After a quick visit to Nice, Monaco and St Paul de Vence, we hopped on a plane to Barcelona, Spain. From Nice, it was a short 1 hour 20 minutes flight. If you are on a budget, compare flights on Momondo to find the best value. We ended up going with EasyJet.
If you know you will be catching the train 10 times, do get a T10 Transport Ticket…
Once we arrived in Barcelona, we caught an Aerobus from outside the airport to Placa Catalunya. A return ticket cost 10.20€ (valid for 15 days) and the ride took roughly 35 minutes. Placa Catalunya is the Main train station, so from there you can find connecting transportation to other parts of Barcelona.
There are two train companies that run in the city (the metro and the FGC), so make sure you figure out which line you need to get on and who it belongs to before validating tickets (see map here). If you know you will be catching the train 10 times, do get a T10 Transport Ticket for convenience and a discount (9.95€ for Zone 1, which covers all of the city centre). The great thing about this ticket is that it can be shared, so if you have a group of people, you can all use the one ticket. Just make sure you validate the ticket for each person.
I first developed a curiosity for Barcelona when I learnt about Gaudi in uni. I never thought I would see his work in real life and when I did, it was even more amazing than I ever imagined.
WHO WE STAYED WITH
Hostal El Ninot
Muntaner 175, principal 1a, 08036
We paid $AUD125.50/night for a triple room in July 2016.
With 3 people this trip, it wasn’t always easy to find a triple room as many hotels did not offer this option. Fortunately, we managed to find Hostal El Ninot, which took roughly 10 minutes to get to from Provenca station via walking. Provenca station is just one stop via the FGC from Catalunya station. As an extra bonus, there is a great pintxos bar nearby (I’ll tell you more about it in the “Where We Ate” section below).
Unfortunately, the walls and doors were quite thin, so we did still hear quite a lot of noise from our neighbour who frequently went in and out of their room.
The hotel had just been recently expanded at the time of our stay. We requested for a quiet room and got one right at the back of the newly renovated side of the hotel. Unfortunately, the walls and doors were quite thin, so we did still hear quite a lot of noise from our neighbour who frequently went in and out of their room. Also, because it was located so far from reception, the WI-FI didn’t reach our room, so every time we needed the internet we would have to go out and sit in the communal area.
The room was relatively spacious and we had our own little courtyard. The air conditioner worked really well and was much needed for the scorching summer heat. Talking about heat, another downside, was the lack of a fridge in the room. There was a fridge in the communal kitchen with boxes for each room to place a few things in to keep cool, but we generally prefer to have access to cold water during the night.
If you want to see how our room looked like, check out my first video above. I have included a room tour in the video.
WHAT WE DID
You can find plenty of information on what to do in Barcelona on TripAdvisor. But, these were our favourites:
Climbing the Sagrada Familia
Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013
From 15€ for basic adult entry.
We recommend the “Top Views” ticket which includes entry, audioguide and access to a tower for 29€.
I think no visit to Barcelona is complete without a visit to the famous Sagrada Familia. An architectural masterpiece, Sagrada Familia has been in construction since 1882 and is not expected to be completed until 2026, 100 years after the death of Gaudi. Gaudi was the architect that designed the blueprint for this amazing cathedral on which he dedicated the last years of his life to. As you wander the streets of Barcelona, you will see how much of an influence Gaudi has had on the city of Barcelona.
We caught the lift up to the top of the Nativity Tower and walked back down. It was interesting to see the cathedral from the tower as we got to see it from a different perspective. We could see some of the detail put into creating the Nativity facade (which is definitely my favourite facade) and we also got a spectacular view of the city. If you like architecture, you will definitely enjoy the tower.
The inside of the cathedral is also worth checking out. The inside of the cathedral resembles a forest with a ceiling that looks like a canopy. It is definitely unique to any other cathedral I have ever seen. Visit early in the morning or in the afternoon when the sun is shining directly onto the cathedral to see streams of colourful light dancing through the stained glass windows that decorate the walls.
Do a free walking tour with Runner Bean Tours
departs from Placa Reial
We did two free tours with Runner Bean Tours, both were informative and a great way to explore the city.
On our first day in Barcelona, we joined the “Old City Free Walking Tour“, which took us through the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. We learnt about the history of Barcelona and saw some famous buildings such as the Barcelona Cathedral, Basilica of Santa Maria Del Mar and Temple of Augustus.
On our second day, we joined the “Gaudi Free Tour“. I personally enjoyed this tour more as we got to see the works of Gaudi, whom I am a huge fan of. We learnt about the life of Gaudi and how he came to be commissioned to design some of the most iconic buildings in Barcelona (and possibly the world).
Check out the Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catala
C/ Palau de la Música, 4-6, 08003
FREE to view from the outside (which we did), 18€ per person for a guided tour
We passed by the Palau de la Musica Orfeo Catala briefly on the way to dinner and took a few photos outside. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to go inside, but it’s definitely high on our list for our next visit as we have heard so many good reviews about it.
Even if you just view it from the outside, this building is definitely a must-see when in Barcelona. In a city dominated by Gaudi architecture, it is interesting to see a different style of architecture that is equally as impressive.
BONUS TRIVIA: K-drama fans, did you know “Legend of the Blue Sea” was filmed in Barcelona?
Barcelona has so much good food that you could probably spend months here exploring the culinary scene. Coming from Nice, Barcelona was a lot more affordable and had a lot more variety to choose from. You can have a look at TripAdvisor for some recommendations. Note, many places are closed on Sundays. This is what we ate during our visit:
La Rambla, 91, 08001
Open from 8am to 8:30pm everyday except Sunday, the La Boqueria Markets is a great way to discover local delicacies. We dropped by for breakfast, but you can also come for lunch or dinner. You can find some yummy tapas (Bar Pinotxo is very popular), cheeses and cured meats (try Jamon Iberico) inside. Be warned, it does get very busy here so expect to wait for food and service. Also be wary of your belongings as there are generally a lot of pickpockets around.
Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25, 08004
We had amazing tapas at this popular tapas bar. Expect the place to be packed out with locals. We highly recommend the smoked salmon with Greek yogurt and truffled honey montaditos, we couldn’t get enough of them. Quimet Y Quimet is especially famous for their Conservas (preserved foods), so make sure to have a taste of them when you are there.
Calle Casanova, 155, 08036
This is the pintxos bar I mentioned earlier, it was 3-5mins walk from our hotel and so delicious. It was also very affordable at 1.70€ per pintxos. If you’ve never had pintxos before, they are similar to tapas or montaditos but held together using cocktail sticks. At the end of your meal, your waiter will count how many sticks you have and charge you based on how many you have eaten. At Maitea, you grab your own pintxos from a huge selection that are on display along the bench. I could eat this everyday!
Calle Botella, 11-13, 08001
We met up with my cousins, who were also traveling in Barcelona, and had dinner at restaurant Arume to celebrate my sister’s birthday. We highly recommend their duck paella which was full of flavour. Service was great and we shared some nice sangria.
WHEN WE VISITED
We visited in July 2016. As it was summer, it was very hot, you will quickly notice why the Spaniards have siestas as the middle of the day can get very uncomfortable. The sun sets really late in summer, it is not unusual for it to be quite bright out even at 10pm! This is great because the day feels really long and you can squeeze in a lot of activities before it gets dark. Summer in Barcelona is very busy, so expect crowds and queues at famous attractions. We highly recommend pre-purchasing tickets online where possible.
WHY 48 HOURS WASN’T ENOUGH
48 hours was nowhere near enough for Barcelona and we never expected it to be enough. This trip was meant as a taste-test to see if it is a place we would ever return to. In the end, we decided we would be back.
Things we want to do next time:
– More tapas and pintxos!