Earlier this month, I couldn’t get over the fact that Summer was coming to an end, so we booked a long weekend in Barcelona after grabbing some cheap flights from Liverpool. It’s only a 2 hour flight and after getting the bug for travelling from earlier in the Summer, we couldn’t wait to get away.
I love this city. Everything from the architecture (old and new), the fact that it has a beach, the local characters, the football, nightlife and shopping. Going in September was great, it meant that it was still warm but not unbearable and the trip as a whole seemed a bit cheaper. We arrived on the Thursday and planned to fit a lot in to the 3 days we were there, but also give ourselves enough time to explore and find new parts you don’t often read about.
Initially, this was going to be one post, but after starting to write this I realised there’s too much to talk about, so i’ve separated it in to two parts. Below is a, sort of, guide to the city from my own experience and part 2 will be all about the great food and drink we had over there (and there’s a lot!)
Where we stayed
Before we travelled, I read some amazing blog posts on the city, and figured the hotel choice wasn’t that important as we knew we’d be out and about most of the time. Everyone recommended the Gothic Quarter as the place to stay and I can now see why, it’s where it’s all going on both day and night, but we decided on a hotel just off the Avenguda Diagonal for a better price (hotels in the tourist areas were coming in as £400+).
After searching online, I found Hotel Condado for less than £300 for 3 nights and I have to say it was a great find. The hotel itself is a boutique hotel, so very small, but the interiors were nice and modern and the staff friendly too. It was about a 5 minute walk from the nearest Metro station, but there was plenty of shops, cafes and bars nearby too. The only problem was, it was on a street with about 3 night clubs so it got quite loud around 2am, I think this was only due to us being on the first floor right at the front though and not something that kept us up.
The tourist spots
It was my second time in Barcelona (I went when I was about 12) and my girlfriends first time, so we wanted to do all the main events; Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Las Ramblas and Nou Camp were top of my list. So on our first day we jumped on one of those open top tourist buses, where they give you some headphones for narration and the 3 routes take you around the whole city, including the above mentioned spots. You can hop on an off these and I think tickets were €25 for the day. This was a great shout and allowed us to get a better idea of the city straight away so the rest of our trip we could chill out more and find some hidden gems.
Now, before we left, I read everywhere about buying tickets for these places in advance to avoid queues. I didn’t think too much on this and was a bit naive thinking a half hour queue won’t be too bad, oh how wrong I was. We had to see the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell from an outside point of view as we arrived to both about 12pm both days, only to find signs saying the next available tickets were for 4pm, and with us trying to fit in as much as possible, we just couldn’t hang about that long.
The places themselves were beautiful though. Sagrada Familia shocked me from the outside how grand it is, the detail put in to it is like something from a movie and it’s definitely somewhere you need to visit whilst here. I had visited Casa Batllo on my previous trip and was amazed by the rooftop in particular (if you’ve been yourself you’ll know).
Even though we couldn’t get in to the main part of Park Guell, there was still a lot to see. We got off the closest Metro, followed the signs and was hit by 3 sets of escalators leading right up to the top and to the park. You can walk around the outskirts of the park and even in to Gaudi’s old house (€5), so you can still get a feel for why it’s so famous. There’s all sorts of street entertainers playing music and some great spots for enjoying a picnic (I recommend wearing some decent trainers though as it’s all hills).
You can see when walking down Las Ramblas why it is the most famous street in the world. It’s absolutely packed full of tourists, street entertainers, market stalls, shops and bars (with the most amazing food market which i’ll mention in part 2). We stopped off after about 5 minutes as we saw a group of people drinking steins of sangria and beer, you can’t say no to that.
Apart from the small, little restaurants and bars we stumbled upon on our journey (which will be in part 2), the main hidden gem I have to shout about is El Born. My mate told me about this spot before we went and I’m really glad we visited. It’s a short 5 minute walk from the Gothic Quarter and if you visit in the evening it’s got an amazing atmosphere with a square full of locals drinking beer, gelato shops, bars,restaurants and shops (lots of hipsters). This was my favourite spot and the place we had our last meal before heading home the next morning.
One more place to mention, head right to the highest point of the city, Bunkers del Carmel, which has the most spectacular view of the whole city, it’s actually breathtaking. We spent about an hour up here literally just looking out, taking pictures and stepping back from the hustle and bustle of further down. We didn’t know you could use Metro tickets on the bus, so we ended up getting the Metro to the nearest station and walking. Don’t do this, we learnt that. The hills up to the top, even from the station, are so steep and you’re basically walking through suburban neighbourhoods which feels strange being a tourist. Instead get the 86 (I think?) bus straight from the city centre to the top.
If you’re in to your sneakers and fashion too, there’s a shop not too far from the Arc de Triomf called Sivasdescalzo, which was an absolute dream for me. I didn’t purchase anything but if I had the cash I could have spent hours and a lot of money in there. It’s opening was featured on Hypebeast to get an idea of the style. There’s also another sneaker store in Barcelona called 24 Kilates, which is worth a visit if you’re interested.
Keep an eye out for part 2 where I talk about all the great food and drink, along with the nightlife. To see more of my travel diaries, head here.