I thought that for my very last post on Barcelona I would do a guide of sorts, and a bit of a round up of the things I loved and would recommend.
If you visit Barcelona in summer the last thing you’re going to want to do is spend all your time (and money) in museums so it’s best to pick one or two paid and do them properly, and of course do all the free things!
– Gaudi’s Barcelona (I wrote a whole post on all the Gaudi’s that we saw). You can go into both Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Sagrada Familia but the tickets are quite expensive so I would do one of them properly. We did Sagrada Familia and loved the views from the towers. The inside was also mind blowing, and something you just HAVE to see if you’re there. Apparently they have Jazz nights on the roof of Casa Mila, just look it up as there were none while we were there.
– Artist’s museums: I’m ashamed to say we didn’t go into any of the Picasso, Miro or Dali museums. I think they are worth it, but after the Tate Modern (London) and the Stedelijk museum (Amsterdam) we had gotten our fair share of modern art. I have heard from so many people that Dali’s house is worth the visit (but it’s a day trip outside of Barcelona).
– Free sites: There are two public parks as mentioned in this blog post – Parque de la Ciudadela and Parc Guell (Gaudi’s park on top of the hill). Here you’ll see a lot of beautiful architecture for free 🙂 It’s nice place to go for a picnic and a browse.
2. Eating and drinking
There is no such thing as breakfast in Barcelona. You can find a decent coffee or cafe con leche, and a sweet pastry at most of the little cafes and probably only after 10 or 11am (croissants and magdalena’s were a staple).
Lunchtime is during siesta so everybody flocks to the coolness of the cafes and restaurants where they serve a set menu for lunch (which include 3 or 4 courses and a drink!). It was a bit confusing in the beginning but it makes sense that they would have a loooong lunch during siesta so they only offer a limited menu. We were always moving so we often went to the supermarket and just bought a baguette, meat, cheese and a huuge box of cherries for lunch! Water is also so much cheaper at the supermarkets. Don’t pay more than 1 Euro otherwise you’re being ripped off.
For dinner you have to find a tapas bar (which there are plenty) or if you’re on a budget and want to drink and eat really well go to La Champaneria. I wrote all about it here. 1 Euro champagne. Enough said.
For the in between:
– A cute place to satisfy your sweet tooth
– The coolest ice cream shop you’ll ever go to!
– A sweet little cupcake cafe that I didn’t go to.
– If you’re hot and thirsty grab a Granita! It’s basically a slush puppie but it was the best thing ever on a hot day!
Barcelona is famous for their signature Spanish brands such as Zara and Mango, but you can go to Sandton City for that. Rather go find the awesome little boutiques in the Gothic, El Born and Raval hoods. We stayed in El Born and found so many beautiful shops nearby! In the tour guides they tell you to stay away from Raval as it’s a bit offbeat, but it has some of the most interesting and unique shops and a very cool vibe. I found Kling there, which I have only dreamt about in internet land 🙂 I could have spent hours in that shop!
La Ramblas: This is something all the tour books tell you to go do but I found it quite overrated – it’s very touristy and what you probably miss are all the amazing old buildings lining the street and the hidden markets off the main street.
We did a bike tour of Barcelona through Fat tire bike tours (like we did in Amsterdam) and it was incredible. We had the best guide that made all the history and the facts fun and memorable. We went all over Barcelona and ended off with lunch on the beach.
I would really really recommend doing this early on in your time there! You get your bearings of the city and learn sooo much about where you are in short space of time.
5. Beaching it
We didn’t spend too much time tanning on the beach, I think we got our full fix here and here. What most people don’t know is that the beach in Barcelona is completely man made and didn’t exist before the Olympics. They bought sand from Egypt and rented trees from Hawaii. How bizarre right? It also erodes every year, so every year they have to build up the sand banks again. (I’ve heard there are some much nicer beaches up the coast.)
We did spend two glorious evenings on the beach and did some night swimming after dinner (sorry mom, luckily there are no sharks). We had chocolate and champagne and watched the sun go down. I recommend this!
This will depend on your budget. There are some awesome apartments in the El Born area where we stayed. It’s so central and there are a lot of cool places right outside your front door. This hotel looks awesome and not too expensive.
7. Sim cards
Go to Orange! Their staff speak english and you can get a sim card pretty quickly with some data for a few days 🙂 You’ll want this for navigation and instagram obviously. (Just remember your passport).
8. Guide books
If you want an awesome non-touristy guide to Barcelona try LE COOL (Thanks Casey for this recommendation). It’s the guidebook for people who hate guidebooks.
If you want something quite comprehensive i’d go with Lonely planet.
Lastly enjoy yourself, drink champagne, dance in the streets and allow yourself time to stumble upon some gems!