We mentioned at the bottom of our 2015 Barcelona guide that we would be back and here we find ourselves again. This time, for 5 weeks!
We rented a cute apartment in La Barceloneta (shown below) which we fell in love with. The location couldn’t have been more perfect. Literally minutes from everything we needed and most importantly, the beach was a stone’s throw away.
Following on from our last post, we’ve added a few more tips, places to visit and restaurants to check out! Be sure to visit our previous post for where to stay, along with other things to do such as visiting the Sagrada Familia, touring the town in a WWII Side Car Tours, Bar Crawls, La Rambla, Tapas Crawl, The Magic Fountain and more.
Top 5 tips for Barcelona
- Buy a T-10 card to use on the Metro and Bus. It is half the cost of buying an individual ticket each time you use public transport. It is only 10€ and they can be purchased in the metro or at tobacco stores.
- Pre-buy tickets into Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia (a magnificent church like you’ve never seen).
- Watch your belongings in the tourist areas, including the beach. Barcelona is famous for its pick-pocketing along with being ripped off for drinks on the beach.
- Try avoid eating on La Rambla. Whilst it is sometimes convenient, they are the most over-priced restaurants and there are more to explore in all of the alleys and plazas just off La Rambla. Get out of the tourist zone and eat like a local.
- Drinking on the street is classified as legal in Barcelona, avoid spending $$ for over-priced drinks on the beach and head to the grocery store (they’re everywhere) and grab the same drinks from there for a fraction of the cost. €2 for 1.5L of sangria VS €6-9 for a single cup!
How long do you need in Barcelona ?
Barcelona really has a mix of everything which is why we love it so much. History, culture, the beach, the food, a mid-sized city, great shopping, pumping nightlife & day trips to escape. So while spending up to a month is totally doable, realistically, a week in Barcelona will give you enough time to get a feel for the city and maybe even take a day trip outside of the city. During the summer, the sun doesn’t go down until after 10:00 pm which allows ample time to spend at the beach plus a few tourist activities every day.
What to do in Barcelona (see prior post for more)
There are so many things to keep yourself busy during the summer in Barcelona. Be sure to check out all the billboards and flyers posted around the city, we had some of our best days at events (Brunch in the Park, Poblenou Craft Beer Festival, Sonar ) that we didn’t even know about until seeing the advertisements! Apart from eating and drinking our way around the city, we spent a considerable amount of time on the beach, I believe every day we made an appearance 🙂
So, what else is there to do?
Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudi’s masterpieces and it is the most magnificent church we’ve ever seen. No wonder it is Barcelona’s most visited attraction. Although we came here on our last visit, we made a rooky error by not pre-purchasing our tickets online. Learning from our mistakes, we pre-bought them this time and waited no longer than 10 minutes to get inside. We recommend reserving at least a day in advance especially if you are short on time. Not all time slots/days are available especially during high season (summer). You can find the tickets online here.
- Entry + guided tour – €24
- Self-guided with an audio guide – €22
- General Entry (no guides) – €15
- For a panoramic view of Sagrada Familia, you can buy tickets to enter the tower as well as the main entrance. This is an extra cost to the original fee €29.
Note; Booking through Viator is 2x more expensive so don’t be sucked into their “skip the line” ticket prices.
We’ve seen our fair share of churches throughout Europe but it was beyond impressing seeing inside Sagrada Familia. We had our mouths open and head tipped back the entire time, completely engrossed in the stain glass window colours and the details of the ceiling.
The park itself is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was originally developed to become a residential community but considering the distance from the city, it never took off and only 2 houses were built. Today, it is described as “Alice and Wonderland” – a pretty accurate description. Walking up the main staircase from the entry, be sure to stop and pose with the salamander and continue on to the central square to see Gaudi’s work at its best.
The tiles on the benches surrounding the centre square are made with mosaic style colourful tiles. Whilst a bit crowded (the entrance feels like Disney World), it is the perfect place to experience Gaudi beyond the facades of the buildings in the city centre.
Visiting the park
The park has 2 different areas: The Monumental Zone, which requires the purchase of a ticket, and the free access area (shaded area) which is open to all visitors at no charge. Most of Gaudi’s work is inside the Monumental Zone so we do recommend visiting both sections. The free section of the park has a slight hill that’s worth the walk. It is marked by a large cross, and it offers an amazing panoramic view of Barcelona, the beach and beyond.
Tickets can be bought online for €7 or for €14 for a guided tour. Pack yourself a picnic and enjoy the morning or afternoon at one of Barcelona’s most visited parks.
Gaudi has many other buildings located throughout the city and if you have the time, they are fun to come by! Check out Globotreks for the best ones to visit!
Fun Fact: The seats in the centre square are unusually comfortable for a stone bench: Gaudi had a workman drop his pants and sit in soft plaster to record the correct anatomical curve – foreshadowing the science of ergonomics by half a century.
A day trip to Montserrat
Montserrat is a mountain top monastery in Catalonia, Spain. It is situated atop very unusual rock formations, with views that spread far into the distance. Not only is Montserrat Monastery of significant religious importance, but the natural scenery surrounding the monastery really is breathtaking. We spent an entire day there and would recommend to anyone who loves the outdoors, to make the trip out here.
How to get to Montserrat
It took us 2 hours (from La Barceloneta) to reach Montserrat. Although it is very easy, it does take time so allow at least half a day to get the full experience, a full day if you plan on hiking when you arrive.
Trains leave from The Espanya Rail Station which is located on the green and red metro lines. Once you arrive at Espanya station, look for Line R5 headed towards Manresa. The journey is an hour until you reach the Montserrat-Aeri station where you will get off to take the cable car to the top of the mountain. Trains from Barcelona run every-hour-on-the-half-hour (as of 2016) and the cable car every 5-10 minutes. The total cost for train and cable car is €20.20 and can be purchased together at the Espanya Station.
For train schedules, click here.
We spent a good portion of the day hiking around the mountains before reaching the highest point of Montserrat – Sant Jeroni. It took us 2.5-3 hours (including lunch and photo stops) to reach the highest point. There are a few different trails to take and obtaining a map at the information booth will outline an itinerary for all the different options.
We took the ‘Sant Joan Funicular (upper station) to Montserrat (via Sant Jeroni and Flat of Els Ocells)’. This walk took us to the highest point through a lot of the mountains. A one-way ticket for the funicular can be bought on site for €6.80. The walk can be steep at times but it isn’t too challenging and the views are worth every step. Be sure to follow the map for directions getting back down the mountain, there are a lot of stairs!
Tips for Montserrat
- Pack a lunch to enjoy at Sant Jeroni, the peak of Montserrat. There is a cafe there but it is expensive.
- Be sure to buy the return joint train + cable car ticket at Espanya station in Barcelona (it saves money and time).
- Before you start your hikes, pick up a map at the information booth to help guide you around, the trails aren’t that well marked.
- Garbage cans are non-existent along the walking paths so be sure to bring a bag to take your trash back to the main station.
Parc de la Ciutadella
We only discovered this park towards the end of our stay in Barcelona and we wished we’d know about it earlier. Parc de la Ciutadella is one of the greenest of spaces in Barcelona and located only a 15-minute walk from the beach or 10 mins from La Rambla. The park is a great choice for a break from the beach and city life. It’s very clean, spacious and there are many places to enjoy a picnic, to exercise, stroll around, row in the lake or visit the zoo inside. Be sure to stop by the Cascada Fountain. The park is free to enter.
Our tip: If you take the subway to the Parc de la Ciutadella, take the line L1 to station Arc de Triomf. Pass through the Arc de Triomf (shown below) and walk down the car-free Passeig de Lluis Companys, directly to the park’s main entrance.
Eating in Barcelona
There are countless places to enjoy a meal in Barcelona and you don’t have to walk very far before you stumble upon one. However, people don’t usually eat dinner till at LEAST 8:00 pm in Barcelona. The most popular time slots ar 9:30/10pm so be sure to make a reservation if you know where you want to go. If you don’t, start walking around early to avoid being turned away from every other full restaurant.
After being here for 5 weeks, we managed to eat at a quite few and these were just some of our favourites.
- Llamber (El Born) – One of our absolute favourites. A tapas restaurant and perfect if you have a group. Above average prices but awesome food.
- Sensi – (Gothic Quarter) Sensi has 4 restaurants located throughout the city, we tried all of them and they were all equally amazing. Sensi Tapas, Sensi Gourmet, Sensi Mezzanine and Sensi Bistro. They all have different menus but run a similar style. They also have the best sangria we’ve had in Barcelona.
- MakaMaka Burger (La Barceloneta) – This burger joint has to be one of the most visited in Barcelona, especially after a day on the beach.
- Las Fritas – (La Barceloneta) Who doesn’t like a fresh, hot box of french fries. If you don’t, you’re crazy. These fries are made with some serious love and we soon became regulars at this hole in the wall. They have a range of sauces and toppings to go with them.
- Milk Bar & Bistro – The go to for Brunch in Barcelona. No reservations so get there early and be prepared to wait. Very reasonable prices and a solid delicious menu.
- Baluard Barceloneta – (La Barceloneta) The best bakery in Barcelona. If you’re by the beach, stop in here and grab a fresh sandwich or sweet treat.
- Quimet & Quimet – (El Pobble Sec) Rated as one of the top 10 tapas restaurants in Barcelona. No reservations necessary and there are no tables or chairs. A unique tapas experience.
- Somorrostro – (La Barceloneta) Tapas restaurant, carefully presented dishes, good range of choices and delicious.
- Bar SinCopa (Gothic Quarter) – The best mojito in Barcelona. Really quirky ceilings and fun bartenders.
- Sub Rosa (Gothic Quarter) – Cute little-hidden cocktail bar with €2.80 mojitos and €4 cocktails. Speak easy feel.
- Stoke (Gothic Quarter ) – Chill bar with very reasonable drink prices. Great place to start off the night.
- FOC (La Barceloneta) – Latin American food, casual setting, decent prices and awesome meals.
- La Malandrina (La Barceloneta) – Argentian/Uruguay steak house. HUGE portions and top notch steaks for under average prices (€8.80) for a huge steak and side dish. Always a line to get in here.
Friends in Barcelona
Nothing beats seeing a familiar face in a foreign country. We felt so lucky to have had so many visitors during our 5 weeks and although it made the weeks fly by, we absolutely loved seeing all these beautiful faces! Forget the distance we have between us and our friends, we know the moment we reconnect, it’s as though we never left each other.
One of our closest friends in NYC, Sam (above) made the trip over to see us for the first week. We had an awesome time getting reacquainted with the city together after spending a long 15 months apart. We also met up with 4 awesome mates we’ve run into throughout our travels in Bolivia, Rio and now in Barcelona.
Friendships that go as far as 18 years back. Growing up together in Australia, we never in a million years thought we would end up in Barcelona for a reunion. It was such fun to have a group of our school friends here for an extended long weekend. We ate and drank our way through Barcelona and had such an amazing memorable time. One of them (can you guess which one?) is getting married in December so we celebrated with a day out on the water on our own private boat, followed by an incredible dinner at Llamber restaurant.
Barcelona, you have been incredible! The city felt like home after the first week and it was tough to ‘move out’, thankfully, we have so many more adventures ahead of us!
Married days survived; 476