Barcelona, the capital city of Catalonia is a large cosmopolitan city set against the Collserola Mountain range. With its location on the Mediterranean Sea, the climate is warm throughout the year, ideal for spending days on its colourful beach. Barcelona is the sixth most populous city in the European Union and is the biggest city on the Mediterranean Sea. The city has a bohemian vibe and is renowned for its art, architecture and food. There are 10 main districts of the city and each have their own unique charm. The Ciutat Vella (Old Town), was originally founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC, is one of the more interesting areas of the city with quirky eateries and boutique shops. The city was founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC.
Things to do:
Barcelona is a very spread out city and getting around requires the use of some form of transport. We found ourselves walking for generally 30 minutes to get to most places though. We stayed in the Las Arenas area, nearby to the famous bullring that has now been transformed into a shopping centre. Public transport from here was a little difficult, however it had close proximity to the gothic quarter where we spent the majority of our time in Barcelona. The area around Las Arenas is also famous for its old school vermouth bars and were recommended as a place to visit by our AirBNB host. Near Las Arenas and Montjuïc fountains
The sport of bullfighting was banned in the region of Catalonia in 2010. The famous Las Arenas bullring has since then been turned into a commercial shopping centre. You can head upto the rooftop level where there is a photographic display of the bullring back when it was in full use. The rooftop level has also been cleverly converted into an open air restaurant and bar space. It’s nice way to relax over a drink with some friends.
Las Arenas shopping centre (old bull fighting ring)
Fountain of Montjuïc
Right near the Las Arenas is the Placa D’Espanya. A free musical fountains show is held here every night in the summertime. It’s a crowded place with lots of families but is worth a visit if you haven’t seen a musical fountain show before. If you want to stay away from the crowds it’s possible to see the show from the rooftop of the Las Arenas building as well.
The Gothic Quarter was the site of an old Roman village and was one of my favourite districts to explore in Barcelona. The area has an interesting mix of old and modern architecture. Many of the cities top restaurants and bars are housed within these buildings. The centre of the Gothic Quarter opens up into a large square where the grand Barcelona Cathedral stands lined by cafes, shops and restaurants. The Barcelona Cathedral is a beautiful example of a gothic style building and is very different in architecture appearance to the other famous church in Barcelona – Sagrada Familia. During our walk through the square, we were lucky enough to observe some amazing break dancers performing on the street.
The Gothic Quarter, also has plenty of open squares (Plaça) and shopping areas on the Calle Portal de L’angel and Calle Avinyo. You can also walk to Las Ramblas from this district. Las Ramblas is the dividing boulevard that cuts through the heart of the city. On one side is the Gothic Quarter and the other side leads to the El Ravel neighbourhood.
Taking a stroll down Las Ramblas
The El Ravel neighbourhood is known as the shadier side of the city. However there are now lots of bars and restaurants, art galleries all situated in this area. The Boqueria market and many of Gaudi’s architecture can also be found in this area.
The Boqueria market is a fantastic place to visit whilst in Barcelona. The vibrant colours and arrays of preserved meat are dizzying! There are lots of little stall holders that sell food items that you can sample during your amble through the market. It’s a nice place to go during lunch time as you’ll get a chance to see the market and have a snack to eat at many of the restaurant vendors selling fresh seafood and cured meats.
The famous Gaudi church is definitely worth a visit. Beware though that the crowds especially during the summer time can be overwhelming both in and around the famous church. If you are interested in getting to one of the towers of the church. I would recommend that you book before you get there. They have specific times available for guests to climb upto the towers. There can also be long queues to purchase tickets so it’s easier to book them from your accomodation. The inside of the church is beautiful and quirky however a sense of peace permeates the interior. It was a fun experience getting upto the tower, we were able to climb through narrow books and get to experience some of Gaudi’s architecture first hand. The view from above was pretty spectacular as well!
The Sagrada Familia
This is another must do adventure when in Barcelona. The park is situated near some national parks and provides a serene setting for Gaudi’s work. Walking around the park is like walking around a quirky version of a cartoon-like world. There are lots of bright buildings with unique sculptural and architectural features. It’s the type of place that many may feel a little bit confused and overwhelmed by. However it really does showcase a unique interpretation of the modernist architectural tradition.
This was one of my favourite expeditions during our trip to Barcelona – possibly because it was so surprising. Prior to a visit to Picasso’s museum, I was quite apathetic about the cubist movement. The museum in Barcelona, does a fantastic job chronicling his life and the evolution of his artistic style. The works from his blue period were some of my favourites!
One of Picasso’s earlier works showcases his incredible talent at painting lifelike images!
B is a die hard soccer fan so a trip to Football Club Barcelona’s home ground the Camp Nou was the next best thing to actually seeing a soccer match. We were travelling through Europe in the Summer time so unfortunately there were no scheduled games to watch. The tour of the stadium was an in-depth look into the history of the football club and its many victories! We were able to peek into the players rooms, their gym, medical facilities as well as the media rooms!
We arrived in Barcelona via small flight from San Sebastian which was a huge headache as our flight was early in the morning and we had to arrive at the airport at least an hour early. Small airline carriers in Europe frequently have delays to their flight plans. We experienced this very issue and had to cool our heels at the airport for another hour before we were allowed to board.
Travelling via train across the Spanish countryside was a whole other kettle of fish! Once we passed through security at Barcelona Sants train station in Barcelona, it was all smooth sailing ahead. We were able to stretch out in our seats which we had reserved ahead of time – you actually don’t need to do this unless the route you want to travel on is a busy route. By not reserving your seats you can save some money! We travelled on the RENFE-SNCF to Lyon in France.
Top Tips for Barcelona Travel
- Barcelona is a very spread out city, it is best to figure out the places you want to see and which area of the city you want to spend the most of your time in before you book your accomodation. This will save you travel time
- Public transport in Barcelona was difficult to get our heads around – we ended up catching an Uber to most places
- Book your tickets for popular tourist attractions like Sagrada Familia and Park Guell ahead of time. This will save you waiting in queue when you get to your destination and disappointment in missing out if they can’t accomodate you on that day
- The people for Barcelona are able to speak English so getting around and ordering food is easy
- We ended up catching the Eurail for the remainder of our journey in Europe, this was soo much easier than flying. Be sure to leave at least 30 minutes leeway in order to pass security and catch your train – we luckily got to the train station in the nick of time…!