Last week I jetted off to the beautiful city of Barcelona with my best friend.
We had previously planned to have a few days holiday in London, but thought we should price somewhere foreign just to compare. And as it turned out, Barcelona was actually cheaper!
Return flights for £40 – how could we turn that down?!
As I’d never been to Spain before, I thought Barcelona would be the perfect city break as it has both the beach and the culture for a well-rounded excursion.
We boarded the 16:40 Ryanair flight from Liverpool John Lennon Airport on the Wednesday afternoon and arrived in Barcelona airport at 8pm local Barcelona time.
The metro map was as confusing as the first time you look at the London underground map but we knew we had a direct train from the airport terminal to Collblanc, where our hotel was located.
The best thing we did was purchase a 72 hours metro ticket which allowed unlimited access on the metros and buses for the next 72 hours after purchasing, which was perfect for us. The ticket was €21 and definitely saved us a lot of money as we used the metros constantly.
The metro took twenty minutes from the airport to Collblanc which is right next to the Camp Nou stadium, home of Barcelona FC. We checked into our hotel, L’Auger Nou, which was located down a side street but gave the real feeling of living like a local in Barcelona. The hotel was a four minute walk from the metro stop which was very convenient.
By the time we got to the hotel, checked in and freshened up, it was almost 10pm. We searched TripAdvisor for a nice restaurant close by and quickly learnt that most of the restaurants only reopen around 9pm for dinner.
We ate at a beautiful Italian restaurant (I know, it was our first night in Spain and we were eating Italian?!) called Des Angelis. The restaurant staff had little English but had a good laugh at us two Irish girls attempting to speak Spanish and Italian.
The pizza was beautiful, as were the papas frites (chips).
Our first full day in Barcelona. We didn’t really have a schedule or plan, just a long list of different attractions we wanted to see.
But first thing was first; breakfast. After some searching on TripAdvisor again, we also learnt that the Spanish aren’t that much fond of the first meal of the day. They tend to eat a bit later and prefer brunch instead.
We headed to the Gothic Quarter (we used Google Maps and the Metro to make our way around the whole city) and strolled around the many side streets to find Milk (which was a challenge) but we enjoyed the scenic route.
When we got to the Irish owned café, there was already a queue outside the door waiting for tables. It seemed popular which is always a good sign. I went for a bagel topped with poached eggs, avocado, rocket and pesto with some spiced roast potatoes on the side. Delicious. I washed it down with a bellini. Well, I was on my holidays. Finn had pancakes with a smoothie.
After brunch, we strolled around the Gothic Quarter some more – me taking too many pictures – and discovered a lovely square that lead us on to Las Ramblas. We walked the market which wasn’t overly populated so we could have a good look around. We saw some more fountains and took one million more pictures.
We bought a ticket for Park Guell in the tourist information centre in the Gothic Quarter which cost €9 and allowed entry from a certain time – ours was 6.30pm. With quite a few hours to kill and knowing we had a full day tomorrow to explore, we decided to hit Barceloneta and see some sand and ocean.
We walked along the marina, under the palm trees and felt like we were living the dream. The W Hotel was glistening in the sun and we headed straight for the bar to hydrate ourselves in the heat. With a seat overlooking the beach and very close to the water, we ordered our first jug of Sangria. It was marvellous. So we had another.
It became overcast quite quickly and the beach cleared out in no time. It was perfect timing for us as we had to make the journey to Park Guell at the other side of the city. We took the metro (obvs) and a bus (it’s quite a hike to the top of the hill) and entered the infamous Gaudi reserve.
It was just past 6pm so we had arrived in good time. Or so we thought. Finn and I decided to take a little detour around the park to take in some sights, and of course ended up getting lost and found ourselves on the outside of the park.
We finally found the pay entrance at 7.10pm. 40 minutes late. The kiosk man seemed very doubtful that they would let us in so late but we told him about getting lost and showed him all the lovely photos we had taken at random points around the park. Thankfully we were let in. That €9 wasn’t going to waste.
The views from Park Guell were great, and the Gaudi architecture was lovely but these weren’t the best views Barcelona had to offer (as we found out the next day). Park Guell is quite a tourist hotspot and it is worth seeing, along with the Hansel and Gretel inspired houses near the exit. It’s also quite popular with locals as we saw many walking their dogs and going for leisurely strolls around the different hills and stairways.
After the great descent down from Park Guell we hopped back onto the metro and headed back to Las Ramblas/Gothic Quarter for some late night dinner. Always looking to embrace the culture, we headed to Viana, a highly reviewed Tapas bar and ate until we could eat no more. Finn found her new favourite cocktail (it’s a blackberry mojito FYI) and I enjoyed a €3 glass of rosé. The restaurant was jam packed and tightly squeezed as the Gothic Quarter doesn’t offer much in terms of room, but it was still excellent all the same.
We headed back to the hotel full of Spanish Sangria and Tapas, ready to get a good night’s sleep ahead of some more exploring the next day.
A nice lie in was had as Barcelona seem to be quite like the Scouse in that they like to party into the early hours and rise late, hence the love for brunch over breakfast. For brunch, we chose Brunch and Cake (mainly because of the photos on the Instagram tag) and headed to Diagonal to find the café.
Diagonal was one of the most prettiest carrers we visited and if I was to live anywhere in Barcelona (which one of my friends will be doing next month – a reason to go back!) I would definitely choose here. Again, we were met with a queue waiting for tables. Seeming popular and watching all the amazing dishes being served, we knew it would be worth the wait.
Finn and I couldn’t decide between pancakes or a more carb based meal to keep us going – so we opted for both. I know, so greedy. I had scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon on bread (which was basically half a loaf) along with the pear based pancakes with came with bananas, berry puree and maple syrup. The pancakes were a dark green in colour which was slightly worrying but they were out of this world. If anything, Brunch and Cake are definite Instagram goals.
From brunch, we took the metro to see the mighty Sagrada Familia. This spectacle can be seen as soon as you take the steps out of the underground. It’s quite a sight. The cathedral’s construction began in 1882 and is still ongoing, with hopes that it will be finished in 2026. 100 years on from Gaudi’s death. We took a few photos and were on our way again.
A friend of mine that is moving to Barcelona next month for her placement year recommended we go to the Bunkers in El Carmel. Having never heard of them, I had a quick search on Instagram and I immediately knew we had to go. Unsurprisingly we got there by the metro and a connecting bus. It’s very hilly and not signposted, but the bus leaves you directly at the entrance to the Bunkers. At one point I thought we weren’t going to make it, as El Carmel has insanely steep streets with little-to-no tourists about and very confusing streets to navigate around. The bus journey was quite fun (once we found it) as the streets are incredibly narrow – I definitely wouldn’t fancy doing a hill-start on one those roads.
The Bunkers are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and I don’t think I’ll ever see anything like it. We had the entire view of Barcelona from up there. It was quite literally breath-taking. With our feet dangling over the edge, we had the whole world beneath us. We could see Sagrada Familia, the W hotel, Barceloneta, Las Ramblas and the entirety of the city.
We sat at the edge for an hour or so, taking it all in. It was incredible. I’ll cherish these pictures and the memories I have of this view, for a lifetime. It’s not a well-known tourist spot in Barcelona, but if you ever go, make sure you head here. It may just be the best part of your trip. I just hope you have little difficulty finding it.
Finn and I then trekked the whole way to the other end of Barcelona, back to Barceloneta and enjoyed a walk to the beach while eating some gelato. We then got sand in our feet and enjoyed the last few hours of sunshine before heading back to Las Ramblas for some paella – when in Spain, eh?
We hit up a restaurant called Arume and ordered a seafood paella and a duck paella. I had no idea how to eat the langoustine, but I did try. We shovelled it into us so that we could catch the Magic Fountain Show at Montjuic at 9pm.
The fountain show proved to be a huge tourist attraction, with the largest crowd we had seen in one place the whole trip. The show was fabulous, with pop and classical music aligned to the water display. It was really quite magical.
Our time in Barcelona had come to an end. It was a short yet jam-packed trip and we saw everything we had came to see. Two full days were plenty to see and do most everything and I’m sure we could have fitted in a lot more if we hadn’t spent so much time relaxing with sangria at the beach, but that was how we wanted to relax.
Our flight back to Liverpool was at 11am and the metro took us straight from our hotel to the airport terminal. It was also my first time using my phone as a boarding pass, and I think I’ll be going paperless from now on. I know, you’d think after flying between Belfast and Liverpool one hundred times I would’ve digitalised myself, but no.
*We were of course heavily warned about the pick-pocket situation in Barcelona and were very wary everywhere we went. However, we didn’t come across a single pick-pocketer or notice any strange behaviour at any point of our trip. That’s not to say we blended in well, if anything we were probably the whitest people the Spanish had ever seen in their lives. We’re both typical Irish with milk bottle legs and sunburn that turns back to white. We weren’t blessed with tanning skin.
Barcelona is a beautiful city with so much to see and do. Hopefully in the near future I will be able to return! (Hope you have room on your sofa for me, Chloe!)