Perched on the South East corner of Spain (although some would argue that it’s not a Spanish city but a Catalan one) Barcelona is one of the most interesting and simultaneously downright AWESOME cities I have ever been to. Now that is quite a claim. The only reason that I even knew very much about the city at all prior to our visit was because of a book I once read, and loved: The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. You should definitely go and read it right this minute because it’s BRILLIANT.
Anyway. That is beside the point. We booked the flights and accommodation extremely last minute, which gave us some hefty and welcome savings; three of us altogether, exploring Barcelona for four days at the height of Summer, and here’s what I recommend doing if you happen to find yourself in the same glorious area for a short while anytime soon.
Live Like a Local: Stay in an Apartment
Let’s be frank here folks- this wasn’t my normal extreme-budget-all-by-myseeeeelf kind of a trip, to which I have become accustomed. But if you do your research, you can get some pretty sweet locations as a group to stay in, for the same kind of price as staying in a bog-standard hotel. In our case it was the beaut BCN Rambla Catalunya Apartments.
These apartments are so beaut that we honestly we felt like royalty, slash the Kardashians when we walked in, that was how amazing our apartment was. Beautifully decorated, shutters at the windows, the best bathroom I have ever stepped foot in, (I’m not sure why but I have this weird fascination with cool-looking taps), and a fridge stocked with all the beverages (ps, they charge you extra for that obv). We’d cracked open the champagne within approximately five minutes of entry. IT WAS AWESOME, YOU GUYS.
Hang out on the beach
The cheery chap who checked us in to our apartment pointed out on a map the direction of the beach, before pensively glancing up at the sky and questioning whether or not it was beach weather at that point in time. Maybe to the native Barcelonans it wasn’t beach weather but to us English folk, 25C and not a cloud in the sky is MOST DEFINITELY beach-appropriate conditions.
The beaches of Barcelona are downright glorious, and the temperature and levels of sunshine can be beaut all the way up to October if you’re lucky. Barceloneta Beach tends to get slightly more packed out than the beaches further along the way towards the Olympic Park, so if you fancy somewhere a bit quieter then it’s worth bearing in mind. Wherever you do end up going (just so you know), you’re pretty much guaranteed to be greeted by a collection of people roaming through amongst the sunbathers calling ‘mojitoooo!!!!!’ That’s just what you get. I recommend not purchasing a mojito from the lovely mojito men myself but you know, whatever floats your boat.
Gaudí it up
One of the reasons Barcelona is such a unique place is that good old Gaudí went around the city building so many strange and wondrous buildings. They’re all over the place- multicoloured bulbous structures that look more like they grew out of the ground or were mounded from clay rather than constructed by a team of builders. They look bloody awesome, I’ll tell you that for free.
Parque Güell is a whole village filled with Gaudí’s impressive mosaic-covered buildings, with a stunning view of the city across to the Mediterranean and a motley collection of green parrots and pigeons battling for your food. On a stifling hot day just make sure you take water as the queue to enter is ginormous with zero shade, and that’s just not a laughing matter after climbing up the steep hill to reach it.
The most awe-inspiring of all the Gaudí buildings dotted across the city is (in my opinion), La Sagrada Familia. This mammoth cathedral looks like it has fully risen from the earth, and has been under construction for over 130 years. ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY YEARS YOU GUYS!! It blew my mind. The detail on the cathedral is insane and the sheer size of it is enough to fully take your breath away. Stunning.
Buy baked goods from the nuns
I’m serious. Those Spanish nuns make some great cookies. Caelum is the name of the little bakery hidden in the midst of the Gothic Quarter, on the corner of two cobbled streets near the Barcelona Cathedral, where the nun-cookies are sold. And not just cookies my friends, but all manner of treats made by the fair hands of the nuns, including cakes, honey and some lovely homemade candles if you’re a candle kind of a person! Personally I’m more a cake than a candle girl, and although we took ours away to eat on the steps of the cathedral Caelum is also a cosy little coffee shop with some lovely fine china to eat your convent-delicacies from and a strong medieval vibe.
Talking of the Gothic Quarter- go and get Gothical
Those who read this blog regularly will know I’m a great fan of a winding street- the narrower the better- and Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is one of the most marvellous places to go to without really knowing where you are at any given point. Tiny cobbled streets run up and down and across each other like a big web spun in the Middle Ages, lined with amazing architecture and tiny little shops selling all manner of things, and every now and then the labyrinth opens up to a bright square with a church and restaurants or cafes to sit in and watch the world go by. A classic location for getting lost and soaking in some atmosphere.
Go cruising in a cable car
I’m going to be honest here, you guys. We walked for bloody ages to find this cable car. It got a little tiring, we got a little hot and bothered, and after an hour of trying to locate it we began to feel as if we would never manage to leave Barcelona, let alone the heights of Montjüic, which we were climbing blindly. But praise the Lord because after approximately 52 minutes of searching, we came to some beaut gardens overlooking the sea and just knew that they were the entrance to the Cable Car. (Mainly because there was a sign that told us so)
It runs from Montjüic across Port Vell to Barceloneta beach, and although the journey is only about ten minutes in a rickety looking cabin in the sky, it gives you some amazing views out across the sea as long as you’re not freaking out too much about the height and the general rickety feeling.
Eat Barcelona food!
Firstly, a little geography/history for you here: Barcelona is part of Catalunya, which used to be completely separate from the rest of Spain and had it’s own language, laws and customs. Also…FOOD. Catalunya has some specialities which are slightly different from your usual Spanish fare, including the classic Crema Catalan and Fideuà- which is similar to a seafood paella but made with pasta noodles instead of rice. BEAUT TIMES.
Barcelona is a rather hilly old location so apologies for all the mountain-climbing recommendations, but climbing to the top of Montjüic is a must-do when exploring this part of the world. Montjüic is a very steep hill at one end of the city, overlooking the Mediterranean on one side and the rest of the city on the other, and houses a castle and an Olympic Stadium, amongst a few other things thrown in for good measure! It’s a lovely little (large) spot, and the most stunning part of all is standing outside the Palau Nacional overlooking the Font Màgica- a stunning fountain which lights up at night creating a glorious water-show for all to see!!
In conclusion, Barcelona is a quite frankly exquisite place, and I need to go back on the double. The city has so much to look at and explore that whilst four days is enough to start with, you definitely need so much more than that if you want to soak it all in properly. Also- sad times for us as both my pals got pretty ill at some point during our Spanish shenanigans, so we definitely need to return to appreciate it more fully!!
Hasta la vista, Barcelona ❤️