Barcelona is incredible. Is fresh, crazy, young and free!
Barcelona was the first destination I have ever gotten on a plane to visit and it sure did the trick, since I came back some years later to revisit the vibrant city and I would go back anytime. But why now is the time to visit it and not wait any longer? I’ll tell you why. Because the city is taking serious measures in order to decrease the number of tourists or at least just limit their number. Just recently, the city has banned the opening of new hotels in the city center (even in the case old one close down) and has launched a program aiming to return the city to its citizens by 2020. Even though tourism is one of the main revenue suppliers for the city, Barcelona is the sixth most densely populated city in Europe, making the measures a necessity for the people living here.
What are the main issues that come along with high levels of tourists flooding the Catalan city? Well, for one the city is suffocated by a large number of people using transportation. Moreover, the prices for rent and property in the center area have soared, mostly because of the high demand from tourists. What measures will be taken in this regard? Well, the mayor wants to increase taxes for apartments used for touristic purposes only, which will most certainly be felt also in the accommodation prices to be paid by tourists.
Amongst other measures: raising parking prices for tourist buses with a direct impact on the ticket price; limiting traffic in certain parts of the city; cutting down on the space that restaurant’s terraces occupy on the sidewalks.
So if you still want to enjoy the city as a tourist at reasonable prices, this is about time to plan your visit. And if we’re at it, here are 10 things to do in Barcelona:
1. Enjoy Gaudi’s genius
Personally I never really liked Sagrada Familia, but I think is something that needs to be seen at least once because, like it or not, it definitely is spectacular. On the other hand, the cathedral is not the only creation of Gaudi in Barcelona, the other being so much more interesting. Casa Calvet, Palau Guell, Casa Batllo, Casa Mila (La Pedrera) are only a few of the unique examples of incredible architecture creation signed by Gaudi. While the first one is now a restaurant where you can enjoy Catalan cuisine, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila (La Pedrera) are in my opinion “must stops” in Barcelona.
Casa Battlo is incredibly romantic, one really needs to take a walk inside and admire the wide windows with magnificent colorful mosaic. A ticket to visit the house which entered the UNESCO World Heritage in 2005 costs 23.5 EUR and the opening hours are from 9 h to 21 h. They also have specific activities for which prices vary:
– you can book your ticket for a visit amongst the first 20 people of the day, start at 8:30, getting to enjoy the view without worrying about agglomeration, this at a price of 36 EUR
– for the same price, you can book a theatrical visit, including a dramatized family tour of the house, entrance to the whole house and a smart guide
– if you’re in a hurry and you want to skip the line, you can also opt for the FastPass at the price of 28.5 EUR
– and last but not least, from Fall 2017, you will be able to enjoy an evening cava toast on the terrace of Casa Battlo
Casa Mila (La Pedrera) is another Gaudi’s creations which have been inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List, in 1984. I liked it very much, especially the roof top with its very specific towers and from where you can admire Barcelona from above. Inside the house, be prepared to find all sorts of exhibitions. The opening hours are from Monday to Sunday, 9 am to 8.30pm and 9 pm to 11 pm and the price of a ticket is 22 EUR for an adult, with an audio guide included.
2. Take a stroll through Park Guell
Breathtaking. This is how Park Guell felt at the first visit. And at the second. The gingerbread looking houses at the entrance, with the multicolor mosaic, the white Dragon stairway with the fountain guarded by a colorful lizard leading to a covered terrace with inclined russet walls, and the best of all: the Greek Theatre. With its unique shape and colors, the terrace offers the perfect place for a photo session.
Trust me, the park is one not to miss and the 7 EUR entry price should not stop you.
3. Barceloneta Beach
The best sandy beach, not far from the city center. Easy to get to, filled with terraces where you can just sit back and enjoy sangria and the cool breeze caressing your hair and skin. Just make sure to use some sunscreen protection, because I got sunburned in April. You can rent a bicycle and stroll along the shore or engage in a volleyball match with some of the locals or tourists getting entertained on the golden sandy beach. Expect it to be rather crowded no matter the season.
4. Barri Gotic
It’s in this place that I fell in love with Barcelona some many years ago. Staying in a small hostel in the middle of Barri Gotic, close to the harbor. Looking outside of the window I could see the narrow street and imagine I was in Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen” where the two children living across the street from one another had built a bridge to pass from one to the other. I would sit on the terrace and imagine those kids could have lived in one of those buildings.
What stroke me the most was the difference between day and night. During the day everything was dull, while as soon as night came, the streets just turned to live, becoming colorful, filled with music, laughter, incredible food and joyful people. It was the best place to stay in the town, from where I could admire both the Catala architecture and the Catalan spirit.
5. The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, National Museum of Art of Catalunya and Las Arenas de Barcelona
Getting off at the Plaça d’Espanya metro stop, you will get the chance to do this 3 in 1 combo. Visit the Las Arenas de Barcelona, an old bullring, turned into a shopping center with an elevator taking you to the top, to the viewpoint from where you can admire the 360 view and have dinner or a drink at one of the many restaurants, while enjoying the magnificent view of the fountains and the museum on the hill.
Next stop, just cross the street to get to the singing fountains, dating from 1929 which offer music sessions in the Summertime (May to September) at 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM 11:00 PM and in the Winter time (October to April) 7:00 PM 7:30 PM 8:00 PM 8:30 PM. Unfortunately, I have never managed to catch the show, even though I have tried drudgingly, but I have heard it is a show that should not be missed.
Moving up, on the white stairs, you will get to the National Museu of Art of Catalunya, from where even if you are not particularly a fan of art, you can admire the view of the city. If you choose to visit the museum, the opening hours and prices can be found here.
6. Poble Espanyol
Not such a popular attraction of Barcelona, but I enjoyed it a lot. Getting to stroll around streets with houses dating from different periods throughout Spain’s history, from different regions it is a unique experience, one that offers you interesting insights in the country’s history and culture. It is located near to the Montjuïc fountains and is easy to get to. The museum hosts 117 full-scale buildings that have been built after the creators have visited 1600 town and villages in Spain. The entrance ticket is 12.6 EUR but you can spend half a day admiring unique architecture and diving into the Spanish culture.
7. Take the gondola (Montjuic cable car) to Montjuïc Castle
Standing above the port, Montjuïc Castle dates from 1640 and it is owned now by the citizens of Barcelona, hosting a weapons museum. Getting to or from the castle you can take the Montjuic cable car, which allows you to admire the city from above. The gondola has 3 stops from which to choose: Castell Monjuic, Mirador and Parc de Montjuic; and the price for an adult is of 12.5 EUR.
8. Feast on Catalan food
Dominated by seafood, Catalan cuisine is indulging, fresh and filling. Whether you choose a fancy restaurant, a low-key Cucina or choose your own ingredients from La Boqueria (this gastronomic mecca of Barcelona), you sure won’t be disappointed.
9. La Rambla
No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a stroll through the crowded and colorful main street La Rambla. This pedestrian street, flanked by trees, connects Placa de Catalunya with Port Vell, leading you directly to the sea and to Christopher Columbus Monument and museum. Make sure you have enough time to enjoy the vivid atmosphere and be careful with your belongings.
10. Go to Tibidabo amusement park
Take the bus from Placa de Catalunya and enjoy a thrilling day at the amusement park placed on the hill overlooking Barcelona. A single ticket for the bus costs 3EUR, while entrance to the park is 28.5 EUR for all the rides. Just check out here all the cool rides they have.