Barcelona – The Best of Spain

Barcelona is one of Spain’s most beautiful and most cosmopolitan cities. Designed by Antoni Gaudi, bathed in Mediterranean sun and right on the coast, the city makes for a fantastic place to visit. Last week I went back to stay in Barcelona with two friends after visiting the city last year with my family, though this time I stayed for slightly longer.

We stayed in the fantastic Casa Gracia, a hostel located on the Passeig de Gracia, which is in central Barcelona and is scattered with designer shops such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Valentino and D&G. The wonderfully unique hostel provided so much more than we expected – we had a private three-bed room with an ensuite, which was immaculately clean and spacious. The hostel owner’s organised great evening’s out in Barcelona, offering free entry to the coolest bars and clubs in the city. The best feature though was the sangria and paella nights. For just €8 you could enjoy a hearty meal of paella, salad and tapas as well as jugs of sangria! Also, the staff could not have been more helpful with advising us on the best bars to go to, supermarkets to buy food as well as getting around Barcelona.

We made the most of our Hostel’s central location by buying a T-10 metro ticket. This allowed us ten stops on Barcelona’s easy to use metro system, making it easy to explore the city. On our first day, we covered La Ramblas, the equivalent of Oxford Street and the amazing La Boqueria market. The historic market is fully functional with fantastic displays of fresh fruit, the region’s finest Iberico hams and chorizos as well as an interesting, yet odorous, fish section. I’d fully recommend a visit, is a beautiful place!

Fish at La Boqueria

We all enjoyed wandering around the streets of the Barri Gotic, the older quarter of Barcelona. At its centre is the magnificent Barcelona Cathedral (not to be confused with the even more spectacular Sagrada Familia) a tourist hotspot. The backstreets here are filled with independent clothes shops, vintage and second hand stores and well as excellent Tapas bars.  We really enjoyed Bilbao Berria, a fantastic bar which offers a buffet style selection of tapas treats, including traditional Serrano hams, quail’s eggs with chorizo, padron pepper amongst modern foods such as the mini-burger’s. What’s more, the prices offer excellent value for the great quality food you get.

A small selection of tapas available at Bilbao Berria

In contrast for with our typical tourist days of exploring the sights of Barcelona, we spent one day on Mount Tibidabo, which has a great theme park! We got the bus directly there from Placa de Catalunya, the central hub of Barcelona which was only a short walk from Casa Gracia. When we arrived at Tibidabo we discovered that not only could we get to spend the day enjoying a series of white-knuckle rides, we had also found the most spectacular panoramic view of Barcelona! The view could be enjoyed with your feet safely on the ground, as well as being hoisted into the air on a rickety contraption where you stood in a basket.

Our last full day in Barcelona was spent on Barceloneta Beach, a short metro ride from our hostel and central Barcelona. The golden-sanded beach was packed with local people and tourists, and we may have arrived too late in the day judging by our difficulty in finding an umbrella to sit under! However, we managed to keep cool by enjoying lunch and an iced drink at one of the beaches many café’s and lounges.

Our short stay in Barcelona was packed with seeing sights, the most awe-inspiring being the uncompleted Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece of a church. The beautiful architecture on every street of Barcelona is no match to the Sagrada Familia, and I don’t think I’m capable of describing it in a way that will do it justice. I’ll say this much, you must see it once in your lifetime!

We could have spent more time in Barcelona, we didn’t get to see Parc Guell, another Gaudi designed attraction or the Olympic Village, built for the 1992 Games which regenerated the city. I’d recommend a 5 night stay in Barcelona to see the best of this beautiful city.

Churros are to die for! You dip these sweet pastries into warm melted chocolate

More Information:

We would have been lost in Barcelona without the Dorling Kindersley and Lonely Planet Guides to Barcelona, as well as the extremely helpful Tourist Information kiosks on Placa de Catalunya, and the concierge at Casa Gracia.

Follow me on facebook and twitter for more updates. 

Advertisements

It’s time for you to take a break

We’re one month into 2012 and this is my first proper blog post of the year! To be honest, the last four weeks since I counted down until midnight and made my New Year resolutions have flown by in a blur of school work, exams, getting university offers and generally planning ahead in my life.

Many of us have to constantly plan ahead and organise our days and weekends, and as we all know, it’s important that we take some time out for that. Making time for friends, family and having some fun can help you move forward in your life more effectively than obsessing over work and getting stressed by it.

I myself will be taking some time out next month to go on a ski trip with my sixth form friends. I’ve only skied once before, and that was nearly three years ago, so I hope that I haven’t forgotten how to ski – not that I was that much of a pro anyway! We’re going to be skiing in northern Italy, and I found out this week that they’re very heavy snow there at the moment, so we should have a good amount to land on as I inevitably tumble down the mountain.

Oh yeah, I am this good...

Another plan that I’ve made to have some fun is a trip to Barcelona in August with some friends. We’re staying in a hostel, got some cheap flights from EasyJet and we’re going to go and explore the sights, culture and bars (mainly the bars) of Barcelona.

Although this is really exciting for me, I know you’ll probably be wondering why I’m deciding to share my plans for holidays with you. Well, it’s only partly due to the fact that I’m suffering from exam-induced writer’s block, but also because these plans have made me realise what I want to do in life.

I always knew that I wanted to go to university to study, and socialise, and recently (just as I was applying, to be honest!) I knew I wanted to study Geography, but I have always been unsure of a career path. Well, it’s not a huge idea, but as I was looking at these trips I finally decided to become a travel writer. I know, it’s hardly like becoming a doctor, but I’ll be able to merge my passion for travel and knowledge about other cultures with writing and working – and for me I don’t think anything could be better.

As you see, this brings me back to my main point. We all get caught up in the blur of life, in the rat race to success, but taking some time out for yourself, your friends and your passions can really help you with finding the right bath in life.

(I just realised that says “right bath in life” and I was going to correct it, but it made me laugh and its kind of true!  You must find the right bath in life, that is of the upmost importance)