Getting lost in this Catalan city is one of my favourite things to do, despite visiting it on numerous occasions and knowing my way around it quite well. There’s something about the way the streets come together, bending through old sectors and new – fusing the old world design with modern conveniences – that just makes me feel this connection to time itself. Even as Barcelona evolves and becomes more of a tourist destination, it still retains much of its traditional charm and makes a great spot for travellers looking to take it as it is, without pre tense or agenda.
I can’t begin to tell you how best to see a city like Barcelona but I can give you some suggestions as to the things I enjoy to do whenever I’m in town. I tend to stay away from the super touristy places as I’ve done them before and they can be a bit of a headache (and really adding up if you’re on a tight budget, as I always am) if you’re looking to take a lighter approach to travel. Instead, look at things from afar and if everyone is going one way, look for an alternate route.
Food is one of the great treasures of this city, influenced heavily by the sea and old world dishes like paella that take a little of everything and make a great meal. Every little restaurant you visit will do justice to the dish differently and while I’ve had some I really didn’t care for, there’s never been one that I abhorred. Depending on the day or the time of day you visit, the shopkeepers may be more concerned with the football game on the flatscreen in the corner than their service – don’t take offense to this, it’s just the way things are done here. Be sure to sample the tapas of as many different restaurants as possible, keeping in mind for many people the small dish approach is their entire meal – and what a meal at that.
If there is one touristy location I revisit almost every chance I get, it’s Parc Guell on the hill of El Carmel. From this point you get a fairly good view of the city, some first rate architecture by national institution Antoni Gaudi and a great little walk in a sensational setting. In a way it’s my own little pilgrimage each time I return, as it is quite a walk to get there, but it’s totally worth it once I get to the top.
Like I said, I have been to Barcelona many times; I have done the hostel thing, stayed in an apartment, couch surfed and even spent a few nights in a hotel that was way out of my price range and I can honestly say the accommodation makes the trip. So many people seem to go for the couch surfing thing in an effort to save money and ‘connect’ with others, but I have never found this to be true. A really laid back hostel or intimate apartment setting trumps that every time as they give you a great outlet to socialize and mingle with people from all over the world.
A great place to start your stay in Barcelona is with the good folks at Oh-Barcelona, who have a number of first rate places to make your stay in this city, and others, fabulous. Looking back on my first time in Barcelona, it truly was the accommodation that made the trip and inspired my return on so many occasions – and I know it will for you too.