Before the summer of 2017 I had never been to Europe, so I was very excited to get the opportunity to go on a three-day trip to Barcelona, Spain at the end of June. Being in a foreign place in a big city where you don’t know the language sounds intimidating, but in Barcelona the people are welcoming and most of them speak at least a little bit of English, which helps a lot. Barcelona is a large city, but at the same time it has a homey atmosphere about it that just makes you feel safe. Once you wander from the beaten path you find narrow cobblestone roads with tall buildings on either side, and when you look up you see where the people live their day-to-day lives. There are cozy porches with laundry hanging on the railings and plants outside the windows where they grow herbs and small vegetables for cooking. You can’t help but keep walking because you want to see more, and there isn’t enough time in a day to explore the entire city. The unique architecture and layout of the city are just so different compared to anything you can find in America that if you’re like me you won’t be able to stop looking up afraid that you might not catch one small detail of the beautiful city around you.
While we only spent three days in Barcelona I felt like we were able to squeeze a lot in, and everything we weren’t able to do is going on our list for our next visit. The first day in Barcelona we made it to the hostel we were staying in, which I don’t recommend doing after my experience, and we’ll just leave it at that.
We asked the woman at the front desk of the hostel what we have to see while we were there. She gave us a map, and told us about all of the things there are to see involving art in Barcelona. She highly recommended la Sagrada Familia, and because we were only going to be in Barcelona for three days that is what we chose. We then bought tickets online, and for the rest of the first day we wondered the beautiful breezy streets of Barcelona. The second day we woke up early, had breakfast, and made our trek to the beach in order to get a good spot. The last day was spent exploring and learning about Antoni Gaudi and his masterpiece la Sagrada Familia.
Our plane arrived in the morning, so when we landed we had the rest of the day to explore. On the first day we walked almost 10 miles or 20,000+ steps just to give you an idea of how much of the city there is to see and we only saw a small portion of Barcelona. At first we followed the tourists to the loud and hectic La Rambla street as we began to get a sense of direction. Here we bought delicious gelato, and I can’t wait for more the next time we go back, but we’ll probably visit a small gelato shop in a less touristy area. Until it was time to eat dinner I spent the rest of my day looking up at the buildings, the art, and watching the people go about their days. For dinner we had tapas and drinks. Our waiter was from Portugal, and we were able to pick his brain about the differences between Portugal and Spain and their languages. It is so important to talk to the people around you! Make friends, broaden your view of the world, and embrace their culture!
Keep in mind that in Spain everyone smokes, so each restaurant has a patio for their smoking customers, and inside most of the restaurants, unless they are really popular, won’t be too busy.
We rose early the next morning hungry and ready to see the Mediterranean Sea. We packed our things and headed out for the day. We took the subway to get to the beach, which wasn’t difficult to navigate at all and is much cheaper than getting a cab. The subway system in Barcelona is very clean, but keep in mind most places there don’t have A/C so it’s best to use it in the morning before it gets hot outside especially if you’re visiting in the summer.
When we finally made it to the beach we found our spot for the next few hours and planted ourselves there. It did not take long for us to remember that we were in Europe when the old women around us began taking their tops off, and of course they insisted on standing while facing the beach and not the Sea. It was very interesting to see the differences in the way they view their bodies in Europe.
Once again our hunger dictated our actions, and we were off to find food. I remember it was a little past 1:30 in the afternoon because places began closing up shop so they could have their siestas until it was time to open back up for dinner later in the evening. Not everywhere closes, so we found one of these places to eat.
After that we were back on the road in search of a local yarn store, and it was a race against the clock to get there before the shop closed. Walking through the city you’ll turn a corner a there is a beautiful cathedral that you never would have known was there if you hadn’t turned down that street. Barcelona is a city that can only truly be seen on foot.
By the end of the night we were pooped from finding our way back from the beach, so we went back to the hostel to get changed for dinner. We went and sat out on the patio of a small restaurant while the pride parade was going on across the street and all around us. We had a couple large drinks with dinner to help ease the pain from walking all day. Around 11 in the evening as we were finding our way back to the room we can across a bakery where I can’t remember exactly what it was that we bought, but I remember the pastries being delicious.
The last day we spent in Barcelona we took the day to explore Guadi’s masterpiece la Sagrada Familia. Before we got on the subway that would take us there we went a couple blocks away and found a French bruncherie, UGOT, where we ate delicious eggs benedict with ginger lemonade that they make there. This place is definitely on my list to go back to on my next trip especially since we didn’t get to try any of their delicious looking cakes before we had to leave for la Sagrada Familia.
First off if you want to visit the church you’ll need to buy your tickets online and in advance because they usually sell out if you try to buy them the day of. We bought the audio tour tickets with access to one of the towers. I liked the audio tour because you can go at your own pace, and if you want to you can rewind if you missed something.
As an artist seeing Antoni Gaudi’s work up close and personal was so much more inspiring and motivating than I can express. Everything he created he got his inspiration from nature, and there is nothing like standing in the middle of one of his greatest works of art.
There are so many small details that you will try to catch as you go through la Sagrada Familia, and we probably spent at least an hour and a half viewing the front of the church and seeing the inside before going up into the tower. Once you’re all the way to the top of the tower you get an amazing view of all of Barcelona, and you are able to see all the way from the mountains to the Mediterranean Sea with the entire city in between.
After coming out of the towers we went out to see the back of the church, which was designed by a different artist after Gaudi passed away but still following Gaudi’s direction. The artist’s style is completely different and adds a nice contrast to the church’s already very avant garde characteristics.
In the “basement” of the church there is a museum that talks more about the history of the church, and it is where they work with new technology, like 3D printers, to help finish building the church faster. You also get to see where Gaudi is now buried in the crypt underneath la Sagrada Familia.
For me this was the best part of the trip hands down. Unfortunately we did not get to go and see any more of Gaudi’s works of art around the city, but they are all on the list for the next time we go back.
For our last night in Barcelona we made our way to the block with all the asian cuisine restaurants on it. We found a small thai restaurant that ended up being one of the best places we ate the whole time we were there, and it was probably the most delicious pad thai I’ve ever had!
I think Barcelona has been my favorite vacation so far, and I can’t wait to go back! It is such an amazing city with so much history and beauty that it needs to be the next stop on your bucket list for sure!
Whether it’s your first time traveling to Europe or you are looking for your next adventure I definitely recommend Barcelona, Spain!
3 thoughts on “What To Do & See In Barcelona”
What do you think – will the Sagrada Familia be finished in our lifetime? I last went inside in 2005 and it looks pretty much the same today!
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I think while I was there they were saying they estimate that it will be done in 2026, but I just don’t think that is true. There is still so much of it that is unfinished! I hope they finish it in our lifetime, and I will be back then!
Barcelona was indeed a beautiful experience for us! We visited the city and whole of Spain in May 2015, and the memories are still with us. The Rambla, Gaudi houses, the food and the sea! Thanks for taking me back to the memory lane with your post!