Sunny skies, mesmerizing shoreline, astounding Gaudi architecture, shopper’s paradise, historical treat, soccer mecca (yeah Barca!), cosmopolitan melting pot – it’s hard to believe that all these phrases describe a single city. Yep, that’s Barcelona: my favorite city in Europe so far. Barcelona, the capital of the region of Catalunya, is located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain with a strong proximity to the Pyrenees and the French border. It’s my favorite vacation spot and in this travelogue, I’ll tell you why. 🙂
Back in early November of 2016, even though I had recently returned from my amazing Indian trip the month before (check out my trekking in India travelogue), the travel bug returned with full force. Oh boy! I wanted to travel again. I looked up on Skyscanner and picked up the cheapest roundtrip flight on a long weekend from Berlin to Barcelona for an unbelievable €54!
Flight booking tips: Wanna know my secret to planning when to go where in Europe? So here it is – Skyscanner.com’s “All places” search. The trick is to fill in Origin and dates, and leave the destination field blank or type in “All places” (phrase might differ depending on the language. It’s “Alle Orte” in German). The result will list all flights from your place to anywhere in the world! The list starts with the cheapest ones. As I live in Europe (call me lucky! 😀 ), I get absolutely affordable tickets from budget airlines like Ryanair or Easyjet for ridiculously cheap rates like the one above.
Another flight booking tip: Not sure of the dates either? You can select months instead. (Following the same procedure as above)
A week later, I was back in business, traveling to Barcelona.
Getting to the main city
On landing, I was kindly assisted by a gentleman who helped me buy tickets for the A1 train that took me straight into the city.
I chose to stay at one of the best hostels in the city: Christopher‘s Inn. Located right in the heart of Barcelona, my stay at this hostel was perhaps the best hostel experience I’ve ever had! So I completely vouch for it.
As my flight to Barcelona was delayed by almost 2 hours, I had already lost half of the day. So I decided to take a stroll around some random inner streets in the city. I accidentally happened to walk into a predominantly Indian/Pakistani neighborhood. It came in as a pleasant surprise. I could hear people speaking Punjabi in every other corner. The lanes were dotted with traditional Indian/Pakistani shops selling vegetables, clothing and other cultural items. Never had I imagined that Barcelona had such a prominent south Asian population.
- Mercado de La Boqueria: I stumbled upon La Boqueria by chance, and wow I don’t regret it one bit. It’s a huge public market with a wide selection of goods and fresh produce; definitely worth a visit. And, if you are a Marzipan lover, check out all these beautifully crafted, yummy marzipan candies…
It’s worth mentioning that the fruit vendors there have some serious presentation skills!
- La Rambla: Like any typical tourist, I took a stroll on one of the most famous and busiest streets in Barcelona. La Rambla is like an open air mall with many top brands to shop from on either side of the road. Its main attraction is the wide pedestrian boulevard in the center that divides the traffic. It is decorated with pretty lights, lined with trees and dotted with souvenir shops and streets restaurants that serve tapas or a traditional Spanish dish called Paella. In fact, such pretty central pavements can be found on many main roads of Barcelona. So do take a stroll on this street for an ultimate tourist experience.
By the way, you’ll also see some interesting peeps like this guy.
Or this one…
La Rambla ends at the Christopher Columbus statue, Mirador de Colón.
- Port De Barcelona: As I kept walking past the Mirador de Colón, I eventually reached a quiet port area. I grabbed a spot on the cemented bank and watched the seagulls taking their flight and massive cruise ships parked way far. It’s just what I needed after an intense La Rambla affair! One can take long strolls on the port side or cross the big white fancy Rambla de Mar walking bridge to Mare Maremàgnum shopping mall and L’Aquàrium de Barcelona. I actually took a stroll on one of the back streets of the mall and discovered a waterway parked with ultra-luxurious yachts. Tip: the Maremàgnum shopping mall is also open on Sundays!
Luxury yacht © Asmita Kunwar
- Plaça de Catalunya: On my way back, I walked to the other side of La Rambla which ends at Plaça de Catalunya. The square, lined with trees and dotted with cafés around, is a popular tourist attraction. It hosts a pretty cool fountain show in the evening.
That night I met 3 amazing girls at my hostel – Raksha from the US, Ana from Argentina and Anne from Netherlands. We hit it off from the first moment and spent an hour narrating our experiences in Barcelona.
Nothing inspires the character of Barcelona as much as Gaudi, a world famous architect who gifted Barcelona it’s major architectural wonders. The plan was to check them out!
- Passeig de Gràcia: Located to the north of Plaça de Catalunya is one of the most famous streets in Barcelona. Lined up with high-end fashion stores, it houses some of Gaudi’s extraordinary creations like Casa Milá and Casa Batlló. The buildings boast of Gaudi’s obsession with intricate details and his whimsical style. The level of creativity left me speechless. Tip: Casa Batlló offers a really cool augmented reality and audio tour. I highly recommend it. Also, try to plan your visit on a sunny day. It’s amazing to see how the light playfully manipulates the elements of the buildings. It’s advisable to book tickets in advance to avoid long lines.
- La Sagrada Familia: No trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit the Antoni Gaudí’s ultimate masterpiece: La Sagrada Familia. 20 minutes walk from Casa Milá brought me to one of the most spectacular churches in the world. This giant Basilica has been under construction since 1882 (yes! Over 130 years) and is expected to get completed around 2026.
- Camp Nou Stadium: First things first, I ain’t an ardent football fan. So how did I land here? Well, my brother is a huge fan of the Barcelona FC soccer club. We had a pact: either I won’t visit Barcelona without him or I would get him this real Barcelona FC’s Neymar jersey costing around €100! (Yup, double the price of my round trip plane ticket!) So we settled for the latter as he lives in Canada. My initial plan was to simply buy a jersey at their store. However, the stadium tour looked tempting so I bought a ticket. So this comes from a person who has nothing to do with soccer: the tour is good! It emotionally connects the audience with the team’s history and memorable moments. One gets to see the soccer field. I must admit that this experience was overwhelming. I would definitely want to see a match in Camp Nou some day. Meanwhile, you can enjoy some pics of the stadium and my brother in his jersey 😀 .
- A bit of shopping time! Tip: For all Mango and Desigual shopper’s, both stores have their factory outlets in Barcelona. Both outlets are huge and sell a massive collection of fabulous clothing at discounted rates. Make sure to check them out!
On getting back to my hostel room, we girls got chatting again. Ana had cute gifts for her twin nieces back in Argentina. The girls were amazed that I hadn’t been to the beach as yet and instructed me to do my “homework” the next day 😀 . Raksha started to convince us to tag along with her and Valentina to an overnight party. Most of us were super exhausted, but as it was our last night in Barcelona, we decided to eat dinner together at a predominantly vegan restaurant called Flax&Kale on Raksha’s recommendation. The food was delicious and recipes were creative. We sat at the open garden area on the top floor. Such a pretty place! Highly recommended 😀
Time had flown by. It was Sunday already: my last day in Barcelona. I decided to check out a few places in Barcelona before flying back at 2 pm.
Tip: Many museums in Barcelona, including the famous Picasso Museum, are free on the first Sunday of every month. To take advantage of this, make sure you line up early in the morning. I made the mistake of checking it out during the day. I gave up after I saw almost 200+ people in the line already!
- Park Güell: I began my day with a trip to the most iconic site in Barcelona. If you have ever seen postcards of Barcelona, the walls and sculptures made of tiny vibrant mosaic titles belong to Park Güell. Another one of Gaudí’s creations, the park boasts of well-tended gardens, great views of the city and the Gaudí Museum.
- Gothic quarter: Having absorbed the timeless beauty of Park Güell, I hopped on a local bus down to the Gothic quarter. This historic center of Barcelona has endless narrow lanes with museums, boutiques, bakeries and much more. One can’t help getting mesmerized by the eternal Roman architecture.
While scavenging through tiny shops, I actually found a store called Roche that only sold stoles and scarves! That was my place to be 😀
- Barceloneta beach: Past the Gothic quarter I finally headed to one of the most famous city beaches in Europe. Late November wasn’t an ideal season for swimming as the water was chilly, however, one could relax on the course sand while taking in the Sun’s heat. I sat there for hours, looking at the waves and contemplating water patterns. It was thoroughly relaxing.
Later, I tried the Black rice Paella with Mojito at one of the restaurants by the beach.
And that was my last stop in Barcelona.
So, here’s my two cents about Barcelona:
I always wondered why almost all my friends back in Berlin went all gaga over Barcelona. Now I know why! It’s an amazing city, so full of life and so rich in history. It’s like an ultimate package with great architecture paired with fantabulous beaches. One can’t ask for more. I followed a fairly hectic itinerary for this trip. I felt that a long weekend wasn’t enough. I would surely come back again.