Of the five European cities I’ve visited so far, Barcelona is hands down my favorite city. It has a culture about it that is very different than the other European cities I visited. It is festive, a constant celebration. It’s a city full of hustlers and the political history of this city runs rampant. There is so much to do in Barcelona and so many people to meet. It’s an excellent place for travelers. Travelers in Barcelona have an agreed upon bond. When you embark on a journey in this city, you can never be alone, you have a traveler’s family.
“I am in love with [Barcelona]. Probably more than Paris. Barcelona has so many hidden beauties in all of its nooks and crannies. It is seriously like a concrete old world maze. The architecture is typical Europe but with more gothic finishes than you could image. It’s so urban and so festive. If I could live in a European city it would be Barcelona. The entire city is filled with old world charm. The city is built upon war, blood and corruption and the evidence of the differences in political views are everywhere. Even still there is something so mesmerizing about this place…” –excerpt of my journal while there.
Where I Stayed:
I stayed in a hostel called Equity Point Gothic. Equity Point has numerous hostels throughout Europe (The US also) and three in Barcelona. I highly recommend staying in Equity Point Gothic. It was a great location and a great hostel for young people travelling. The hostile itself is very clean. You get a complimentary breakfast (if you get up early enough). They provide you with clean linen and there are lockers for your belongings. You can choose to stay in large rooms by sex, mixed rooms or pay more for more private rooms. A lot of people use Air BnB in Barcelona and this is a great option as well. However, I think hostiles such as Equity Point allow you to meet and interact with other travelers much better. I also highly recommend storing some of the fruit and breakfast foods in your bag for snacking later in the day. Because we were in such a great location, we hardly used public transit. Location is everything, so do your research on where you are staying.
What I Did:
I did pretty much everything. I’m not big on the travel guidebooks. I find them to have too much fluff and they aren’t always current. Instead I used Google and Trip Advisor. I literally googled “Things to do in Barcelona”. Google will provide pictures of popular locations and activities at the top of your search. Trip Advisor provides you with prices, reviews and current hours. From these two methods, I found myself in the Parc de Guille, Sagrada Familia, Museu Picasso (museum), Santa Maria del Mar (catholic church), Casa Batllo and more. (Bring a student ID. Barcelona has student prices for pretty much everything).
My first day in Barcelona, I went on a walking tour recommended by the front desk agent at my hostel. Walking tours are great. They are tip based, so it’s really affordable and because you are walking, you get to see more and you have more time to take pictures in front of sites. It was also a really great way to get to know other travelers. Through this tour and my awesome tour guide, I learned about Catalunya and Barcelona’s history. I was so amazed to see how few people in Barcelona/Catalunya identified as Spanish. There are Catalunyan flags hanging everywhere! We did the two hour tour, so I couldn’t begin to tell you everything I saw. There is also a strong Jewish history here, take a stroll through the Jewish Quarters and learn about their exile.
Again, I highly recommend being friendly with other travelers. Through word of mouth, I learned about an awesome Flamenco dance show, great restaurants, and received directions to the beach. There are so many hidden gems here, so be sure to talk to some strangers.
What to Watch Out For:
Barcelona is a city full of hustlers. Watch your shit! It is the pick pocketing capital of Europe. I know so many people who have been pick pocketed while there. Ladies, I highly recommend you use bags with longer, thicker straps that you can wear across your bodies. Keep the bag in the front. Guys, I also recommend you invest in a nice man bag or a shoulder backpack that you can keep in front. Traditional bookbags can easily be stolen from so I don’t recommend their use. Also, do not carry all of your cash in one place. I recommend having a smaller amount in one place for use so that you aren’t pulling out large wads of cash. Barcelona hustlers are always watching, so be careful.
Also, there are a lot of street vendors. This is normal in Europe however, DO NOT BUY ALCHOLIC DRINKS FROM STREET VENDERS. It is illegal and unsafe. It is not uncommon for there to dangerous ingredients in these drinks. On the beaches, it will seem like its ok because there are so many and they have a legitimate looking set up but it is still not safe and still illegal. Buy your drinks from restaurants or shops only.
Also if you go to the Parc de Guille, do not be shocked if the loads of park vendors disappear at the sight of a cop. Buy from them while you can because they may be gone when you get back.
There is so much more I could say about Barcelona and its treasures but I will stop here. At a later date, I can review some of the places I visited in depth. I will say that the top three places/activities I did in Barcelona were: The Parc de Guille, the walking tour and the flamenco show!
I hope this helps for those who are considering going to Barcelona. Feel free to comment with questions or your own Spanish stories.