With no prior research, myself and three of my girlfriends jetted of to the huge city of Barcelona to pack in sight-seeing, indulging, and sun-tanning (burning) in three days…
Arriving at noon, we got our first feel for the city when we exited the metro at our apartment location; La Dreta de l’Eixample, where the famous unfinished temple Sagrada Familia situates. We saw this straight away, and my first impressions were that it looked like melting candles. Still extraordinary, inside and out, but more on that later.
Once we had settled in our apartment, just a minute walk up the street, and with a balcony view of the Sagrada Familia, we hopped back onto the metro to explore The Old City, with Les Rambles tree-lined promenade at the heart. We wandered through the souvenir stalls and eat some delicious paella in a cheap restaurant (traditional, and budget, that’s us). We also spotted a Marilyn Monroe trying to entice us into the Erotica Museum.
A wander turned into a walk across Port Vell, which features suave bars and restaurants, an IMAX, shopping centre, yachts, and the largest aquarium in Europe. The atmosphere was rather chilled as people strolled while the sun set. But, there was some sort of street parade/carnival going on, as drunken looking dancers jiggled to the sounds of a brass band, which was great fun to watch whilst sipping sangria by the water.
Our opinions of Barcelona really formed on our second day, whereby we viewed the
contrasts of historical and gothic architecture amongst modern curves and vibrancy. Spread out over 100km, each corner boasts completely different and distinct worlds, and a day bus tour allowed us to dip in and out of each.
I was desperate to visit Park Güell, one of the creations of the famous architect Antoni
Gaudi. His buildings are dotted around the city, including the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and La Pedrera, all of which are unmistakable as Gaudi’s for their fairy-tale, bold, and magical appearances.
Park Güell was a complex that was intended for sixty family homes, but was unsuccessful, and became public property in 1923. It is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage, which was understandable as we hiked up through the winding paths in the gardens. We reached peaks overlooking the landscapes Barcelona, and once through the main entrance, we discovered mosaic walls, the Hall of a Hundred Columns, and the magnificent multi-coloured benches outlining the main square, from which we could see the skyline of the Barcelona – breath-taking!
We spent the afternoon travelling the west of the city. We stopped off at the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys: The Olympic Stadium, up Montjuïc Hill. Barcelona put itself on the map hosting the Olympics in 1992, which was the centre of a city wide transformation. Sport and music events are still held here – Beyoncé and Coldplay will be playing there this summer!
We also stopped off at the very popular (but not so with me) Camp Nou. We didn’t take a tour, although I have heard it is an incredible experience even for those who aren’t football fans. The girls were really excited just to see the legendary stadium from the outside and grab some souvenirs from the huge club shop.
The tour across the beach front was like a completely different city compared to what we had already seen. Sandy beaches and palm trees accompanied by tower blocks, glass buildings, and eye-catching sculptures, such as the Frank Gehry’s Peix – basically a huge metallic fish. Observing the modern architecture whilst touring ‘New Barcelona’, the Torre Agbar has a striking resemblance the Gherkin in London, but this one shimmers with the colours of the sea. Barcelona also has a likeliness to America, with its nature parks amid block-like road systems.
After a morning browsing the extensive shops in Catalunya, of which Barcelona has more per capita than anywhere else in Europe, we headed to Icària Beach. Here, are chic bars and expensive seafood restaurants, as well as nightclubs such as Pacha, so we could imagine the buzz that will come with the summer crowds. All with pretty bad wind-burn (the winds were really high, but the sun still warm), we spent a couple of hours relaxing in
In the evening, we visited the Sagrada Familia, which is set to finish in 2026, 100 years after Gaudi’s death. This unique church doesn’t boast ‘beauty’ from the outside, rather a bespoke piece of gothic art, but certainly inside is an astonishing sight of stain glass windows and columns depicting a forest. Just like you would imagine, the ceilings are a vision of outstanding creations. Although beautiful, we felt a little disappointed. Perhaps we are to used to Canterbury Cathedral in our university city, which never fails to take my breath away. It’s definitely worth paying the extra for the guided tour or the lift up to the top to fully appreciate the masterpiece.
In the evening, we did some pre drinking with cheap wine in our apartment, as the Sagrada Familia area isn’t the wildest of scenes. But then we joined around 70 others on a bar crawl. We were sold the t-shirts, (which only our group wore, typical!) on the beach earlier for 15 euros. We grabbed at the chance to be guided through the nightlife of Barcelona, as the night before we had wasted quite a bit of time trying to navigate the corridors of the Gothic Quarter for a lively bar in the edgy and sophisticated El Born. The ‘I Survived Barcelona’ crawl took us to three busy pubs, ending in Otto Zutz nightclub, which from what I remember was awesome, and a real laugh with a stag do we buddied up with!
With a tight budget and time scale, we only managed the highlights of the city. There was lots more to see – the lights show at the Magic Fountain, the cathedral, and the funfair mountain of Tribidabo to name a few. We went at a great time of year, as the sun was warm enough (but don’t get too excited, you still need a cardi), and the queues were short at the popular destinations.
If you are visiting Barcelona, I would recommend a little research, but with ease of navigation and travel, it isn’t too complicated a place. Comfortable shoes, a secure bag (pick-pocketing is really common), and a decent map. Without doubt, three days was enough time to enjoy a mix of relaxation, fun, and culture in a modern setting.