Sunday, 14 August 2016

Things to Do in Barcelona

As all of our previous getaways together have been city breaks, this year, Juan and I were keen to try and get the best of both worlds, the relaxing and beach aspect but also the culture and landmark side of things. Eventually, we decided on Barcelona. Despite being excited for our holiday, I didn't anticipate the city being anything special but found that as soon as we got off the bus and began the walk to our hotel, I was regretting only booking to stay for a week. Here are my top picks of our stay.

Barceloneta Beach
When in Barcelona, visiting the beach is a must. Barceloneta is tourist heavy but lovely nonetheless with it's yellow sands and water that's warm enough to swim in. 2 sunbeds and an umbrella will set you back 30 euros for the day. If you're on a budget, I'd suggest going just for the umbrella as the sun was so hot I needed the shade! There's a plethora of bars in a close proximity (more on that in an upcoming food dedicated to food and drink in the city!) and the walkway has smooth paving is great for wheelchairs, running, skating, cycling and so on.
Did you know? : On the subject of wheelchairs, Barcelona is one of the best cities in Europe when it comes to wheelchair access

Port Vell Marina
I love wandering round marinas and Barcelona's Port Vell has some fantastic scenery and another long pathway running adjacent. It's a great place for viewing the picturesque, pastel coloured sunsets and there's a handful of restaurants, the majority specialising in seafood, with a grand view of all the boats.

Hop-On-Hop-Off-Tourist Bus

If you read my post on our city break to Rome, you might recall we chose to explore the Italian city via a tourist bus and found it to be really informative so were drawn to do the same whilst in Barcelona. I quickly learnt just how big Barca is - there are 3 different coloured routes - red, blue and green and it took us a whole day to explore the red one alone. Unfortunately we'd only bought one day bus passes, with hindsight I would have definitely opted for the 2 day bus pass. Instead, we explored the blue route by foot.
Top tip: Try to plan your bus tour day for a cloudy day, it gets very very hot on the top!

Placa de Espana

Situated in the Sants-Montjuic, this plaza is a transport hub of the city. Here you will find former bullring-turned-shopping centre, Arenas de Barcelona. However the main attraction is the stunning Palau Naciona building, which houses the Art Museum of Catalonia. Whilst we didn't go into the musuem, we wandered round the site which makes for spectacular panoramic views of the city.
Top tip: visit Placa de Espana at night for the free Magic Fountain light and water show!

Park Guell & Gaudi Casa Museum
If you know anything about Barcelona then you'll know exactly who architect Antoni Gaudi is and if you don't, you'll definitely get to know him, as he and his work feature pretty heavily! Park Guell was originally intended to become a housing site but only 2 houses were ever built. One, which Gaudi himself moved into and is now the Gaudi Casa museum. We visited the museum where furniture designed by the architect are on show and the museum is laid out to give visitors an idea of what it would have looked like when Gaudi lived there.
After the failed housing venture, the area ultimately became a public garden. There is a section known as the Monumental Zone which features intricate mosaics and pretty buildings - all designed by Gaudi. If this area is of interest to you, I recommend booking in advance. We got to Park Guell at 5pm and there was no availability until 7:30pm and as the park is at the top of a steep hill we ended up not going back!
Access to the park is free, entrance to the Casa Museum is 5 euros and 7 euros for the Monumental Zone.

Miss Van Mural

Miss Van is a French-born street artist, now living in Barcelona. Women feature heavily in her artwork and this one for the Fem Rimes Fem Graff festival is no different. We visited before midday so the roads were quite quiet which was a great opportunity to enjoy a calm moment to just take it all in. I seem to be really good at stumbling across some of my favourite artists whilst travelling and on holiday by accident. I got to see a David Lachappelle exhibition in Rome, I found the Miss Van mural in Sao Paolo whilst in Brazil and I noticed on her Instagram that she has a piece in Barcelona just before we set off there ourselves. Find "409, Calle Lepanto" on your map to go see this beautiful mural for yourself.
Top tip: it's a 15 minute uphill walk from Sagrada Familia so tie it into your visit there.

Sagrada Familia

On to the most famous sight in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia! Gaudi's greatest and still unfinished work, an extraordinary Roman Catholic church. Building commenced in 1832 and it is expected that work won't be finished until 2026. The building is an absolute spectacle with bright, rainbow coloured stained glass and references to the natural world (see if you can find the tortoise in one of the pillars of the exterior!). The "under construction" aspect and the knowledge that admission fees finance the building work truly adds to the charm.
Again, it is recommended you book in advance for this attraction. We went past it on our bus tour but booked tickets online for the next day. Basic entrance is 20 euros and there's audio, guided tours and even access to the towers are available for an additional fee. We went for general admission but I wish we'd opted for the audio tour. Whichever type of visit you go for, Sagrada Familia and the story behind it is fascinating. If you only want to do one tourist attraction, make sure this is it!
Top tip: Remember to walk round the whole exterior of the basilica to see Sagrada Familia from both sides.

Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló is the final Gaudi masterpiece I visited. Also known as House of Bones due to it's unusual appearance, particularly that of the curved stonework around the windows and the ribcage-shaped loft room. On entry to this renovated house, you are given a small tablet like device with headphones. There is an excerpt of the tour to listen to in each room and the tablet has an augmented reality feature where you hold it up and it shows you what the house might have looked like when the Batlló family resided there.
The house is peppered with tell-tale Gaudi characteristics: bright colours, animal references and an avoidance of any straight lines. My favourite aspects of Casa Batlló are the huge windows on the ground floor where the stained glass looks like it's made from completely different colours depending on which side you look at it from, the tiling of the atrium which looks like a massive bathroom, and the multicoloured facade of the house which is said to look like water lillies on a lake and also change colour depending on the light.
The roof is open to the public and provides a great view point over the city. On the roof itself is a strange arch shape which is said to represent the back of a dragon and is covered in Gaudi's signature mosaic tiling. I thought Casa Batlló was visually fantastic, interesting and worth the 25 euro pricetag. Do book in advance though!


Ok, so this one isn't unique to Barcelona nor a culturally enriching experience but an obvious must-visit for any make up lovers. There are multiple branches of Sephora in the city but I paid a visit to the one on Calle Pelayo, just off Las Ramblas. Here you can fill your boots with all the Too Faced and Kat Von D beauts your heart desires. This part of my trip was also special as I met up with Rhian, a friend I made through blogging who I pen-palled with too!

As you can probably tell, I absolutely loved Barcelona. Ideally I would have loved a few extra days (I'd recommend 10-14 days) and had we had the time we would have also rode on the cable cars/furnicula, rented bikes, visited Barcelona Cathedral, checked out La Pedrera and Bunkers del Carmel.

Have you visited Barcelona? Is there any must-see attractions I've missed? Let me know in the comments below!

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