Our time in Barcelona was short – too short. But the city is magnificent and really has plenty to offer. We had three full days in the city as well as a half day upon arrival. And despite a few set backs, we can’t wait to visit again and get a more in-depth experience of all that the city has to offer.
We were curious as to how everything would go for us, considering that the Catalan independence protests were in full swing during our visit. Ultimately, we didn’t see anything about it while in the city – aside from countless Catalan flags draped from nearly every balcony.
So for the purpose of this post, I’m going to detail our experiences into an itinerary to follow along with. Although we spent 3 days in Barcelona, it really is more of a 2 day itinerary – you’ll see why as you keep reading!
Our arrival into Barcelona from Oakland was rather late in the day. The flight, on Level Airlines was not the greatest. I suppose it wasn’t terrible considering it was a budget airline, and we had a great deal, but for an 11 hour flight, I was a little grumpy with not being offered complimentary water at least once. I mean, come on, that has to be a safety issue somehow right?
But really, the flight was fine enough, we bought a water and there were movies we could watch. We just can never sleep on planes, and thus arrived very tired and ready to just pass out. We opted for a taxi into town.
The taxi was fine, and dropped us off exactly where we needed to be for our AirBnb. The driver added a few Euros to the fare for some reason, I assumed it was standard practice so ignored it. Turns out, it is standard practice – as a scam. Briana knew about it, but I was unaware, so my mistake for not calling him out.
Due to an early arrival at the airport, we actually arrived at our AirBnb a few minutes earlier than our host. For the most part, this really wasn’t a problem. It just resulted in us climbing many flights of stairs and waiting for him to arrive.
Soon enough, our host arrived and showed us in. It was a quaint studio apartment, with a small kitchenette and a spacious balcony, and it even came with a great terrace at the top of the building. Optimal views of Barcelona for sure.
We had debated between a few different accommodations, but decided to go with this one in the end and it did not disappoint at all. We had booked an Airbnb previously, but they cancelled on us shortly before we left, leaving us scrambling to find an appropriate place. The new place we selected was more expensive, but we felt it well worth the value.
The views from both our porch and the rooftop terrace really sold us. Despite the chill air and our being tired, we stayed and enjoyed the great panoramic views of Barcelona.
Despite our being incredibly tired, we arrived to the conclusion that we should go to the store real quick for a few necessities – namely water and food. A quick check on Google Maps showed that there was a small grocery about a half kilometer from our apartment. The grocery was simple, but had everything we needed. We didn’t get much, just enough to tide us over for snacks and the night.
Water, bread, Havarti cheese, butter, and some sort of ramen soup were all we picked up for our time there. Oh and of course, a few chocolates, because we always need a little bit of candy. It’s not necessary to buy bottled water in Barcelona, it is fine to drink, but the local water doesn’t taste great, so we elected to buy it and also carry it around over the coming days.
After a quick meal of toasted bread and cheese, and the ramen (which didn’t taste good) we finally ended our night. We saw little of Barcelona at this point, but our first impressions were certainly positive and set the mood for the rest of our stay. The neighborhood of Putxet was going to be a great base for our stay in Barcelona.
We woke a bit later than we would normally want to for such a short time in the city – but we were so exhausted from our flight, it was a necessity. Because of jet lag, Briana wasn’t even able to fall asleep until close to 5am. Thankfully, our late start did not inhibit our day at all. A quick bite of bread and cheese and we were off on our way.
Our itinerary was pretty simple: make our way to Park Guell, picking up churros along the way, and ending our day at sunset at Bunkers Carmel. Simple enough, and we figured it would fill up our day.
Thankfully for us, our AirBnb was situated within walking distance of Park Guell. To top it off, it was nearly a straight shot to walk to. We could see our destination from a long way off – essentially the road we were walking simply rose up and up until it ended at the southwest corner of the park.
As the road began its steep incline, we were pleased to find numerous escalators going up. While we’re not bothered walking stairs by any means, Barcelona is pretty hilly, and with a long day ahead of us, we were happy for the help.
The narrow road at this point no longer supported cars, and became lined with small shops and cafes. It was a good opportunity to pick up a few small souvenirs – primarily paintings and magnets because they’re easy to carry and take up barely any room.
It’s a great and authentic local street to pick up souvenirs, trinkets, and snacks.
In our progress up, someone handed us a flier / coupon for a smoothie place. Normally we’d disregard this kind of thing, but it turned out to work perfectly for us. Briana in particular was feeling the need for something with fruit, and the smoothie shop was near the top of our climb.
Briana had picked this place out for us beforehand, having found some good reviews online. Considering that it was directly along our path, we of course had to check it out. And after great experiences with churros in Mexico City, we had to taste them from the country they originated in.
The churros were accompanied by a very delicious and very thick hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was really more of a chocolate sauce, as opposed to a drink, but it was delicious to eat.
With a bit of food and drink obtained, we made our way into the park. Park Güell is very expansive, consisting of two key parts: the free park, and the part you have to pay to enter. The most interesting part is, of course, the part that you must pay to enter.
Coming from our direction, we still had a bit of a walk to get to the area that requires an entrance fee. So instead, we started off by climbing to the Turó de les Tres Creus – the Tower of Three Crosses.
Turó de les Tres Creus is the highest point within Park Güell and provides a spectacular view of Barcelona. The path was wide and pretty easy to walk along, despite the many vendors trying to sell us things. It would be nothing compared to what we would experience in Marrakech in just a few days though. Luckily, even if you don’t know the way, it’s the top of the hill – so as long as you go “up” you’ll find your way there eventually.
We arrived to the top just around noon, and found that many other tourists had also decided to pick the tower as a spot to lounge at. As it offered a nice view, it wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was our “entertainment”.
There is a hill of stone, topped with three crosses. Two of them, indicate the cardinal points. However, Gaudí, the designer of the park (along with seemingly half of Barcelona) did not intend for this to be the case. He wanted there to be a chapel built atop the hill, but the finding of prehistoric remains hindered the development.
There was a local busker playing the guitar. The skills were nothing special, but the choice of lyrics were – odd to the say the least. He was quite the character – singing such lovely lyrics as “meow, meow, I love you” and other such things to any and all women who passed by. Generally, we’d find this aggravating, but perhaps it was the accent, or perhaps it was because he was so over-the-top ridiculous, we couldn’t help but laugh and find it humorous.
Regardless, we finished our churros and drink to the serenade of the odd man and then continued on to the center of the park. We were a little worried, because our research online had recommended that we make reservations for the park. The park is so popular, that they have to limit the number of people who enter at a time, and only allot a certain number of patrons per 30 minute interval.
The issue at hand, was how long would we have to wait to be able to enter the park. Worst case scenario, we wouldn’t be able to enter, because it would be sold out for the entire day – which does happen during the summer months – but because it was late November, we had better luck.
There was still a line to purchase tickets, and then another line to enter, but we only had to wait around twenty minutes to enter. We were pretty pleased with our decision, since we felt far less rushed than we would have otherwise – if you miss your time, you can’t enter. There are only 400 tickets per half-hour time slot.
Buying the tickets was simple enough – walk up to the ticket booth and pay with either cash or credit. Our vendor didn’t speak English, although I’m sure someone, somewhere did, but thankfully my Spanish was good enough that I was able to understand everything. I was actually rather surprised as we walked away, realizing that I did in fact understand everything we needed to know.
The park – and everything in Barcelona – was more expensive than we would have preferred to spend. But, with such limited time, and a more comfortable budget to work with, we just went with it. At €7.50 each, it wasn’t too bad. It should be noted that we were well aware of the costs ahead of time and weren’t surprised by this.
The park was designed by Gaudi, and the eccentric design style is prevalent everywhere throughout the park. Beautiful mosaics appear everywhere from lizard fountains to terraces. We made a point to see the many different constructions he built.
The colonnaded footpath under the Viaduct is a must-see.
The hypostyle hall was under maintenance while we visited, but we were still able to view some of the ceiling mosaics.
The construction also limited our ability to enjoy the terrace, but it did not inhibit our view of Gaudi’s bird’s nests.
The iconic gingerbread houses at the front entrance gate were also a treat. Inside, we found a gift shop.
All-in-all, we spent around 3 hours within the park, slowly making our way out of the park through the northwest entrance.
Leaving Park Guell was not as clear-cut for us as it should have been. Since we were looking to head to Bunkers Carmel, we left out of the northwest entrance. It should be noted, there are several in this area. But after a while, we eventually found our way and proceeded on.
The walk was pleasant enough, and offered more great views of Barcelona. However, hunger was really starting to set in. We had eaten only a few pieces of bread, churros, and a smoothie. So food was on our mind.
Briana had found a great place while researching that actually had some vegetarian options at Las Delicias Del Carmelo. After following our map along the winding road, we finally arrived around 4 pm to find that it had closed. It is worth noting that many restaurants in Spain open late, and they close between lunch and dinner. So there weren’t many options.
So we were out of luck. They would be opening again around 8pm, but by that time, we’d be long gone. Now, we were back to the search for food. Not to long after, we came to a place that served shawarma – one of my staples for traveling. It was pretty good by my accounts, but did not live up to Briana’s needs. The fries appeared to be cooking in the same grease and tidbits as the meat, so it was no go for her.
I will say that the guy operating the place deserves a shout out though. I stupidly left our camera on the table when we left, and he came running after us shouting to get it back to us. So props to him, otherwise we’d be really hurting – and I’d never hear the end of it.
So while I had my food, and was suitably happy for the moment – Briana was still very hungry. The options were looking slim, so we pressed on along the street looking for something. Nothing really stood out as an option, so finally she settled for a pastry shop.
The pastries were – acceptable. But not great. They looked better than they were, but they were cheap too, so it didn’t seem like much of a waste. But Briana was still hungry and would be for quite a bit longer.
It was at this point, after getting the pastries, we realized we might have made a wrong turn somewhere. Pulling out our GPS on our phone proved this to be correct. We were a little low on battery, so we only kept it open for a few seconds at a time to check our position and continue on.
And so we wandered and got further lost. The sights were great, and we weren’t really that worried about getting truly “lost”, but we did want to make it to Bunkers Carmel before sunset.
The next roughly hour was us wandering through random streets, alleys, escalators and elevators until we finally managed to make our way back to the right path. It turned out, that the shwarma place was were we should have made a turn.
Finally on the right track, it was only a few minutes continued walk before we would reach our desired location. The turn towards the hill was marked by a small bar, with playing fields for what I think was botchy ball, but I’m not sure.
Finally, we arrived to Bunkers Carmel, and just in time for sunset. Apparently, so had every traveler in Barcelona. There were easily several hundred people sitting around the old batteries and watching the sunset. A huge majority of these people were also Americans.
What was once a “secret spot” for locals, has now gotten out to visitors. While it’s still a great view of the city, don’t be surprised to be sharing it with plenty of others. We sat an enjoyed the views until the sun has fully set and darkness set in.
The Bunkers Carmel were built as anti-aircraft batteries during the Spanish Civil War in 1938. After the war, the 105mm guns were removed and the concrete left to crumble, but the fantastic views did not let it become forgotten.
Setting off down the southern side of the hill, we wound our way through a very dark forested path. It did offer a few more awesome night views of the city as well. After about five minutes, we were finally put out on a residential street.
Our goal was to grab the metro and take it back towards our AirBnb, but once we arrived, we didn’t know what we wanted to actually purchase and instead elected to just walk home. Although we had already walked plenty, it didn’t seem like it would be too much further.
Luckily, our decision to not take the metro turned out great. In case you’ve forgotten, Briana still hadn’t eaten by this point and was very hungry. This led to us deciding upon a local diner that was open and just getting something. We grabbed a potato omelette sandwich, which was very filling and well received. With our bellies full, and legs rested we were off again to head home.
But of course, along the way, we passed by a place that had some awesome looking hot chocolate. So – we stopped and bought a hot chocolate, and potato chips because we didn’t realize that was what we were buying.
Once again we were off for home. Roughly twenty minutes later, we finally arrived back to our accommodation. Dead tired, we’d had a very successful first day. A quick glance at my phone showed we’d walked around 12 miles for the day.
Another slightly late start to the day, but we were still jet-lagged and had had a pretty strenuous day prior. This day would be slightly more relaxed as we planned to use the metro line, thus less walking.
Getting to the metro was pretty easy. Although we got turned around at one point, we were able to get to our station within a couple minutes. The walk down the streets was quite enjoyable.
Some prior research had informed us that we should get a bulk pass for the metro ticket. We purchased 1 ticket, preloaded with 10 trips on it. This way, we would each get 5 uses out of the ticket – you don’t need to each have one. The price came out to around $10 for the ticket, so it seemed to be a pretty good price.
The metro system itself seems pretty easy to navigate. Signs are clearly labeled, and the transfer stations aren’t confusing either. The trains have digital indicators, and it really just all boils down to an easy experience.
The platform was very crowded, and the train even more crowded. In hindsight, we should have just waited for the next train, but instead we tried to force our way on. This resulted in a push and pull, where Briana was pushed off the train as the doors closed. I tried to hold the doors open for her to get back on.
With Briana back on the train, doors closed, and starting to move I instinctively reached down to my pocket and immediately realized that my phone was gone. I had been pick-pocketed – again. Briana had been warning me to be careful, not to put my phone in my pocket – and now it was gone.
We got off the train at La Sagrada Station and went to talk to a station manager who pointed us towards the police station at Espanya Station. Coincidentally, a Brazilian couple also had gotten pick-pocketed by the same people at Diagonal Station. Unfortunately for them, they had their phone stolen out of her purse, and wallet with credit cards out of his pocket.
Not good luck at all. But we accompanied them to the police station to file a police report. Arriving at the station went alright, and we were taking it in good stride ultimately. We weren’t the only ones waiting to file a report either upon arrival.
A translator quickly sorted us out and informed us of what we would end up needing to file a report. It would ultimately be best to just come back the next day to file the report since we did not have all the information with us at the time.
With that in mind we continued on our way to La Sagrada Familia. We had been delayed by about an hour and half but were at least able to continue on our way.
Another twenty minutes passed as we rode the metro towards La Sagrada. The basilica is located at the aptly named La Sagrada Familia station. Coming out, we were greeted with the throngs of tourists we’d become accustomed to.
The immense size of the – still – under construction cathedral is staggering. You can see it from numerous vantage points around the city, yet when you are there it is incomparable. But of course, in order to get inside, you need to get a ticket. To get that ticket you have to stand in line. As with Park Guell, you can pre-order your ticket online, but you will then be held to a specific time slot. We wanted more flexibility with our time management. But it is worth noting that it was November, and not as busy as during the summer.
The line moved quickly enough for us, and cost us €15 each. Once again, it was more than we would have preferred to pay, but we only had a little time in Barcelona and wanted to make the most of it. On top of that though, the funds go towards the continuing construction of the basilica.
Our ticket would allow us to enter about an hour after our purchase time. Although slightly annoying, this actually worked very well in our favor. The delay with getting pick-pocketed had pushed back getting food, so now we had ample time to find something to eat.
One issue we did find in trying to get food, was the fact that we were in a highly touristed spot. All the food was more expensive than it would have been elsewhere. With this in mind, we decided upon sharing a meal somewhere until we could find something else later.
After our meal, it was almost time for us to return to tour La Sagrada Familia. We still had a few minutes though, so we spent this time taking a few pictures from outside and across the street. It was the best way for us to capture the building without a crazy perspective from underneath.
La Sagrada Familia is arguably the most famous landmark within Barcelona. It stands as an exceptional, and utterly unique interpretation of Gothic architecture and art. The facade and nearly every wall and surface is crafted with the utmost detail, with an extremely heavy influence from nature.
Construction of the basilica began in 1882, and guidance was shortly assumed by Gaudi in 1883. Gaudi died long before La Sagrada Familia would see its completion. At this point in time, it is slated to be completed in 2030 or 2032.
As we entered the compound, we were struck by the sheer level of detail present. It seemed that every surface held some biblical figure or story hewn from rock. After nearly 10 minutes of just standing outside the front doors, we then entered the main space.
And it was here that we discovered the extravagant stained glass, tree trunks of marble, and towering ceilings. There is little that can be said that can truly describe just how incredible the interior work is.
We did not get a guided tour – due to price and time – however, if it fits in your budget and time we’d highly recommend it as there is so much detail present, you’d never notice everything on your own.
We were lucky that we got in at the time that we did, which was the late afternoon. The sun was shining quite strongly through the windows, which created a wonderful atmosphere. Had the weather been cloudy, or had we been just a bit later, we would have missed the light show.
As we were heading out, we noticed a small hallway leading away from the bathrooms. We decided to take a look down it and we discovered that there is an entire museum underneath! We would have missed it if we didn’t need to pee!
The museum may not be well advertised, but it is well curated and well designed. It covers the history of La Sagrada, as well as construction techniques, design principles, and influences. When you visit, be sure you don’t skip the museum.
Briana had another stop for us at this point – more churros. These churros were from a small store front but were special because they filled with Nutella, Briana’s favorite. The shop was called Xurreria Trebol. They were very filling and a little bit larger than we expected.
Next, on Briana’s itinerary for us, was to wander our way through Las Ramblas to check out Las Boqueria. We had a bit of a walk ahead of us, but luckily, it was easy to manage and had plenty of sites along the way.
Although by this time, the sun had set and darkness was setting in, there was enough light for us to wander freely through the streets. During this time we passed by several iconic Gaudi buildings. We decided not to go inside these though, since we had already seen quite a few of his designs already. These included Casa Mila, Palau Güell, and Casa Batlló.
We don’t really know where exactly we were, though I think we were in the Gothic Quarter – Briana swears that we didn’t actually make it there. I disagree, but what we can agree on is that we don’t know exactly where we were.
The character of the city changed there though, which is what leads me to think we were in the Gothic Quarter. The alleyways narrowed and the buildings took on a different look. The crowds also began to squeeze tighter than they had previously. We then continued on in search of our next destination – La Boqueria.
The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, or simply La Boqueria, is an open-air public market just off La Rambla. We were lucky to catch it at the time we did, as many of the vendors were still open but just beginning to close up.
At this time, many people had returned home, so we had a good view of the vendors. The vendors still trying to make sales were the fruit smoothies. We had initially thought that we would have only one drink. But as we went along we saw many other smoothie stalls too, and because they were offering deals we ended up with three smoothies – which were all great.
We drank and wandered through the stalls and restaurants.
After roughly a half hour, we left La Boqueria and continued on down towards the waterfront. If you visit Barcelona during the summer, you absolutely should visit the beaches and waterfront. But for us, it was November, and chilly. So we didn’t really have much interest in going to the beach. That didn’t stop us from checking out the waterfront.
We continued along the streets from La Boqueria and found ourselves at a marina and Monument a Colom. At this point, we were really needing to use the bathroom, and were hoping to find a place to charge Briana’s phone so that we could continue to navigate.
Across a bridge within the marina was a large mall that we decided to check out. Unlike other visits to malls while abroad, our main focus here was simply to go to the bathroom. We were unable to charge the phone sadly, but we did get to relieve ourselves.
At this point, we were now ready to head to our final planned destination – Bar Marseille. This little hole in the wall bar is actually quite famous. At nearly 200 years old, it has hosted many famous people including Hemingway, Picasso, and Dali.
It is also notable for serving absinthe. Once a very popular drink in the region, it fell out of favor many years ago, but has since regained popularity amongst some crowds. Today, Bar Marseille is a great place to give it a shot.
While we aren’t big fans of absinthe, we still enjoyed our drink and the atmosphere.
At this point in the evening we decided it was time to head back to our Airbnb. We hopped on the metro and took it up to the nearest metro station to our accommodation. The ride lasted about twenty minutes, and we became aware of our hunger en-route.
We got off the metro one stop past what we had initially intended to. Our thoughts were that we’d rather walk downhill towards our Airbnb than uphill. This decision also turned out to be a good one, because it took us past a bar that we felt comfortable eating in.
The bar – Gran Pino – wasn’t large or heavily packed, but it had a nice little charm to it. We ordered some patatas bravas, croquettas, and fried cheese. All of them were delicious and made for a very nice and filling end to our very busy day. It was also nice, because we got to watch some futbol on the TVs. I don’t know who was playing and we’re not big sports people, but it seemed only appropriate to watch it while eating in a Barcelona bar.
We finished our meal as the game finished, and that seemed to indicate that the bar was closing so we left as well. From there it was only a few minutes walk back to our accommodation.
Our final day, we had originally planned to try to find something to do. But we now had one big issue – filing a police report for the stolen phone. Along with this, we needed to get some cash to pay a taxi for our ride to the airport later. We had intended to take the metro, but after the previous day we thought it best not to carry all our luggage on the train.
So, I set off for the police station while Briana stayed behind to pack everything and make sure we would be ready to go later that evening for our flight to Marrakech.
When we had previously been to the police station, we were told that we could come back to the main station, or file a report at the airport. We had considered doing it at the airport, but thought it might be best to avoid complicating that further. And this was a good choice, but the police station was a much larger endeavor than I had anticipated.
The police station is located right outside of Barcalunya station. Although the station is “closed” on Sundays, there is still a skeleton crew on shift. I met first with a translator and reported the incident – normal expected procedure. They then took my ID to file the report.
I ended up waiting for close to three hours before finally getting the report. During that time, they saw and finished the report for many locals, while putting the other tourists on wait.
Other tourists were a german guy who had his bike helmet stolen and thus could not ride around the city, and numerous Americans / British / English speakers who lost phones – unseen but heard.
I became very impatient and went to the counter to ask about my report and was told to go to the translator – to which I immediately said in broken Spanish that “I already have, and have waited for 2 and half hours.” and then that I had a flight soon and they had my documents. They immediately said sorry, and said “it’s being filed right now”. 15 minutes later they came out with my police report which I signed.
Apparently, phones are found by the police very frequently – every day – in Barcelona and returned regularly. However, when they get returned in another matter, it could be days or even months.
Talking with a guy while I waited during the 3 hours – he was a native reporting an attempted break-in to this home. He said that many people he knew (locals) had been pick-pocketed on the metro, that it was common. He said the police know who many of the thieves are and can spot them on the trains, but they cannot just go up and accuse them without seeing. Also, they only get charged with petty theft if caught, so they just pay a fine or spend a few days in jail – never serving long sentences and are back on the street quickly.
They tried to ban them from using the metro, but the criminals fought a legal battle against the city saying their human rights were being infringed upon by being denied public transportation, so there is little they can do to stop them from repeating the stealing (other than better security).
With the police station out of the way, I returned back to the Airbnb to a worried Briana. Because I didn’t have a way to contact her, she had no idea why I was taking so long. We had expected the whole thing to take maybe an hour, and now the whole day was basically gone.
We had our Airbnb host arrange for a taxi to pick us up and take us to the airport. It went pretty smoothly and was rather uneventful. We quickly checked-in and passed through security and then headed off to our airport lounge.
Now, we normally wouldn’t pay for a lounge – and we didn’t. It is one of the perks of having the Priority Pass – a perk of one of our credit cards – and we have to say we love it. The greatest thing about it really is the comfort of having a safe place to set our stuff and have access to some food. It allowed me to try the cured meats that Barcelona is famous for, but which we would not have gone out of our way to get for me. And then it was off to Morocco!
So while we were definitely derailed by the whole pick-pocket thing, we still really managed to have a great time in Barcelona and look forward to returning. Although we technically had 3 days, it turned out to be more of 2 days in the city. But during this time we managed to:
So even if you only have 2 days in Barcelona, you can still do a lot!