Prior to 2014 I had never visited Barcelona but last year it was something I was fortunate enough to be able to do twice. In the summer I had a girls holiday to Lloret De Mar on the Costa Brava – if you fancy a tacky hen do with a bit of sun and a gorgeous beach then I would definitely recommend! Barcelona is a little over an hour away on the bus and for about €20 return it’s well worth the fare. Unfortunately we only had around 5 hours to fit in as much exploration as possible but I knew it definitely warranted a return visit which is why I visited just before Christmas. Even staying for 4 nights I struggled fitting in everything I wanted to do, the city has so much to offer. The great thing about a city break in Barcelona is that it has its own beach – you can do a city and beach break in the one trip. You can also get the ferry over to Ibiza so you could even soak up a little culture before forgetting it all on The White Isle – time it right and it may even be cheaper than a direct flight!
Lloret De Mar beach
Finding a central hotel is key to getting the most out of your experience. Read my ‘where to stay’ guide on two fantastic hotels situated in two different Barcelona hotspots; the shopping district and the Gothic quarter. So what can you do while you’re over in Barcelona, the Catalan capital?
Casa Batllo – Barcelona is famous for the works of Antoni Gaudi and other than Sagrada Familia there is no finer example of his work than Casa Batllo. Gaudi designed it for a presumably pretty well off family who still live there to this day and it is amazing! Around half of it is open to the public. definitely worth a visit. Those who remember the Barcelona bar (now Quiggins) will recognise the Casa Batllo infuence straight away.
Casa Batllo exterior and interior 1st floor
Park Guell – This is another of Gaudi’s works. He wanted to build an entire housing estate but unfortunately he ran out of money before it was anywhere near completed. It’s like a village of gingerbread houses and weird mazes with a huge central square where you can sit and relax.
Sagrada Familia – I’ve heard so many people say they visited Sagrada Familia and never went inside because they ‘heard it was crap’. Wrong. The outside is spectacular and yes there’s always a big queue to get in but hear me out. The queue goes down pretty quickly and once you get to the ticket booth you’re given an alloted time to come back and then you just walk straight in. The inside is like nothing I’ve ever seen before and I’m not even a bit ashamed to say that I got a bit choked up when I first saw it – it’s absolutely breathtaking. The closest thing I can compare it to is like being in an enchanted forest. You can go up to the top of the Sagrada towers but be warned – if you don’t like heights or being dizzy, don’t take the stairs on the way down, wait for the lift. It’s like a never ending spiral. It is famously unfinished and the outside is still covered in building works. Gaudi died before it could be competed but he knew he would never see the end project. When quizzed on this Gaudi said, “Luckily my client (God) doesn’t have a deadline”
Sagrada Familia interior and exterior
Barcelona Cathedral – Located in the Gothic quarter this is a truly breathtaking piece of architecture, insude and out. For €3 you can take a lift up to the roof and experience fantastic views of the city. At Christmas they have a famous market in the Cathedral Sq where you can pick up a traditional Catalan Christmas decoration of a man having a poo. Not to include one of these in your home at Xmas is said to be very bad luck! Next door is the palace of the Catalan kings which is where, if you’re into your Tudor history, is where the parents of Catherine of Aragon lived. Hotel Barcelona Catedral is a 5 second walk away.
Las Ramblas – This is the main street containing all the restaurants and bars – here’s where you go if you want to party!
Paseo De Gracia – The main shopping street. You’ll find Gaudi’s Casa Batllo and one of his other buildings La Pedrera here along with every designer boutique you can think of. A visit to the Louis Vuitton shop is a must as they have a giant lizard made solely out of handbags and purses! Hotel 62 is a couple of doors down from the Chanel store.
View from Hotel 62 balcony looking down towards Casa Batllo on Paseo De Gracia
The Beach – Well dur, if you want a sunbathe and a cocktail then this is definitely the place to go. Visit Maka Maka beach bar for great cocktails and the wall of wooden cutlery (people from all over the world sign cutlery and pin it to the wall) – I’ll send a prize to the first person who can find mine 🙂
Maka Maka cutlery wall
Montjuic Fountain Show – I still haven’t seen this as it only runs on certain nights but it’s supposed to be spectacular. In the winter months on Fri-Sun (Summer months it’s Thurs-Sun) they have a huge fountain show with lights and music. Definitely make sure you incorporate this into your trip and let me know what I’ve missed!
Picasso Museum – Real Picasso’s, in person. Culture up your life!
Walking Tour – In Hotel Barcelona Catedral they offer a complimentary walking tour of the Gothic quarter for guests on every Sunday and Wednesday night. This is well worth doing, the Gothic quarter in particular is amazing, like stepping back in time to the 15th century. Not unlike Mdina in Malta. You can also independently book walking tours here for example.
Cable Car – You can get a cable car or funicular down from the top of Montjuic (Jewish Mountain) to the marina area and beach which again gives fantastic views of the city. If you can get all thoughts of cables snapping and plunging to your death out of your head that is. I think I’m developing a fear of heights y’know.
Bus Tour – When you arive in a new city and you have no clue where you’re going then I’d always recommend doing one of the hop on hop off bus tours. Not only do they stop at all the places of interest but you get a guided tour as you go and loads of them give you discount vouchers for bars and restaurants in the city. Is right. Everyone loves a discount.
Nou Camp – Blah blah football blah blah Barcelona blah blah Louis Suarez’ new club blah blah spectacular blah over 5 storeys high blah blah two storeys are sunken into the ground blah blah architectural marvel. I think that’s verbatim what my fella said about it.
Enjoy Barcelona, it’s truly a fantastic city and already I can’t wait to go back