i’m back and unpacked from my road trip through Eastern Spain:
Barcelona – Valencia – Montañejos – Zaragoza – Barcelona
and i must say, this was one of my coolest vacation trips ever*!
i’ve tried to gather some secret and undiscovered gems of Barcelona and compiled all of them into a short and actionable list ready to use for your next stop-over in this fascinating city.
to be honest, it was quite an exhausting trip. with more than 40 degrees celsius during the day you quickly understand why the Spanish invented Siesta… (don’t save on AC!)
and it’s true: most of the shops and local (non touristy) restaurants are closed from about 2pm-6pm!
i’ve been to BCN before, so we skipped most tourist sights, just stopped by Sagrada Familia to find ourselves deeply disappointed by the fact, that after paying €13,50 you would have to pay extra to go up one of the towers… (buy your tickets online to skip the long long line)
if it is your first time in BCN i would highly recommend:
- the wikitravel article (make sure to download all the subarticles for the different neighbourhoods as well, you could use pdfmyurl for instance); wikisherpa (iPhone, android) lets you download the wikitravel articles for offline use! -free
- the tripwolf Barcelona guide providing offline use and maps (for iPhone & android, download upfront, awesome feature – works great!) -€5,99
- the tripadvisor City Guides App (also available for iPhone & android, download the Barcelona guide upfront for offline use!) -free
- this simple iPhone app with the metro map -free (some others available for android)
so, as follows, some of our discoveries, which might not be headliners in most tourist guides but are definitely worth a visit:
- el Raval
this part of the old town is good for evening or afternoon strolls. my favorite spot being the Rambla del Raval, a square surrounded by bars, cafés and restaurants offering outdoor seating underneath the palmtrees. For a coffee break I would recommend Suculent, a little authentic café with French charm. Have dinner at Barraval, serving a little expensive but delicious tapas and an excellent mild beer, Saaz Damm.
also in the Raval area you might walk by this modern circular design hotel. you can take the elevator to the 11th floor – 360° panoramic view of Barcelona and a swimming pool with towel service. if i had my bathing suit on, i would totally have cooled myself down in there…
and the best thing: it’s free!
- el Born
a nice neighborhood, a little east of La Rambla. you can find fancy restaurants, popular bars and gloomy alleys there. we had dinner at La Candela – try the Burrata if you like buffalo mozzarella – delicious! If you are into dry sparkling wine, then Cava is your drink!
you can find another nice part of the Ciutat Vella (old town) right next to La Rambla, a beautiful spot for dinner or evening drinks as well: Plaça Reial. i particularly liked Ocaña, although most places are over flooded with tourists.
we’ve also stumbled upon the restaurant from the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona, called Els Quatre Gats, which really exploits its image, but at least you can use the same toilet as Scarlett Johansson did
if you want to shake it off at night without paying >€20 entrance fee, try to get on Isaac’s guest list for Opium Mar, one of the most impressing beach clubs i’ve seen. this is one of Barcelona’s hottest clubs right now, with DJs like Avicii or Roger Sanchez having performed there. or walk down the northern part of Passeig Maritim de la Barceloneta right next to the beach and you might be handed several flyers offering free or reduced entry for Shôko or Carpe Diem Lounge Club, which are all next to each other. make sure to arrive early (well, before 2am) or the clubs will be packed and you’ll have to wait in line quite some time. dresscode: posh!
i’m not an expert on where to best shop for clothes, but most international brands can be found on the Ramblas and also next to Placa de Catalunya in the direction of the University. You can find almost the same shops north east of La Rambla. my fave shops are Oysho, MiSaKo and Pull and Bear, since we do not (yet) have them here in Austria.
what impressed me most shopping-wise was some kind of interior design store called Vinçon. It is located right next to Casa Milà (aka la Pedrera), a famous Gaudí building. I’d love to have such a huge store around in Vienna. find fancy souvenirs, tableware or your new living room furniture there – a bit pricy though…
- getting around
in my opinion the best option for a few days is the tmb T-10 ticket, with which you can go by metro, bus or tram, 10 times, each time not longer than 75mins. it is €9,25 and therefore a really good deal compared to single tickets (€2). you can buy one at any metro station ticket machine.
if you aren’t traveling alone, i’d also consider going by taxi, since it’s really affordable – we never payed more than €15 across the inner city. but keep in mind, that at night there’s a €4 minimum (at weekends €6)
the old town is totally doable by foot, starting at Plaça de Catalunya and exploring the quarters right and left of La Rambla from there is always a good idea!
we also bought a one day pass for the Barcelona Bus Turístic (€24), which is great if you want to have all sights covered in one day and travel conveniently. in reality the buses were always full, so we had to wait in lines at the bus stops, and sitting on the deck (where you can actually see) felt like being roasted. next time i would rather go for the night bus (€18).
the first 2 nights we stayed at Acta Ink 606, a fancy design hotel, which was quite affordable via Orbitz. it is located near el Clot metro and railway station, which was great for getting in from El Prat Airport by the R2 train.
the second time we tried a hostel, which also seems to be a dormitory. it’s called Melon District and has two sites. we stayed at Marina, near the metro station of the same name. it was an insider tip from i can’t remember anymore… but thank you! it is a great option, if you are traveling on a budget and don’t need a lot of space or extra service (for the ladies: no hair dryer). it was clean and slick, with lots of students and youngsters around, but for €70 for a double room (private bathroom) i don’t mind
i also started a list of hotels in the city center, directly located in the narrow alleys of the Ciutat Vella, which caught my eye walking by. you will have to check the prices and quality yourself, since i only know that at least the entrance/lobby looked nice and exceptionally stylish:
let me know if you try one of those!
- Font màgica de Montjuïc
when it is dark, this fountain at the foot of Montjuic (where you can find several venues of the Summer Olympics in 1992) is illuminated and transforms into a colorful spectacle. i really enjoyed the light show but the songs could have been picked and incorporated much better. during summer the shows start at 9, 9.30, 10, 10.30 and 11pm (thu-sun). at least it is free.
- Festa Major de Gràcia
i hope that there’s something (new) in it for you!
if your interested in some more pics – here you go!
i’d also love to hear your personal Barcelona highlights or whether you’d like to hear more about Valencia and Zaragoza (go there!)!
* of course, the fact that it was a birthday surprise from my man might have contributed ♥
he not only surprised me with the destination but also with our third travel companion Viki, one of our best friends, who lives in Germany and we therefore barely see.