Have you ever been to a place so perfect that it makes you seriously consider canceling your return flight home? That’s what happened to us during our visit to Barcelona. Broken Spanish and all, never mind the fact that Catalan is the primary language; we were ready to make a life there.
Hands down, it is our favorite city abroad that we have visited to date. On the same trip, we visited Spain’s largest city, Madrid and loved it. Barcelona, however, left us speechless. The food, the people, the natural beauty are all breathtaking. From gothic medieval buildings with statues that look like they come alive at midnight in the Barri Gòtic neighborhood to high fashion shops in the city center to beach boardwalks, Barcelona has something for everyone. Take the easygoing vibe and perfect weather of L.A., beaches from Miami, and buzzing city vibe of New York and you can begin to understand the magic of Barcelona.
As we do whenever possible in visiting a foreign city, our first move is to take a ride on the Hop On/Hop Off double decker buses. Yes, it’s very touristy, but the biggest advantage in starting our trip with one of these tours is that it’s the quickest way to get the lay of the land. A 30-minute ride allowed us to go through at least eight different neighborhoods. It is more fun and informative than a taxi ride and we were able to quickly highlight places of interest that we wanted to visit on foot. Plus, because the buses operate so frequently, you can stretch your money and use them as a pre-paid taxi of sorts getting dropped off and picked up from convenient spots throughout the city.
As far as main attractions go, you can’t go wrong just wandering around, but do make a point to visit Park Güell, one of the many contributions from early 20th century Spanish artist Gaudí. His architecture (La Sagrada Família church is jaw-dropping) and iconic mosaic artwork is evident throughout all of Barcelona but this park is his ode to nature. A mix of lush flowers and desert, it offers some of the most astonishing landscape views of the city. The view from the park is so coveted that in one area you have to stand in line and buy tickets to get to some of the most premium viewing spots.
La Sagrada Família Church
For a chance to get in touch with your inner sports star, definitely visit the 1992 Olympic Stadium. It’s a climb but not too far from another beautiful viewing point in the Montjuic neighborhood.
Throughout our stay, we indulged in tapas all over the city. In the city center on the famous street known as La Rambla, there are tons of options. If New York’s Times Square and The Strip in Las Vegas had a baby, La Rambla would be the offspring. It’s only one street but it’s jam packed with street vendors, nightclubs, and outdoor cafes. While these spots offer the quintessential tapas, paella, and sangria that Barcelona is known for, adventurous visitors can get more of an authentic feel by slipping into numerous local spots on side streets. The name of some of our favorite eating spots escape us because we stumbled upon them while wandering down streets and choosing places off the beaten path.
La Rambla – Day
La Rambla – Night
If the opportunity presents itself to visit Barcelona, jump on it.
Just under a two-hour flight from London, it’s easily doable while visiting other European hotspots. The people are welcoming and extremely forgiving even when you butcher their native tongue.
Seeing new sights outside of your everyday route is always fun, but exploring and experiencing this city together took our trip to an entirely different level.
Bonus Visit Tips:
1. Pay the small fee to ride the elevator to the top of the Christopher Columbus statue. The reward is a panoramic view of La Rambla and beach area from over 100 feet in the air. You’re inside the statue’s crown giving a similar feeling to the inside view from the crown of the Statue of Liberty. After the tour, for a couple extra euros, they throw in two glasses of wine or cava. Tickets and more info here.
View from inside the Christopher Columbus Statue
2. Take up the offers from club promoters on the street to visit one of the dance clubs in La Rambla. The club we visited played every major hip hop track from 1999 to today. Most of the people in there didn’t speak English but they were rapping along to Bad Boy’s greatest hits right along with us. By far, one of our favorite nights in Barcelona.
3. Take a boat tour from Port Vell. Close to the aquarium and IMAX theatre, leaving from this port allows you to see the beach and enjoy that Mediterranean breeze. When the boat docks, definitely get your sunbathing in. The beaches are ridiculously picturesque.
4. The main languages are Catalan and Spanish. While many signs, menus, etc. are printed in Catalan, many locals understand both languages in addition to English in the areas with high tourist traffic. The locals definitely appreciate the effort of speaking their language but when our memories of high school Spanish failed us, we were still able to navigate throughout the city without issue.
5. Be a dorky coupon mom and ask your hotel concierge if they have a coupon book or offer discounts for popular tourist attractions. Many of the hotels offer some sort of offer and it helps stretch your money further. That U.S. Dollar to Euro conversion is no joke.
6. Hip Hop’s worldwide cultural influence is evident in Barcelona’s street art. Graffiti pops up unexpectedly and lends extra vibrancy to the atmosphere. Make sure you keep your eyes out for some amazing imagery. We saw a “Wu-Tang forever” tag during one of our day treks.
** All of the images displayed are the couples own unless noted.
Is Barcelona on your travel list? If not, maybe you should go ahead and add it now!