Beautiful, sunny and charming! Gorgeous Barcelona! Once you visit this city, it will stay in your heart for the rest of your life.
We arrived to Spain from Punta Cana, Dominican Republic and, as you can guess, nine hours on a plane aren’t the most relaxing experience. We spent the whole night in the air and arrived in Barcelona around midday, wondering where we would find the energy to go around – do things – see places on the first day.
NASTYA: My impression of the city might be affected by the two weeks we spent in the Dominican Republic, which left mixed feelings. Don’t get me wrong, the Caribbean is beautiful, but we had to deal with dirty water, power outages and some cucarachas that decided to invade our room. Imagine how happy we were to come back to CIVILIZATION! We’ve got everything we had been deprived of. Barcelona felt like a European paradise.
Like ordinary tourists, we headed to the city’s main pedestrian street: La Rambla. Noisy and full of tourists, this street offers hundreds of souvenir stores and any kind of shop or restaurant you could ever imagine.
La Boqueria market
Yet we were interested in one specific place in the very heart of the city. The gastronomic Mecca and food lovers’ paradise: La Boqueria market. This is the numero uno place on every foodie’s #musttry list in Barcelona or even maybe in the whole Spain. As soon as you enter, there’s no turning back. Smells, colors, every stand makes you turn around in awe and whet your appetite. Fresh fruits and vegetables, natural juices of all possible colors, freshly caught fish, a cornucopia of seafood, tasty bunches of dried peppers, fragrant spices, golden oil, nuts and flesh red jamón. We wanted to try EVERYTHING!
After sharing a pincho – a chicken skewer – to temporarily satiate our hunger and walking around the market, our choice fell on the stand with Spanish crepes. For the first five minutes, we couldn’t choose what to get (they have way too much yummy stuff) and a line of hungry people appeared at light speed. Luckily the queue moved pretty fast and we got our crepe to share. Mmmhh… Delicious Iberian ham. ¡Jamón te amamos!
A useful tip: If you come to this market at midday (the best time is before 2 p.m.), don’t have lunch in just one place. Spain is famous for its tapas, or snacks. Pinchos, fried seafood, patatas bravas, croquettes… you name it! Just walk around the market and try many small tapas in different places. Don’t forget to take photos! And check La Boqueria’s working hours and holidays so you don’t lose the chance to try those wonderful crepes (and everything else).
After our tasty and nutritious excursion in La Boqueria we came back to La Rambla. How beautiful this city is! We wandered around many streets in the surrounding areas and there are just so many places to see! So walk as much as you can and explore the city, you will stumble upon a lot of small hidden gems. During our three days in Barcelona we walked so much looking for new interesting places, that every evening we dragged ourselves back to our flat with our feet hurting, but with no regrets 😄
If all that walking is not your thing, Barcelona’s metro will bring you anywhere you need. Don’t forget to buy a T-10 transport card, which can be shared and includes 10 trips for 9,95€, less than half the price of 10 single tickets.
But out of all these interesting things to see, which ones are the best? In addition to La Boqueria, here is a list of our favorite places in Barcelona and some useful travel-on-a-budget tips.
The Gothic Quarter
First of all, the Gothic Quarter. A leisurely walk around this part of the old town will throw you back in time. Exploring the small medieval alleys and squares you’ll feel like you’re on the scenes from Tom Tykwer’s famous movie Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. Remember that fish market in Paris? “In the period of which we speak there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women“. The movie was filmed in Barcelona, not in Paris. Imagine: 2.5 tons of fish and 1 ton of meat were spread over the Gothic Quarter to recreate its past appearance. We don’t envy the Catalans during those days! Luckily enough tourists can now enjoy wandering around this beautiful area without having to stand its terrible medieval smell.
The world is moving on and now modern buildings stand side by side with the old ones. Art galleries and various shops are open for customers in the morning, but don’t be surprised if many small stores are closed for siesta after lunch. In Spain, siesta is sacred.
Among the many museums in the Gothic Quarter, the most important is without any doubt the Museo Picasso. Don’t miss it and buy your ticket online in advance to avoid the wait, or even better, go on the first Sunday of the month and visit it for free!
And while you walk around the narrow streets, make sure to visit the churches of Santa María del Pi and Santa María del Mar and the beautiful gothic cathedral, which includes a cloister filled with geese. Weird, right? Sometimes the entrance to these churches is free of charge, sometimes a donation is required, depending on the time of the day and the day of the week. So check on the websites in advance to save some money.
Another interesting building is the Palau de la Musica Catalana. This highly decorated modernist concert hall is open for visits even if you don’t attend an event, but plan your schedule wisely! We would have loved to visit the Palace on the inside, but guided tours are available until 3:30 pm only and unfortunately we arrived there too late!
After sunset, the Gothic Quarter becomes one of Barcelona nightlife’s main hubs. You will find countless small restaurants to eat tapas and even more pubs and cocktail bars to spend your evening in this fascinating medieval district.
The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
Where else can you spend the evening in Barcelona? Seeing the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc at least once is a must. For almost one hundred years this fountain has enchanted locals and tourists with its wonderful light-and-water show. Colorful jets of water rocket to the sky and start to dance all at the same time. And you are dancing together with the fountain. Where else can you see a fountain that dances to the music of Lady Gaga first and Beethoven five minutes later?
Useful tip: Always check the working hours (they change during the year) and come in advance to occupy the best spot to take some amazing photos. Don’t get your camera wet!
The Sagrada Familia
But let’s go back to the daytime activities. Impossible to miss, the most famous building of the city is the Sagrada Familia. This majestic basilica is truly one of a kind. Antoni Gaudí designed it to resemble what he believed to be the direct work of God: the natural world. The columns remind of trees that sustain the high ceiling with their branches, and the ceiling itself feels like a forest canopy, while the colored glass on the upper part of the church fills the place with natural light.
No matter what, don’s skip this place. It’s probably the best attraction of Barcelona and without any doubt one of the most amazing buildings in the world. To enter the church, it’s crucial to get the ticket in advance if you don’t want to stand in line for several hours. Once you get inside, take your time, walk around, sit on the benches and look up. Admire the uniqueness of this place. You will never forget it.
If you haven’t had enough of Gaudí’s work (and you shouldn’t), next on the list are Casa Batllò and Casa Milà, both located in Passeig de Gracia. These two houses were originally designed by Gaudí as private residences for two important businessmen and they are now open for visits, even if the price is a little high in our opinion.
We got lucky and had the chance to visit Casa Batllò for free because we got a voucher valid for some of Barcelona’s attractions while searching for accommodation on Booking.com (by the way, if you click on this link you will get 15€ off your next booking 😉).
Overall, the tour of the house is very interesting and includes an audio guide with some augmented reality elements, but we’re not sure if we would have payed 28.50€ for this visit.
Moving on to Gaudì’s next work on our list: walking away from the center through the charming Gracia district (which we actually recommend to visit later, while you come back to the center, since you’ll be walking downhill and won’t get tired like we did), you will arrive to the beautiful Parc Güell.
This park is divided into two sections. The outer one is a beautiful garden filled with passages and colonnades that remind of a dragon’s cave and can be visited for free. The inner Zona Monumental consists of many buildings and constructions decorated with Gaudí’s mosaics, the famous Dragon Stairway and a terrace offering an amazing view of Barcelona. The entrance ticket costs 7€ and, as usual, it’s a good idea to buy it in advance online.
The Tibidabo mountain
And in case you want to get an impressive view from an even higher location, Tibidabo is the place to go to. A funicular brings you from the bottom of the mountain to its top, where you’ll find a beautiful neogothic church divided into two levels overlooking the city. It is possible to climb on the top of the church for a fee, but it’s not really needed, as the view is stunning from the base of the church too.
The atmosphere of this place could be amazing, if not for the amusement park right in front of it. Seriously, who thought that placing an amusement park and a church in the same place would be a good idea? Despite the disappointment caused from this park, we think a visit to the top of Tibidabo is well worth the time.
Sant Pau Hospital
Not too far from the Sagrada Familia, you’ll find another example of wonderful art nouveau architecture: the Recinte Modernista de Sant Pau. This group of buildings was originally designed as a hospital, and carried out this role until 2009, when the new hospital was built next to it. Today, this complex is a museum and a cultural center. The entry ticket costs 13€ (9€ for students) and the visit is definitely worth the price.
Walking around the many different pavilions, wandering in the garden and exploring the underground tunnel system, you’ll be impressed by the beauty of the modernist architecture and wonder why today’s hospitals are not as beautiful as this. Also, you will be able to enjoy this beauty without having to deal with thousands of other tourists, since the hospital is not a very famous attraction and people usually miss it. No doubt, this is one our favorite places in Barcelona.
Other points of interest
Finally, there are some more places worth a visit. Right outside the Gothic Quarter, near Parc de la Ciudadella, you’ll find a Neo-Moorish Arc of Triumph that has nothing to envy to its most famous homonym in Paris.
If you are in Barcelona on the first weekend of the month, you can plan a lunch break at the Palo Alto market. In this underground place you’ll find live music performances, many small shops and a lot of different food-trucks that will satisfy any mouth.
Last but not least, the Barceloneta. This two-kilometers-long beach on the Mediterranean Sea is surrounded by modern buildings and will make you feel like in Miami. A smaller version at least. We didn’t actually spend a lot of time here, since we had our fair share of beaches in the previous two weeks in the Caribbean and we were craving for a city trip. But if you haven’t been at the seaside in a while, you can’t miss it!
Below you’ll find a map with all the most important places in Barcelona and even more photos from our trip. If you liked this post, leave a comment below and subscribe to be the first to know when we write a new post!