Barcelona was one of my favourite Spanish cities because I’m in love with the beach and I just can’t be away from the ocean for too long. There’s something so relaxing and laid-back about a city that’s near the ocean.
Barcelona had the best of both worlds; I would go to the beach until 4 o’clock, and then when the temperature started to cool down I would head into the city to do some sightseeing. I booked 5 days there, and extended it to a week. Since a lot of the hostels were booked up, I stayed at the Albareda Hostel, which was actually great for meeting people and I made some good friends.
In addition to some incredible Gaudi architecture, Barcelona has such a vibrant, energetic atmosphere- everywhere you go there are street performers and people playing music. The nightlife starts late and there are some good pub crawls. Barcelona just feels so lively and busy all the time- there is so much going on. Laze on the beach, eat paella, drink sangria, take in some sights, then party till the early hours.
These were some of my top sights in Barcelona:
1. Sagrada Familia
Gaudi’s incomplete Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic Church and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has taken over 100 years to construct and has still yet to be finished. The gothic building is very impressive and there is definitely no other church like it in the world. Expect long queues to get inside.
2. Park Guell
Park Guell is a garden complex that was designed by Antoni Gaudi and built between 1900 and 1914. The park is located on a steep hill and is full of quirky buildings and structures that look like they’ve come out of a Disney fairytale. I would advise you to reserve a decent amount of time to explore it.
3. Barceloneta Beach
The best thing about Barcelona is that it’s a beach city, so you can spend those scorching hot Spanish summer days lazing on the beach. Barceloneta is located conveniently close to the city centre and La Rambla, so it’s not too far to get anywhere. The best thing to do is cool off in the ocean during the peak of the day, then head off into the city to see the sights in the afternoon when the weather is cooler. I was surprised how clean the beach was, and although it’s crowded, Barceloneta is great for people watching. It is also worth heading down to stroll along the beachfront in the evening when the sun has set and everything is lit up.
Barcelona Cathedral can be found in the heart of the Gothic District and is dedicated to Barcelona’s patron saint, Eulalia. The gothic cathedral was constructed between the 13th and 15th centuries and its full name is Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia.
5. La Rambla
La Rambla is the main pedestrian street in Barcelona, and here you’ll find expensive tourist restaurants, stalls selling souvenirs and street performers. If you want to save some money, don’t eat here, but still take a walk down it to people watch and take in the atmosphere.
6. Christopher Columbus Monument
The incredibly tall Christopher Columbus monument is hard to miss when you’re walking around Barcelona. I passed this column twice every day to and from the beach! Located at the end of La Rambla, the Columbus monument was built in the spot where the famous explorer first returned to Spain from his voyage to the Americas.
7. Palau Musica Catalana
This concert hall was built between 1905 and 1908 by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner as a headquarters for the Orfeó Català amateur choir. The elaborate Palau Musica Catalana is located in the district of La Ribera, and is built in a Catalan Modernist style. It stands out compared to all the other buildings in the street, and one of the most noticeable features of its exterior is Miguel Blay’s sculptural group on the corner (see below).
8. Casa Batllo
Casa Batllo is a building on Passeig de Gracia that was restored by Antoni Gaudi and Josep Maria Jujol at the beginning of the 1900s. The exterior of the Art Nouveau building is pretty cool and peculiar, covered in broken ceramic tiles. Apparently it is nicknamed “the house of bones” and the structure definitely reminds me of skeletons!
9. Placa d’Espanya
Placa d’Espanya is one of Barcelona’s main squares and was built for the 1929 International Exhibition. There are several impressive sights to see here, including the red Venetian towers, the fountain in the centre designed by Josep Maria Jujol, the Arenas de Barcelona and the Palau Nacional, which houses the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya.
10. Port Vell
Port Vell is the harbour area of Barcelona and here you’ll see lots of yachts and vessels moored here. It used to be a run down area, but was transformed as part of an urban renewal project for the 1992 Olympics. Port Vell is now a popular tourist area and boasts an IMAX cinema, lots of restaurants and an aquarium.
Of course there are lots of other beach destinations to visit on the coast of mainland Spain, and you can find some cheap hotels in Benidorm if you fly into Alicante airport.