Barcelona is one of those cities that is on EVERYONE’S bucket list and for good reason too. This Spanish city is chalk full of architectural eye candy! Known for its influential artistic history, big names like Picasso and Antoni Gaudí once called this metropolis “home” and left their mark enough to put this place on the map.
Barcelona reminded me of San Francisco in many ways including the concrete buildings, busy streets and popular tourist landmarks scattered around the city. Yet, hidden amidst the superstructures are amazing architectural gems that are sure to wow.
What we did: We accomplished so much in this big city. Here’s a rundown:
- Picasso Museum – The Gothic quarter was probably my favorite area of Barcelona. Walking down the narrow cobblestone streets, lined with old lantern street lights and french windows, you’re transported in time. The Picasso museum is at the center of the Gothic quarter which in my opinion, was very appropriate. I would highly recommend buying tickets beforehand.
- Parc Güell – One of the famous landmarks created by the artist Antoni Gaudí, was originally commissioned to be a gated community for the wealthy upper class. It was later opened as a public park and is a definite MUST-SEE today! Here are some highlights…
- Somorrostro beach – one of many beaches in the area known as Barceloneta. If you get there early enough (like we did) there are umbrellas available for rent. €10 for just the umbrella or €20 for an umbrella and two beach chairs. The water wasn’t frigid but it wasn’t warm tropical water either. Cold enough to give you the chills but comfortable enough to cool you down from the heat!
Museu d’Història de la Ciutat – An underground museum of the history of Barcelona. This place takes you back to the days of Barcino – the original Roman settlement. We kind of happened upon this place by (happy) accident, it’s another hidden treasure for those history buffs.
- Sagrada Familia – The most popular and most famous of the landmarks, the Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) is Gaudí’s gleaming (unfinished) masterpiece. There are not enough words to describe the magnificence of this cathedral. And it’s not even finished yet! The church has been under construction since 1882 and is scheduled to be completed in 2026 (144 years!!). Your entrance fee includes an audio tour – which was short, sweet and to the point. Tickets should be purchased in advance.
- Wandered the streets – Sometimes the best way to experience a new city is just to wander aimlessly. Rey and I had the opportunity to do this and although we got lost on our way back, we stumbled upon some pretty awesome sights.
- Experienced nightlife (Goin’ up on a Tuesday!) – Our night started off with some drinks and chill house music at a rooftop bar. Once receiving the news that Nicole had passed her board exams(!) the party was on! We made our way to Deep Tuesday, a house music party at Barcelona City Hall. We were a little wary upon arriving and noticing there were NO girls (other than me and Nicole) waiting in line. However once inside, the music did not disappoint!
What we ate: As an avid (almost obsessed) coffee-drinker, I made it my mission to find a new cafe every morning. With it being almost 100 degrees (that’s an over-exaggeration) a hot drink was not going to happen. Since “iced” coffees are not a thing in Spain, getting a coffee appropriate for the weather was somewhat of a challenge. So I settled for “cafe con leche fria” or coffee with cold milk – think hot espresso filled with cold milk = lukewarm latte.
Again, like Madrid, there isn’t a whole lot of variety but these were a couple of interesting places we found to satisfy our hunger:
Carpe Diem Lounge Club (CDLC) – Asian/Oriental themed restaurant right on Barceloneta beach! Beautiful red/gold decor, good-looking wait staff, “free” massages and of course lounge tables (if you’d prefer to lay back while drinking your sangria). This place was pretty fancy (a.k.a pricey) but well worth the experience. CDLC is among a strip of restaurants (turned nightclubs after dark) that are right along the beach. So if you’d like to come by, have a late dinner, then stay to drink and dance, make sure you have reservations and are prepared to spend some money.
Ramen-Ya Hiro – Much to our surprise Asian food was easily found in all parts of the city. After a night of dancing (& drinking) we needed a hydrating/revitalizing meal. *MAJOR side note: this place is super popular but really small. We waited for an HOUR to be seated. So I only recommend if you’re desperate for ramen.
Where we stayed: Air BnB was our go-to in this city. We stayed at a cute apartment, hidden down an alley, in the heart of the Catalonia capital. Our hostess was wonderful and very accommodating! She not only let us check-in extra early (5 hours) but she even gave us a little background history about the city and some helpful tourist tips too. The apartment had central AC (Hallelujah!) and access to a washer which definitely came in handy for our 2 week vacation. *Side note: dryers are almost non-existent in Europe, so be prepared to dry your clothes the old-fashioned way – hang them outside, undies and all!
Here are some extra tidbits of info that you should know before visiting:
- Transportation: Unlike Madrid, walking everywhere wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Luckily the metro is super cheap! The four of us split two 10 ride passes (T10) which cost €9.95. This pass lasted us all 4 days and allowed us to travel to all of the popular spots around the city. Taxis are everywhere however drivers get pretty upset when you don’t want to go further than a 5 minute drive (20 minute walk). Scooters and go-peds and motorcycles, oh my! These guys are literally everywhere and are not afraid to run you over, so be careful! Oh and not to mention cross-walk signs last about 5 seconds so definitely no lingering!
- Weather: We visited Barcelona (right after Madrid) at the end of July and it was HOTTER than HOT! Not only were temperatures in the 90s but humidity was around 80%!! Gahh! As someone who is not a fan of the heat (nor of weather that messes with my hair or makes me sweat more than I already have to) I wasn’t the happiest of campers.
- Language: The primary language here is Catalan which (in my opinion) is a mix of Spanish, French and Portuguese. I will say, this was EXTREMELY frustrating when reading menus and signs around the city. Luckily, everyone speaks Spanish (and mostly English) so communicating wasn’t an issue.
- FC Barcelona: If not known for their architecture, Barcelona is absolutely known for their famous soccer team. Attending an FC Barcelona game would have been (without a doubt) an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, the ONLY month that the soccer team doesn’t play is in July…the month we visited. So if you’re an avid soccer fan, plan your visit during a time they’re playing!
- Pick-pocketing/scams: We were definitely warned hundreds of times about the crime in Barcelona. The large amount of tourists are an easy target. Remember to always keep your eyes peeled and your purse/wallet close to you. Although we weren’t robbed, we were bamboozled by the beach “staff”. Not until our second purchase of “sangria” did we realize these $5 drinks ($20 for 4) had ZERO amounts of alcohol in them. We were obviously pissed but what could we do…lesson learned. These guys are sneaky too! They dress up with (what looks like a uniform) walking around with drinks on trays. One homie even carried a bottle of “rum” around as “proof” that the drinks had alcohol. To our great pleasure, one beach-goer finally called these guys out in front of a large audience. Unfortunately, not even this deterred them from trying to sell them. My tip: BYOB!
Although I was not a fan of the weather, nor was I impressed by the smell (dog pee and rotting trash) I will say that I enjoyed the popular points of interest and would agree that it’s a definite bucket list destination (just maybe not in the dead of summer).