Updated: Feb 21, 2020
Since Barcelona was on my wishlist for a while, I finally decided that it’s time to spend a few summer days here, in full season.
Barcelona is one of the most visited and attractive cities in Europe and celebrates its role as the capital of Catalonia through a cosmopolitan international vibe. You'll get caught in Antonio Gaudi's universe during your stay here, seeing his touch even in the smallest details of the city. The architect is best known for his organic and free-flowing design and his work is easily identified by its pellicular mixture of form, color, texture and organic aesthetics.
Even though Gaudi brings an important note to the city, Barcelona is not only about him. Barcelona is also known for its festivals during the entire year and life in here can seem like one long fiesta, especially during summer when, besides traditional street parties, a plethora of music and dance festivals invade the city every year. Check out Sonar Festival - one of the world's most esteemed electronic, alternative and experimental music festivals, indie rock giant Primavera Sound and Cruilla - a more eclectic music fest.
Barcelona has pretty high accommodation prices during summer, so if you want something cheap (not that cheap, to be honest) you can choose to stay in the proximity of Barcelona. Badalona, where I stayed, is one of the cheaper options. Besides providing for more affordable accommodation, the city itself is beautiful and worth visiting, as it has numerous narrow pedestrian streets, local markets and a great beach. The best part is that public transport is very well integrated within Barcelona’s metropolitan area; getting from the center of Badalona to La Sagrada Familia takes only 20 minutes. There are two options available: the L2 metro and the R1 train. Both run frequently and cover more than half of Badalona. The Airbnb place I rented was right in the heart of the old town, 5 minutes from each transportation option. During my stay in Badalona I never felt like I was in a different city, but more like in a neighborhood of Barcelona.
So, let’s start with “our visit” in Barcelona.
L’aquarium de Barcelona - if you are feeling adventurous, besides the aquarium visit, you can try an activity called Shark Cage Diving, where you can basically become a scuba diver for a day. You will watch the sea life from inside a cage. But here's a tip: the instructor will take you out of the cage and carry you among hundreds of fish and stingrays, la pièce de résistance being the sharks (you can almost touch them!). Plus, other visitors of the aquarium will see you and will wave at you. Bonus: at the exit you can buy special food and feed koi fish. It's funny how they all come to you, each trying to eat as much food as possible. 😊
Park Güell and Parc de la Ciutadella - Park Güell - home to Barcelona’s famous mosaic lizard, including spiral towers that look like fairground slides and a charming city view from Nature Square. Though never fully completed, this park is one of Gaudi’s masterpieces and remains one of his most colorful and playful works. Although the entrance in the park is free, to reach the parts for which it is so famous, you must buy a ticket. Parc de la Ciutadella is the biggest park in the city where you can find a zoo, the regional parliament and plenty of sites and spots for lounging. Cascada Monumental is a golden waterfall that both wows and relaxes you. This stunning and breathtaking hidden gem is right in the middle of Ciutadella Park. You can climb at Cascada Monumental and watch the park above, feeling like one of the Ancient Greek goddess.
Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens and Casa Amatller - Casa Vicens - the first Gaudí masterpiece, astonishes with its spectrum of colors and detail and stands out for the characteristic Oriental vogue of the time. Casa Batlló - is known as “the House of the Dragon” or “the House of Bones” and the symbolism on its façade is related to the Legend of Saint George, the protector saint of Catalonia. Casa Milà - known as “La Predera” (meaning stone quarry) because it resembles an open quarry in appearance. The building features forms drawn from nature and is Gaudi's most iconic work of civic architecture (and also, the last one). Casa Amatller - is one of Josep Puig i Cadafalch's most remarkable influence of Modernisme fantasy, declared Unesco World Heritage. Together with Casa Batlló(nearby) and Casa Lleó Morera (designed by Domènech i Montaner), is part of the "mansana de la discòrdia" (or "Block of Discord") of Barcelona, so-named for its unique modernist buildings in sharply contrasting styles. I know that all this might seems like boooring info that you can find all over the internet, but I was charmed by them and I just tried to introduce you to Gaudi's universe.
La Boqueria Mercat - this emblematic spot it’s the most famous and picturesque market in Barcelona. The market was once the patio of Saint Joseph Church and it was inaugurated in 1836. Besides taking instagramable and colorful pictures, you can choose a delicious dessert or a snack.
Bunkers del Carmel - are you looking for a view of Barcelona worthy of a postcard? Well, this is the perfect spot. The Bunkers del Carmel are basically bunkers that were used as part of an anti-craft battery to defend Barcelona from fascists attacks. Besides their captivating history, the best reason to come here is that they offer the most incredible scenic views of the city. Although they are becoming an increasingly popular spot to visit, not many people know about them, considered one of Barcelona’s best-kept secrets. When I visited them, it was quite windy and it happened to wear a skirt – ended up feeling like Marilyn Monroe in her iconic subway dress scene.
Montjuïc – it’s a historic hill, but when you say “Montjuïc” you think of the whole area adjacent to it. From the roundabout at Plaça España, it appears grandly from nowhere, a staircase leading up to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (National Museum of Catalan Art) that looks like a palace. The water feature in front is called The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc (Font màgica de Montjuïc) - in the evening it offers light - color representations. Teleferico de Montjuïc is taking passengers from the Estaciò Funicular on Avenida Miramar, which is halfway up Montjuïc and is dropping them at Montjuïc Castle. You can also get to the Montjuïc cable car from Paral.lel metro station via the Funicular de Montjuïc which is a mountain train. If you want to take a break from being a tourist, you could buy tickets in advance for Sala Montjuïc (July/August) festival. During the warm summer nights, locals come to the imposing Montjuïc fortress for a romantic picnic and jazz concerts, before a night of open-air cinema.
Port Vell – is an important hub in your expedition through the city, because, around it, there are some attractions that will surely catch your interest. Columbus Monument (Cristobal Colón) - this massive monument of Christopher Columbus is located at the very end of La Rambla (the most famous boulevard which makes this city so unique – also a great place where you can buy souvenirs) and it’s possibly the most eye-catching monument in Port Vell. The day that Christopher returned from his first journey to The New World was a special moment for the city because Barcelona harbor was Christopher’s first stop upon return (and that’s why this monument is so special). Maremagnum - even if it’s an old city, Barcelona sure does have a lot of hip modern complexes and buildings. One of the coolest one is this shopping centre that sits right in the middle of Port Vell harbor. Port Vell Cable Car - it’s impossible to miss the red cars of Transbordador Aeri del Port when visiting Port Vell. This unique and thrilling experience takes you on a trip over the water and across the port. Starting at Montjuïc, you "fly" over the dock to a viewing station and then further across the harbor to one of the tallest aerial pylons in the entire world. It’s definitely on my wishlist for my next vacation here. Another two attractions in the proximity of Port Vell would be Museu Maritim and Museu d’Història de Catalunya. And last but not least, you are in a port! You definitely should take one of the boat tours available. If you choose a boat ride at sunset, as I did, you will get a romantic image of Barcelona skyline and it will give you a perspective of the city settling for the night.
Barceloneta beach - if you want to take a break from running around town and have a quiet day at the beach, this is definitely not the place; it's one of the noisiest and most crowded beaches. In my opinion, the beach in the evening has a much more attractive vibe and you should take a walk to the well-known W Hotel Barcelona - a striking sail-like structure next to Barceloneta Beach, offering a breathtaking design and fantastic views over Barcelona (the prices of a room are suitable with the reputation of the hotel).
Sagrada Familia – requires no introduction; probably the most imposing work of Gaudi is worth visiting at least once in your life.
Camp Nou – if you go on this trip with your boyfriend, there is no chance that he will not visit Camp Nou
"The World Begins With Every Kiss" Mural - this famous mural of two people kissing is made up of thousands of personal photos and was unveiled in 2014 for the 300th anniversary of September 11, 1714, a day known as Catalonia Day. In your walk through the city you could come here and take a selfie (I won’t tell anyone).
I know that until now I wrote only about the tourist spots of Barcelona, but of course, you will want to take a break to eat or drink something someplace nice. Perhaps, you are hungry right now since you've been reading this endless article.
Ayre Hotel Rosellon – If you didn't already know about this rooftop, you won't notice it. Ayre Hotel Rosellon Hotel across the street from Sagrada Familia and its rooftop offers you an incredible view of both the cathedral and the city. You can cool off with a fruit salad and a cocktail while admiring the landscape.
Agüelo013 – Located in the Gothic quarter, this chic restaurant is perfect for a romantic dinner. The beef steak is served in raw slices, but a hot stone is provided, in order for you to cook each slice for how long you want. You can eat half of it rare and half of it well done. It’s up to you and your taste. Oh, and don’t forget about the sangria. There is no bad sangria in Barcelona.
So, are we gonna sing together Ed Sheeran’s “Barcelona” or what?