Thinking of a trip to Barcelona? Then keep reading.
I did plan to write this just after my trip, but really, I should have known that having back-to-back flights straight after my annual leave wasn’t going to allow me to do that. So, let’s hope my memory serves me well enough to give you a ‘Barcelona in a nutshell’ type blog post. I was lucky to spend five days in this wonderful city along with my sister, Davina, who flew over from Dublin, Ireland to join me. We had both been to Barcelona when we were younger, but neither of us could remember it well. I guess we maybe weren’t old enough to fully appreciate what it has to offer – beautiful sights, beautiful weather, delicious food, (the list goes on). Anyhow, we chose to come back to the Catalan capital, and we were not disappointed.
Davina and I arrived at our hotel late on a Wednesday afternoon. It actually happened to be St Patrick’s day, and I had never celebrated this day anywhere other than at home in Northern Ireland or at uni in Scotland. It felt a bit strange. That being said, we went in search of any kind of bar/restaurant that would be putting on some celebrations and found ourselves hopping between a few Irish bars across the iconic Las Ramblas. Davina also turned 19 at midnight so that was a perfect excuse for an extra drink or two.
We woke up the next day ready to adopt more of the ‘cultured tourist’ persona and headed straight for, you guessed it, Barcelona’s most famous Roman Catholic church, La Sagrada Familia. This church is such a special piece of architecture, famously designed by the late Antoni Gaudí, and conveniently situated in the centre of the city. La Sagrada Familia sadly remains an unfinished work to this day, due to several interruptions such as the Spanish Civil War and more recently, proposals to build a tunnel to accommodate a high-speed railway link to France. Despite being unfinished, I believe it’s an attraction which is definitely still worth visiting. Its beauty easily outshines all of the construction work taking place around it.
Continuing with the church theme, if you’re in to Gothic architecture, Barcelona Cathedral, which is situated in the Gothic quarter, is also a must do whilst in the city. Although it’s not quite the same size or height as Sagrada, it is still a spectacular sight. It looked pretty perfect with that blue sky backdrop too.
One of the many great things about Barcelona is the fact that you will never be stuck for something to see or do. I also love how easily (and cheaply) you can manage to get around the city using the metro. Using the 96 hour metro pass we didn’t have to worry about having cash on us to pay for transport each day. And sadly, as the city has a bad reputation for frequent and expertly executed cases of pick-pocketing, we avoided carrying any sums of cash with us at any time. In saying that, we thankfully didn’t experience or see any of this kind of thing during our trip! Over the next few days we spent our time exploring and enjoying Barcelona’s sights at our leisure, including the Arc de Triomf and the pretty Parc de la Ciutadella. Even the ducks came out to say hi.
And…of course, you simply can’t come to Spain and not go into ZARA. It’s. Just. Too. Good. A few €€€€ later and I was making my way back to the hotel carrying a few extra bags that I didn’t start the day with. Ooops.
A highlight of the trip for both of us was our visit to the stunning Park Güell, just another one of Gaudí’s famous creations (in collaboration with Eusebi Güell). The construction of the park began back in 1900 and some years later, in 1984, it was declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This place is a total work of art, consisting of beautiful symbolic content which can be linked to classical Greece, the Christian tradition and Catalonia. We were so lucky again with the weather on this day, perfectly sunny and glorious. If you had considered a visit to Spain in March to be much too cold or cloudy, think again! We were spoiled with sunshine every single day of our trip.
Every street you make your way down in Barcelona is a photo opportunity. I just couldn’t get enough of it. We stopped quickly by ‘Casa Milà’ (also known as La Pedrera, which translates to the stone quarry) – the last building of architect Gaudí, before he was soley dedicated to his work on La Sagrada Familia.
Now, I know I’ve said this about everything I’ve written about in this blog so far…but, if you visit Barcelona and you enjoy a good sunset, you cannot, I repeat, cannot, miss out on making the trip up to Bunkers del Carmel. From here, you will be spoiled with spectacular views across the whole city as well as an amazing sunset view, and a chilled but fun atmosphere. All of this makes it a perfect way to spend an evening in the Catalan capital. We got the metro to the nearest stop at the bottom of the climb up (if I remember correctly, I think it was called Vallcarca), and then enjoyed walking/climbing the rest of the way. Many Spanish locals and their dogs (YAY!!) were also out enjoying a walk amongst the tourists who were making their way to the top before sunset.
We made it up just in time to capture these photos. I’d recommend allowing yourself extra time if you’re planning to go, because, where everybody gathers at the top can become crowded and finding a nice spot to sit down can be tricky. Also – you don’t want to risk missing the sunset itself, which doesn’t last nearly long enough!
After sunset, we had our final evening meal in Barcelona – and it was easily the best we had the whole trip, hence why I’ve decided to include it in my blog. Thanks to Instagram, I received a message which included a recommendation of ‘Agust’ gastro bar for a bite to eat. All I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you!!! What a treat. Whilst in Dubai, I don’t tend to eat red meat, however whenever I am elsewhere in the world – anywhere that holds a reputation for good steak and red wine, I struggle to say no to it!
‘Agust’ is a cosy, relaxed bar/restaurant with a chilled friendly vibe (and good music). Restaurants like this are my absolute favourite. I got speaking to the owner, a lovely French guy, and he spoke to us about how he wanted to create an eating environment in which you can enjoy top quality food, but in a less formal/rigid atmosphere. He’s nailed it with this place. It is truly a hidden gem! I’d highly recommend anyone to come here whilst in Barcelona, especially if you’re a fan of a good steak. The passionfruit dessert was equally good but I don’t think I waited long enough before tucking in to get a picture of it. Haha.
I can definitely see why Barcelona continues to enjoy boasting a reputation as one of Europe’s greatest and most attractive cities, and, a tourist’s favourite. Beautiful, cosmopolitan, international, lively, vibrant – these are just some of the adjectives that come to mind as I reflect back on my time here. I look forward to getting rostered a flight here with work in the future, and finding some more hidden gems to explore on a layover!
Please feel free to have a look at my Barcelona highlight over on my Instagram to see some more snaps and videos of our time – (@emmajharkness).
That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed reading. Hasta la vista, baby!