3 nights, 2 people, 1 city: A beautiful trip to Barcelona
Barcelona – the gift that keeps on giving! Having recently returned from a four-day trip to Barcelona, I’m still overwhelmed by the charm, beauty and hospitality of the Catalonia capital.
This year I was lucky enough to be one of the 32 million visitors to the versatile city, and will certainly be heading back!
Continue reading to see what we got up to and how we made some amazing memories.
How we got there
Taking the low-cost option, we flew from Liverpool (LPL) to Barcelona (BCN), with a modest flight time of 2 hours and 5 minutes. Our trip was for 4 days, 3 nights; Tuesday 24th July – Friday 27th July 2018.
COST: We paid £100pp return with Ryanair – heed the warning, pay the extra for BA. You’ll thank me later! (Ryanair flight review, coming soon!). This did not include checked luggage but had more than enough space in our carry-on cases for the duration.
Once you’ve gathered you case and made your way through airport security, it’s a short walk to the train station from Terminal 2. Within 30 minutes you will arrive in central Barcelona. The ticket machines at the entrance to the station can get quite crowded, but staff were fantastic at helping confused tourists navigate (machines do allow you to choose from a range of languages to make the process easier). It’s a fairly simple system and you can pay with cash or card, so don’t panic if you don’t have change.
We got the air-conditioned (thank the lord) RENFE train, taking around 30 minutes to Passeig de Gracia, and cost €4.20 one way. A much cheaper and convenient alternative to a €35 taxi!
Where we stayed
Hotel Catalonia La Pedrera: 4* in the La Pedrera area.
La Pedrera is located in the North of the city, only a 5 minute walk east to the ‘Sagrad Familia’. The hotel was situated close to diagonal metro station. A 3-4 block walk, and you have quick & easy access to pretty much most of the city within minutes.
The biggest draw of Hotel Catalonia La Predrera was the roof top pool – it wasn’t very big but it was chic, spotless and absolute Godsend in the 32 degree heat. Oh, and the views!!
The hotel cost €355 euro for 3 nights via Booking.com.
Our stay at the Catalonia La Pedrera wasn’t “cheap”. BUT, it was better value than other BCN hotels that were more basic but more expensive because they were closer to La Rambla. Plus, the walk in to the main sites is stunning! The Catalonia La Pedrera is a quality hotel with cosy extras (pool, luxurious amenity kits, and had plenty of towels – the amount of negative comments regarding a lack of towels on tripadvisor is insane!). Beds were super comfy, the room was clean, maid service every day, aircon and a balcony! Spoilt!
The staff at Catalonia La Pedrera were also amazing and so accommodating. Late check-out may be available if, like us, your flight was later in the evening (€30 ’til 3pm and €40 ’til 6pm). We had to ask on the morning of our departure but it was worth every cent!
How we spent our time in Barcelona
Port of Barcelona
A playground for the rich & richer! You can sit and marvel at the Super yachts and the cruise ships, lighten your purse by shopping at the Maremagnum shopping centre or, marvel at the beautiful sea creatures at the Barcelona Aquarium.
The easiest way to access the Port is via Drassanes or Barceloneta Metro if travelling by public transport. The short journey will take you approximately 10 minutes.
Pro tip: The Schooner boat trip from the Port of Barcelona is a must. The whole trip cost €15pp for 1 hour and it takes you around the port and the bay. You get stunning views of the entire city and is a great way to chill, away from the hustle and bustle. The first sailing starts at 12pm and durations vary from 30 to 90 minutes. Tickets can be bought from official vendors around the city or from the Goleta Karya stand at the dock.
You’ll find the Schooner in the dock from around 11:30am, so don’t be alarmed if you’re there earlier and your vessel isn’t. Head down to Maremagnum and you’ll find it docked just outside of Starbucks (the air con upstairs will give you life!) in a tiny inlet prior to the first sailing. We can’t wait to do the sunset cruise on our next visit!
From the port, the various beaches are around a 5 minute walk east, past the markets and near to the Estació de França train station. The bonus of being able to twin a city break with a beach break is more evidence of how Barcelona will spoil you. I personally prefer my beaches less crowded and touristy, but a fantastic option to have nonetheless.
The Sagrad Familia is the famous unfinished Church located in the north of Barcelona. The architecture was absolutely breathtaking. Make sure you walk all the way around the perimeter as it offers beauty on all sides. We walked from our hotel which took us around 5 minutes.
Near the Sagrad Familia you can find plenty of little restaurants and cafes. There’s even a Costa if you need that home away from home familiarity (pains me to say it, but let’s admit, we all need it from time to time!).
Pro Tip: Go early! We arrived at 9am and the queues were just starting to form.
La Boqueria Market
Go early to give yourself time to peruse without the hassle. La Boqueria Market really did feel like the heart beat of the La Rambla (whilst La Rambla is cool, and I get why people want to visit, it was just slightly too touristy and busy for us, especially later in the day). Here at the market you’ll find fresh everything; fruit juices, salads, fish, meats, fruit, chocolates, and sweet Spanish treats
You could almost miss it – a hidden gem with delicious temptations at every turn! Just keep a look out for Dunkin’ Donuts on La Rambla and there you are.
Pro tip: Walk around the whole of the market, decide what you liked and go back. Prices can vary by 2-3 euro depending on the vendor – why pay more for the same thing?! We got a leaf salad, a huge fresh fruit salad and fresh fruit juice for €5! Olé!
If you’re looking for small quaint streets, hidden shops, coffee shops, and paper artistry, the Gothic Quarter has it all. You’ll almost stumble across the magnificent Barcelona Cathedral in the square. As a side note, ladies, you will need to cover shoulders and knees; staff were on hand to loan shawls at no extra cost. We didn’t go inside, which retrospectively I am gutted about, but personally, I just don’t like the idea of having to pay entry into a place of worship. The cost of entry was €7 per person. Honestly, sitting in its shadow slurping away on the Rum & Raisin Gelato (€3 for two scoops) that fell in to my hand was a great enough experience to leave us with happy memories.
Pro tip: If you don’t want to pay but still want the religiously cultural experience, a few minutes walk away, via one of the most stunningly peaceful squares, was the Sant Maria del Mar Church – wow! Even if you do go to the Cathedral, go here anyway! Entry is free (but you can make a donation if you like) and they even offer international masses if you are so inclined. It was too beautiful for words.
You can either walk up from the port, or you can take the cable car, which costs €11 return from the Aeri Del Port. With panoramic views of the whole of Barcelona this really is worth it. There are other cable cars, but we twinned our ride with our visit to the Port so it was more convenient to visit from here. It’s really easy to find – you can’t miss the tower high above the city.
Pro tip: There are toilets at the top of the tower just in case you need to plan ahead. Also, the only restaurant on the ‘mountain’ is straight off the cable car, and whilst it was lovely with amazing views, the prices were certainly inflated compared to the rest of the city. Don’t miss the castel!
Park Guell is quite probably one of the most recognisable of architect Gaudi’s works. Sitting high up in the hills overlooking the city is the eccentric structure of the modernism era. The duo of Guell and Gaudi created some of the most unique buildings I have ever seen (my sister referred to Casa Mila in La Pedrera as the real life palace from the Little Mermaid).
Pro tip: Prior to our trip we were told to buy tickets to avoid queues. Nope. We arrived early at 9am following this advice to be told the next available slot was at 7:30 pm!!! During the busier months you MUST pre-book to be able to visit inside the park. Do not be disappointed. Tickets will cost €7.50 for the basic entry.
Getting there – definitely consider the bus. We took the Metro to Vallcarca and walked. When we read that there were escalators adjacent to the stairs we thought, “ha, body magic”. No way. You need them. The only problem was they weren’t working and the sweetest little dear was practically about to collapse part of the way up with a marathon still to go. The bus, however, will take you right to the door. The one distinct advantage of these insane steps thought – THE MOST INCREDIBLE VIEWS OF BARCELONA.
Also, just be careful if you’re less able on your feet. It’s fairly tough terrain, we met a lovely lady who had unfortunately had a stroke not so long ago, and was determined as hell to not miss out on things (love it!), however, she did admit she was struggling. If this sounds familiar, perhaps use of a wheelchair would be more helpful.
Arc de Triomf
At the bottom of the Passeig de Sant Joan (we stumbled across a superb Organic Market where we got breakfast of a croissant and yogurt with oats and fresh fruit for €3) is the Arc de Triomf. The Red stone archway frames the peaceful walk way down to the Ciutadella. One of many free sites around the city. You could always consider a walking tour bookable through sites such as viator for a more informed stroll.
There was something quite serene about this part of Barcelona. You knew you were in a major city, but everyone and everything was just so chilled. This was a great space to people watch and ‘basque’ 😉 in the sunshine!
Park De La Ciutadella
A true Oasis in the heart of Barcelona – such a peaceful and relaxing break from the hustle of the La Rambla. From the impressive fountains, the bandstand (where we watched some young students learning to Salsa), to the lush little pond with ducks and row boats that you can rent for €3 per person, you’ll find a little bit of heaven right here.
When we arrived in Barcelona via the Passeig de Gracia the first thing I saw? Burberry. Barcelona literally has it all! From designer shops (I got all squeally when I saw the Provonvias wedding dress shop), Louis Vuitton, Saint Laurent, Miu Miu you name it, high-end designers all featured in their luxurious splendour. What I loved most about Barcelona’s shopping scene? It catered for every single budget! Primark features three stores in the city, Zara is on almost every street, sometimes even twice. Sports stores? You’re covered with Nike and Adidas to name but a few. There were also designer department stores such as El Corte Inglés that has an abundance of designer shoes, make-up, and fragrances.
If you’re looking for something a little more unique, we stumbled across a delightful paper shop in the Gothic Quarter called Naolito. It wasn’t the cheapest shop (the cutest phone cases were around €18) but they delivered some exquisite designs that include Disney characters, Star Wars, and even Anime. But somehow, managed to make it feel extremely chic! I would definitely, definitely, recommend picking up a unique gift for a loved one in here.
Travelling around the City
There is a great Metro system which is a quick, easy, and cheap (if you buy the travel cards) way to get around. And most importantly, it’s air-conditioned! The longest we waited for a train, was 2 minutes. You can even get a ticket that includes the airport trip too! There is a handy app you can download to help plan your journey. The T10 transport ticket will get you 10 trips on the Metro and busses. This cost €10 each and more than covered us for the amount of journeys we needed. To be honest, we did need the metro, but be careful not to miss the charm of Barcelona by meandering through the streets and absorbing the culture.
Bicing – Barcelona has a ‘Boris Bike’ style biking system with hundreds of locations across the city. The first 30 minutes were free, €0.74 per hour for the first 2 hours and €4.49 per hour after this. Barcelona has a lot of bike lanes to protect cyclists. Unfortunately, tourists CANNOT use this system, which is a crying shame. You can however, rent bikes (we saw a few different adverts in the region of €5-€6 per day), which I would totally recommend.
Taxis – they are available in abundance (unless they’re on strike for two of the four days!). We didn’t end up using them because of this, so can’t comment on the price but if needed they are there.
For us, Barcelona was surprisingly cheap. I expected to pay London prices for food and drinks etc. but I was so wrong. At the end of our road was a coffee shop where we bought a salad box, a cous cous salad and a croissant for €8. Plenty of small cafes were selling coffee and croissants for €2.
In the evening, most restaurants open at 8pm. Our favourite was the Cor Caliu. We enjoyed it so much we went back again. We both had salads and drinks the first time for €20 for the total bill, and the second time, we each had starter, main, dessert and drink for €20 per person. Personally, I think this is reasonable in a major city for quality grub. Taking in to consideration breakfast and lunch, we ate for around €30 each, per day.
Communicating with the Catalan folk
The spoken languages in Barcelona are Catalan and Spanish, however, EVERYONE that we spoke to in shops, hotels, and tourist info desks all spoke amazing English! My Spanish starts at 0% and finishes at 0.2% (my school did French and German!), but we tried, and they really did appreciate my bumbled ‘gracias’, ‘por favor’ and ‘Hola!’. The Catalan people were the nicest, friendliest, most helpful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting whilst on holiday and were willing to help at any opportunity. Bravo Barcelona!
Keeping yourself safe
You’ll read and hear an incredible amount of warnings from people about pick-pockets in Barcelona. I’m not most imposing person at a full 5ft 3″, but I didn’t feel at risk at any point during our visit. Now, this is probably because I was exceptionally conscious of the little tricks and scams. I read a fab article from the guys at World Nomads that really prepared me for my travels, which I would recommend taking on board their advice before you jet off. Don’t let it scare you, it’s simply about preparing yourself and remaining vigilant.
It didn’t dawn on me how safe we felt was I got back home (especially as two female travellers). There were no shady characters lurking in wait for unsuspecting victims. No drunken louts hanging around on street corners intimidating the less boisterous of society. Barcelona really did feel like a sophisticated affair, yet somehow nonchalant to the stresses of life (how do we go about relocating?!).
Pro tip: For a bit of extra security, I bought some clips from Amazon for the inside of my bag (I believe for around £3 for a full pack). I attached this to the inside of my backpack and clipped it to my purse whilst walking around. Good luck trying to take off with my Euros, pal!
There really was so much more that we missed – Camp Nou, Flamenco Shows, Bars & nightlife, Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor, Monsterrat! But, we had to leave something for next time!
All in all, Barcelona was just fantastic. The theme of our trip was to relax and take in some culture, and Barcelona offered everything and more. Walking around and taking it all in was, simply breathtaking. Barcelona is such a stunning little city with literally the best of everything; from the home away from home, to being able to truly immerse yourself in all things Spanish. Whether you’re looking for the hustle, bustle, and madness of a busy city, a peaceful saunter around some of the world’s best architecture, or bumming it on the beach for a few days, Barcelona had it all. Go. Enjoy. And I promise, you will not be disappointed.
Have you visited Barcelona before? Got any tips for those yet to travel? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think.
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GC (the better half)