needed, in my opinion, seeing as the world of Barcelona is literally at your doorstep in the perfectly situated hostel. I definitely recommend staying here, plus it’s super affordable, and the rooms are QUIET! (I think I paid around €12 a night for a 6 bed room!!) Love this place, and will stay with them again next time I am in town!
To further support how amazing the location is, the world-renowned La Boqueria, which is the BEST food market I have ever visited, is a 5 minute walk from the hostel. The entrance to the market is composed of golden gates and boasts angels playing the harp while you enter; a feather-winged woman in white, adorned with a halo plays the trumpet ever so lightly as you take your first steps into the heavenly place…. well, not quite. There are no trumpets. And there are no angels. But there are gates! Just not golden. But I totally believe this is what should happen, seeing as that is the vision I had during my
daily, twice a day, three times a day, 4 hour daily missions to stuff my face with as many tasty, fresh and affordable Catalonian treats as I possibly could. I should also mention I would return real quick for the last time in the afternoon before they shut down. Daily.
When you’ve had enough, and you fall into the unavoided food coma you surely will have after a visit to the market, stroll down to the pier and purchase a ticket from one of the few companies offering boat tours. There’s fast-speed boats and sail boats; just check with water conditions before jumping on the speed boat if you tend on becoming seasick. I opted for the sailing (partially because I have a dream to one day own my own sail boat “S.S. Bean”, but also because I wanted to just sit back and relax). The ride lasted for two hours and went through the harbor and past the Icària Beach and Barceloneta Beach. Tickets are super affordable, worth it, and can be purchased right by the pier.
Another fun thing to watch out for, if you’re near the pier,are all the great little flea market shops that pop-up. You can find some awesome gifts, antiques and off the wall items. I picked up some fabulous wooden rings as souvenirs, and not far from the markets are stretches of street artists selling some amazing work. A few years ago, during my first visit, I purchased a truly unique piece of street art that is still my favorite I have ever purchased (which says a lot, seeing as street art is my obsession).
No visit to Barcelona is complete without checking out the master of architecture Antoni Goudi. Pictures alone cannot express the beauty behind his work, and the impact he has had on Barcelona is immense. Casa Batlló is by far one of the most amazing buildings I have ever had the opportunity to marvel at. Built between 1904-1906, the house is now a museum and totally worth the visit. Words cannot describe the thoughts that swirl around inside your mind when standing in front of the colorful piece of art; even the light posts are “Gaudi’d”….
Gaudi’s work does not stop there; there is Park Guell, La Pedrera and of course the big mama herself, La Sagrada Familia. Now, there is NO way YOU can go to Barcelona and not visit La Sagrada Familia. It’s impossible. The massive melting pot of design was started in 1882, with Gaudi joining in 1892. Gaudi worked until his death in 1926, where after several other architectures have picked up the pieces. When did the building of the church finally end, you might ask? It hasn’t! Yep, for the past 130 years, construction has been ongoing (minus some halts during war), is built solely from donations and is projected to be finished around 2040. To be able to stand in front of an ever-changing bit of history in real life is something completely unexplainable.
After a long day of admiring Gaudi’s work, the night is best enjoyed at a tapas bar enjoying small bites of food with some great wine. Or beer. Or both. And sangria. However, that huge un-sangria-ish drink is not only, uh, not sangria, it’s also totally exploited in the touristy areas. Talk to locals and they will agree for the most part that sangria is more of a stereotype of Spain; that they don’t actually really drink the stuff. Well, they do, but not like some of us have in our minds. However, right off La Rambla, down a few streets and in small courtyard, I did seem to find a restaurant that had the BEST sangria I have ever had. So I ordered a pitcher…. for myself….. and enjoyed every single drop of it! (Sometimes it’s OK to be a tourist!) Wherever you decide to dine, be sure to eat some Paella, particularly the seafood variety. You HAVE to. However, if creatures of the sea aren’t exactly your cup of tea, there are other choices such as chicken (but not nearly as tasty!) My suggestion: find an amazing little restaurant with the perfect street-facing patio, grab a seat and eat the delectable dish right outside (just be prepared to pay more for patio seating! It’s crazy, but that’s how they roll).
Strolling through the streets of Barcelona, you will fall in love with the city and the people who live in it. Whether you choose to take a bike tour of the metropolitan, walk the streets at your own leisure or spend your day shopping your little heart away, Barcelona has something to offer each and every visitor regardless of individual wants and needs. And, if after a day of fabulous sightseeing of the beaches and glimpses of the vibrant ways of Catalonian life has exhausted you, find the nearest tapas bar and simply ask: la carta de vins, si us plau…