I just got back from visiting the beautiful city of Barcelona – carry on reading to see what I thought and would recommend checking out if you are thinking of visiting!
Getting There: Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, the second most populated municipality in Spain. Barcelona lies on the North East coast of Spain and faces towards the Mediterranean Sea. Barcelona is a dynamic Mediterranean city with a combination of natural wonders, historic architecture and modern creativity. It is easy to see why it is such a popular place to visit.
The flight from London to Barcelona takes around 2 hours. Depending on when you are travelling you can find some very affordable tickets. Travelling during the off-peak season, which is typically between October and February, will make your ticket prices considerably cheaper. We travelled with Easy Jet from London Luton Airport during December and our tickets cost us £35 per person.
Safety: As you may have seen in the news Catalonia is currently is a state of political unrest and change as they are in the middle of voting for independence from the rest of Spain. There have been protests and strikes within the region in response to the independence movement. We visited close to the December election date and so saw a number of protests and marches throughout the city. In recent years there has also been an anti-tourist movement growing in Barcelona due to the impact tourism is having on the environment, economy and quality of life for local people. During our trip we did see some anti-tourist slogans sprayed at popular tourist destinations.However throughout our trip we felt safe and met some lovely, helpful and friendly local people. We did not at any point feel unsafe or vulnerable as tourists in the city.
Accommodation: There are various different accommodation choices in Barcelona with a range of different prices according to your budget. We decided to stay in an apartment booked through Airbnb as we were travelling with a group. When splitting the cost between a group of people Airbnb was the most affordable choice for us. It is also worth mentioning that when visiting Barcelona you will have to pay the City Tax. Some accommodation prices will already include this in the total price and in other places you will have to pay this in addition. We stayed in an area called Gracia which was not to far from Park Guell. We stayed around a 30 minute walk away from Sagrada Família and the Gothic Quarter, which actually worked out as it meant we could walk to these main sites and explore other areas of the city along the way.
Weather: Due to its location Barcelona is the perfect place to visit all year round with temperatures between 5 -25 degrees throughout the year. August is the hottest month of the year and the most popular time to visit. We visited in the off-peak winter months and found the weather to be perfect for exploring the city. During the day temperatures were around 10 degrees and although it was a little cold there was sunshine and clear skies most of the time. During the evenings it did get colder and so we made sure to take layers with us to wrap up in the evenings.
Currency and Price: The currency in Barcelona is Euros. As mentioned earlier prices for flights and accommodation vary depending on when you are visiting. I personally found the prices in Barcelona to be similar to those in London. There is a range of different food and shopping options depending on your budget. Obviously places within the city that are popular with tourists are quite expensive. There are also a number of places you can visit for free which are worth checking out.
Food: There are so many different options for eating in Barcelona, ranging in price depending on your budget. We really wanted to make sure we ate food that was specific to Spain so that meant things like tapas, paella and of course churros! There are some great halal options available in the city however we weren’t specifically looking for meat options and were happy to enjoy the array of sea food and vegetarian options available. If you are looking for halal meat there are loads of options but I would say it is worth trying out the sea food and vegetarian dishes – they really are delicious! Before travelling we had looked online at some recommended places but on our trip just ended up stopping at places as and when we found them as we were constantly on the move and exploring different places.
It is also worth mentioning that many recipes and dishes contain alcohol and animal fat so for those who are looking for halal food you will need to be careful about this!
Masjid: There are a few different masjids around Barcelona including the La Gran Mezquita de Valencia and Abdul Aziz Mosque. Whilst there we visiting we went to the Tariq Ibn Ziyad Masjid, which a short walk away from the Gothic Quarter. The masjid is very basic and sadly is in a really run down part of the city so does not have the most pleasant surroundings but it is worth visiting if you are near by and require a place to pray.
Transport: There are a number of different ways to travel and move through the city all ranging in price including taxis, the metro, public busses and trams. Certain parts of the city also have cable cars and a funicular railway which is always an interesting way to travel.
Things to do and see: There are such varied places to see in Barcelona, with many popular places being free to visit.
We started off by seeing the city on the official tour bus. From previous experience I have found this to be the quickest way to see a city when you are only visiting for a few days. Although it can be pricey with tickets ranging from 25- 30 euros for a day it is the quickest way to move around and see the entire city. Be sure to book online before as prices are cheaper if you buy online – http://barcelona.city-tour.com/en/. The tour bus has two routes for the East and West part of the city and travels to all the most important locations in the city. You can get off at any locations you want to see and explore for longer and then get back on the next bus. As busses arrive every 15-20 minutes this is really easy to do. I also really like the tour bus as you get to listen to a commentary whilst travelling through the different sites. It’s a great way to learn about the history and culture of the city. If the bus is not within your budget then the city can also be explored easily by foot or bike.
Barcelona City Tour Bus
The most iconic place in Barcelona is the Sagrada Família, which is the largest unfinished Catholic Church in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Church was designed by Catalan architect Antoni Guadi. Construction began in 1882 and is yet to be completed. Construction relies on donations and has been interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. It is anticipated that the building could be completed by 2026 – 100 years after Guadi’s death. On the day that we visited the Church was closed for a religious event, but you can visit the inside with tickets costing around 30 euros. The architecture and scale of the church is truly fascinating.
Park Guell is another popular site to visit in Barcelona. It is a public park with different architecture and gardens. The park was again designed by Antoni Guadi and in 1984 was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is worth mentioning that the park is located in the hills of the mountain range of Collserola. If you are looking to walk there be aware that the walk is steep and has lots of steps both on the way to the park and also within the park. As the park is high up in the hills it offers some incredible views of Barcelona. There is a free section of the park and an area you need to pay to enter. After having read some reviews online we decided not to pay to enter the park and instead enjoyed the area that was free to enter. The way in which the park is designed is incredible and the different architectures are really fascinating.
La Rambla is the most popular street in Barcelona. It is a street stretching over 1 kilometre from the city centre to the port. It is lined with various shops, stores and stalls selling all kinds of food, snacks, crafts and gifts. Be aware that it is a hotspot for pickpockets so make sure you are very careful with your bags and pockets.
Just off of La Rambla is the famous La Boqueria food market! I have visited a few different food markets but La Boqueria really is so special – it is a huge market which will fill your senses with colours, sights, sounds and smells. The array of food and how it is displayed is just incredible. I would highly recommend checking it out if you’re visiting Barcelona. Once again prices vary – we found the places that were further in the market and away from the main entrances to be much more affordable. The market is open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 8.30pm and a definite must visit if you are in Barcelona.
A range of products are sold within the market from fruits to fish and spices to sweets!
At the end of La Rambla is the Barcelona Port, one of the busiest contemporary ports in the world. It offers a beautiful view of the sea and has a mass of boats and yachts. A number of companies who offer boat rides and water sports can be found along the port. The port is also close to the Maremagnum Shopping Centre and Barcelona Aquarium.
Close to the port there is also the Barcelona Cable Car. It costs 11 euros per person for a single trip and 16 euros for a return trip. To get on the cable car you have to get a lift up to the top of the 70 metre high cable car tower and then get on to the cable car. I am not personally a huge fan of heights and found the lift ride up really difficult but the views from the cable car made it totally worth it.
Barcelona Port Cable Car
The port cable car takes you into the Montjuïc hills where you will find the site of the 1992 Olympic Games. You can also visit the Montjuïc Castle, the National Art Museum of Catalonia and the Font Mágica of Montjuïc. There is also another cable car ride on the hills which is far more enjoyable if you are like me and don’t like heights. You can also ride on the funicular railway on the Montjuïc hills. We actually ended up taking both the cable car and funicular railway on our way down the hills. The second cable car ride offered some stunning views of Barcelona during sunset.
Montjuïc Hills Cable Car
Barcelona is also home to some beautiful beaches. We did not actually end up visiting the beaches but saw them from the cable car ride. They really did look beautiful and at this time of year are quiet and far more enjoyable.
The Camp Nou stadium is the largest football stadium in Europe and is home to the Barcelona football club. It is easily accessed by public transport and you can buy tickets to see a football game or a stadium tour if you wish.
Camp Nou stadium
There is so much to see whilst walking around the streets of Barcelona. They city has such streets lined unique architecture and cute little shop fronts. To see more pictures and videos from my trip be sure to check out my Instagram page @thecoveredcompass
Final Thoughts: This was a really long blog post but there is just so much to share about Barcelona. It is the perfect destination for a quick getaway and has so much to offer. The weather is great all year round and you have access to history, the city and the beach so really can’t go wrong. There is so much yummy food to eat and loads of great places to explore. I would definitely recommend visiting for a short break 😀