Our three-city European trip last fall included stops in Lisbon, Barcelona, and Ponta Delgada– a fantastic combination. As I mentioned in my Libson guide, I was initially most ecstatic about our stop in Barcelona. However, Lisbon quickly bumped Barcelona down to third place during our European excursion. Needless to say though, it was undoubtedly a fantastic visit and one I highly recommend.
The great thing about Europe is that it’s incredibly easy to travel there on a budget. We initially flew to Barcelona for about $250 a person through Priceline. We also went in late September, early October so flights were much cheaper during the off season yet the weather was still very warm. You can also check out neat websites like Skiplagged for hidden city flights.
We traveled with our family, so splitting an Airbnb was extremely affordable. We stayed at this place in the Park Guëll neighborhood. It’s great for large groups and the view was spectacular. However it’s very minimal and doesn’t have AC. It was very difficult to find as it’s literally tucked away on the top of a steep hill, removed from the hustle and bustle which means no taxis or buses, and you have to climb over 200 steps to reach the house. With all that said though, it wasn’t bad at all. PS) If you aren’t signed up for Airbnb, you can get a $40 credit through this link if you book. If you want to stay in a hotel, there are plenty for you to choose from. Personally, I would recommend having a look at holiday villas, particularly if you’re traveling with a large group of people. They’re a great way to split costs and save some money!
The thing that bothered me the most about Barcelona was the lack of transportation. Uber still hadn’t reached Barcelona so we had to rely on taxis and buses. Since Barcelona is a crowded city, we found that catching a cab was extremely challenging, especially at night. In fact, it was nearly impossible to catch a cab at night near the hot spots.
Things to do
Visit La Boqueria
Regarded as one of the best markets in the world, La Boqueria is s an absolute must-see while in Barcelona. This where we picked up spices and gifts for family and friends. Be sure to stock up on saffron spices while you’re there! Hold your purses and wallet close though, as people are packed like sardines and pickpocketing is common.
Spend a day at the beach
The great thing about Barcelona is that you can switch back and forth between city exploration and beach relaxation. There are many beaches surrounding Barcelona but we opted for Barcelona Beach, a crowded but beautiful beach along the Mediterranean Sea. Spending my birthday on this beach was one of my most memorable moments in Spain.
No kidding, the best food I’ve had during my travels so far include New Orleans and Barcelona. I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of all the paella we consumed! Bosque Palermo was one of our favorite spots.
Take a day trip to Montserrat
Montserrat is one of the most popular and significant destinations in Catalonia. This historic monastery is located at the heart of Montserrat Mountain. You definitely want to clear an entire day for this. We rented a car and drove up the mountain but you can also book a guided tour. Make sure your cameras and phones are charged up because the view is ah-may-zing.
Relax at Port Vell
Open-air shopping, a carnival (if that’s what you’re into, me not so much), restaurants, bars, bubbles, and more.
Eat and drink at El Nacional
The beauty and extravagance of this place is almost hard to describe. El Nacional is divided into four areas and the decor, ah the decor! We went at night so I wasn’t able to fully capture the beauty of this place. Although the atmosphere at night is fantastic, be sure to get there early to snap a few photos in natural light.
Other historical sites
There are several historic sites and cathedrals in Barcelona, including La Sagrada Familia, but to be completely honest, they were all overly crowded with tourists with lines wrapped around for blocks. They were definitely worth seeing for us, but from afar! If you want to get a good look around, highly recommend going early.
Between the open air markets, thrift stores, and European boutiques, the shopping in Barcelona is fantastic. Definitely pack light to make room for great finds.
What to pack and other details
Barcelona is extremely hilly so make sure you’re comfortable at all times. You definitely want to pack comfortable walking shoes, light and breezy pieces, with layering pieces for chilly evenings or rainy days. Highly recommend a comfortable cross-body bag.
Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia and the spoken languages are Spanish and Catalan. The currency is the Euro. Most places accept major credit cards but it helps to have some Euros on hand for cash-only restaurants. Tipping is not required at restaurants but in some cases 5-10% is appropriate. As far as dining on a budget, there are hundreds of restaurants that offer brunch and happy hour specials. A quick google or yelp search for affordable dining will yield many results. That’s really the only way we dined out!