As the United Kingdom suffers the coldest and most ridiculous weather conditions a March springtime has ever seen, many of us are jetting off to sunnier countries both near and far. The need to indulge in great food, expensive (…and cheap) wine and catch even the most limited of sun rays is increasing, and I was lucky enough to catch a BA flight into Bar-the-lona the day after all my essays were handed in (winning). For organisation-lovers such as me who detest making a journey without at least mediocre understanding of the logistics and attractions of a country, I will hopefully shed some light on this vibrant city.
Without a doubt the most important aspect to consider in a trip to Barcelona is how you plan on moving about the city. Regardless of whether your hotel is near the marina, the Gothic quarter or Las Ramblas, you will inevitably want to visit sights out of your vicinity. We visited the Tourist Information Centre at the airport, and purchased a 4-day travel ticket for only €25. Comparing this to the overpriced tourist trap ‘hop-on, hop-off’ buses which charged almost this for 2-days, and only around the main tourist routes, this is definitely the best option in terms of efficiency and price. The metro and bus system is reliable and they come frequently. The only thing bad about this deal is that night buses are not included, but even then, it is only €2 for a single trip.
Espanya – If taking the Number 46 bus from the airport into the centre, you will most likely get off here for the metro. There is a large monument in the centre of a roundabout which is hard to miss, and it is host to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) and the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc.
Catalunya – This station is situated underneath the city’s central square. For an immense Apple Store, Hard Rock Café, El Corte Inglés shopping mall and the northern end of Las Ramblas, get off here. As a side note, the northern end is the less ‘seedy’ part, with the condition of the boulevard becoming more dodgy as you make your way towards the cruise port.
Passeig de Grácia – One of the most expensive streets in Spain, this strip is host to several architectural sites as well as designer shops (oh, and a McCafe…) For La Perdera, Casa Batlló and much more, visit Passeig de Grácia.
We stayed in the H10 Marina Hotel, which came in a BA flight deal. Out of the way of the centre, the nearest metro station (Bogotel) was a mere minutes walk away. Though not situated in the most ‘happening’ of areas, the hotel was a ten minute walk to the beach, and no more than fifteen minutes tube or bus ride from the either Catalunya or Las Ramblas. There are plenty of cheap hostels in the centre which is great for inter-railers, or the more acclaimed W Hotel near the harbour and Hotel Majestic along the Passeig de Grácia if you want to splash out.
Food and Drink
On holiday, it essential to inhale as much food and drink as possible. We ate breakfast at delightful cafes of the morning, in order to save € for the rest of our gorging. Lunch of Day One was spent in a restaurant on side of the beach furthest away from Las Ramblas, in which we were given so much free bread, olives and chips that our main meal was barely needed. Another awesome place to eat is located near Barceloneta metro, called Kiosko Burger. If you’re into huge burgers filled with pretty much anything, in a nifty setting, this is a great lunch if you’re on a budget but want a sit down meal. On two days we simply had to visit Gelaati, a mentally good ice cream shop not far from Las Ramblas, where you can get things from Biscotti to Coffee to Lemon ice cream in a variety of sizes. The people who run it give really good service, and let us try a few of the flavours before deciding what we wanted.
I urge everyone to visit La Plaza Reial for at least one dining experience. Tucked away in the Gothic quarter, next to Las Ramblas, the square is host to numerous restaurants, bars and nightclubs. We visited Italian restaurant Rossini on our first night, and we were taken downstairs and seated behind a piano player. Not only was the food tasty and the wine light, but we had our very own performance for the evening which was awesome. Les Quinze Nits was our next dinner stop in the square, which seemed to consistently have a queue outside. The menu was cheap and the food still good quality, so no wonder it was so popular.
La Sagrada Familia is an absolute must. Even if you’re not religious, or you don’t imagine you would feel that bowled over by the masterpiece, it is really worth it. If you book online in advance, you can skip the queues and head straight for the box office, where you can pick up the audio guides. It takes just over an hour to walk round, but many people spend longer as it is a place of worship.
La Perdera / Casa Milà is featured in the awesome film Vicky Cristina Barcelona, which is what admittedly sparked my interest. You can book online again, and though not as remarkable as La Sagrada Familia, it is the sort of place you would kill to live in.
The Montjuic Cable Car can be reached by taking the metro to Parallel, then the funicular mountain train up the hill, where you can either walk to the top or take the cable car. Once at the top, you can visit the Castle of Montjuïc for free, which boasts beautiful views and a big ol’ cannon.