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14 October 2015

Weekend in Barcelona

I have just come back from an amazing trip to Barcelona and I'm obviously going to blog about it!
Barcelona had been on my bucket list for years, so as I booked my bus trip from Valencia I literally couldn't contain my excitement. I felt like it was the type of place where everyone went and that travelling there would partly lose its meaning and feel like a cliché. There were actually times when being in the city felt like living a dream but on the whole I would say that the experience felt real (what am I on about? I'm not sure myself).
Instead of following a travel journal day by day, I will just divide the places I went to and the things I did in categories. My experience was half touristic and half local I would say, as my friend and I stayed at (another) friend's house from the place and went to local bars and restaurants with her - this made the whole experience a lot more loving, homely and authentic. 

Art

First things first! Before visiting the Sagrada Familia, the Modernist church and symbol of Barcelona by Gaudí, we decided to pre-book online to skip the apparently infinite queue. This was a clever move as, as soon as we saw the church we entered in less than a minute of queue (read more about this at the bottom of the post). We stopped and stared at the main entrance and the Passion Façade which looked incredible.
If you're wondering why there are some cranes in the pictures, it's because the church's still being built! Anton Gaudí, the cathedral's architect, undertook the project a year after it started being built in 1882, however he died in 1926 and the construction underwent obstacles (the war) and an elaboration  by other architects. I found that very interesting as ninety percent of the art sites we visit were finished centuries ago.







The interior, on the other hand, left us speechless and emotional. I think that this was one of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen in my life. The game of colorful lights with the white complex vaults really does create a magical ensemble. 

We spent some time inside talking, content of the amazing place where we were. There is so much beauty to take it from art.

On our first day, we went around Passeig de Gràcia and stopped at la Pedrera, a modernist building by Gaudí. We didn't get in but stopped to look at its interesting appearance.
We did the same for Casa Battlò which looked even more incredible for its colours and mosaic-like look.
La Pedrera
Casa Battlò

Our experience at the Park Güell was not so great. We went around the free area of the park which was nice, even though a bit too hot (and we're in October..) and tiring. We took some snaps of the panorama of the city and ourselves, then ventured to the ticket office. We had pre-booked a ticket saying Casa Museo de Gaudi / Park Guell thinking it was the right one, but be careful as the website literature is quite misleading! That ticket was in fact only for the Casa Museo - which we visited, but wasn't anything special.




 The Casa Museo de Gaudi




Getting to the top felt amazing :)

City Attractions

We went to the port and the playa de la Barceloneta on our first day as we thought we needed some concentration-free activity after the long bus trip. It was quite a good idea since we could walk and take pictures on the beach avoiding the massive crowd that stays there for the whole day. Walking back to the metro stop was also nice as we could pass all the fairy-lighted restaurants on the promenade back towards the city and enjoy the seaside atmosphere.




The areas visited were l'Eixample (where we stayed), Gràcia, Raval and Gòtic. I felt like I couldn't spot massive differences among these as most buildings are very similar - flats with lovely balconies and at times, slightly modernist. To be fair, when we went to Gràcia all shops were closed (it was Sunday) so we didn’t really have the chance to get a complete perspective. Staying at L'Eixample was great, as we were near a metro stop and close to so many places we could simply walk to.



Passeig de Gràcia :) my favourite <3
Las Ramblas :)
Barcelona Cathedral - Gòtic


On our second night we went to Montjuïc to see the Magic Fountain show. We got there at 7pm when the show was supposed to start but nothing happened. Still hopeful, we went up the hill and contemplated the amazing view, plus watched a breakdance show which was super cool! The show eventually started at 9 and looked amazing - we found for ourselves a nice spot and watched it from there :)
We then decided to head to Las Arenas, the ex bullfight arena (not anymore as bullfights are now forbidden in Catalonia), which is now an amazing shopping mall. We took the lift up to the top and saw another stunning night view of Barcelona - by that time it had become dark. We had a walk around the shops and a snack, then got back out and realised that the fountains show had started! So we just found a little bit for ourselves and enjoyed.

Food

One of the best bits of the city was the Mercado de la Boquería (Boquería market). My friend who is from Barcelona brought us there and showed us the hidden gems around it such as smaller streets. It felt even better to be guided by a local.



This reminded me a lot of Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, however it is a bit bigger. We had a smoothie before lunch but could only contemplate the rest of the food - how could we possibly carry all that fruit around?

All the restaurants we have been to were really good. The first stop, just after the Boqueria tour, was a Slow Food supported restaurant called Allium. The place looked very modern and I enjoyed the atmosphere. We had some tapas including patatas bravas, la bomba de la Barceloneta, la tortillita de camarones, croquetas de pollo and pan tumaca. They all tasted amazing but I have to warn you that portions are quite small!



Another place we went to was Amélie, a small restaurant in Gràcia (one of the most visited neighbourhoods). There, we had sautéed vegetables with hummous, chicken with peanut sauce, patatas bravas and stuffed olives. Everything tasted very good and we enjoyed it sitting on a table outside.
On our last day, we went to have desayuno (breakfast) out at a new chain called Flax &Kale that does flexetarian cuisine (vegetarian except for fish - which we are not, but just liked the place). The place looked very edgy and fresh - as we remarked, a place where vegan YouTubers would go. We had a fruit salad, a coconut milk parfait and a pear and chocolate muffin. It all tasted delicious and especially looked good!

The rest of the time we ate at home and bought fruit to eat around - there are many independent shops you can buy it from and it always tastes amazing.

Shopping

As opposed to what we expected, we didn't do much shopping. We had a look around and found so many organic food independent shops which we loved perusing, however we didn't find many interesting clothes shops, as most were either big brands or very cheap clothes. My favourite shopping spot was Passeig de Gràcia which had so many beautiful shops and a great atmosphere. 


Moving around

During our weekend we probably half walked, half moved around by metro. We bought three 10 trips-tickets for the metro and shared them. We thought of that as the cheapest ticket option; didn't try the buses. *UPDATE 2016* you can use the same tickets for metro / bus / tram so there is actually no difference in price.

How I got to Barcelona

I say I because there are probably infinite ways to get to Barcelona. I travelled from Valencia by bus (the company's called ALSA) which took 4 hours per trip. I decided not to go by train because it was more expensive, but surely that's a better option. There is also a service called Blablacar which is now very popular but which I cannot recommend as I have never tried it. Barcelona Airport, El Prat, is very accesible. 

My suggestions
- Bring a shoulder bag with you. You need to be able to carry your valuables in front of you (better than a bagback) because Barcelona is known for its pickpockets, and you don't want to risk getting to know one. It's better to be safe than sorry!
- Prebook your tickets to Sagrada Familia here. They aren't super cheap but I swear they are so worth it!
- Keep a positive attitude throughout your trip. My friend and I got disappointed a number of three times in a row on Sunday as everything we looked for was closed. But at the end of the day we thought that we were in one of the best places in the world, and chose to put on a smile. 

7 comments:

  1. You really covered a LOT of Barcelona in just a couple of days. Good job! And great pics! You make me want to go back and lose myself in the labyrinth of tiny streets in the Gothic Quarter!

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    1. Yes we have! We planned it before going to make sure we wouldn't miss out on the best bits. Have you seen this? https://goo.gl/DiblDL I brought it with me to Barcelona! :)

      Assia | www.assiashahin.com

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    2. Hahaha. No. Great picture of the book against that background though. (Is that the Passeig de Gracia?)

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    3. It was Carrer del Comte d'Urgell in L'Eixample, where we stayed. However I find the flats to look very similar so it could easily be the Passeig de Gràcia!

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    4. I don't remember L'Eixample but must have walked through it from the Gothic Quarter to my friend's flat in Gracia. If you're enjoying the book as much as that pic suggests, I just posted the first few pages of my next one on my blog (https://shakemyheadhollow.wordpress.com/) -- I don't know if you still get prompts since you left Wordpress. Keep traveling! And giving us pics!

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  2. I am so envious of all your travels, Assia! What beautiful photos! Thank you for sharing them and glad to hear you had a great trip to Barcelona!

    ~Lor @ cozycomfyhome.com

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    1. Thanks Lor <3 I'm in Valencia so really close to Barcelona so I didn't travel very far...but yes, it was amazing :)

      Assia | www.assiashahin.com

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