Having been to (and lived in) a number of amazing cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, Paris and London, I still swear that Barcelona is one of the most fantastic places in the world. It’s the perfect mashup of Spanish history, Catalonian lifestyle, European glamour, beachside ease and dynamic culture. It’s small enough to not be too intimidating on your own, but large enough that there’s plenty to keep you busy for several days (and nights).
I arrived in Barcelona with a friend via Seville – we were on a tour of a few cities and Barcelona was our last stop. Flights to Barcelona were very inexpensive in May, so we got international round-trip flights from NYC and booked cheap flights to Rome and Seville to round it out. It worked really well and was more cost effective at that time – always looks for sales to try and make this happen. Just keep in mind that some major cities have two airports, so you may have to connect to another airport between flights. This wasn’t the case in Barcelona, but just something to keep in mind.
In any case, we arrived late and took a taxi to the apartment we had booked online in advance. I totally prefer apartment stays to hotels, since it gives you a real sanctuary and I tend to feel very safe in housestays.
We stayed near Barri Gotic, which was only a short (and safe) walk to Las Ramblas, the sort of main area of Barcelona (for tourists). It was a nice area, very quiet, and we enjoyed it here. I think it you are college-aged, Las Ramblas would suit fine … but for a couple of professional ladies in their 20’s we would rather have somewhere to go relax after partying all night.
As I mentioned, it was really easy to keep busy during the day, walking though the various Gaudi displays around the city, checking out different districts, museums, shopping and beaches. This city really has everything! You could easily spend a few days without getting bored. It’s also very walkable, and the subway is inexpensive, clean and easy to use.
For daytime, Olympic Park is a good place to visit – full of Gaudi’s work, the peak also provides a gorgeous view of the city. It’s a bit of a trek, but worth the effort. Of course, the famous Sagrada Famila is a don’t-miss. We found this less spectacular than the park I think, but that had a lot to do with the crowds and less to do with the work itself.
The food, as you can imagine, is delicious in Barcelona. For dinner we tried a traditional pulperia (seafood restaurant) and a number of tapas bars. Typically we would have snacked a lot throughout the day, so we were never too starving by the time dinner came around. Still, it was lovely to clean up after a day of sightseeing, relax a short while then make it out for a late light dinner. A lot of tourists went out a bit early for dinner – closer to 6 or 7 p.m. – but we always tried to go closer to 8 to stay in line with local custom.
In the evenings, we got started at Oveja Negra in Las Ramblas (Black Sheep). This place is very casual and a bit divey, and offers very inexpensive sangria that’s perfect for starting out an inevitably long evening. We also made lots of friends here every time we stopped in. Just pace yourself – evenings in Barcelona easily go until 6 a.m. or later. Even though you may not intend to stay out that late, once you’re there it’s too easy to get swept up! We barely slept during our time in Barcelona – between the amazing parties and gorgeous sights there simply wasn’t time. For a calmer night, the fountain light show is pretty beautiful and relaxing – it happens at sunset and is set to music. We did this on our last evening to stop us from staying up too late and missing out early flight.
All in all Barcelona is a gorgeous, multi-cultural city that’s impossible not to love. I can’t wait to go back.
Lisa Travnik is a regular contributor to Monarch, who provide great deals on flights to Barcelona from the UK.
Photo was taken by Lisa Travnik.