After 24 hours of traveling we finally landed in Barcelona, and boarded the train toward the city. Rather than go to sleep early, we opted to get drinks with my sister who is studying abroad in the city. The tapas and beer were the perfect meal to welcome us to Spain.
Ready to explore, we headed for the beautiful Barri Gòtic, or Gothic Quarter. I had secretly packed an engagement ring that I designed and purchased just weeks earlier. I was ready to pop the question and get this ring out of my pocket! We walked until I found a street that felt right and I proceeded to get on one knee. That’s when I asked my very surprised girlfriend to be my wife. While doing this, I nearly took out a bicycle with my leg. Lucky for us my sister filmed the whole thing, because neither one of us noticed the unsuspecting biker swerve out of the way. After our heart rates settled down we took a few pictures and celebrated with rounds of Cava (Spanish Champagne).
Later that night we went to Razzmatazz night club. This is a five story party that goes until 6:00am. Quite a way to spend a Wednesday night!
Park Güell is the brainchild of the famed artist Antoni Gaudí. After taking the metro to the nearest stop, we had a nice hike to the park. We of course took the first trail we came across which soon awarded us with spectacular views of the mountains and surrounding neighborhoods.
Next, we hiked ~1.5 miles across the mountain side to “Bunkers del Carmel”, a lesser known overlook that provides a stunning 360 degree view of the city. Even with the clouds, we were able to see all the way to the Mediterranean sea.
Barceloneta Beach is a crowded spectacle worth experiencing. The sand is large-grained and smooth, which is welcoming to sun bathers. Additionally, the first few meters of the water are lined with round stones, until the water gets very deep about 4 meters from the shore. This was perfect for a quick dip, especially since the water was a bit chilly! Vendors walk the beach peddling everything from “fresh” Mojitos to selfie-sticks. Just what every tourist needs 😉
Next we headed to La Sagrada Família, the famous work-in-progress cathedral, that towers over the city. This too is a Gaudí masterpiece and is arguably his greatest creation. We purchased tickets online the night before as they often sell out, allowing us to skip the line and go directly inside.
Park Güell was so great, we went twice during our time in Barça (the local nickname for Barcelona). We again bought tickets online to beat the crowds.
Our last day was spent leisurely wandering around several neighborhoods and hanging out by the Mediterranean sea. Barcelona is filled with so much beauty that you can wander without a plan and find yourself pleasantly stunned by the architecture, food, and people.
Our last day started at 5:00am with a taxi ride to the airport. We caught the sunrise at our gate and said ‘adiós’ to the the amazing city of Barcelona.
10 Tips for Visiting
- Water: Tap water is supposedly safe to drink, though I did not drink it. This is because restaurants only serve bottled water that cost the same price as beer and wine. This can make staying hydrated difficult. Inexpensive bottled water is easy to find at the 24-hour supermarkets. Be sure to carry some water with you to avoid this.
- Sunscreen/Glasses: If you are visiting during the summer, be sure you are ready for heat and humidity.
- Meals: The Spanish people typically start with a small breakfast, and then eat a very large lunch around 2:00pm. While all the Spanish food I experienced was great, I recommend finding a restaurant with a “Menú del día” or menu of the day. This is a multi-course meal that will leave you quite full and satisfied. Dinner is usually late and small since many Spaniards take a siesta, or nap, after lunch to recharge, something you may need after a three course lunch.
- Theft: Pick-pocketing is quite prevalent. Keep an extra close eye on your valuables when in crowded places such as the metro and markets. Avoid keeping valuables in open pockets, and always zip/close your bags all the way.
- The Metro: Barcelona has a great transit system. Buying a metro pass will help you save a lot of time and money versus purchasing individual tickets. Metros typically run all day during the week and 24 hours on Saturday. You can also take a taxi which can be easily hailed on most streets. Uber is currently not available in Barcelona.
- Nightlife: If you are looking for a lively nightlife, you’re in the right place. After a small dinner around 8-9:00pm you can head to the bar. Aim to get the majority of your drinks at the bar before heading to the club where you will pay a steep premium for the party atmosphere. Additionally, nightclubs don’t get busy until about 2:00am and they go until 6:00am! Taking an afternoon siesta will pay off when you find yourself drinking and dancing all night.
- Counterfeit goods: You will certainly see people on the streets selling anything from fake Nike’s to Louis Vuitton’s. While you may be tempted, keep in mind that purchasing these goods is illegal. Whenever merchants see police, they quickly round up their stash and run, which can be quite entertaining to watch.
- Lots of Walking: You will be walking a whole lot in Barcelona. Be sure you have comfortable shoes. We walked about 10 miles per day during our trip.
- Language: I know very little Spanish, but luckily many locals spoke enough English to get us by. However, you should become familiar with basic Spanish words and phrases. Catalan is another language spoken in Barcelona and is the official language of Catalonia. This is a hybrid language that can even throw off native Spanish speakers. Do your best to communicate and you will be treated warmly.
- Set time aside to get lost: Barcelona is a relatively safe place to explore and you can find some amazing places if you simply wander. Check out my post on getting lost just for fun to find out how I do it.
I wish you safe travels and an unforgettable experience!
– Michael J. Flora