Cuatro Dias in Barcelona

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by: Izzy in Copenhagen

I spent the past 4 days in Barcelona with a few other DIS students — Jane (who I planned this trip with and am traveling with for the whole week), and Lauren and Charlotte (who I happened to meet on the plane on the way to Barcelona, are friends of Jane’s and we explored together in Barca!).

Here is an overview of what we did, where we ate, and things we saw — with a review of each item! I’ve typed up descriptive reviews, but if you just want the take aways (how long it takes to see it, a tip, and cost), look at the bottom of each item. Scroll to the very bottom for more pictures — enjoy!

ATTRACTIONS

Park Güell

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Our tour guide from the Free Walking Tour actually told us Park Güell was overrated because it took a lot of time out of your day to get to and from, was under construction, and you only need about 15 minutes to see it. I am very glad we did not take his advice because I though Park Güell was incredible.

It did take a little while to get there — about 45 minutes from our hostel, including 15 minutes of walking from the metro stop to the park, a lot of which was uphill — but boy, was it worth it. You do not need a ticket to see most of the park, you can still walk around and see beautiful views, climb to the top of the park where the two crosses are, and explore some, but you do need a ticket to see the little section with the most famous structures. Luckily, tickets are not expensive. Jane and I got tickets online in advance for 7.50 each, and they also have a specific entry time so you can walk around all of the park whenever you want, but to enter the ticket-required area you have to wait until the time marked on your ticket.

TIP: get the ticket — it is worth it
COST: 7.50
TIME TO SEE: minimum 1 hour, we spent nearly 2 hours there
ACCESSIBILITY: substantial amount of walking, stairs, and hills

Picasso Museum

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The Picasso Museum admission is about 12 euros for adults or 9 euros for students, but they actually have free admission days which we were fortunate enough to take advantage of. Check the website for all the free days, but we happened to be there on the first Sunday of the month which is a free day. You have to get tickets in advance because they do sell out, but you can usually get them the day of if you do it early enough, and you get tickets for a specific entry time — you cannot just enter whenever you’d like.

I was a little bit underwhelmed by the Picasso museum for a combination of reasons. While it was neat to see his earlier work, I would have liked to also see some of his famous later work. Additionally, other than a little bit of information on his life every few rooms, there was not a lot of information about Picasso or each piece (although I’m sure you could have paid extra for an audioguide or tour). Finally, you were not allowed to take pictures inside the exhibits! I know that is not the point of going to an art museum but it still would be nice to be able to take pictures.

TIP: buy ticket online in advance, will sell out!
COST: 12 euros for adults, 9 for students, free some days!
TIME TO SEE: depending on how much you like art, minimum 1 hour
ACCESSIBILITY: decent amount of stairs, but I’m fairly certain there was an elevator

Free Walking Tour

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In the past couple of years I have gone on my fair share of Sandeman’s Free Walking Tours and highly recommend them as a good overview and introduction to whatever city you’re in, and Barcelona was no exception.

You reserve your tickets online for the specific time you want — there are usually 3 or 4 tour times a day and most times offer an English tour and a tour in another language, in this case it was Spanish. This tour was 2.5 hours with a 15 minute break about halfway through where we stop at a little coffee shop with access to the bathroom and a chance to buy a drink or snack, or just sit and rest our legs. We were shown around many parts of Barcelona and given informative descriptions of each stop, including historical context and significance.

TIP: Do it early on in your trip so you can see a little bit of everything and decide what is worth exploring more to you. The guides are also great at giving advice on what to do, where to eat, or anything else you need.
COST: free, but tip is expected (3-10 euros is reasonable for a student tip)
TIME TO SEE: ~2.5 hours
ACCESSIBILITY: substantial walking but no stairs or hills

La Pedrera

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We wanted to see more Gaudí buildings but it is a little challenging to determine which are worth seeing and there aren’t simple maps or routes to take if you want to see multiple — they are fairly spread out throughout the city — so I would recommend picking a few as best you can and visiting those. We went to La Pedrera spontaneously to see from the outside and ended up buying tickets to go in. In my opinion the ticket was a little overpriced for what you see but I am still glad we went and saw it. They were slightly cheaper online than in person so we bought the tickets on our phones before hopping in line. You don’t need to buy far in advance, but you do buy them with a specific admission time so depending on how busy it is you may not be able to enter right when you arrive unless you bought a ticket for that time in advance.

We got free audio guides and toured the mansion starting at the top. You ride an elevator nearly to the top, go up an additional flight of stairs, and open a door to the rooftop! It was beautiful.

Afterward, you can tour each floor and see the bedrooms, maids quarters, etc lead by your audioguide. The rooftop is definitely the most stunning part.

TIP: buy tickets online because they’re a bit cheaper
COST: €16.50
TIME TO SEE: minimum 1 hour, maximum 2.5 hours
ACCESSIBILITY: There were elevators but we still had to walk up a flight of stairs to the rooftop

St. Josep’s Mercat de la Boqueria

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I have been to this market before with my family and this visit was just as enjoyable. The hustle and bustle of the packed market, the bright colors of various fruits and candies, the smells of meats, seafood, and pastries, and the sounds of people calling out about their products all make for a very exciting atmosphere — definitely worth a stop! There is a wide variety of stalls, but also quite a number of stalls that sell similar things so definitely peek around for the best price before impulsively purchasing!

 

TIP: look around first before buying
COST: free (unless you buy something, but everything is quite inexpensive)
TIME TO SEE: 30 minutes to see all the stalls, but can easily spend more time. some little places you can even sit at the counter to eat
ACCESSIBILITY: flat and easy to navigate but lots of people

Sagrada Familia

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We did not know you had to book tickets two days in advance, until the day before we were thinking of going so unfortunately we were not able to go inside. It ended up working out just fine because we had more time to see other neighborhoods and Gaudí buildings that we wanted to check out, but definitely still worth seeing from the outside! I think it was the tallest church I have ever seen and quite an impressive and stunning building to see in person.

TIP: book tickets at least 2 days in advance
COST:
TIME TO SEE: we did not get to go inside, so I’m not sure but the line to get in for those with tickets was very long — looked like a 30-45 minute wait

FOOD

While in Barcelona, we pretty much ate two meals a day — brunch and dinner. Sometimes the brunch would be more breakfast-y and other times more lunch-y. See below for pictures, what we ordered, prices, etc!

BILLY BRUNCH

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I found this cute brunch place on Google Maps, within walking distance of our hostel and we all loved it. It was a very cute, well decorated café with comfortable seating and equally well presented food. They have quite a lot of options that are all delicious, good-looking, and affordable! I ordered Chakchouka (€8) — a skillet of cooked vegetables (mostly onions and bell peppers) with two poached eggs on top and it came with bread on the side. I also ordered a smoothie and in total my meal was only €14 with tip! Definitely cheaper than Copenhagen!!

If you’re curious what the other things in the picture are, from left to right it is: avocado toast with egg, açai bowl with granola and fruit, scrambled eggs on toast, eggs Benedict.

ALSUR CAFÉ

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This café had really fun and creative food. A lot of the items on the menu were combinations of things that you wouldn’t necessarily normally put together and some were just extreme versions of already existing dishes, but it all ended up being delicious! We tried the banana bread French toast, Eggs Florentine, and the grilled cheese with bacon and avocado and waffles instead of bread! I went for a more classic Southern dish (oops) and got chicken and waffles with a yummy bacon syrup sauce. My dish plus my “frozen hot chocolate” (which was like a slushie chocolate milk) was all about €13 with tip!

CASA ALFONSO

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For dinner we were looking for something nearby, local/authentic (which can be hard in Barcelona, many restaurants are very touristy) and still decently affordable but were willing to pay a little more for the right place, and we were not disappointed with Cafe Alfonso. We wanted to try some real Spanish tapas and all shared the following: patatas bravas; eggplant crisps with nuts, goat cheese and honey; pan con tomate (toasted bread rubbed with tomato, garlic and salt); calamari; croquettes; and a small black cuttlefish paella. We also shared a small pitcher of sangria. We loved the croquettes and patatas bravas so much that we ended up ordering a second round!

There were a few miscommunications and difficulties in the beginning when we arrived at the restaurant because many of the servers were not that proficient in English, and we had limited Spanish, but in the end we got everything we ordered and the food was delicious. Just definitely keep in mind to talk slowly, point, and be clear when ordering and whatnot!

Even though it was a more upscale place, the food and drink ended up only being about €15 a person with tip!

EL REY DE LA GAMBA

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This restaurant was recommended to us by our Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour guide and it was quite good! It was much more touristy than I expected for a restaurant that the guide would recommend, but I guess that is expected when you go to a restaurant by the water. It was very close to the beach so we were able to check that out before getting a table, and decided to eat outside and enjoy the nice weather. It was our last night in Barcelona so we were willing to splurge a little on a nicer restaurant.

Again, we shared tapas (patatas bravas and pan con tomate again, and a new one which was warm goat cheese with honey and red peppers) and got large skillets of paella to share in pairs. Lauren and I shared a seafood paella, and Charlotte and Jane shared a mixed paella that had seafood and chicken.

All the food was delicious and it was definitely a good final night dinner with a fun atmosphere, good conversation, and yummy food, however I don’t know if the food was quite worth the price. It wasn’t outrageously expensive but it was significantly more expensive than any other meal we’ve had so far — it ended up being €28 euros a person with tip.

LODGING

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We stayed at Mediterranean Hostel Barcelona. Of the hostels I have stayed in before, it is one of the smaller ones — only two floors with a couple rooms on each floor (maybe 5 rooms total). All of the rooms are coed so if you are not okay with that, this probably isn’t the hostel for you, but we had no issue with it and found everyone was respectful. As is typical in a hostel, there was a variety of ages but predominantly young adults, and also a variety of sleep cycles… there seemed to (almost) always be at least 2 people sleeping in our room no matter what time of day it was, so it was a little tricky at times to do what you need in the dark room while still being quiet and only using our phone flashlights for light.

My room was an 8 person dorm, with 4 bunk beds and 2 lockers underneath each one, so every person has their own locker under their bed. The lockers were very large (big enough to easily fit my suitcase and backpack) and free, both of which were very nice features. It also lead to nice, clean rooms since everyone keeps all their belongings in their lockers.

The hostel does offer free breakfast but it is mostly just coffee and cereal, so every day we opted to go out for brunch. There is a chalk board in the main room on the ground floor with the schedule for the week. Every day (except Monday) they offered dinner for only €6 and the menu was written on the board. On Sunday, when we arrived they actually had a free pasta dinner so — as classic college students and free food — we signed up and enjoyed the free dinner with many other guests at the hostel. It was delicious and a nice way to meet other people in the hostel while saving some money! They also organize a “night out” every night for €15 per person, with some drinks included and go to different bars or clubs as a group, lead by a staff member.

I enjoyed the community areas at the hostel. They had a large dinning area on the ground floor where we had dinner the first night at one big communal table. Around the corner from this room there is an area with a pool table and fußball that we played on our last night. On the 1st floor (in Europe the ground floor is 0, so the next one is 1, then 2, etc) there was a “cinema viewing room” with a projector playing TV or movies, couches, bean bags, and a small fridge. Finally on the 2nd floor, there was a balcony area with tables and chairs intended for smoking but I used it as a nice quiet, private place to FaceTime briefly.

PROS: inexpensive, large free lockers for each person (fit my suitcase and backpack), nice community areas (outdoor deck with tables, “cinema room” with projector, couches, and bean bags, room with pool table and fußball, and dining area with tables near the kitchen and breakfast), clean bathrooms, self serve cold water bottles for only €0.50, “rent” a towel for €2 (can exchange for a new one as often as you want for free), shampoo and conditioner provided in the showers!
CONS: co-ed, limited breakfast

PRICE: €22 a night
ACCESSIBILITY
: no elevator, only stairs and there are no rooms on the ground floor so you have to go up at least one set of stairs

TRANSPORTATION

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The public transportation system is quite efficient and gets you just about anywhere you need to get. It is quite straightforward and I used Google Maps to navigate each trip — it shows you which mode of transportation you need, which direction, how many stops you go, and the time your journey will take.

We purchased an Hola Barcelona Travel Card which seemed to be the best deal for what we needed. We were there for almost 4 full days, so we got the 96 hour pass for €25 online before arriving. It gives you unlimited access to all modes of transportation, so you can take the bus, train, metro, whatever, as many times as you want within your 96 hours. There was also a pass that was around €50 that included the same transportation benefits, plus free entry to a lot of museums and attractions, as well as discounts at certain restaurants and shops. We decided not to get this because we would not have time to see enough of the museums on the list or use the additional benefits enough to be worth the additional €28.

Single use tickets are about €2 so as long as you use the transportation more than 3 times a day, you are saving money.

An important thing to note is that the metro does shut down at night so if you are out and about late, you will not be able to use public transportation. Luckily, Barcelona does have Uber and rides are very inexpensive. When my friends and I were out, our rides would range from €6-15, so split between 4 people it was really quite cheap.

TIP: buy the multi-day pass or use Uber (particularly when the metro shuts down)
COST: €25 for 96 hours unlimited ac


Check out more of Izzy’s posts here: https://izzyincopenhagen.wordpress.com

Experience this Trip!