6 things that you need to know before travelling to Barcelona
If you´ve been keeping up to date with my blog you´ll know that I went to Barcelona recently (ish) and made a quick video of my weekend trip, BARCELONA IN 2 MIN.
I´d like to say it was the first time I went to Barcelona even though I went I was a kid but that doesn´t really count – at least for me anyway since I have the memory of a fish. So I went to Barcelona having no previous knowledge of the city (except for the stereotypes about Catalonians) and tried to jam pack as much as I could in the limited time I had there. However had I known better, I wouldn´t have been denied entry if I had worn more clothes (see point no 5) and I would´ve saved my time and money on certain things. If you don´t want to make the same mistakes either, read on to find out the 6 things you need to know before travelling to Barcelona.
1. Sagrada Familia
If you´ve heard of Barcelona, you´ve heard of Gaudi´s Gothic masterpiece Sagrada Familia and yes it´s still under construction to this day. With the entrance ticket costing €15 euros, its a small price to pay for your eyes to feast upon the glorious mirror tree roofs and the magnificently intricate religious facades (see my Barcelona video for clips) that will transcend you into another dimension – Catholic believer or not.
Prices (General, Student)
General entrance – €15, €13
With audioguide – €19.50, €16.50
With tower – €19.50, €17.50
Audio guide and tower – €24, €21
Is the audio guide worth it?
For me personally, I don´t appreciate art unless the thought process behind it is explained to me. The details, emotions and thoughts of art can not be seen with the naked eye but have to be understood,absorbed and felt. For only €4.50 extra or €3 if you´re a student, the audio guide really enhances your experience by drawing your attention to the intricate details you would´ve missed otherwise.
What about the tower?
I went up the Passion Tower, which cost me an extra €4.50 and I have to say that I wasn´t as passionate about it as I thought I would be. The views were good but the tower itself was very small. With the swarm of tourists in the tower, feeling claustrophic is an understatement. So unless you´re dying to go, I wouldn´t recommend it. Better to spend your money on the audioguide.
The booking process
Ideally, you´re organised and book tickets in advance. However if you´re more of a last minute person like me then don´t worry, it´s still possible to get tickets. You´ll want to buy tickets the night before on your mobile or on the hostel´s computer.What I didn´t know prior to booking is that your ticket is assigned onto a certain time slot. So if you want to plan you day ahead and get an earlier slot, make sure you book relatively in advance. (The night before is fine but early morning might be pushing it.)
With the ´Hola BCN!´ transport card, you get unlimited access on all types of transport – buses, trains, metro, trams etc. Unless you´re going to be touring every single corner of Barcelona and maxing out your unlimited journeys on every single type of public transport possible, paying €14 per person is not worth it. It´s likely that if you´re in Barcelona for a limited amount of time, you´ll stay around the centre: Las Ramblas, Gothic Quarter etc, which are all relatively close to each other and in the same zone. Instead you should just buy the T-10 metro travel card that gives you 10 trips within Zone 1 for just €10. Don´t forget that it can be shared between multiple people. It was enough for me and my friend to share for the 2 days we stayed there.
3. Las Ramblas
Whilst Sagrada Familia exceeded my expectations, I have to say Las Ramblas was disappointing and is highly overrated. The only thing I did remember from my visit to Barcelona 10 years ago as a kid was that Las Ramblas was an amazing place. Or maybe I just remembered wrong (I told you I had bad memory). At first Las Ramblas sets you at ease with its familiar European high street feel with recognisable shops such as H&M, Zara and in part it is no more than that. For the most part however it is just a trap in disguise which will reveal itself to you later on when it’s too late and you’ve realised you’ve paid twice the price for a lousy sangria. In other words, it should be a place for no more than a stroll and shop but most certainly not to eat or drink unless you want to pay the ´tourist tax´. Other alternatives include Rambla de Cataluyna or Passeig de Gràcia.
4. Don´t expect the best beaches
Rarely do you find a city that has a beach like Barcelona, which is part of what makes it so popular. However I do have to tell you that the beaches are immensely congested. If you´ve never felt like a sardine in a tin before then now you will. The only way to get out of the stuffed tin is to walk out a bit further but even then it is still rather packed. Alternatively just swim in the sea and leave the sunbathing sardines behind. A warning that I must give is to not expect luscious, smooth sandy beaches – if you´re looking for a beach holiday, head off to Marbella. These are city beaches sprinkled with lumps of litter or should I say half litter half sand. So if you´re limited on time, you wouldn´t be missing out on anything if you skipped the beaches.
5. Wear clothes to the cathedral
It sounds pretty obvious but no one told me about it beforehand. I ended up sitting outside whilst my friend went inside to see the sublime, godly cathedral just because I wasn’t wearing the right clothes. I wasn’t even wearing itty bitty hotpants no, just normal mid thigh shorts. So make sure you wear clothes that cover your legs and shoulders because they are strict about clothing. If you saw my Barcelona video, you might have noticed gypsy women sell scarves at the front of the cathedral. Perhaps if you’re really desperate you can buy an ugly neon cloth from them and cover yourself for 3 euros. Or not. I’d suggest that you bring your own scarf instead.
6. Magic Fountain + Las Arenas Rooftop
Last but not least, the Magic Fountain. This was the highlight of my trip, without a doubt. I hadn´t planned it in the trip itinerary like I did with Las Ramblas and Sagrada Familia but I´m so glad someone at the hostel recommended me to go. It´s located within walking distance from the Placa Espanya metro stop and when I went, the show was from 21.00 – 23.30 but it varies depending on the time of the year so check before you go.
What´s the fuss about? The Magic Fountain is absolutely breathtaking. It´s not just any old fountain no, it´s a magical water firework display that will make your heart melt and enrapture you into a trance with the divine, enchanting music. You´ll stand there in awe as the sequence repeats and you won´t want to leave.
After watching the show (several times), it´s worth going to the rooftop of the shopping centre Las Arenas, which is only located a few minutes walk away. The views are superbly spectacular up there. It will set you back 1 euro which will be refunded if when you decide to eat dinner there. (No ifs or maybes, you have to eat dinner up there, it is perfect.) We ate dinner there in a Japanese restaurant called Watatsumi which was relatively expensive but 100% worth getting into the student overdraft (the green tea mochi and sesame biscuits were exquisite); plus it was an awesome way to end our trip.
I have to say that 2 days was simply not enough time and it´s certainly left me wanting more – I might just have to pop up there again sometime soon since its only 3 hours away from Valencia. However, for those of you that aren’t so close to Barcelona, the travel to Barcelona is definitely worth it, at least once anyway. You won’t find another charming city (or fountain) quite like it.