I visited Barcelona when I was newly 17 and I remember very little. This time, I was determined to see, eat and remember as much as possible of such a historic city for my Easter holiday. First is my general impression, below are the details!
- Historical city
- Lots of attractions, museums, galleries, etc
- No lack of restaurants, cafes and bars
- Great weather, even in April
- You get both the beach and the city
- Very easy public transportation
- Overall we had a lovely time!
- City centre can be very dirty (including a man peeing in a busy alley at 1pm). Most side streets smelled like that.
- Graffiti everywhere, even on historical monuments
- Lots of homeless who may even beg at your patio table or approach you on the street
- Rude locals. I don’t know if it’s because they’re tired of dealing with English speaking tourists (I would be, too) or customer service isn’t stressed or maybe it’s the typical attitude and I’ve taken it personally. Either way, our servers, shop-keepers, bartenders and museum receptionists could not care less about us or anyone else.
- The sellers on the beach drove me nuts. There was never one minute where you couldn’t hear them shouting their sales (“Colddddd mojito! Mojito’s here!)
Through Expedia, we booked the hotel Meliá Barcelona Sarrià. As a five star hotel, it would be out of budget but we got it as a “Deal of the Day.” Woooo! Since we saved money, we paid for the included breakfast at the hotel each morning (a big buffet where we ate too much). It was definitely worth it because we never had to spend time wandering around trying to get breakfast, but used that time seeing attractions instead.
The bed was super comfy, the room was lovely and the staff were all very friendly.
The hotel is located in Les Corts district, about a 20mins bus ride away from the city centre. The area was very clean and modern, with tons of bus and tram stops right at our doorstep.
Barcelona’s centre is very condensed and I can’t imagine driving there. If Barcelona is only one stop of many for you, renting a car may be a good idea. If you’re just seeing the city, public transportation was incredibly convenient. My boyfriend and I each bought a T-10 ticket (€ 9,95 per T-10) which meant we could use it for 10 trips either on the metro, bus or tram. Any trip(s) within one hour is considered one trip, in case you need to make multiple connections. You can buy one ticket and share it between people, but we used it frequently enough that buying two was worth it. You can buy these, and other transportation tickets, at metro stops, tourist information centres and some tobacco shops.
You can also buy Barcelona Transport cards. Some give you unlimited transportation and discounts at certain attractions. Just pick the best ticket for you!
You pop your ticket (whichever you buy) into the validation machines, either at the front of the bus or at the metro barrier. You won’t need to “tap” out when you leave. The validation will mark the back of your ticket, counting down until it gets to 0 and you have no more trips left. A single bus or metro ticket is about €2,15 – €2,70 so a T-10 for just under €10 saves you more than double.
Also through Expedia, we booked AeroCity Airport shuttle so we’d have a driver to take us to and from the airport easily. However, there are public transport links nearby (and signage in the airport) if you intend on taking that instead.
We also arrived via EasyJet. They have tons of flights from London to Barcelona for great prices. Just don’t expect much legroom.
Spain is hugely interested in tapas, small plates of food that you can share (or not). Unfortunately a lot of these are seafood-based (obviously) and I’m allergic! However, we still found tons of food on nearly every street, from burgers to kebabs, Chinese to Spanish tapas. So much food. I found that a lot of locals don’t eat dinner until 8pm and onwards, so some restaurants won’t start serving dinner until then. Make sure to have a late lunch just in case (and lots of drinks on the open patios).
Barcelona is interesting because there’s both the historical side to the city and the beach side. There’s also tons of art galleries to visit, but as it wasn’t our interest we skipped these for different attractions. Across four days, I did the following:
La Sagrada Família
This unique (and unfinished) church is one of the iconic Gaudi landmarks in the city. I screwed up on this one. I figured there’d be no way a church that massive would sell-out its tickets. It did. For three days in a row, it was sold out. Make a point of booking your timed tickets early so you don’t miss out like we did! Either way, make sure to see the exterior.
Time needed to see outside: 20mins
Time needed inside: 2-3 hours
Admission: €15 but €39 for entry and to climb the towers (what I wanted to do)
This building is tucked away on a non-descript side street of the main road Les Rambles. We arrived in time for a guided tour instead of using the audio guides, which was great. The palace is unlike any home I’ve ever seen and the architecture is straight out of a fairytale.
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Parc de la Ciutadella
This was actually one of my favourite parts of our trip. This park is massive, including a beautiful waterfall, the Barcelona Zoo, rowboats for hire, ponds and lots of greenspace. There were tons of friends and family having picnics with wine, cheese and meats throughout the park. A lovely afternoon to sit on the grass the enjoy the sun!
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Admission: Free to wander, rowboats and zoo have admission fees
My boyfriend is a big football fan so seeing Barcelona’s home stadium was a given. Although a bit pricey (and so crowded!) it was really interesting to see both the museum and stadium itself. Don’t forget to exit through the expensive gift shop…
Time needed: 2 hours
Runner Bean – The Old City Walking Tour
I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone as their first activity when visiting Barcelona. Our guide Jessi was incredibly knowledgeable and brought us all over the city, allowing us to better understand where we are historically and get our bearings. It’s a free 2.5 hour tour and they ask you to pay what you think it’s worth at the end. A must-do!
Museu d’Història de Barcelona (MUHBA)
A really interesting museum! Make sure to take an audio guide with you (free) as almost all the information plaques are in Catalan or Spanish (the two major languages of the area). The museum takes you underground into real Roman streets, preserved under the city. Definitely worth a visit.
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Another very interesting park filled with works from Gaudi! You can enter the main area for free and wander, but will need to buy tickets and (quite possibly) wait in line to enter the inner-area. We didn’t bother with tickets as you can see some great views without entering the inner section and couldn’t be bothered to wait in another line-up. The place can be heaving with people so it’s best to try first thing in the morning or early evening.
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Platja de la Barceloneta
This sandy beach stretches along the bottom of Barcelona and actually consists of a few different “beaches” although they all join each other. There’s lots of restaurants and bars a few steps away, with public washrooms and showers. Although the water was cold in April, there was definitely enough sun to lay on the beach. Watch out for sellers here. They consistently walk the beach selling mojitos, blankets, massages, henna tattoos, beer, water, etc. And they shout what they’re selling. Constantly. At any one time, you’ll hear about four different sellers, so it might be ideal to bring headphones. And we’re not talking hotel staff selling items on a nice tray. We’re talking a random man selling beer out of a plastic bag.
Overall I had a lovely time in the city and I’m very glad we experienced all that we did! If you’re able to visit Barcelona, I would definitely recommend it.