Spain

Spain. Dreamy weather, beautiful beaches, vibrant cities, salsa, flamenco, sangria, tapas, jamon - there are so many reasons why I love this country.

It’s also one of the easiest and cheapest places to fly to from the UK!

I’ve been to Spain many times, in recent years to Barcelona, Girona and Madrid - but there are many more on my bucketlist!

Useful Information

Currency: Euro

Capital: Madrid

Language(s): Spanish, Regional languages( Catalan, Galician, Basque, Asturian, Aragonese, Occitan)

Plug Sockets: Type F, C and E.

Ease of travel: 5/5 

Ease of communication: 4/5

Ease of meeting others: 5/5

General costs: £££

Barcelona

I’ve visited Barcelona twice now - both times for four days, which I think is the perfect amount of time. The first time in 2011 with my parents, and the second in March 2016 with three friends: Rebekah, Sarah and Eli. Most of this is from the latter trip. 

It’s a great city to explore with so much to see and do by day and brimming with exuberant bars and tapas restaurants by night, it’s impossible to get bored here.

 

Things to do:

 

  1. Sagrada Familia

 

By far the most impressive structure in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia.

It’s an incredible church designed by architectural genius, Antoni Gaudi. As soon as we stepped out of the metro station we found ourselves standing in the shadows of this immense structure, gazing upwards to see spires reaching high into the clouds and cranes soaring higher still.

 

The outside is decorated with carvings of impeccable detail, whilst the inside is filled with soft stone structures and rainbows of light circling around from the stained glass windows.

Soaring cranes over the Sagrada Familia

Soaring cranes over the Sagrada Familia

One of the biggest draws is that it’s still under construction, hence the cranes; building commenced back in 1882, but after Gaudi’s death and the Spanish Civil War, construction was interrupted. The estimated finish date is currently 2028.

The appeal of this is that it’s somewhere worth visiting time and time again; even if you’ve seen it before, you’ll notice a difference if you visit again.

 

For booking, it’s best to book online in advance as queues (particularly in summer) can be lengthy! Tickets are €15-29 and can be bought here:   http://www.sagradafamilia.org/en/tiquets/

Beautiful stained glass windows Sagrada Familia
Not your usual crucifixion statue, Sagrada Familia

Not the usual crucifixion statue!

Beautiful stained glass windows, Sagrada Familia

2. Parc Guell

More Gaudi! (Well, what did you come to Barcelona for, after all?) 

 

Park Guell is another fine display of Gaudi’s brilliant imagination. It’s a fascinating park with a sunny terrace bordered by stunning mosaics, peculiar gingerbread-like houses, the famous serpent statue and fantastic views of the city.

There is also a gift shop (although you can often find the gifts cheaper on Las Ramblas) - selling mugs, postcards, artwork, photography, pens, pencils. I bought a pretty set of mosaic espresso mugs and a mini postcard with a cut-out build-it-yourself Sagrada Familia (much like the real thing, this is yet to be completed).

The park itself is free, however if you want to visit the terrace and the main mosaics, you’ll need to buy a ticket (€7). 

It's easy to spend hours walking around and photographing the hundreds of mosaics.

Park Guell was even better as it was the day we all found out we had passed our exams, would be graduating as doctors, and had our first year jobs confirmed!

Stunning views of Barcelona from Parc Guell
Orange Mosaic Parc Guell
Orange Blue Yellow Mosaic Parc Guell

Stunning views from Park Guell

Pink Mosaic Parc Guell
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3. Markets

 

Anyone who knows me will know that  I LOVE a good market.

Although not quite enough to rival Madrid’s fantastic markets, these two give it a good go.

Mercat de la Boqueria - this market is huge and bursting with delicious fruits, cured meats, olive oil, fresh bread - you name it. It’s right off las ramblas, so pretty easy to spot.

 

Mercat de Santa Caterina - most famed for it’s brightly coloured mosaic roof, but also full of stalls selling delicious foods.

4. Las Ramblas

 

Las Ramblas is THE main street in Barcelona. This 1.2km boulevard stretches through the heart of Barcelona, flanked by lively salsa bars, wine bars, shops, market stalls and restaurants. Beware though - this area is full of tourist-trap restaurants and you’ll pay significantly more here than elsewhere!

The street starts and ends with Port Vell and Placa Catalunya, and there are numerous metro stops along the way.

5. Gothic Quarter

 

The Gothic quarter is easily my favourite area of Barcelona, and I’ll definitely be staying here next time I visit.

 

The area is fascinating because it’s a wonderful concoction of contrasting styles. Gander through the winding cobblestone streets and spot ancient Romanesque cathedrals and churches next to modern shops and busy main squares - all tightly packed together.  

Despite the bustling squares, if you wander a little while you’ll easily find quiet restaurants for a more relaxing evening.

Finding peace in the city; Gothic Quarter Barcelona

East Side Gallery, Berlin

Finding peace in the city; Gothic Quarter

6. Magic Fountains

 

The magic fountains of Barcelona are a pretty iconic sight and if you can, you should definitely put them on your itinerary! These cascades and pools come alive at night with dazzling colours of red, blue, purple, green and orange. Make sure you visit in the evening!!! This might seem obvious to most - but not to a friend of mine who was pretty disappointed when she popped by at 1pm....

 

Important to note - they are only open on certain nights outwith the main summer period, so check online first.

7. The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

 

The The Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya stands boldly overlooking a series of steep steps leading up to Monjuic hill.

Even if you're not much of an art-buff, it’s worth a visit just to gawk at the view from outside and is conveniently located on a walking route to Olympic Park and Monjuic Hill.

View of Barcelona from Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya

An incredible view from the National Art Museum

8. Olympic Park

 

If you walk around the back of the National Museum, pass some beautiful gardens (which are worth a walk through) you’ll reach Olympic Park; home to the 1992 Olympics. It’s a lovely walk through grassy squares and cooling fountains - and, you can walk around the stadium for free too.

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Eli channeling her inner Olympian

9. Monjuic Hill

 

Someone advised me before I went to make sure I go up the ‘mountain’ in Barcelona.....It’s definitely not a mountain, and I probably wouldn’t class it as a hill either, but it is a lovely walk with panoramic views of all over Barcelona, so definitely worth a visit!

You’ve got the option of walking up (takes about 30 mins) or you can get the cable car. There are two cable cars - one leaves from the funicular station, and one from the port.

We decided to walk up and then get the cable car that goes over the harbour back.


At the top of Monjuic hill is a castle, which is nice from the outside - but sadly shut both times I visited.

Important to note - book the cable car in advance as tickets go quickly and you may find yourself having to walk back.

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More incredible views, this time from Monjuic Hill

10. Camp Nou

Great for football fans, fun if you’re not (I’m not!) It was nice to wander around the stadium!

11. Port Vell

 

Port Vell is the beautiful waterfront and harbour that you might have spotted from Monjuic hill. It’s a lovely walk passing by lavish boats, market stalls and cafes.

12. Jamon Museum

For the ultimate 'ham experience', head to the Jamon Museum. 

13. Barceloneta Beach

 

Yes, you may have noticed Barcelona is on the coast, so of course you’d want to include a beach spot. Barceloneta is a charming beach and easy to get to. As nice as the beach is, however, you can get much nicer spots if you head outside Barcelona.

14. Barcelona Cathedral

The more traditional of the cathedrals in Barcelona, and well worth a visit - it's a gothic cathedral, and therefore (unsuprisingly) located in the Gothic Quarter.

15. Casa Batlo and Casa Mila

 

If you’re looking for more Gaudi sights to look around, there are many more than just Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. For me I simply didn't have enough time, and my wallet was starting to look a little thin.

16. Shopping!

 

If you’re sick of sights, the shopping in Barcelona is incredible (and even better if you like Mango or Zara - there's pretty much one on every corner!)

As you’ll have noticed - there’s loads to do in Barcelona, and I’ve probably missed a lot out, because let’s face it these pretty much saturated both my trips! But, if you’re etching to get somewhere quieter, or you’re there for a while - Girona is a great place to visit for a day trip.

Girona - Day Trip

 

I took a day trip to Girona from Barcelona, and it was a great day out.

Getting there was easy - the trains in Spain are very cheap and easy to book.  The train journey takes roughly 40 minutes.

Girona is famous for its striking medieval city walls - you can walk pretty much the whole way round the city, passing through hidden gardens, arched bridges, towers, churches and cute cafes.

The other girls had left back to Glasgow a day before me, and so I spent the day walking the walls and pottering into ice cream shops. It's a beautiful place!

The Great Wall of Girona - Girona City Walls

Girona City Walls

Pretty reflections Girona Water

Pretty reflections, Girona

Recommended Hostel: Yeah! Hostel

I can't recommend this hostel enough - modern, clean rooms with ample plug sockets, mirrors and windows, great communial facilities, waffles for breakfast and great social activities. After the girls left, I stayed here another night, (my first time staying in a hostel on my own) and it was so easy to meet people. Barcelona can be pricey, but here they offered a 3-course meal + free shot for €10 - followed by a pub crawl. This is a hostel I have recommended to others time and time again, and it's always been a hit.

Link: http://www.yeahhostels.com/

FREE Walking tours:

I love a good walking tour and there are a number of great companies offering them here - SANDEMANs, freewalkingtours, runner bean tours - to name a few.

Links: http://www.neweuropetours.eu/barcelona/en/home (SANDEMANs), http://freewalkingtoursbarcelona.com/en/ (Free walking tours), http://runnerbeantours.com/ (runner bean tours). 

Getting around Barcelona:

 

Getting around Barcelona is incredibly easy using the metro. If you think you’ll be using it a fair amount, then the best option is to buy a T10 ticket (a ticket with 10 journeys on it).

Barcelona is big, and so walking around can take a long time!

 

Getting around Spain:

 

Spain is a really easy country to travel around. Trains are frequent, fast and cheap.

You can book here: http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/


Travel tips for Barcelona:

 

  1. Barcelona is huge - so don’t expect to fit everything in if you’re only there for a short amount of time!

  2. Always buy your tickets online beforehand. This applies to most main sights - buying the tickets in advance not only allows you to beat the queues, but will also mean you won’t get turned away if they are overbooked.

  3. Beware of pickpockets. Anyone who’s visited Barcelona will probably warn you about this - thieves are notorious here - so keep your belongings zipped up and close to your body, and take extra care on public transport.

  4. Try to avoid eating in the restaurants along Las Ramblas - they are overpriced and generally poorer quality than in the other areas.

  5. For nice bars, head to Grathia - it's a really cool area!

  6. If you're into sightseeing, consider buying the Barcelona Card - €45 for 72 hours and includes all travel, entry to certain museums, and hundreds of discounts for bars and restaurants. There are also options for longer stays. Link: https://www.barcelonacard.org/ 

  7. Use the metro - it's cheap and quick. However it is important to note that some metro stations shut after midnight!

  8. If you're looking for a more authentic restaurant in Barcelona, try and pick one that you can hear locals speaking Catalan - or that have menu's clearly displayed in Catalan.