THROWBACK! On this day exactly one year ago, yours truly was strolling the streets of the Catalan capital of Barcelona, under the generous glow of the Mediterranean sun. Ah, sweet memories.
When one thinks of Barcelona, many images come to mind. Fresh seafood, music, a city that never sleeps, a sun that never sets, Lionel Messi scoring another hat-trick at the Nou Camp. Okay, maybe that last one was a bit subjective, but hey, Barcelona is an impressive city!
I was in Barcelona for four days and truth be told, I could’ve spent a bit more if time had permitted. There are many articles and travel guides about Barcelona, most of which are, in broadest terms, fairly accurate.
Like any seasoned traveler, or at that time, a complete amateur, I, of course looked up many guides about things to do in the city before I actually made my plans.
TimeOut, proved most useful. It’s a London-based e-magazine which focuses on ‘helping people make the most out of their cities’. It’s been running for a while now and it’s a relatively reliable source of info. Partly because it specialises in travel.
The article I read recommended 20 things to do in Barcelona although I must admit, I didn’t follow through with all 20 of them. But enough about TimeOut, you can read the full article here: http://www.timeout.com/barcelona/features/35/20-great-things-to-do-in-barcelona
Barcelona, being a tourist hotspot has reliable public transport systems which connect most parts of the city to major attractions. But like TimeOut’s number 1 suggestion,
Explore the city on foot. I certainly enjoyed it.
You see, being the birth place of Pablo Picasso and the ‘playground’ of Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona is literally one of the most artistic cities you might see in one lifetime. Taking a stroll around the city can yield unexpected aesthetic rewards.
Like the Casa Batlló (pronounced ba-tee-yo), one of Gaudi’s earliest works as a modernist architect. Here’s a tip: though you can’t visit the interior during the night, the building looks its most majestic (albeit eerie) when it’s dark and the lights are on.
And who could pass up the chance of visiting the church which has taken the longest to build in the modern world? Regardless of cultural and religious background, one must simply visit La Sagrada Familia:
However, I must admit, there was this one incident that occurred while we explored the city on foot. It was about 11 in the night and me and my friend had just finished our dinner (I’ll get to that) and we were making our way home. Somehow, due to a combination of the sudden failure of my Level 2 Spanish and the sudden disappearance of any visible street signs, we walked for over an hour and a half searching for our hostel. In the end, we had to take a cab, and turns out, our hostel was just a block away on the other side of the street. ==
You probably won’t get lost, but it was fun experience. Heh.
Next thing you should do is,
Fill yourself up with fresh seafood from the Mediterranean and also knock yourself out with tapas.
What in Gaudi are tapas, you say? Well, to explain it in the easiest and probably the most politically incorrect way: It’s like Spanish dim sum. An assortment of dishes in small servings best enjoyed with a friend and a pint of ice cold beer. But for me, it’s more about the atmosphere than the food (though they were delicious) more than anything. It’s like mamak but in a less humid place and more food variety (debatable)
Also, in Spain, dinner starts (at earliest) around 9 p.m. So don’t be surprised when you see people coming out for dinner close to midnight! That being said, most restaurants and bars open quite early in the evenings, so you probably won’t find yourself starving anyway.
One thing that I personally recommend doing is:
On your last night in Barcelona, take a stroll down the part of town known as Las Ramblas. It serves, in my opinion, some of the best tapas in town and is home to some of most ambient bars and a hub of Catalan social nightlife (that means it’s a good place to go clubbing). It’s a bustling area of the city, and if you’re one who likes to observe people and immerse yourself in a foreign culture, you will no doubt enjoy the atmosphere there.
A word of warning though, as with other crowded areas, beware of pickpockets and con artists trying to take advantage on non-suspecting tourists (that’s you).
Also, Las Ramblas in the late night is quite infamous for its dense population of street prostitutes. And unlike the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the sex workers and their pimps will hustle and harass lone travelers if you stay well into the night, so be wary of that too.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of my own of Las Ramblas, but here’s an images plucked off Google to give you a rough idea:
In terms of accommodation:
You can find plenty of cheap budget hotels and travel lodges. The youth hostels in Barcelona are also fairly reasonably priced and most of them provide decent to quality service. My friend and I stayed at this hostel called Barcelona Rooms (because original naming, right?) and it was a pretty good place to crash.
It’s located near many of the major tourist attractions and it’s a fair price for a decent bed. No breakfast provided though. You do have, however, a conveniently placed bakery next door which sells delicious pastries. It opens at 7 a.m.
The hostel overlooks the streets of Barcelona:
That concludes my little post on Barcelona. Really, no words, nor pictures, can do justice to the true charms of the city. The only way to truly appreciate Barcelona is to be in Barcelona.
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