Sun • Sand • Spain : #1 Barcelona

After my previous trip to Prague got screwed up, I had a couple of lessons, first was not to plan short trips and second was to see the weather forecast very carefully. On top of that, I realised that it doesn’t make much sense if I just go for a weekend to a place and complete a touristy checklist in a day or two and come back. I need to stay longer to soak in the beauty of any place. That’s why, this time, I planned a weeklong stay in Barcelona, most importantly, to satiate my craving for Sun.

I read it somewhere, “Barcelona assaults the senses in every possible way” (of course not the bad ways), and I found it to be absolutely true, the place is so enthralling that even a week after returning to Stockholm I find my mind wandering on the Catalonian beaches every now and then.

On this trip, since I had a week to explore around, I decided to spend 4 days in Barcelona and take day trips out of the city on the remaining days. I have shared teh experince of trips outside Barcelona in the part-2 of this blog. Let me take you to short soothing journey to Barcelona:

Soul Soothing: Wandering aimlessly

The best way to explore the city of Barcelona is on foot, that’s how you can get the real taste of life in such a lively city, I decided to locate myself in the middle of town, I started at Arc de Triomf (yeah there’s one in Spain too), and spent the rest of my day exploring the different streets of Barcelona, which turned out to be a great experience, I was just following people at times, sometimes just following my instincts. Later, when I checked the map in the evening, I discovered that I ended up exploring a lot of places on the must-visit list.

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From Arc de Triomf, I walked into Ciutadella Park, where I discovered this beautiful fountain, later I found it was built too by Gaudi.

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Then from there I wandered to El Born and ended up here, at Mercat del Born, a market built in 1873, now converted to cultural centre.

When you reach La-Rambla, one of the most touristy streets in Barcelona, flooded with tourists, cafe’s and souvenir shops, there is just one thing to keep in mind here, don’t buy anything here and don’t get pickpocketed. You’ll find a lot of Living Statue and Caricature artists here

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While crossing La Rambla, You’ll find Mercado de La Boqueria, the astounding fruit market.

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As you travel down La Rambla, you’ll reach this bridge – Rambla del Mar, which takes you to Port Vell, which houses a big shopping mall and an Aquarium, spend some time on the benches on this bridge before moving forward.

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This is something ubiquitous in Barcelona, some people entertaining kids in their unique way.

Mind Soothing: The Gaudi Architecture

You can’t separate Barcelona from Gaudi, the famous Catalonian Architect whose work is a real visual treat. But just watching the buildings and not knowing anything about them would have been a waste of time, and there is always one ubiquitous thing in most of the European cities – A free walking tour, and believe me you’d never regret spending 3 hours on any such tour. So I looked up and saw everyone on the internet recommending the same walking tour with Runnerbeantours, turns out they weren’t wrong, it was absolutely worth it and our guide, Zoe, happened to be an architecture student as well, She had a lot of interesting things to share.

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Casa Batlló, a building made by Gaudi, this dragon themed building got him the contract to build the building in below.

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Casa Milà, the last civil work done by Gaudi. After that, he never did private buildings.

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Insides of the elegant Sagrada de Familia, considered one of the world’s most beautiful cathedral, With soaring pillars that look more like trees, this is Gaudí at his imaginative best, a festival of twists and curves that is still some way off completion. Head up the towers for an angel’s eye view of the city below. These pillars are about 90 metres tall.

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Our Gaudi Architecture tour ended at Sagrada de Familia, that’s us with our wonderful Guide, Zoe.

Eye Soothing: The top views

Though Barcelona is a coastal town but it lies on a plateau by the coast and is bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, this means, there are a lot of hilltops that allow us to get a panoramic view of the town and seaside, one gets the idea of the hilly terrain as soon as they land at the El Prat Airport surrounded by the mountains. Though we had many options, most of them requiring to travel long distances, we settled for the nearest hill – Montjuïc, which is adorned by Montjuïc Castle on the hilltop overlooking the dockyard and the area around Port Vell and La Barceloneta beach.

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The insides of castle embellished with coloured pebbles with art on them.

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View from the top of Castle

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And that’s us. The biggest perk of carrying a tripod on a trip – group photos.

The only bus from castle took us to Placa de Espanya, the very place where the airport bus had dropped me on day one.

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That day, when I arrived in Barcelona, though I was in awe of the architecture all around, but my eyes got fixated on the top of this structure – Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, but I was too tired to climb all the way up (and I didn’t notice the escalators in the dark  ).

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So this time, I climbed all the way up, and I was rewarded with this mesmerising view, probably the best place in Barcelona to watch the sunset.

Heart Soothing : Spanish Beaches

The first thing that comes into anyone’s mind when they hear Spain is “Beaches”, I would be lying if I deny that. Barcelona has a seductive seaside, where you can go, lie down and soak in the beauty of Sand and Water. I personally relish watching sunset’s at the beaches, that’s the time when one can experience the most pleasant wind.

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Perfect blue water at Platja del Bogatell, It is one of the most lively beaches in the city.

La Barceloneta is the most famous beach of Barcelona, I went there three times during my stay, you’ll find a lot of sand artists showcasing their work in that area, It’s in one of the most lively but tourist-flooded areas of the city.

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La Barceloneta beach

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Though you’ll find musical performers nearly everywhere in Barcelona, but while we were on our walking tour, there was this amazing singer, she was able to make all 30 of us to hold our journey for some time and just relish her music.

Tips for Visiting Barcelona

  • Keep your stuff safe : The busy streets are also permeated with a lot of pickpockets, and this is the first advice you’d get while travelling to Barcelona, my suggestion, leave your wallet back home, keep your credit card, and some cash wrapped in a hanky in your pocket.
  • Getting Around: The best way is to buy a T-10 card from any metro, which costs €10, and gives you 10 trips on any bus/metro. The best thing about this is, you can use this to get to the airport and multiple people can share the same card (you’ll use 2 trips at once in this case). Try to discover most of the places on foot, you’d like it.
  • Visiting museums and Gaudi Sites: Book your ticket online in advance, not only the ticket would be cheaper, but it but you’ll avoid some very long queues as well.
  • Tickets: Most of the Gaudi Sites cost around €20, Montjuic castle cost €3, while Sagrada Familia was €13. Make sure you read enough reviews about the place before spending €20.
  • Staying Recommendations: I stayed at multiple places and all of them turned out great.
    • I stayed with Airbnb at Christos’s Apartment, which is huge and really close to the Bogatell beach.
    • I also stayed at Aleix’s Apartment, which is a bit away from the centre but 1 minute away from the metro station.
    • I stayed for one day at 360 Hostel, which is right next to Arc de Triomf and Sagrada de Familia.
  • Water: Unlike Sweden, you can’t drink the tap water in most of the places, so you have to buy drinking water in Barcelona.
  • Wi-Fi: You’ll find Wi-Fi near cafe’s and malls, there is a Free Wi-FI hotspot, called Barcelona Wi-Fi, available at 590 spots around the city. Having apps like Instabridge helps a lot to connect to networks shared in the database.
  • Exploring places: Barcelona Tourist Guide is a great website with a lot of useful information for tourists, get a free map of Barcelona and the metro to help you, it would be great if you have an offline maps app like Maps.me or Here maps on your phone.
  • Itineraries: I usually go through a lot of travel blogs before visiting a place to get to know the place a bit in advance, this time, I exported all of them as a PDF, so if you are going to Barcelona in next few days, just  download this – Barcelona Itineraries.
  • My Map: Like always, here is a Google Map with all the places bookmarked.

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Read the Part -2 of this blog here:

Sun • Sand • Spain: #2 More than just Barcelona


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