Sunday, 22 September 2013

5 days in Barcelona

I recently went on holiday to Barcelona for 5 full days and 6 nights in total. Having read just about every blog, travelling website and reviews on TripAdvisor I had very pre-meditated expectations of Barcelona. However nothing can compare to actually seeing the place with your own eyes and discovering it's hidden gems.

In a synopsis here is what I did (not necessarily in this order):
  • Explored the Gothic Quarter
  • Visited the un-finished Sagrada Família
  • Did a tour of Casa Mila, a Gaudi creation
  • Looked around the outskirts of Barcelona Cathedral
  • Went round Park Guell and Gaudi House Museum
  • Visited Montjuic
  • Spent a day on Barceloneta beach and explored Port Vell
  • Went on a bus tour around a couple of routes
  • Cable car to Barcelonetta 
  • Las Ramblas

On my first day in Barcelona I purchased a 5 day metro ticket, which covered use of the Metro for the duration of that time. This is the equivalent of buying a travelcard, which we get here in England. This is so much more cost effective than buying metro tickets every day. 

I highly recommend the bus tour around Barcelona, as it's a quick and easy way to see the city from a birds eye perspective, without getting lost. I jumped on the stop at Sagrada Família, where you can purchase tickets, having queued for a while I waited patiently to get top deck seats, as here are the best views.

Visiting the Gothic Quarter is a MUST, there's so many quaint streets and if you love to learn about the history of a place, then this is the place for you. I actually preferred the Gothic Quarter to Las Ramblas which I found too touristy and busy, kind of like the Barcelona equivalent of Oxford Street, London. Also around the back streets of the Gothic Quarter are arguably the best restaurants in Barcelona, tucked away from the crowds. 

Before going to the city, I read that it is advisable NOT to eat on Las Ramblas as they charge you over the price for eating on the famous street. I also read that it is essential to avoid eating at restaurants which show you pictures of the food on the menus as they can be touristy and not overally great quality. I generally stuck to this rule, and did indeed find that I enjoyed the restaurants which did not shove advertisements in my face. 

Researching TripAdvisor for restaurants to go to is a must, every restaurant that I had visited on recommendation by this website, I preferred far more to any that I stumbled upon myself. Culinary delights included PLA restaurant in the Gothic Quarter which was highly recommended on Trip Adviser and Milk and Marmalade, where I enjoyed delicious brunches, feasting on breakfast burgers and pancakes. 

I also went to a restaurant called La Fonda, which I discovered to have a great atmosphere with delicious food, even at 11pm people were coming in for food, so it's a popular choice. A treat for vegetarians is Restaurant Sésamo, which gives diners some of the most unique food I have ever come across. I am still craving those chili peppers seasoned with paprika! If you are fed up of eating the standard paella and tapas, then definitely head to Sésamo

A highlight of the trip was visiting Montjuic, it's water features and the building which houses the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya, are so impressive. And reaching the top of Montjuic you can get some breathtaking views of Barcelona. In some ways I preferred visiting here than Park Guell, because I found this park very crowded and Montjuic offers a close up view of Barcelona as a city, without the crowds of people blocking the views.

Overall my TRAVEL ADVICE would be:
  • Be aware of pickpockets on Las Ramblas and Park Guell and ignore anyone that tries to talk to you on the street or tries to advise you on directions. Somehow pickpockets can sniff tourists from a mile off!
  • Research TripAdvisor before you go.
  • Have filling breakfasts as the locals eat very late - around 9pm or even later!
  • For nice, atmospheric restaurants eat in the Gothic Quarter.
  • The metro closes before 1am so be aware of this and plan nights out accordingly.

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