The Insider's Guide to Barcelona

20 June


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As you'll know from my last post, I recently spent a few days in Barcelona for my birthday. It was booked quite spontaneously, but we definitely picked the right place. Barcelona has beaches and bars for relaxing, as well as hikes and adventure opportunities aplenty for the more adventurous among us. It's also stunning to look at, and the only thing that stopped me having my camera out everywhere we went was the fact that I forgot to bring my charger with me (d'oh...).

While we did a lot of touristy stuff, we also went off the beaten track and found some lesser known locations to explore. I thought I'd create a little "secret" guide to Barcelona to share what we found, as well as using it as a place to shamelessly show off my holiday photos.

I'm thinking of doing a similar guide for Liverpool and London, so d let me know if you'd be interested in that!

TRANSPORT

First things first, find out how you're going to get around the city. I'd recommend getting a Hola BCN! pass from a metro station, which gives you access to the metro (their version of the tube) and buses for between two and five days. You can even buy them online.

We missed a trick with these and didn't buy one till the second day, so we wasted quite a lot of money on single tickets. Don't be us.

You can also get around by taxi, although they are quite expensive. There are black cabs, but most of the drivers don't speak English, or you can download Uber-like apps called Easytaxi or Hailo.

EXPLORING AND VIEWS


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Los Bunkers Del Carmel


There are two main viewpoints in Barcelona. The first one is Montjuic Castle, which you can either walk up, or get a bus or cable car (around €8 each). I insisted on a cable car because I'm a basic bitch. It has beaut panoramic views of the sea and the city, and costs €3 each to get in.

Alternatively, you can hike up Los Bunkers Del Carmel, which also has amazing views but is a) free and b) pretty much empty of tourists. Walking up a mountain in the sun isn't the most fun, but the view is so worth it. Plus, you can reward yourself with paella later since it burns loads of calories.

I'm definitely going to trek up there at night next time we visit, I reckon seeing the city lit up from above will make my head fall off.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas is kind of like the Oxford Street of Barcelona, it's the main road full of lots of shops and restaurants. But it's also not like Oxford Street at all. People actively talk to you for one thing. It's also lined with palm trees, market stalls and has a real lively buzz about it.

This one definitely isn't tourist-free, but it's for sure worth a look. You'll never look at your local high street in the same way again.

Gothic Quarter

Just off Las Ramblas is a maze of shops and cafes, as well as some squares to sit and chill out in.

But the main attraction here is the beautiful architecture. Oh my goodness. Being from Liverpool, I thought I was used to seeing pretty buildings, but these are something else. The imposing buildings and narrow streets made me feel like I had gone back in time, and the cathedral is something else. A must-see if you visit Barcelona.

RELAXING

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Barceloneta beach 

First, a word of warning, there are pebbles on this beach, and they bloody hurt to walk on. However, you'll be too taken aback by how pretty it is to care.

Barceloneta beach is a proper city beach, there's sea and sand but you can see the city (and the iconic W Hotel) on the skyline, and like most places in Barcelona there are bars, shops and buses a stone's throw away. This makes it a self-confessed city gal's kind of beach, as while a secret beach is cute, ya girl likes her amenities close by.

A dip in the sea is always appreciated in the 32 degree heat we had, or you can just relax and catch some rays (after liberally applying factor 50, of course).

Port Vell

At the end of Las Ramblas is Port Vell, a beautiful marina where you can have a wander to the shopping centre over the bridge, look at the boats from the marina, or sit on the steps of the monument on the roundabout and watch the world go by (that's where the first photo on this post was taken from).

This was probably my favouite place in Barcelona; I'm very "at one" with water and I could watch it all day. I'd recommend sitting at the end of one of the piers at night for a super romantic view.

EATING

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Placa Reial

Placa Reial is a palm tree filled square in the gothic quarter, which is lined with places to fill your tummy with delicious Catalonian cuisine. We had paella at Ambos Mundos and Alex, and they were both divine (in fact, we went to Ambos Mundos twice and ordered the same thing)!

It's a lovely, relaxed place to sit in the shade for an hour or two when you've been wandering around in the heat all day.

La Boqueria

La Boqueria is the market on Las Ramblas, and lively isn't a big enough word to describe it. It's a hodgepodge of market stalls selling everything from meat and fish to herbs and spices. I was particularly taken with the fruit cups that seemed to be on every corner. I took about twenty photos of them.

There are various places to eat scattered about, and we sat down at one to try what turned out to be the best tomato bread I've ever tasted, a plate of goat's cheese and two Estrellas. Beware, the waiters can be very pushy, so stand your ground and don't let them convince you to order more than you want.

Eyescream and Friends


Just off Barceloneta beach is Eyescream and Friends and I won't lie, I googled "hipster Barcelona" to find it. You pick your ice cream flavour as well as any toppings you want, and they'll hand it to you with two cute little meringue eyes lovingly plonked on top.

I went for yoghurt flavour and it was just the ticket.

Holly's Ice Cream

Four words for you: Kinder Bueno ice cream.

Holly's is hidden in the maze that is the gothic quarter, and they sell loads of different flavours of ice cream, including Kinder Bueno, my favourite chocolate bar. The Instagram friendly interior provides a bit of respite from the sun, as well as being super cute. I should also mention that the cone was a 10/10 for tastiness.

DRINKING

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Bar Jardi

We actually found Bar Jardi, which is a secret roof terrace bar, because my boyfriend bumped into the giant plastic camel outside the shop it's hidden at the back of in the gothic quarter. The building is covered in vintage style artwork and strewn with hanging plants and flags. It's awesome.

The drinks are pretty cheap too, at €4 for a glass of sangria, €5 for a mojito and two Moritz beers for €5. Double awesome.

Antic Teatre

The Antic Teatre is similar to Bar Jardi, in that it's another hidden roof terrace bar. Similar vibes of ruined architecture and jungle plants, which makes you feel like you're part of a secret anarchist's club. Prices are mega cheap, and we got a San Miguel, an orange juice and a pain au chocolate for €5.

SLEEPING

SmartRoom Barcelona

SmartRoom is the perfect place to stay if you're on a budget. It's decorated with a Pinterest via IKEA kinda vibe, is really clean and has a 24 hour reception. It's situated in Placa de Sants, five minutes from the metro and bus stops, so you can be in the city centre within about 15 minutes, and there are lots of supermarkets and cafes in case you need a quick pick me up.

A hotel room is literally just a place to sleep for me on a city break, as I'm usually out all day exploring, so I don't like to spend too much on them. I booked through Booking.com and it was €90 per night, but I'm sure the price varies depending on when you visit.

The W Hotel


Now, if money was no object, this is where I'd stay. The W is the huge, fin shaped building you can see from the beach, and it looks absolutely glorious. If you're after full on luxury, this is your guy. Sun terrace and pool, beautiful decor and a beach view? Where do I sign up?

I also made a mini-vlog of my trip, which you can view below. I'd love it if you subscribed to my channel, too!


Have you been to Barcelona, or are you planning to visit? Let me know whether you'd like to see more of this kind of post in the comments!

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