I expected two things from Barcelona: for it to be beautiful and crammed with tourists. Before our trip, my mum kept sending me pictures of gorgeous mosaics that we absolutely had to see. A friend of mine, on the other hand, told me to enjoy »the amusement park«. All our expectations turned out to be facts. Barcelona is a truly beautiful city, but the number of visitors has a big impact on it.
Things that I loved
I haven’t seen all of it, but I did visit the famous Park Güell. It’s full of his mosaics, as is the house he lived in. I’ve also been to Casa Milà which costs 20 if you’re a student and 25 if you’re not. I’ve seen Casa Batllo, Sagrada Familia and some other buildings from the outside; they stole my mum’s wallet while I’m not rich enough. I would really recommend visiting Casa Milà because the roof is the weirdest, but also one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Park Güel is great too, and the cliché wall, where everyone takes the classic picture of Barcelona, is amazing. Just remember to buy the tickets in advance online. It’s something worth seeing, despite the crowd of people, trying to take an Instagram-worthy photo.
The Gothic Quarter is my favourite quarter in Barcelona. It’s full of narrow streets, cool architecture and diverse bars and restaurants, not to mention the shops that sell basically everything, from clothes to expensive artsy souvenirs. It’s also where the Barcelona Cathedral is situated. The interesting thing is that they only made it »gothic« in the 19th century.
It’s just a square with a fountain, lots of palm trees, yellow walls and many bars, restaurants and clubs, but it’s beautiful. I walked through it several times because it was on the way from our hostel to the Gothic Quarter, right next to La Rambla.
Plaza España and Font Màgica
Plaza España is huge, and it features a shopping centre, to the roof of which you can get with a lift for one euro. I suppose there are other ways, but that’s the one we chose for some reason. The roof offers great views of the Palacio Nacional and of other parts of the city. It’s also full of restaurants. The Magic Fountain is a 5-minute walk away, and they do a lights and music show every evening. It’s free, and it’s something worth seeing despite the huge crowd that gathers there to watch. They play diverse music and do weird but amazing things with the water. I’m actually surprised they haven’t started charging for it yet (nice one, Barcelona).
The many vegan options
There are lots of vegan restaurants, but I haven’t been to any. I only tried places that had vegan options. I’ve been to Chök The Chocolate Kitchen and Cookies Demasie. The first one has lots of chocolatey vegan treats on offer (I had the most amazing cupcake), and the second one makes vegan cinnamon buns. We also ate in Abirradero, right next to our hostel, and they had a vegan burger on the menu, but I opted for the quinoa salad instead.
Things that I liked
The beach (Playa de la Barceloneta).
Barcelona has more beaches to the north of Barceloneta, but I haven’t been to those. Barceloneta is a classic: very long, very wide, with many bars and restaurants nearby. The downside of the beach are the guys and girls who walk by all the time, trying to get you to buy drinks, towels or get a massage. It’s hard to fall asleep or read when someone’s screaming »Cerveza!« at you all the time.
The famous street that connects the port and Plaza de Cataluña. It’s cool if you fancy a walk down a big street that’s surrounded by beautiful houses, is full of bars, restaurants and mini-shops, as well as of people (almost exclusively tourists). I wouldn’t call it ugly or the walk through it unpleasant, but I really don’t see what’s so interesting about it.
La Sagrada Familia
Once again, I only saw it from the outside. The way in which the building is done, how diverse it is, the details that it has and just how huge it is, make it amazing and worth seeing. The fact is, though, that there are huge lines and groups of people all around it, and that it’s under construction. They have been building it for about a century, they’re still not done, and they probably won’t be for another decade or so.
Mercado de la Boqueria
It’s big and it offers a big range of different food products, but it’s also very very crowded and everything’s expensive. They sell a lot of chocolate, but even the dark versions contain milk, so sad times for vegans and lactose intolerant people.
A hill with a castle and with amazing views of the city. Totally worth the hike which took us about half an hour with all the stopping for pictures.
Things that I didn’t like
How expensive the entry fees to most museums and other attractions are. Also, they charge you one euro for using the stupid toilet on the train station Barcelona Sants and in the shopping centre Maremagnum, which is next to the Aquarium (in the port).
The constant invitations
The already mentioned people who want to sell something to you constantly, plus the ones who want to convince you to eat in their restaurant.
They stole my mum’s wallet before we even got to the hostel, which is nothing unusual for a big touristy city. She definitely should have been more careful, but it still sucked.
The crowds of tourists
I’m a hypocrite for saying that because I was one of them, but it still didn’t make me like it. It was interesting to hear so many languages and see people from so many different cultures and parts of the world, though!
Stuff I’d recommend
Using public transport
It’s well organized and the buses are punctual. The city is also well connected by the metro. We bought a ticket for ten rides and used nine of them in four days (the ticket allows you to use buses and the tube).
Staying at Hostal Abrevadero
It cost us 200 euros for three nights for both of us, but we had our own room and our own bathroom. It was very clean, renovated, the staff was super nice and helpful, the room was pretty, and the location was great (near the port and the Gothic Quarter, with bus and metro stations a two-minute walk away). I’m still not entirely sure why it’s called a hostel; it was more on the hotel side.
Taking a Free Walking Tour with Craft Tours
We walked from Plaza Cataluña, through the Gothic Quarter, and finished on Plaza Real. The guide gave us a brief history of the city, touched upon recent political events and told us many interesting things and funny stories about the buildings we saw during our walk. Also, you can pay as much as you think the tour was worth.
Eating in Calle Blai
It’s a street full of tapas bars where you can eat pinchos. Pinchos are small sandwich bites: a different kind of tapas. I’d recommend tapas in general, as they are usually the cheaper, but still tasty option. They’re also a way in which you can try more things (you share them with the people you’re eating with).
I hope you enjoyed my impressions of Barcelona, even though I only spent four days there, and am not done with it at all. Despite of our short stay, we still managed to see all that we had planned. This means that it was quite intense, and each evening I went to bed with my head full of new pretty images. This special city has lots left to see, and I fully intend on visiting it again. I was somehow happy when I got to the smaller and more peaceful Valencia, though.