Last year, at the end of December I took myself off and spent a few days exploring Barcelona. I’ve been to Barcelona before a couple of years ago, but one of the things about this city is that it’s got a great mix of culture, friendly people, art and so much interesting architecture that one trip wouldn’t be enough. It even has easy access to a beach any time you like.
A highlight for me whenever I go away is simply wandering the streets and getting lost. For me it’s how I get to best soak up the atmosphere. I love people watching in any city and seeing as much of the city as I can. I never put any pressure on myself to cram in everything a city has to offer – if I don’t get around to seeing something, I like to think it’s a reason to go back :-)
Wandering and getting lost in the Gothic quarter of the city was a perfect day for me. The hidden streets and interesting architecture are perfect for getting your camera out. You can’t help but to think back to centuries past of the people who walked the same streets. The cobbled lanes and hidden alleyways hold many secrets. The area of El Born and Es Ravel were also quite simply enchanting.
I love experiencing the less touristy aspects of a city, especially if I get to see locals going about their daily life. But, you could not visit Barcelona and not visit some of Gaudi’s sights. Antonio Gaudi is responsible for dreaming up some of the most famous sights in Barcelona. I chose to visit the Sagrada Familia…..It’s incredible from the outside, but to really admire it property, you need to go in. The interior is really stunning with its stained glass windows and light fixtures.
What you can’t fail to notice in Barcelona is that there are so many quirky shops and cool bars – literally, so many bars that you’d need a good month, if not more to get around them all. Dotted all around the Gracia neighbourhood, Barrio Gothic, Ravel and El Born, you’ll find a bar to suit all age and taste and many in between. Gracia is probably one of the trendiest neighbourhoods, and it’s got a great street life vibe. I spend most evenings walking around the different districts, but I’d always end up in Gracia and Plaza del Sol where I’d sit and enjoy an ice cream.
Las Ramblas Barcelona, has got to be one of the world’s most famous streets! In London they say “when a man’s tired of London, he’s tired of living” and I reckon the same could be said about this elaborate and lively boulevard which runs through the heart of Barcelona. It’s usually the first port-of-call for Barcelona tourists and when you see the sheer amount of activity crammed in, you can see why. Many of Barcelona’s famous landmarks are situated just off Las Rambla, so it’s a great landmark to head to if you find yourself getting lost, and it really is a perfect place to sit and absorb the atmosphere.
One of my favourite places to wander around during both the day and evening was La Boqueira market. The noise, smells, life and colours made this such an interesting market. It’s one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets, and you can literally spend hours just walking around feasting the senses and watching both locals and tourists as they buy fresh fish and sampling the myriad of dried fruit and tasty morsels that the stall holders hand out. The floors are slippery with melted ice and fruit skins, and the stall holders loud, but this all adds to the experience. You can find all food of all variety, and you can try everything from Catalan sausages, to Jamon, fresh fruit juices, tasty plates of tapas, chocolate and fruits.
My favourite spot to stop and people watch was the famous bar of El Pinotxo. Everyday I came to watch people as they queued up to utter the words “café con leche, por favour” whilst the affable and always smiling friendly owner Juanito – one of the cities best loved figures - decked out in his pressed stripped vest, waistcoat and dapper bow tie gave the thumbs up and moments later coffee was served. Everyone seemed to know Juanito and his cheeky smile. You really do need to get here early morning if you’re thinking of taking a seat to sit and eat. Always busy with locals grabbing their takeaway café con leche and tourists wanting to sit and linger, the food served here no matter the time of day looked and smelled delicious and fresh, and the pastries and coffee were a real morning treat and highly recommended!
The beach! Despite it being December and a few days before Christmas, the weather, albeit a torrential downpour on my first day – seriously it rained hard! – was pleasantly agreeable and Barceloneta Beach is a great spot to people watch and walk along the promenade – sunset from here had an almost California vibe to it.
Day trip to Sitges…If you fancy stepping outside of the city for the day, the other great thing about Barcelona is its easy to visit to other interesting day trip options. Whilst I was in Barcelona, I found out a friends’ parents were staying in Sitges, so that sealed the deal on me making the short and easy trip on the train to spend the day with them and I loved it. It’s close enough (a 30 minute train ride), but far enough to feel like you’re visiting a different part of Spain. The first stop was the beach – which is beautiful and long - and standing on the beach in the warm winter sunshine was perfect. We sat in the sun, explored parts of the old town, had a lovely lunch, and then headed to an ice cream parlour on the promenade. All-in-all a pretty perfect day, and I would so go back!
But really, unless you’re here for an extended stay in the city (and lucky you, if you are) it’s impossible to see everything in Barcelona. I didn’t make it to Parc Guell, so my next trip to Barcelona will for sure this famous landmark, and take the trip to Monserrat too!