The 101 on Barcelona:
With tons of charm, Sangria, and paella, the Catalan gem is so full of life and colour that you may never want to leave. It’s home to the world-renowned architect, and painter: Antoni Gaudi.
For many reasons, I’ve always dreamt of finally seeing his work in real-life whilst exploring more of my heritage in Spain. Actually, as a Filipino, you’ll find how our culture is eerily similar to the Spanish — but with a few tweaks here and there.
Out of all the cities in Europe, I’ve had incredible fun, love, and a sense of FC Barcelona pride when I came here. It has made me feel at home.
Aside from all the personal stuff that was happening here, I can honestly recommend a trip to Spain isn’t complete without visiting Barcelona. But beware, many Catalans identify themselves as such instead of Spanish, and have their own dialect which is a mix of their mother tongue and French colonial influence.
To make the most of your stay here, I’ve brought together a list of activities which mix both the usual tourist-y stuff (yeah…) and off-beaten paths locals love.
#1. Order an expensive but seriously good bag of chocolates at La Boqueria
The famous market is located along the way of Placa Catalunya to Las Rambla and is the most colourful place you’ll ever go.
One of my close friends told me how different Catalans make their chocolate — whether it was their method or preference, you can literally taste how unique their flavours are. A bag would cost you at least 7 EUR.
#2. Buy turron. Do it. Seriously.
In the Philippines, turron is associated with a thinly sliced banana coated in sugar and fried to your heart’s content. It’s usually drunk with good coffee or eaten after a meal.
For the Spanish, is a special Christmas nougat made of honey, egg, and tons of sugar mixed with different flavours. Because I’m allergic to nuts (go figure), I only had the chance to try their classic bar — bought from one of the local vendors who understood my dilemma.
BUT if it helps, my Mom tried the Pistacchio, Chocolate, and fruity ones.
#3. Ooh, and maybe buy some cheese along the way!
I know, I know…I don’t even eat cheese. But hey, let me tell you — the food over at La Boqueria is delicious. This way, you’ll have the chance to try cheese, gambas, and wine in one fell swoop!
#4. Eat at a tapas buffet
Tapas in Spain actually mean different types of food served in smaller portions for your convenience. Oh, and in prep for siesta too. Remember, a lot of Spanish eat really late. Like, they have lunch around 1-2PM with dinner at 10:00.
You can find a really good tapas buffet in Plaza Catalunya, Las Ramblas, or Rambla Catalunya.
#5. Have sangria, croquettes, paella, and gambas at an outside restaurant in Rambla Catalunya
Speaking of, I’ve had the privilege (yes, I mean it) of staying at an aparthotel in Rambla Catalunya. Coincidentally, it’s also right behind Casa Battlo and in front of tons of restaurants, shops, stuff that’s going to make my wallet cry in fear.
In case you’re curious, it’s called U-nique Rambla Catalunya Aparthotel (non-affiliate link, I swear!).
Sangria is wine mixed with other concoctions (depends on the alcohol-maker, yeah) with fruit such as oranges, apples, lemons, and maybe some herbs. There are different types of Sangria and will depend completely on the restaurant you’re eating at as well.
Croquettes are my new favourite Spanish dish. They’re fried food rolls with meat, pork, or fish inside them alongside potatoes, shellfish, cheese, veggies, and bechamel sauce.
I won’t explain what gambas or paella is anymore. You should know that by now.
If you don’t, I’m judging you.
#6. Try their famous steak with red or white sangria at Las Ramblas
As I mentioned, I feel like having another glass (or bottle or pitcher) of Sangria would go completely well with a 14 gram, medium well steak eaten at 11:00 in the evening with children’s laughters echoing behind you.
You’ll also have the option of choosing between red or white Sangria. Personally, I prefer the red version as the white isn’t as sweet. But it completely depends on your preferences there, pal.
#7. Watch a court jester try to entertain you in the streets
But be careful with your belongings! Barcelona is on top of the list in Europe for the amount of pickpockets and other petty crime that I don’t think is wise to mention here. In case you decide to forego your trip, ya know.
#8. Go to a small flea market and maybe purchase an old book
At the end of Las Ramblas, there’s a small flea market where they sell vintage CD’s, accessories, and Spanish novels which are just amazing. And reminds me a hell lot of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Oh, and somewhere in the city is this old, hidden music store that’s gotten the best classic and old-school jazz music scores I’ve ever seen in Europe. Too bad I can’t remember its name. I hate myself for it.
#9. Visit Casa Battlo and four of Gaudi’s works in the streets
If you were ever at Barcelona in late May 2016 and happen to go around Casa Battlo, I am the strange kid who waved “hello!” to every tourist I could see passing by near our window.
Jeez Elouise, at least I don’t sound freaky.
Anyways, Antoni Gaudi’s work is spread across the city and can be seen by many tourists from across the street. I love it because it blends well with the unique aura of Barcelona.
#10. Have fun walking around Parc Guell and enter Gaudi’s house
The park in itself is pretty and enjoyable to walk around for families. This is where Gaudi dubbed his home until he spent his last year working at the Sagrada.
As for this house itself, you’ll be able to read everything about the architect and painter, and how he devoted his life to nature.
#11. Pay a little extra to go to the Monumental Zone and take one of those extremely tourist-y photos overlooking city
Honestly, dude, if there’s one thing I know where people keep taking their Barcelona tourist photos, it’s at the Monumental Zone. A ticket costs around 25 EUR and comes with an entrance to Gaudi’s architectural masterpiece.
#12. Gasp at how beautiful the inside of La Sagrada Familia really is
Maybe I’ll never be religious…But upon entering the beautiful Sagrada, you can feel Gaudi’s God’s presence in every corner.
Although some parts of it are closed to the public, you can pay extra to reach the top of La Sagrada Familia and be amazed by the breathtaking view of Barcelona’s city centre.
#13. Try a free walking tour around the city
One of my favourite memories whilst exploring Europe would have to include participating in SANDEMAN’s Free Walking Tour where your tour guide would try to “sell” you the city. For the entire experience is completely free, you can choose to pay your guide any amount you want right after.
#14. Wander around the Barri Gotic or the Gothic Quarter
Arguably, the most photogenic place in all of Barcelona. Or at least, according to many Instagrammers. As part of the tour, you’ll be able to walk through these parts the most and learn more about the history of the city.
Plus, there are super tons of restaurants and cool hang-out places around these parts. The hardest part? Most of them are usually filled up if you eat the usual Spanish time (1-2PM) and as they also take note of siesta hours (usually 3-5PM or so)
#15. Hike up all the way to Montjuic
For 14 EUR, you can climb up Montjuic on a cable car, you’ll have the best view of the city and a chance to look around its large fortress. Along the entire time, you can also wander around the gardens, a small Spanish village, and an Olympic stadium.
#16. Take a separate day trip to Montserrat
Only an hour’s train ride away, Montserrat is a mountain range outside the city where the famous shrine, Black Madonna is located. It’s a beautiful area with parks and a calming atmosphere for only 25 EUR.
#17. Reach the top Plaza de Spanya and see one of those colourful pigeons
My close friend recommended me to head over to the Plaza de Spanya for the National Museum and a beautiful atmosphere everywhere. She was right — it’s practically littered with musicians, skateboarders, and children running around everywhere.
Oh, and even though they completely freak me out, those artificially coloured pigeons are super cool to look at.
#18. Visit the famous Picasso Museum
As one of the most renowned painter in the world, Barcelona has their own Picasso Museum featuring a few of his favourite works. If you’re interested in his art, go on and take a look over here. By far, it’s one of the most interesting museums I’ve ever been in.
#19. Similarly, take a short trip to the FC Barcelona stadium
In case the names: Messi, Naymar, and Suarez don’t ring a bell, please, for the love of god, research about them before heading on over to the Catalan city.
The people are incredibly proud of their team and of football. So much so, that the rivalry between FCB and Real Madrid is…well, real. Like, “hey don’t go here wearing the other team’s shirt, you freak” kind of stuff.
Taking a trip down to their massive stadium includes getting to spend on real FCB merch and if you’re lucky, you’ll get a chance to watch a game.
#20. Witness one of their winning game parades on Sunday
Similarly, if FCB wins any game in any season, they host a big parade for everyone to see the players. That’s how dedicated they are.
I was lucky to have been there on a Sunday and with our aparthotel super close to Las Ramblas, the music was blaring like crazy. Originally, my friend and I wanted to see Messi so close, but there were tons of people in there. It would have been hard for us to stick ourselves in. 🙁
#21. Catch an outdoor film (Spanish, Catalan, or English)
Around July up ’til August, there’s a special screening at the Montjuic Fortress every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday cataloging old films with live music sessions afterwards.
#22. Go on a food tour in Spain’s foodie capital
Dude…I mean, this is where you go to eat. I swear.
I’ve always had a very wide palette when it comes to food, and usually I’m don’t go home wanting to learn how to cook. But, alas, Barcelona changed that for me.
You can either spend a day, a week, two, or even three learning about Spanish dishes and how to add some Mediterranean spice to it.
#23. Watch the magic fountain show
Back in 1929, Plaza de Spanya was adorned with a new fountain head that would show in different seasons and time intervals throughout the year. It’s arguably one of the best fountain shows you’ll see in all Spain.
But be sure to check the Official Barcelona Tourism website first before heading over.
#24. Stroll around the beach especially during summer
To be honest, I wouldn’t call myself a beach person. In fact, I’d pretty much ignore the sun and sea lifestyle and opt for cold days instead (Jeez, that must be my inner Grinch speaking).
But now that I’ve had the chance to go here, it’s actually not bad at night. Ha. Everyone stays up pretty late in Spain — I’m putting this lightly — so no matter what time you’re strolling through, there are still tons of people hanging out by the beach.
#25. Shop while you drop on various boutiques, markets, and other shops
Truth? It’s super cheap. And I’m 100% positively happy Barcelona was my lost stop for the Euro Trip. For every 100 metres, you’ll find Zara, Mango, and maybe in every 500m, Bershka or Desigual.
You can also find other local boutiques which adorn tons of colours, prints, and flowy dresses — like every travel blogger’s dream.
#26. Munch on churros, chocolate, and coffee (or juice)
I may or may not have had too many churros whilst in Spain. Ooh, and coffee too. I mean, who wouldn’t a good cup of cafe latte to go with your rich, fried, chunky churro and beautiful sights in the streets?
#27. Feel so incredibly alive while walking the streets
If there’s one thing I can properly say about Barcelona, it’s how alive the entire city will make you feel. You’re going to enjoy walking around the streets of the Catalan gem, trying to (un)successfully talk converse with locals, and eat lots of food.
There’s always something for everyone — whether you’re at the tourist-y spots or get lost on the way.
What’s on your bucket list?
To me, I wanted to travel halfway across the world and see La Sagrada Familia for myself. In which case, I’ve found a new favourite city and a feeling of “home” in Barcelona.
What about you? Leave me a comment below and I’d love to know what your ultimate bucket list destination is!