Barcelona, home of man-made beaches, Las Ramblas and all things Gaudi. With its artificial beaches in La Barceloneta, its historic architecture and its thriving night life in the student quarter, the city has a little bit of something for everyone.
Photograph: Jonas Weiß / Flickr.
Firstly, when booking your flights make sure you weigh up the pros and cons of flying to Reus, the budget airline destination, rather than Barcelona airport itself. It’s bound to be cheaper, but buses take several hours and terminate on the wrong side of town.
Many of the cheapest hostels are located around Passeig de Gracia, the major shopping avenue leading to the centre of the city. The view from your balcony will almost certainly be the window display of Chanel, Dior or Cartier rather than the sea, but with winding alleys and medieval buildings on one side and designer shops on the other, Passeig de Gracia will introduce you to much of the city you would miss if you were closer to the seafront. The area is a fifteen minute walk from the centre of Las Ramblas, (the vibrant but tacky centre of Barcelona) but after exploring the commercial streets, be sure to explore the more picturesque routes of the gothic quarter.
You will find the cheaper restaurants and bars (good food isn’t very cheap anywhere) surrounding Barcelona’s main university, but can pick up fresh fruit, olives, cheese and bread from the local markets, and cheap bottles of sangria from the corner shop, to make up a picnic each day. The markets are gorgeous and perhaps the most famous is La Boqueria, which is one of the oldest and largest fresh produce markets in Catalonia.
Sightseeing-wise there is no avoiding Gaudi, but then again, why would you want to? Antonia Gaudi is responsible for the most of the architectural landmarks in Catalonia. Designing the cathedral Sagrada Familia, the hill-top gardens of Parc Guell, Pavillion Guell and so much more, Gaudi became a figurehead for Spanish modernism and iconic sculptural design, and his unique intricate style is breath-taking.
The vibrant colours used in his mosaics, and the unique structures of his buildings capture the energy of the city and contrast the natural landscapes within which they are usually built. The gorgeous Sagrada Familia is an absolute must-see, but you can often queue for over an hour in the baking sun, so make sure you’re prepared for the wait with liquids and sun cream!
Similarly, build in enough time to queue when visiting the Picasso Museum, because it is well worth spending a whole afternoon in the renovated medieval building, home to over 4000 of Picasso’s pieces.
The night-life is excellent in Barcelona, but be prepared to pay around 50 euros for entrance into a nice club (this will include your alcohol for the night), and to see many semi-naked women dancing on stage. Also, don’t wear flip-fops, you’ll probably have to squeeze your feet into a size four pair of heels you’ll borrow from a drunk Spanish girl.
Finally, enjoy the freedom of a city which can offer you almost everything. Try new foods, drink lots of sangria, and if you have time, try to explore the beautiful mountainous landscapes surrounding the city too.