When the clocks a'tickin, we go sightseeing ...
The incredible city of Barcelona deserves much more than 24 hours but when that’s all you’ve got you’ve got to make the most of it. This was exactly my dilemma during my visit in August. After an early flight from London Gatwick, I arrived at my central Barcelona hostel. I booked myself into the Generator Hostel, where I had previously stayed for my last visit to Barcelona in 2015. Located just a 15 minute walk away from Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia, and closely linked to the metro, it was an ideal location. I personally love to explore cities by just wandering through the streets and discovering all the have to offer.
A walk along Passeig de Gracia is where I started. This is one of Barcelona’s most famous shopping streets with a mixture of high end designer boutiques and main high street brands. In addition to the shopping highlights of Passeig de Gracia, the street also features two of Barcelona’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudi’s apartments. Casa Batllo and Casa Mila are both unique Gaudi designs that stand out amongst the surrounding architecture. Both buildings can be visited for €23.50 and €22 respectively. With limited time, I didn’t make a visit inside either of Gaudi’s masterpieces, I will just have to make another trip.
Placa de Catalunya (Catalonia Square) links Passeig de Gracia with the famous Las Ramblas. The square also marks the union of the modern and gothic centres of the city. The pedestrianised mall of Las Ramblas connects the city to the Spanish coastline. One of the most notable locations along Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s Mercado de la Boqueria. The famous market boasts fresh produce stalls including seafood, meats and fruit and vegetables. In additional to these features, the market also welcomes tapas stands. It is the perfect place to get stuck into the incredible Spanish cuisine.
Without having to look far at all, I set myself up at on the terrace of a bordering café, ideal for people watching. I ordered a Tinto de Verano, an alterative to the commercial favourite, Sangria. Translating to Summer wine, tinto de Verano is much less sweet than its tourist favourite counterpart, being composed of simply red wine and soda water. Wanting to try a little bit of the local produce being sold next to me, I opted for an Iberian tapas plate. I sampled different types of local cured ham, chorizo and variations of local cheeses. And it sure went down a treat. Although beware that Barcelona is an expensive city. I was fully aware that being in a tourist hotspot, the price of my meal would be a little higher but €27 seemed a bit excessive.
Tip: Be aware that most cafes have a terrace fee.
After a delicious lunch, I continued along La Ramblas tree lined street to the waterfront. As I got closer to the water, the street came much more alive with local artists showcasing their works, street performers and handicraft market stalls. Enjoying the sunshine, my walk took me along the marina to Barceloneta beach. Naturally, being summer it was extremely busy.
Now being summer, and of course by the seaside, it would be rude not to have ice-cream. So, when I heard about Eyescream & Friends, I just had to check it out. The unique store serves shaved ice-cream with the option of additional toppings. It was just what the doctor ordered on that hot summer day.
Find Eyescream & Friends at:
Paseo de Joan de Borbó, 30
With more of Barcelona to discover I continued my explorations with a visit to Parc de la Ciutadella (Ciutadella Park). The lush green park is comprised of the Barcelona zoo, a boating lake, numerous walking trails and museums.
Now you can’t visit Barcelona without visiting one of Gaudi’s finest works, La Sagrada Familia. The basilica has been under construction for more than 100 years and remains incomplete. But that should not hinder you from visiting. The exterior of the basilica is remarkable itself, but the interior architecture is something else entirely. Having visited two years prior, I did not complete a visit inside the basilica on this trip, but for anyone that has never been, it is like nothing you have ever seen before. Gaudi was definitely a unique and extremely talented architect. Being a landmark of Barcelona, it is one of the busiest attractions in the city. If you want to visit the basilica you will need to pre-book tickets online here. Adjacent to Sagrada Familia, sits Placa de Gaudi, a small park with a pond. This is my favourite location for photos of the church. Unfortunately, this is a well-known fact and gets extremely busy so if you’d prefer to have tourist free photographs your timing is key.
Tip: For tourist free photos, set that wake up alarm early. Visit Placa de Gaudi before 8am and you won't find a tourist in sight - who needs sleep anyway!
One of my favourite places to visit in Barcelona is yet another Gaudi masterpiece, Parc Güell. Originally intended as a residential estate, the development was later transformed to a public park, which now welcomes close to 4 million annual visitors. Some of the park can be visited without a ticket, however the monumental zone, featuring the dragon stairway, the hypostyle room and the nature square (pretty much all the places you want to visit), requires a ticket. To avoid queues, it is worth pre-purchasing tickets online here, although you can purchase your tickets on sight. Tickets are for set times however, so it usually works best to pre-book so you can plan your day, especially if you’re tight on time.
Hoping for a spectacular sunset to complete my adventure, I waited atop the Turo de les Tres Creus, a monument at the highest point of Parc Güell. But much to my disappointment, there was no sunset, so my walk back to my hostel was a little dull, however I had still had an incredible day in the fantastic city of Barcelona topped off by some more delicious tapas.