In spite of the notorious night life, the high fashion hot spots, a world famous football stadium and being renowned as one of the culinary capitals of Spain, Barcelona successfully surpasses all expectations. The sunshine and seaside are not the only things bringing in the culture-hungry visitors. The city, crafted with Gaudi’s masterpieces and lots of other wonderful creations, promises to be a destination well-worth visiting and will leave you wanting more.
To avoid peak summer crowds, visit either between March to June or September to November. March time is carnival season, a once-in-a-lifetime must-see. This year the street parades took place with over 50 different floats; imagine Rio’s Carnival, only on a smaller scale with exotic dancers, breathtaking costumes and flame throwing acrobats.
Where to stay:
Getting to Barcelona is easy; deciding where to stay is the difficult bit. Everything in Barcelona is connected by metro lines so just make sure you have a station near your hostel or hotel and you’re set to go. There are plenty of hostels to choose from on the Avinguda de Parralel, which is just a 10 minutes walk from Las Ramblas (the boulevard at the heart of the city) but quiet enough if you are craving that mid-day siesta or having a stroll on the beach which is just a further 5 minutes away. Prices vary from 11€ a night for dorms to 37€ for private rooms.
Where to eat:
As far as food goes, Barcelona is without a doubt the culinary capital of Spain. Try and avoid the tourist restaurants on Las Ramblas and venture further into the city or the restaurants just off the marina, where the sight of boats and glittering streetlights reflecting in the water alone is worth the visit. We found the freshest seafood (they actually bring out a whole fish to show you before cooking it — not alive of course!), homemade Sangria, paella bursting with flavour and vibrant charismatic restaurant staff that are only too happy to make sure dining out is an event in itself. As it was my birthday, my friends and I were all entertained with a Castilian Birthday treat which included the entire staff singing with an accordion, sweet custard tarts as well as some bright yellow vodka-tasting liquor, all free of charge! For the Heston fans, visit El Bulli, the avant-garde restaurant set to blow your mind and taste senses, just off the Coast of Costa Brava.
As with any major city, the prices vary depending on where you go. The average meal will cost around 10-12€ per person; however you can easily last on tapas which vary from 3€ per person. Before heading off, join the Facebook groups of clubs such as the beach side Opium Bar and add yourself to the guest list for free entry. Invest in a 10 trip metro card as it saves you a few pennies as well as time trying to dig for coins on every trip in the underground.
Do not neglect the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece! It is set to be finished in 2026 but in the meantime, marvel at the architectural genius of what is so much more than a cathedral. Just before the day ends, make your way to the Guell Park where Gaudi yet again mesmerizes us with something never seen before. As you head uphill you will be greeted by the famous mosaic lizard, water fountains, pillared structures with streetside musicians playing Vivaldi’s four seasons. Finally, you will reach the top which overlooks all of Barcelona with the sun plunging into the sea, creating a pinky orange light over the city and ending your day with a huge sigh of satisfaction.
If you are visiting just for the weekend, definitely opt for an open bus tour. Usually around 22€ for a day pass, this tour allows you to get on and off wherever you like, giving you a general view of Barcelona. You can stay at a destination as long as you like or wait 10 minutes for the next bus to arrive and it comes complete with headphones to listen to information about the city minus the often irritatingly over-enthusiastic tour guide! Try not to be persuaded to use your city guide App. Barcelona is renowned for pick-pocketers and speaking from first-hand experience, life without an iPhone is just not the same. Leave your valuables at home or hold onto them for dear life!