Barcelona has held up many reputations… One being it’s beautiful architecture, another being that it’s the pickpocket/mugging capital of Europe. With that in mind of course we were sceptical of coming here. But in all honesty, when we arrived we felt incredibly safe. Spending two weeks here, like with Lisbon, we were able to get a full flavour of what it’s like to live here. Well, perhaps not a completely full flavour but we were able to pick up many vibes and give advice to others who are intending on travelling to this Catalonian city.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
Although mainly associated with Spain, Barcelona’s background is Catalonia. If you Google this you will see that it is now a part of Spain however many Barcelonians are proud to from Catalonia and like to be addressed as such. You will see that throughout your trip here with their flag being of Catalonian origin (not Spanish), their language in schools. being Catalonian and there even being a museum dedicated to the autonomous community.
Barcelona is the second busiest city in Spain and by golly can’t you tell! The tourist numbers are huge here, making it a haven for pickpockets (more on that later).
For us it’s always important to stay within walking distance of many attractions and essentials such as shops and decent transport should be want to venture slightly out of the city. On this occasion we were situated on Avinguda del Paral·lel (or in English, Parallel Avenue).
Our apartment was situated towards the sea at the top of a block, looking over Paral-lel as well as across to the mountains. Nearby were a selection of restaurants. Primarily serving traditional cuisine, such as all day breakfasts and burgers… Told you it was a tourist destination. In all seriousness, there is a great selection of places to here which also sell paella and even Turkish food (we often ate a few restaurants down to get a falafel wrap as there aren’t many veggie options available unless you want pizza).
Louis’s apartment is bright, well furnished, comfortable and has all the necessities you need, especially for a short stay. Wifi, washing machine, dryer, fridge, freezer, gas stove and a disco ball for good measure. There is no TV so make sure you bring a laptop for the evenings in of watching movies.
I am rather surpsied we didn’t eat out more here but since our “diet”, well healthy eating regime has kicked in, we have tried our best to avoid eating out. Instead we have been staying in and cooking up some good meals.
Since it’s been pretty darn warm fresh salads, stir fry, veggie fajita wraps and pasta dishes have played a big part in out eating habits. This is great because on almost every street there is a grocery with fresh fruit and vegetables, perfect for those wanting to trim down their waist line.
On the other hand, if you fancy pigging out on chips and Cola you will be in much luck every two buildings down. There are so many restaurants, cafes and tapas bars you will find it hard to choose. But for a selection of fresh fish and a range of delicacies I would head on over to Port Olympic. Also within that area is an even bigger choice of food including Australian.
Like with Lisbon we used the Hop on Hop off Bus Tour as it’s a great way to find our way around the city and a good excuse to soak in the sun whilst enjoying the views.
Here are some places which we found on the bus tour as well as some bits that we did independently.
VISIT THE GOTHIC QUARTER
If you’re an architecture lover you need to visit the Gothic Quarter. Being part of the Old Town many of the building that reside there are medieval and hold some gorgeous landmarks that you must see for yourself.
GO TO POBLE ESPANYOL
Built in 1929 for the Barcelona International Exhibition this open air museum was originally to be torn down once the World Fair was over. However, due to popular demand the village stayed open and is now home to crafts, food and art galleries.
There are many nooks and crannies to get lost in and discover something new so be sure to head there one morning so you grab some tapas for lunch and make a day of this popular attraction.
Not a big lover of art? Never fear. You don’t have to go inside this gallery to appreciate it’s beauty. However, if you do want to pop inside you will be welcomed by several exhibitions. First thing’s first. Once you’ve paid for your ticket you must put your bag in a locker so be sure to bring a euro with you for that.
You will be given a map so you can navigate your way around this huge building which includes both religious, medieval art as well as modern art.
SEE GAUDI’S DESIGNS
Throughout various parts of Barcelona you will notice some strange architecture. These are probably those of Gaudi. Using nature as his inspiration, Gaudi created some wonderfully different building designs.
If you go on the Hop On Hop Off bus you will be able to get some further information on certain buildings on your routes. There also stops at some of his most famous works.
WATCH A BARCELONA FOOTBALL MATCH OR GO ON A TOUR OF CAMP NOU
Barcelona loves it’s football and are not afraid to show it. You will probably notice a huge wave of football stores selling t-shirts (some at a ridiculous price). I will give you some shopping locations in a mo. In the meantime, let me explain why, as someone who doesn’t like football, you need to go to Camp Nou for either a game or just to look around.
The sheer size of the place is incredible and blew me away when we went to a game. It is the symbol of Barcelona’s love for the sport and it is truly demonstrated when watching their beloved team play. The chanting, the singing, the whole atmosphere really draws your mind away from (perhaps) a potentially boring game. That’s me though. Football lovers will definitely love it. I mean who doesn’t want to see Messi, the greatest football player who ever lived (so I am told) score a couple of goals?
As mentioned earlier if you want to buy a football shirt in Barcelona, there are plenty of places you can go. If you go to a knock off store then you are bound to get it at a cheaper price. But if you want the real thing you could end up paying €100 which no one really wants to do. This happened to Paul though as he wanted an OFFICIAL Messi football shirt as a momento of our trip here and the match we were going to. However, to get my shirt, we went here where you can get an unnamed t-shirt for €40 and then get it personalised for about €10. Of course my shirt didn’t have all the badges on it but who cares? they change all the time anyway 😛
As for NORMAL shopping there are a couple of shopping centres which are open 365 days a year. The two closest to Paul and I is Maremagnum which is at the Marina and Arenas Barcelona (an old bullring and concert venue). The Arenas Barcelona also has a huge foodcourt in case your get peckish on your spree.
GO ON A SALVADOR DALI TOUR
Although not actually in Barcelona there are tours which do depart from here taking you to the museum and home of one of the most famous artists of the twentieth century.
Salvador Dali, primarily known for his surrealist works created hundreds of pieces of art throughout his life, some not even recognisable as his due to the diverse and incredible talent he possessed. The tour starts by driving you about 2 hours out of Barcelona towards Figueres where the Dali Museum resides. Your guide will be giving you some background on Dali’s life and his beginnings as an artist. You will be given the opportunity to explore the museum on your own and to view the Dali jewellery collection that he designed. It’s really quite incredible.
Once you have reached your meeting point, you will then be taken to Cadaqués, the town where Dali lived. Here you will be able to go off to find somewhere to have some lunch. There are a large selection of sea food places and well as pizzerias. Once lunch is over that’s when you get to go to Dali’s house. There is a time slot of each group where you will be taken to each part of the house. You will be told some interesting information about each room.
Once the tour of the house and garden is completed the bus will take you back to the original pick up point.
TIPS IN BARCELONA
You know when i said Barcelona is known for muggings and pickpockets. Well I wasn’t exaggerating. Each person I spoke to mentioned someone they knew or they had been a victim to this. So the first few tips I will offer you to prevent this happening:
- Wear a money belt
- Don’t carry your camera without a strap
- Be on the look out
- Don’t carry your wallet in your pocket
- Put a lock on your bag
- Keep possessions close
- Don’t wander off alone
- Keep your phone and money well hidden
- Carry as little as possible with you
- Don’t let taxi drivers rip you off, know exactly where you are going to avoid them taking you somewhere different.
- Bring an umbrella and sunscreen
- Trainers… always trainers. Lots of walking is required here so make sure you’re comfortable.
- The cable car may look cool to go on but in reality you wait for an hour in the sun to then go on a €12.50, 10 minute ride to the mountain. You’re better off getting the bus or walking.
- Check prices for attractions before you make the effort to go. We went to the Aquarium and it was pricey for what it was for.
So there we go! Barcelona is done and by the time you are reading this, we will be at our next stop, Rome!