HOW TO SPEND 24-HOURS IN BARCELONA – A GUIDE FOR FIRST TIMERS (PART ONE)
Is it really possible to see all the major sites in just 24-hours in Barcelona? Yes it is, and I know this for a fact, because I’ve done it myself. There’s a reason that everyone flocks to this awesome city. Its architecture, primarily crafted by the slightly eccentric Goudy, is nothing short of brilliant. His influence can be seen everywhere, and I mean everywhere! Then there are its wonderfully passionate inhabitants – the Catalans, who love their city so much that they recently voted to become independent from Spain. I believe they will eventually achieve this because when I visited here several years back, it was already being discussed.
Their passion spills over into all areas of Barcelonan life, not the least of which is their love of football (soccer), which has made FC Barcelona one of the top teams throughout all of Europe. In addition, the team has produced some of the best players of all time including, the legendary Lionel Messi, who has achieved worldwide renown. Although not the best Segway, don’t forget about their mouth-watering tapas cuisine, which is enough to make this city by the sea a must-do on your European itinerary.
I stayed here for two nights while on a European tour, and I instantly fell in love with the place. As much as I would love to travel here again, there are some things that I would definitely do differently, which I will share with you in this post.
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WHERE DID I STAY?
I stayed at the Ibis Barcelona Meridiana (Paseo Andreunin, 9 Heron City, 08016 Barcelona, Spain). Although the hotel was great, with lots of amenities nearby, trying to find it at night was incredibly difficult, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the area. Getting into the city is also a bit of a pain, unless you plan to hire a car or get lots of taxis. The journey starts with a 15-minute walk from the hotel, followed by a 10-15 minute train journey into the city. So I would invest a little more into your accommodation and actually stay in the town centre, where many attractions are within walking distance.
The rooms are clean and simply furnished, much like you’d expect from any major budget hotel chain. During my travels, I’ve noticed that the windows in European hotels seem to open just a crack, or not at all. These were of the fully sealed variety, meaning you can’t get any fresh air, but we still had a great view as we were on one of the top floors. There was a decent breakfast served here too. You should expect to see lots of cold meats and cheeses, which is typical for either a Spanish breakfast, or my husbands’ breakfast!! Book your Barcelona hotel here through HOTELOPIA. (Click Here)
My husband Zac and I were halfway through a tour of Europe, so we were pretty tired from the get-go by the time we arrived in the Catalonian capital. So the first morning, we didn’t leave the hotel until around 10:30 AM – which is blasphemous when you’re only staying at your destination for a couple of days. But unfortunately, it had to be done, as we were just too tired to start our day any earlier.
After filling up on the hotel breakfast and squeezing enough “complimentary” croissants into my handbag for later, we made our way to the closest metro stop, Fabra i Puig, which is around a 10-minute walk away. As it was a Sunday, transport into the city centre was running less frequently, but we still didn’t have to wait too long, and then it was just a 15-minute train ride into Barcelona.
PLACE DE CATALUNYA
We departed at the Catalunya metro stop and made our way out of the station towards the Plaza De Cataluña, the cities main square. Surrounded by attractive buildings, it’s a lively area and a popular meeting point for locals and tourists alike. There was an ambiance of fun throughout the area. The restaurants had pavement dining, which dropped you right in with the street performers, making you feel like you were part of the atmosphere. It was also a great spot for people-watching. One of the squares main attractions is the Magic Fountain, which runs regular water shows throughout the day.
With the area so lively and busy, you would think it would be a near impossibility to notice a woman stood literally a few feet away wearing the same dress as me! But, oh my goodness, I was so embarrassed! Of course, the same-dress-lady was utterly oblivious at this faux par, but my face was flaming! So I quickly ran away with Zac clutching his stomach in laughter behind me!
The square also marks the start of Barcelona’s most famous street Las Ramblas. Before we go any further, I need to let you know something about Las Ramblas, which most people don’t find out until they get there. This street is rife with pick-pockets. If you put your wallet in your back pocket, it will be emptied by a thief, and the wallet will be put back in your pocket before you get to the end of the road. They love tourists who are stuck in their holiday bubble, and let me tell you that if you act like this, you will be their perfect candidate! Luckily when Zac and I were here, we weren’t one of their targets, but the stories I’ve heard from friends and colleagues are many, so please, take my advice, and don’t put your money in your back pocket if you intend to spend it on yourself. Just don’t!
For me, Las Ramblas is very much like every other famous main street I’ve visited throughout the world. Although it has a fun atmosphere and a few quirky buildings, you probably won’t need to spend heaps of time here. But it is pedestrianised, so no cars, which is a huge bonus.
As we made our way down Las Ramblas, I kept looking out for all the quirky buildings designed by Goudy, and there was plenty of them. One building in particular that I loved was decorated in what looked like oriental-style paper fans. Although it was a little strange, the striking mix of orange and cream coloured façade with the Asian elements, really made it stand out.
By now it was around lunchtime, and our mouths were watering as Zac and I wandered past an abundance of delicious-looking tapas restaurants. Then, finally, we saw a sign that said, ‘€10.00 ($12.15 USA / $15.90 AUD) per person for three tapas plates and paella!’ Hurray! Something within our budget! We thought we’d hit the jackpot as it seemed like such a great deal. We entered the busy restaurant and eagerly sat down in anticipation of our delicious Spanish lunch. Everyone seemed in a jovial and happy mood, the sun was shining, and the great atmosphere rubbed off on us too.
Then the food came. At first, we thought what they’d put in front of us had to be some kind of joke. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it was an embarrassment to Spanish cuisine! And I can say this with a clear conscience, as I have been to Spain many times over the years and the food here is incredible. So I’m sure you’re wondering, what did they give us? Remember the three tapas dishes? Well, the first one contained ONE GREEN OLIVE! Yes – one olive! Even two olives would have been ridiculous. But one olive??? The second dish was just as bad. One small potato wedge with a drizzle of seafood sauce over it. Really?? The third and final tapas dish was one meatball on a wooden skewer! But by wooden skewer, I mean toothpick! And meatball? More like meat-SMALL!
As a joke, Zac decided to cut them all in half so we could share our ‘loot!’ The saving grace (just barely) was the paella they served, which was actually quite good. Unfortunately, we only got around four mouthfuls each. What an absolute rip-off, right? We ate our food and left in disgust! We were still so hungry that we had to fill our bellies across the road at Burger King, as we couldn’t afford the required ten extra plates of tapas that would have made it a proper meal. So when it comes to lunch on Las Ramblas, buyer beware! To avoid getting ripped off at a restaurant like we did, check out VIATOR (a Trip Advisor Company) for trusted and guided foodie tours in Barcelona, where you’ll be taken to great eateries with a local and have a great time. Book here! (Placa de Catalunya, 08002, Barcelona, Spain)
I was determined not to let this ruin our day, and Burger King ALWAYS makes Zac happy. So after our more substantial meal, we continued down Las Ramblas until we reached Monument A Colom, the Christopher Columbas Statue dedicated to the famous explorer. He once stopped in Barcelona on his outward voyage before discovering America, hence why they have a monument of him here. It’s a tall plinth with Christopher Columbus on top looking towards America and a base decorated with statues of lions, kings and queens. It’s definitely worthy of a look.
From here, we headed down ‘Passeig de Colom’ where we passed Gobierno Militar De Barcelona, which is such an incredibly beautiful building due to its golden yellow façade and white pillars at the front. We also passed the Cara De Barcelona monument built for the 1992 Olympic Games. It’s very cleverly designed in a typical ’90s style, with a pixelated look. You can definitely tell its inspiration came from the famous painter Picasso, who once lived here.
Be sure to have a wander past ‘Capitania General De Barcelona’ too. The building itself is nothing to write home about, but the magnificent medieval-inspired doors are incredible to look upon. Just nearby, there is also a rather interesting yet strange-looking sculpture called Sculpture La Gamba. Made from bronze, this giant lobster looks quite happy hanging there and smiling at passers-by.
GOTHIC QUATRE (BARRIS GOTHIC)
Next we wandered up Via Laietana. We started to notice changes in the architecture of the surrounding buildings, almost as if we were walking into a different era. As it turns out, we’d just entered the Gothic Quarter (Barris Gothic), and it was truly beautiful. Walking around this part of town was one of the highlights of my trip to Barcelona. About halfway up the road, we came across a very medieval-style building that looked like part of an old castle, squashed between other buildings, which actually turned out to be the Barcelona History Museum (Museu D’Historia De Barcelona-MUHBA) A couple of points to note. Firstly, the admission price is €7.00 per person; however, it’s free on Sundays after 3 PM, as are most museums in Barcelona. Secondly, if you visit before 3 PM on a Sunday, it’s at a reduced rate of €5.00 per person (or free if you have a Barcelona Card). So if you want to save some money, Sunday is the best day to go!
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go inside as we were on our way to the Picasso Museum. I really wish we’d had time, as I love history, and this museum seems right up my street! There is a Roman excavation inside, which would be exciting to see, as it’s the largest excavated site outside of Rome. There have been many artifacts recovered from the site, and most of them now make for exciting displays held at this museum.
Placa Del Rei, Barcelona
After taking a left at the Avenue de la Catedral, we arrived at the beautiful Barcelona Cathedral (Catedral de Barcelona). There is a little square in front of the building, and it was absolutely packed with people! We were on a tight budget anyway, so we decided against paying the €9.00 admission fee when we’d already seen hundreds of cathedrals before this one. Sorry! We still got to admire the beautiful architecture from the outside. Construction first began on this Barcelonan icon in 1298 and took over 150-years to complete, so there are certainly many attractive elements to look at. Most notably would be the main door and the stunning archway above it. It is one of the finest I’ve ever seen. There is a star shape above the door, in a swirly pattern. Underneath this, you’ll see decorative stonework around the large wooden doors. On either side of the entrance are four priest statues, with some of the most incredible facial details I have ever seen. The one on the most inner left looks remarkably like Jesus, but I can’t be sure, as I’ve never met him personally.
We continued walking around and came upon the old gothic cloisters, which are free to enter. There are thirteen geese who reside here, and they are said to be the guardians of the cathedral. In the past, they were used to warn against possible intruders or thieves, as they would make lots of noise when people would approach them, alerting the priests. They use thirteen to honour Saint Eulalia, who was tortured and martyred by the Romans during the persecution of Christians in the city. She was subjected to thirteen different tortures, and she was only thirteen years old at the time. What a tragedy.
Despite being a small courtyard, it was definitely worth the slight detour, as not only did we get to see the geese looking so out of place roaming around on the surrounding brickwork, but the adjacent architecture really throws you back in time. A beautiful pond is home to some contrasting greenery and a small fountain, and the nearby buildings have some pretty stained-glass windows to gaze upon (or glaze upon, get it???). However, as it’s such a tiny area, and one of the only parts of the church that was free, it can get super busy.
Well, that’s a wrap on Part One of ‘How to Spend 24-Hours in Barcelona.’ I loved reminiscing about the special time I had in this city, and I hope that you have picked up a few tips or recommendations along the way for when you start planning your own trip to this epic city. We managed to cram in quite a lot as we were only in the city for one day, so this itinerary is perfect for anyone who only has a short time here. Keep a look out for Part Two coming soon. Have you been to Barcelona? What did you think of this wonderful city? What is your favourite thing to do when here? I’d love you to leave me a comment below, and I’ll get back to you.
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