We (that is Mr Spaetzle and myself) recently spent three nights in Barcelona. For anyone who might be interested and for myself to remember these days, here’s a little overview over our trip and stay.
How to get to Barcelona and how to get around in Barcelona
We took a plane to Barcelona airport. It’s the obvious choice when travelling from Germany. So the interesting part starts at the airport. There are two different ways how to get into the city (centre). You can either take the Aerobus (a bus, obviously), which takes you straight to Placa Catalunya (right in the centre) or you can take the metro. Both options are quite affordable: the bus is roughly 10€ (return ticket) and if you buy a “Hola BCN” ticket, the trip to and from the airport is included.
The advantage of the “Hola BCN” ticket is that it also includes 2, 3, 4 or 5 days of travel within Barcelona itself (depending on which ticket you choose, of course) – all means of public transport included (bus, tram, metro). I booked our 3-day passes online and it cost us less than the fee for the Aerobus plus the famous T-10 tickets. (T-10 is basically a ticket you can use for ten trips within the city, which is realistic for 3 days, but not to the airport.) So, for a three night stay, I would certainly recommend the Hola BCN ticket for 3 days. It proved to be perfect for us (even if we walked quite a lot).
Where to stay in Barcelona
Tourism in Barcelona is booming. I was told that, at the moment, no new hotels can be opened in the city centre to limit the effects of the dark side of tourism (less “real” neighbourhoods, crowds, rising prices for everything and so on). So, an AirBnB apartment seemed like the most frugal option for us. We found one near La Sagrada Familia (great location!). Our host was nice and uncomplicated. However (and that’s a big however), it turned out to be quite small, dark and super humid (including a weird smell). So we only stayed there to sleep and wash ourselves, didn’t cook or anything in there.
What to do in Barcelona
It wasn’t that bad, though, because there are plenty of things to do and see in Barcelona. We arrived around 5.30pm at our AirBnB and soon after that went out for a little discovery tour. It was Easter Sunday, so quite some shops were closed and we had a hard time finding an open supermarket to buy some water and snacks. We finally found one, of course, bought some water, bread and cheese and headed for the sea were we satisfied our hunger.
To get a picture of all the sights and places of Barcelona, we took one of those Hop-on-Hop-off buses on our first full day there. There are actually two different companies operating these kinds of buses, and we chose Bus Turistic because it has one more route and some more stops. (Also it was a bit cheaper when I booked it via this website.) We first took the green tour which explores the Olympic quarter which is a vibrant, up and coming quarter near the beach. We didn’t “hop off” during this route – there are no must-see sights there – and just enjoyed the views and the absolutely amazing weather. Back at Port Olimpic, where the green route starts and ends, we changed to the red route. (Actually we didn’t change exactly there because the queue was enormous, but walked through Barceloneta, the old fishermen’s quarter, to the previous stop.)
This route passes most of the inner city sights of Barcelona. We stopped at the Barrì Gotic, the Gothic Quarter, which forms the most ancient part of Barcelona. There you can stroll through the streets and visit the cathedral. We then walked to Placa Catalunya and up Paseig de Gracia until the Gaudí houses (Battlo and La Pedrera) where we got on the bus again which took us to the mountain Montjuic. It’s the highest point of Barcelona and you can get a good view over the city at some spots. But that’s not the only reason why you need to visit Montjuic: It’s simply so very beautiful up there! The olympic sites, the calm, the green parks… Just go there! (We didn’t take the cable car up to Montjuic castle, so I can’t say anything about that. But 12€ for a return ticket seemed just way overpriced.)
From Montjuic we went back to the city where we changed onto the blue route. This route takes you to the sights which are a bit further from the city centre (but still well within Barcelona): La Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell and the football stadium of FC Barcelona (for whatever reason). We only stopped at Parc Güell here. You still have to walk up quite a steep hill, but it’s really worth it. The view from up there is simply amazing. And the park is pretty nice, too. We didn’t go into the area for which you have to pay (I read that it wasn’t really worth it because you can see the Gaudí installations from the outside, too) and we were very happy with that. We came for the views, you see. And the free area is located higher than the one you have to pay for. We didn’t stop at La Sagrada Familia because we were going to go there the next day. And we found the part from Parc Güell back to the city centre (via the stadium) rather boring, but it was okay to see a not quite so picturesque part of Barcelona, too. (It’s still beautiful compared to what you can see in some other European cities).
So, the next day we went to visit La Sagrada Familia. Three tips for your visit there: 1 Book in advance. It’s organised beautifully, you don’t have to queue for anything and I think it’s also a bit cheaper. 2 Go early. We went in at 9.15 when there were not too many people. But it got more and more crowded during our visit. 3 Go! Don’t you ever hesitate to not go into the cathedral. I know the entrance fee is not on the cheap side. But really, do go and book an audioguide. You will not regret it. That’s all I’m going to say about this.
After our visit at La Sagrada Familia we headed to Las Ramblas – the most famous street in Barcelona. It is quite touristy (lots of people, ridiculous “offers”) there, but the atmosphere is still nice and off Las Ramblas you can find a really nice market: La Boqueria, were we ate some empanadas for lunch. The market is quite crowded (see touristy street) and as we were told already rather touristy, but the vibe is nice and the food was delicious.
After our lunch break we joined a Free Tour through the Gothic Quarter, the oldest part of Barcelona. The tour was good and our tour guide John was super nice and gave us lots of information about the history of Spain, Barcelona and the Gothic Quarter. We saw really much of the Quarter and learnt a lot about the history of this beautiful city. I really like those free tours because the guides always make quite an effort to convey lots of information in a still entertaining way. That was all the sightseeing for the second day.
On our last day we locked our suitcases safely near Placa Catalunya and went to a really nice park, Parc de la Ciutadella. It has an amazing fountain/waterfall installation which we really liked. We then walked to the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar – one of the older churches of Barcelona, built in the Gothic style and quite impressive – and strolled through the streets of the Gothic Quarter and “El Born”, one of the other older quarters, before heading back to get our lockers, to the airport and, ultimately, home.
What to eat/where to eat in Barcelona
As you can tell from my Instagram feed we ate lots and lots of super nice and sweet pastries in Barcelona. They made up our breakfast on every single day. You can get them in every bakery (panadería) – and they will always be great. One gem we only found on our last morning is the bakery/café chain 365, which offers veeery (!) affordable and also delicious pastries and other baked goods – awesome!
You already know about La Boquería, which is a great place for a quick lunch or a healthy or unhealthy snack. I’d definitely go back any time. You can also just buy bread at a supermarket or bakery and eat it by the sea. Anything is amazing in Barcelona.
As we only eat vegetarian, we were tempted to try out some veg(etari)an restaurants. We tried Veggie Garden and Vegetalia. Veggie Garden is more of an alternative restaurant. It is great for Tapas, Dinner, Indian Food and (funnily enough) milkshakes. They only serve fully vegan food which is great for vegans and vegetarians alike. The service was a bit on the slow side, but the food was super delicious! We had a milkshake and ate a variation of cold and warm, Spanish and Indian Tapas. ❤ Would definitely go there again!
We first tried the Vegetalia on Calle Escudellers (in the Gothic Quarter). It was really really nice. Great service, tasty food. Only my paella was a bit on the plain side. But we both really liked it there. So, the next day we went to the Vegetalia in the Born Quarter (Placa Fossar de les Moreres) and unfortunately it didn’t live up to our expectations at all. The service was super slow and the food was cold and tasted awfully plain. Not the best food experience to leave Barcelona with, but well, the other two dinners were great!
That’s it so far. If you have any questions, just leave me a comment here. And if you haven’t bee already, do go to Barcelona. It’s absolutely worth it. ❤