Barcelona, the centre of Art. April 2017 my Sister and I decided to go on a city break, as she had recently come back from her 2nd year in Uni. We had um’d and ar’d about where to go, as we wanted to visit somewhere new but for a reasonable price. We finally decided on Barcelona, and after a bit of planning got ready to go on our adventure. Included in this blog I am going to talk about the following places and tours as it is what I personally experienced, however if anyone reading has any questions about something specific just ask and I will try my best to answer.
- Ryan Air
- Bus Turistic
- Air BnB
- Sagrada Familia
- Placa de Catalunya
- Las Ramblas
- Webarcelona 360 E-Bike, Boat and Cable Car tour
Briefly starting with flights; as I’ve been asked before about the quality and price of Ryan Air flights. My answer is you get what you pay for. For two April return flights from Stanstead to Barcelona we paid £211, which for a popular European destination isn’t bad at all. As usual, snacks and drink on the flights are expensive: for a 250ml bottle of water it was £2.50 which is extautionate when you take into account you can buy a 800ml bottle of Smart water from the airport for £1.10. But as it is a budget airline you do get what you pay for.
Accommodation. This was my first booking with Air Bnb. For those who are unfamiliar with this, Air Bnb is a site where you can rent rooms or whole houses/apartments for your holiday. This is purely accommodation only, so it is as if you are living in someone’s home while you stay. We rented a room as we didn’t feel the need to have a whole home to ourselves. The apartment was situated on a street directly off La Rambla and in turn gave us easy access to the major tourist areas such as Placa de Catalunya and The Gothic Quarter. I have not included a link to the exact place I stayed, as I have not asked the owner for permission. But I will insert pictures. If you happen to stay there, it is accurate to the pictures and incredibly clean.
The Aerobus was the way we got to and from the air port. For those who have not been to Barcelona before, the airport is a 30min drive from the centre of the city. There are three main ways to get around: Subway stations, Bus and Private hire. You can also cycle around the city as it is incredibly bike friendly, I will go into detail in the bike tour paragraph a bit later. Aerobus is the cheaper option, and for us was the more convenient mode of transport. The bus will take you from either terminal one or two. If you check your flight it will say which terminal you land in, then if you go to http://www.aerobusbcn.com , they have videos showing you how to get to the bus stops. I landed in terminal 2 and made my way to the stop. At the stop there are two ways of buying tickets: Ticket Machine and The Driver. The machine only takes card so unless you have a card you can use abroad, wait until the bus comes and pay the driver directly. An open return is 10.20 euros. We then got the bus to Placa De Catalunya which was a 5 min walk to our accommodation.
Placa De Catalunya is a large square in the central of Barcelona. It is also the spot where the old city and “new” (19th century) Barcelona meet. This is also where many mainstream and branded shops are situated. La Rambla also cuts straight across the square, enabling you to venture further into the old town if you wish. Some of the shops in this ares are: Sephora, Nyx, Undiz, Pull and Bear, Mango and Desigual. There is also a department store called El Corte Ingles. With in El Corte Ingles is where you will find high end makeup and skin care, in conjunction with clothing and accessories. I would say out of the whole of Barcelona, this is the shopping central in regards to branded shops. However if you want more market and niche shops, I would suggest La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter.
Las Ramblas is famous for being the first road people would walk up many years ago when first arriving in Barcelona. It is what I would class as the main strip for tourists. La Rambla it self stretches down from the coast all the way up to Placa De Catalunya, linking up many sites of interest along the way. This is where you will find all of your on-the-street tourist shops, along with the people who sell the cheap knock-off designer hand bags. It is incredibly tourist centred. However this is where I would suggest for food as there are many options in this area. There are lots of restaurants who actually have dining areas directly on the central walkway. They all serve the same food (Tapas) and they are all the same if not similar prices. The food is excellent, I highly recommend the seafood paella, as all the fish is fresh and delicious. La Rambla also has many side streets that lead to the old town. Down one of the side streets there is a restaurant called Taller de Tapas. This tapas bar serves the best calamari I have ever had, alongside other amazing dishes. For the low price as well, I highly recommend this place.
The Old town is Barcelona pre-dating the 19th century, this is the place for all you history fans. The way you can identify if you are getting closer to the older part of the city is the walk ways become very thin and narrow. It reminded me of a stone maze after a while. This is where you find the niche shops and some of the very old architecture. I didn’t spend much time in the old town, as we would usually go in the evening to walk off our dinner. However what I did see of it was very beautiful and a lot more cultured than La Rambla (mainly because it isn’t as targeted for globalised tourists). We also briefly cycled around this area when on our Webarcelona tour.
Tour time! The first tour we went on was the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Turistic. The bus has three routes: Red, Blue and Green. As our nearest start point was Placa De Catalunya we were able to get either Red route Or Blue route. These are the two routes that operate all year round. The Green route is only operational for a few months of the year. We did not go on the Green route, however I know that it goes to the some of the museums and art galleries in central Barcelona. Starting with the Blue route; Blue explores all of the northern/ in-land tourist spots of Barcelona. This includes: Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Barcelona Football club, and roughly 10 other stops. The Red route explores the southern/coastal landmarks and POI’s. This includes The Olympic Park, Montjuic, Joan Miro gallery, Plaza D’espana, The Citudella zoo and about 15 other stops. Both of these tours were 2 hours long if you stayed on for the whole tour. I highly recommend doing this as it allows you to at least see all the sites, even if you don’t have the time to go in to them.
The second tour was the E-Bike, Boat and Cable Car tour. It is safe to say I am far for the exercise fanatic I wish I could be, however we decided to do this tour because the cable car and boat sounded amazing. I also didn’t really know what an E-Bike was. An E-bike is a standard pedal bike which has a motor on the back wheel. It feels like there if someone pushing you along, and means you don’t have to pedal as hard. Surprisingly I absolutely loved this trip, our tour guide Pablo made it even better. He was so knowledgeable about the surroundings as well as being a very genuine down to earth man. The tour starts in old town, at the Webarcelona shop. This is where you are given your bikes and you practice riding around, getting the hang of the engine. After this you then begin the tour. Pablo led us from spot to spot, and each destination we would stop out of the way of pedestrians and he would tell us about the site. When we began the assent to the cable car site, I thought I would die half way up. Surprisingly the engine really did make it easier to get up the mountain. Once at the cable car Pablo helped put our biked into the car and then we got in after. The views are stunning. You are able to see all across Barcelona from its furthest pint inland all the way out to the ocean. It was beyond beautiful, and nice to have a sit out without pedalling for a moment. The Cable Car took about 10 minutes to get you to the top of the mountain. From there we cycled around Castell de Montjuic, and all the way down the side overlooking the port. We stopped a few times on the way down and we were able to see some of the huge cruise liners from all over the world, sitting in the sapphire blue water. Once we had fully descended from the mountain we arrived at Port Vell- which is the tourist side of the port area. From there we boarded the boat and had a 40min boat ride along Barcelona’s coast line. It was very windy which meant we had to keep an eye on our skin incase we got burnt-Especially as we were outside. The boat had seating areas that looked a little like trampolines, this was very comfortable and very relaxing. Once the boat had docked we proceeded to cycle up La Rambla to the Sagrada Familia.
Saving the best till last. As I studied art in sixth form I am very much aware of Gaudi and his art, however I had never seen his work face-to-face. Barcelona is pretty much a gallery for Gaudi, everywhere you turn there is either a building he designed or a sculpture in his style. I had heard of the Sagrada Familia, and mainly found it interesting that after 100years the cathedral was still unfinished. I’m almost at a loss for words writing about the Sagrada, as I was so awestruck upon seeing this building. The outside of the building is a rather gothic style, with the tall turrets and black detailing. However because one side was done more recently than the other, the back end is much more contemporary. Yet still managing to keep the style of Gaudi flowing. None the less it is the inside that left me speechless. For those who aren’t familiar with Gaudi he was very inspired by trees as he grew up in a rural area. He wanted to mimic nature in his work, as he thought nature was one of the closest things to god. Gaudi also has expressive use of colour and was incredibly modern for his time. No words I write will able you to comprehend the beauty of the first step you take into Sagrada Familia. It is not like anything I have ever seen before, especially for a cathedral. Walking in you are hit by a spectrum of colours which bounce from wall to wall, strategically placed to highlight features all around the hall. The columns are like trees, with their branches reaching out and holding the high ceiling up. Gaudi designed the stainglass to reflect different colours throughout the day: blues, greens and cold colours when the sun is in the west (sunrise), and then change to warm colours such as red and pink in the east (sunset). I am not a religious person but I must say I was so taken back by the pure beauty, and seeing what Gaudi believed his faith would look like. There is no person in the world who shouldn’t see this marvel. It is the one building I think everyone should see before they die. The fact that it isn’t even completed yet and it is still so blindingly stunning is a mystery to me. I will also be going back to see the cathedral when finally completed, they are hoping to finish it but the anniversary of Gaudi’s death in 2026.
Final thoughts. Barcelona really is the city of art. Everywhere you look there is artistic flare and beauty. Barcelona is the permanent art gallery for Gaudi and Joan Miro, and if you are an art fan this is a must trip. The only down side is that like many cities, some parts are very globalised. For me I sometimes like that, but for a city of such culture and history I think that it may be the ruin of it one day.
I have never spoken about this hobby of mine on here, but as it is relevant I will. I like to make short films, wether they be to document trips or just for entertainment purposes. While I was in Barcelona I made a video for my sister, as a kind of present. I will link the video below as it will show you many of the aspects of my trip I have aforementioned. It will also give you a better grasp of the beauty of Sagrada Familia.
If anyone reading this has any questions or wants to know about something in a bit more detail, don’t hesitate to ask. I will answer to the best of my ability. See you on my next trip!