The Saturday City: Barcelona

La sagrada familia in Barcelona SpainThis wasn’t my first time in Barcelona. During my first trip around the world, I came here after deciding Amsterdam was getting too cold for me. I heard only good things about the city, and with cheap flights to the city, it seemed like the best place to go. I was only there for three days but I fell in love with the city. It had such atmosphere. I knew I would come back. A few weeks ago, I did.

Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in Spain, second only to Granada. Barcelona has a lively atmosphere, great food, a long history, amazing museums, decent beaches, and an incredible nightlife. It’s busy, it’s energetic, it “feels” very Spanish. The city barely starts before noon. People don’t eat dinner until 10 and don’t go out until 2am, which is clearly why they spend most of their day sleeping. It’s not a city for early risers, which is great because I’m not.

I left Barcelona the first time with a lot to do and it was my intention during this visit to do all I missed. I had hoped to stay at my favorite hostel, Kabul, located on La Rambla but, as usual, it was booked solid. Instead, HelloBCN was my home. It’s an O.K. hostel with a decent bar, comfy beds, free wi-fi, and a big common room. With me were a few people from my time in Valencia, and together, we took Barcelona by storm. Barcelona has a lot to offer and no visitor should miss:

La Sagrada Familia – I was more impressed with this the second time around but I’m still not a huge Gaudi fan. Antoni Gaudi is Barcelona’s most famous architect and you’ll see his work all over the city. This church is his most famous work, which after over 100 years, is still not done. They say by 2020. It must be all those siestas the Spanish take.

placia real Barcelona Spain

Barcelona History Museum – Barcelona has one of the best city history museums I’ve ever been too. It does a great, great job of explaining the history and importance of this city. Moreover, there are 4,000 square meters of roman ruins located beneath the museum that you can walk through. There is a free, detailed audio guide and detailed explanations of what you are seeing. They do a great and through job. This is a must see.

Picasso Museum– Picasso was a great artist. While I’m not a huge fan of most of his later work, it’s still interesting to learn about the life and work of one of the most influential artists in the 20th century. With over 3,000 pieces of art, there is a lot to see here.

La Rambla – This famous street in Barcelona where all the tourists go. You’ll find over priced shops, restaurants, and camera toting tourists all over this long street. However, despite that, there is a great energy throughout the street. It’s a great place to people watch, it’s central, and it is filled with the best street performers in Europe. Looking for the guy pretending he’s on the toilet.

the bari gothic in Barcelona Spain

Bari Gotic – This is the name given to the old area of Barcelona with its windy streets and historic buildings. Spend a few hours getting lost through this area, stumbling upon old buildings, churches, and plazas. The deeper you go into this area, the more local and interesting it becomes.

Historic Cathedral – Located in the heart of the Bari Gotic, this Gothic cathedral was built on the top of an 11th century church. There is a cool cloister to walk around in. The real highlight of this church is the roof. You can take an elevator up to the top where you can get stunning views of the surrounding area.

Gaudi Fountain – Gaudi out did himself with this huge fountain located in the Parc de la Ciutadella. It’s a huge tribute to the god Neptune. There are huge griffins spouting water, Neptune on his chariot, and a gold statue on top. With benches and an ice cream place nearby, it’s a good place to relax.

famous gaudi park in Barcelona Spain

Looking to do Barcelona on the cheap? Well, for starters, all city museums are free in the afternoon. This is a great deal because the museums here are top notch. Buying a 10 trip metro card will save you 5 Euros. Additionally, head down to the beaches during the day for seafood. The restaurants in this area are really expensive but during the day, you can get a good plate for 8-10 Euros.

Barcelona has so much to offer that even my combined six days barely scratched the surface. I love the city and getting lost in the Bari Gotic and people watching around the squares makes me happy. I’m sure to be back there again. Hopefully, next time, it will be longer than three days.

  1. I visited Barcelona in 2000 and ended up staying there longer than expected. The city has a great vibe – loved the main food market, tapas restaurants, and Gaudi’s park outside of town. At Christmas time, the Christmas markets are a lot of fun. The caganers are a hoot.

  2. It’s one of those places that you do need too spend a good couple of weeks to really get everything out of the city, and even then you’d miss the special bits only a local would know.

  3. I live in Barcelona and I hate it. I totally disagree with what you say, the “Spanish” feel… have you ever been to Madrid? It’s way better, with bars that give you free tapas, cheap drinks, fantastic nightlife (after hours that open at 6 am?) and actually SPANISH. Barcelona is just a tourist playground for foreigners that come looking for a “spanish feel”, which they will never get, because Barcelona is in Catalunya and Catalans themselves claim they aren’t Spanish. So yes, if you have to decide between Barcelona and Madrid, you are better off with Madrid.

    • WTF??? what are u talking about?? c’mon girl, we are talking about a different culture, and in spain there sooooooooo many culltures around!!! can’t we compare New York with San Francisco?we can’t say that people from Ilinois are the same as people of Texas, or China is like Japan… so you CAN’T say that things. they just DIFFERENT cities with diferent stories.

      And about “the spanish feel” like you say, it’s because comments of people like you that makes us have a different “spanish feel”. If you don’t like living here, go to another part. In Barcelona you can get also the spanish feel, and the mediterranian too, Madrid is also a tourist playground for foreigners if you wanna call it like this.
      And please, this post looks you don’t feel good traveling to places really touristical? don’t forget that traveling is about TOLERANCE and RESPECT, start from here and u’ll see how everything will be better.

  4. We were just in Barcelona last weekend and have to say it was one of our favorite cities. Guadi’s designs are amazing, and we spent an afternoon at Park Guell, which was originally designed as a rich housing area. It wasn’t successful and become a public park, and was completly free (unlike other Guadi buildings).

    One of the most amazing places I’ve seen, the fact that they built this a 100 years ago amazes me. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen and gets our rating of coolest in Europe. The detail in the sides of earth holding up the walkingpaths, large columns holding up a plaza and beautiful park with parrtos added in just for your pleasure. I would recommend this as a #1 attraction to the city!

  5. Love Barcelona, recently I chose it as 1° place among my favourite cities in Europe. Hope I will live long enough to see the “Sagrada Familia” completed…:) it will be take definitely longer than 2020, much longer than that !!

  6. kayseven

    ahhhh!! thanks for the summary nomad!! but where to stay on the cheap???? finding a decent place for inexpensive is a needle in a haystack, i could do a hostel with 8/12 in a room for 25Euros…. any recommendations for end of july 2010….. im all ears!

  7. nice words about barcelona, i agree with you, barcelona is very lively and granda is special, good choice in spain, but you should come another time, spain has many more things

  8. richard

    very nice description, barcelona was very fun and some much things to discover that 2 weeks were too short, sharing this with anyone, it was very useful to plan my vacation, there are a lot of local info and tips

  9. Barcelona is a great city and the best time to go is from May to September because the weather is better! spring and summer.

    Like everywhere there are good and bad things. Barcelona has a lot of live, party, culture, good universities, theatres, amazing beaches close to the city (costa brava and balear islands), beautiful mountains quite close to it (the pyrinnes) and some work chances as well. But also too much traffic, pollution and sometimes can even be unsafe in the sense that there are a lots of pick pockets looking for tourist.

    And it’s the capital of Catalonia so you can’t say that feels really spanish because it makes no sense! It’s like saying that Scotland or Ireland feels really english! It’s catalonia, nowadays a region of Spain, but it has not been always like that. The catalans have their own culture and language quite different than the Spanish one although close somehow. But also close to the french one. Actually many of its citizens are claiming for the independence of Catalonia.

    So if you are looking for the spanish feeling Catalonia or Barcelona are not the best place to find it but if you are looking for a beautiul city and country with his own history and culture as any other european region, that’s your place! :)

    Good website!

  10. basque guy

    dont listen to the jealous is actually more spanish(iberian) than madrid but the meaning of spanish has lost its real meaning spanish today means people fro madrid but the seed of spain is in the upper ebro where catalonia and the basque are are…the basques n catalans are the hebrews/atlanteans/goths/oldest celtic tribe…but jealousy is a bitch and the pseudo spanish want to be considered the most spanish and they were the ones who mixed with “hispanics” giving the nationality a backwards image n now basques n catalans are ashamed to say they r spanish cos of the negative connotation and cos we are nothing like other people in the so called castilian parts…castilla comes from the basque word gaztella cos the basques gave rise to spain and the catalans are blood brothers of the basques

  11. One of the most beautiful cities in Europe without a doubt, you have put many interesting places in the city.

    Notably Mediterràneo climate and food, tasty and healthy balance.

    There are many reasons to visit the city.

    Greetings and thanks for the information.

  12. Sarah

    Hello! I’ll be visiting this weekend. Thank you for the great advice, but one question. La Rambla, if this is over priced where is the best place to get souvenirs?

    Thanks! :-)


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