This edition of Travel Tales is going to be a little different from the others. Last month, I took a trip to Barcelona. This was my second time in the city. I decided to join forces with Visit Barcelona to celebrate all that is beautiful about the largest city in Catalonia. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Travel Tales, solo travel isn’t something I shy away from. I’ve travelled to a few European cities alone and I do have a post which offers advice to people who are considering travelling solo.
In this post, I’m going to be talking about some of the most popular attractions in Barcelona as well as sharing my own personal highlights from my trip. I’ll also be sharing a few things people should know before they visit Barcelona.
When I visit a city, I love to go on a sightseeing tour, so I couldn’t wait to explore Barcelona with Barcelona Bus Turistic.
There are not one, not two but three routes to choose from and what makes this service even more convenient is that you can hop on and off as many times as you like. As someone who is captivated by a country’s history, choosing the Blue route was a no brainer. Here are my favourite attractions:
Sagrada Familia – In my opinion, Sagrada Familia is the most beautiful church in the world. I was fascinated when I first laid eyes on it in 2014 and had the same feeling five years later. It is one of the most renowned pieces of architecture in the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to go inside as the queues were extremely long, but I would highly recommend taking it in. One could say that no visit to Barcelona is complete without getting a glimpse of Antoni Gaudi’s magnificent creation.
Passeig de Gracia – Walking along the Passeig de Gracia is one of the best things to do in Barcelona. The area is what Champs-Elysees is to Paris. I adored this street and the amazing Casa Batllo and Casa Mila’s are a must see. Both buildings are absolutely breathtaking. Also, if you are a food lover, then you’ll be spoilt for choice. There are so many lovely bars, restaurants, bistros and café’s in the area. It is one of the busiest areas in Barcelona so if you do happen to visit Passeig de Gracia, then do be mindful of pickpockets.
Park Guell – When I was planning this trip, I knew that I couldn’t visit Barcelona without seeing Park Guell. This is another Gaudi creation and probably the most iconic. If you love art, then you should definitely go to Park Guell. Every piece of architecture is aesthetically pleasing, you’ll be captivated by your unique surroundings. It’s clear to see why Park Guell is one of the most instagrammable attractions in Europe. If you want to take in some more history related to Barcelona then the Gaudi House Museum is nearby. One thing I will mention is that you will need to walk uphill in order to get to the park, so do wear sensible shoes. Other than that, I’d definitely recommend visiting the park.
Barcelona FC (Camp Nou) – Now, I didn’t go into the stadium because I didn’t get off at this stop but from the outside, it is so beautiful. The people of Barcelona pride themselves on the success of their football team, so whether you’re a football fan or not, you’ll appreciate the beauty of the stadium from its exterior. Camp Nou was one of the last main stops before the bus passed a few other places and then made its way back to Sagrada Familia (which is where I got on).
Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the tour. The only downside was that I happened to choose the windiest day to get on the bus (not fun when you are recovering from a cold) but I felt more acquainted with Barcelona as a whole. I do wish that I had the time to explore the Red route, which was very central-based. During my visit, I stayed in an area called Poblenou and the Green route covered most of what I had already seen anyway.
Food is everything to a traveller. It can make definitely make or break a trip. We all remember the best (and worst) restaurants we have been to in any country we’ve been to. Travelling for me is all about exploring and eating really. There are so many nice places to eat in Barcelona, particularly these two hidden gems:
I tried to get into the Sagrada Familia for two days (talk about persistence). The queues were so long and even though I had my Visit Barcelona card with me, I just couldn’t wait. Going on holiday to be standing in long queues just isn’t my portion, and believe me when I say that it is overwhelmingly busy. The first time I unsuccessfully tried to get in, the whole experience left me tired, fed up and hungry, so I used the Maps app on my phone to find a place to eat. Casa Angela was the first place that came up and it was very well reviewed, so I made my way there.
Casa Angela has a really cool and relaxed vibe. I loved that the area I was seated in was close to a bookshelf, so I could read while I was waiting for my food. For my starter, I choose chicken wings. They were absolutely delicious and the glaze was exquisite. They had a spicy taste that wasn’t too overpowering. I was in a fully indulgent mood so my main was a burger and chips. I don’t know if this is just me but I feel like chips in other cities are handmade. In London, we all know that this definitely isn’t the case. The whole meal was just amazing and decently priced. Barcelona is definitely one of the few European cities you can be a total foodie in because the majority of food there is ridiculously cheap. I had a mojito that was also amazing. Not everyone gets it right when it comes to mojitos. Casa Angela was so good that if I had chosen to stay in the Sagrada Familia area, the restaurant definitely would have been a permanent lunch and dinner spot for me.
I discovered L’Atelier by Amis two days before I left Barcelona. It’s definitely a hidden gem because of its location. It’s wedged in between apartments on Carrer del Jonca, in Poblenou (which is where I was staying). The minute you walk in, you feel the warm and homely vibes. The décor is unique: expect to be surrounded by inspirational quotes, pretty flowers and fluffy pillows. Also, for those of you who travel with children, there is a small playing area, which is ideal as it will keep your child(ren) busy. The brunch menu was just everything I needed but I did play it safe because I caught the worst viral bug the week before I was due to travel and it was still lingering even when I was at the airport, so as tempting as everything was, I chose the smoked salmon bagel with cheese. Salmon is one of my favourite type of fish. It was so soft and well-seasoned. The cheese and the bagel complimented it so well. The vegetable chips served on the side were also a welcome delight.
On Google, I had noticed customers raving about the cakes at this place, so I was really looking forward to trying a slice. Unfortunately, the cakes had sold out so I opted for a chocolate cupcake instead, which was lovely. So good that it could definitely rival anything from Lola’s!
With a Visit Barcelona card, you can gain entry into some of the cities most iconic museums, attractions and landmarks. From the moment I arrived, I had set my sights on visiting the Picasso Museum. Unfortunately, when I went to Paris in July, there just wasn’t enough time to go to the one that was there. Picasso’s art is one of a kind. His work always inspired me whenever I was creating a piece of work when I did my Art GCSE. The Weeping Woman was one of the first pieces of Art I ever drew. Words can’t do this museum justice. It’s a fitting homage to an artist who was extremely talented. There are two floors dedicated to Picasso’s work and you also have the option of using an audio device to explain each piece of art. I’ve been visiting museums and galleries for ages so losing myself in a piece of art is something I can do with ease. I would definitely recommend visiting the Picasso Museum. The Museum of the History of Barcelona is also worth going to but if caves creep you out, you might want to take a few deep breaths before you go downstairs.
Things to know before visiting Barcelona
Visiting Sagrada Familia is not essential – As mentioned, I really struggled to get in to the basilica the second time round, which was a shame, but on the other hand many tourists are just happy to get a photo. There were so many people taking pictures and videos on the pavement. If you don’t mind the long queues, go ahead, but sometimes when you’re on holiday, you won’t be able to see everything. It’s just the way things go with city breaks sometimes.
Buy tickets for tourist attractions online – If you are planning to visit any of the main attractions in a city, then it’s always best to buy tickets in advance. Firstly, it’s a lot cheaper and secondly, you’ll save yourself a lot of time. You could go through a tourism board, like I did with Visit Barcelona. It really depends on what you like to see and do when you travel. Using Visit Barcelona was very convenient because I was able to plan my trip and I had easy access to all the information that I needed.
September to October is the best time to visit Barcelona – Avoid Barcelona in the summer months. It’s best to visit when its quieter. Towards the end of the year, the weather in Barcelona is decent. You won’t experience as many cold spells as you may do in the U.K. When I visited, it was very windy but I did hear that the weather was a lot worse the week before, so I was glad that a little bit of wind was all I experienced.
Beware of pick pockets – I didn’t want to have to mention this but pick-pocketing is a huge problem in Spain as a whole, particularly in Barcelona. Tourists stick out like a sore thumb and thieves know this. Be mindful of how you handle your possessions, especially on public transport. When you are on holiday, being vigilant is so important. If something feels old, then it probably is. Regardless of whether you travel alone or in a group, do everything you can to keep yourself safe!
Be picky with your Tapas and Paella – If I ever go to a Spanish city again, I will be incredibly bouji when it comes to choosing a restaurant that sells tapas and paella. They are after all, two of Spain’s most iconic dishes. I had tapas on my second day in Barcelona and I didn’t enjoy it at all. I’ve had better tapas in London. When it comes to specialities, you have to go to the best. The tapas spot was local and even though it was well rated, I just didn’t feel the spirit of Spanish cuisine. It was the same with paella as well. I’ve had really nice paella in recent years but I made a (unbeknown to me at the time) rookie mistake. Avoid Paellador at all costs. Their paella wasn’t authentic at all. I did some research after my visit (yes, I know, not great) and discovered that they use frozen paella, which they then heat up. It’s not made from scratch. You can read more about paella and places to avoid here.
The transportation system is pretty good – If you live in a major city, you will love Barcelona’s Metro system. It’s cheap and it’s so easy to use. It’s very similar to the train system in London and Paris. There are different coloured lines and the trains are quite regular. It depends on which line(s) you use, but don’t expect to wait more than five minutes for a train. You will have to do some walking though as it can take you a good 5-7 minutes to leave some stations.
My trip to Barcelona had so many great moments. Imperfect weather aside, it was a pleasure to go back there again. There was a personal reason why I decided to make the trip alone and I definitely got what I wanted out of it (without going into too much detail). Sometimes you need to look back in order to move forward. I’m in the process of thinking about which places I’d like to travel to in 2020 so if you have any recommendations, feel free to leave a comment below. I love hearing from you all and thank you for reading this very lengthy edition of Travel Tales.
Have you ever been to Barcelona? Did you think Barcelona was worth visiting? Let me know your thoughts.