Barcelona was the first stop on my first ever trip to Spain, and first ever trip to Europe!
Thursday: $270 RT Flight & our first taste of “Spain Time”
We started the trip with our amazing error fare flights $270 rt from NYC to Barcelona. No – not a typo! We scoured Secret Flying until we found an error fare and pounced.
We got to our airbnb around 6 and settled in, thinking we’d have perfect timing for dinner. Wrong. As we walked and tried to chose a place for dinner, we realized the local time for dinner wasn’t just a suggestion – when they said dinner is at 10, they meant it.
However, we did stumble on what ended up being a great restaurant. We at Louis 1856, which is a restaurant run by the Moritz brewery. I must have eaten half a dozen Spanish omelets while in Spain, but Moritz’s by far was the best.
Friday: The Beauty of Timed Tickets & A Flexible Schedule
New York City is packed at 6 am, people grumbling on their way to work, grabbing coffee from a food cart and sprinting for the subway. Barcelona couldn’t have been more opposite. We woke up to find people leisurely sipping coffees and eating croissants. I can’t say I missed the sense of urgency and general resting bitch face that plagues New York City.
La Sagrada Familia
We walked to La Sagrada Familia, walking on Passeig de Gracia to see Casa Batilo and some of the other Gaudi architecture. The sidewalk was mobbed, and the line to enter looked to be over an hour. Listening in on a tour guide explaining the building, we decided the exteriors were enough, and we’d get our fill of Gaudi with his more impressive work, La Sagrada Familia.
When researching La Sagrada, I saw options for advanced online ticketing, but didn’t realize the tickets were more a necessity, not just a recommendation. La Sagrada Familia was sold out for the day – when you have only 48 hours to spend in a place, little wrinkles like this can ultimately cause you to miss a sight.We bought our tickets for the following day, and changed our plans for the day.
I advise buying the tickets for the audio guides. I’m probably going to talk about audio guides a lot here, so I want to establish something: I LOVE AUDIO GUIDES. La Sagrada is visually treat, architectural eyecandy, but without context, it remains just that. The audio guides (available in English and a few other languages) gave the history lesson I didn’t know I needed leaving my eyes free to devour the sights.
You also can buy tickets for one of La Sagrada’s towers. From up top, you get stunning panoramic views of the city. It’s an elevator up and a crazy twisting staircase down, so don’t worry about hiking up 30 stories.You can buy all of those in a package to save money.
With La Sagrada Familia booked for the next day, we decided to spend the afternoon on La Rambla, shopping and enjoying tapas at a café.
I’m very well versed in street performers and costumed character as I’ve been working in Times Square in NYC for 3 years now. However, those performers have NOTHING on LA Rambla ones.
We walked down toward the docks and the water, and just enjoyed the weather. As I said, i’m a sucker for a water front. For dinner, I crossed eating seafood paella off my bucket list. The verdict: Incredible.
Saturday – Don’t sprain your ankle on a walking-heavy trip
The next morning, I got up early to run. The best part about running on vacation is that you get to see miles extra of the city in a short period of time.
I ran from our Airbnb near Plaza Catalunya, down La Rambla and then down the entire beach and back (6 miles). Somehow at 8 am, the only people up were my fellow runners. I wasn’t sure if i’d be able to fit the waterfront into our 48 hours, so fortunately I got to see it. Unfortunately, I sprained my ankle gawking at the buildings, and had to buy a brace for the rest of the walking-heavy trip. Not my most graceful or well-timed time injury.
After icing that damn ankle of mine, we hopped on the subway to Parc Guell. There is a bus which drops you closer to the entrance, but the route from the subway was infinitely cooler. We ended up taking the longest set of escalators built into a huge hill. However, not every part had an escalator, so there was a bit of hill climbing involved (great for a person with a sprained ankle).
You then wind through Parc Guell, climbing old aqueducts and meandering through gardens. I found myself wishing we had brought food for a picnic.
Unfortunately, the mosaic and art of Parc Guell is also a timed ticket, and with our luck, was sold out for the day. Though we could peak over the ledge, it was a shame to miss the colorful mosaic work that the park is known for, especially after hiking up all those hill to see it.
The Beach (part 2)
At that point, my ankle was throbbing and I couldn’t walk well, so I split from my friends who wanted to walk more and I headed back to the beach – this time, to lay there. I don’t know if I would have made the beach an all day event, but relaxing after 3 straight days of being on the go was just what the doctor ordered.
My friends ended up staying in the airbnb for the evening, so I was on my own to explore. I found a restaurant on the boardwalk, where I took out a book and spent the next 3 hours reading and ordering tapas. I had Catalonian style Octopus and a giant bowl of olives. Things that should happen in america: big bowls of olive as a standard menu item.
After 48 hours, I was sure there was more to see, but it would have to wait for another time.
The Useful stuff:
Why it works for Cheap Traveling:
Compared to traveling in cities such as London, Paris or NYC, everything is so cheap! Meals would be $15 or less for huge amounts of food. Wine would be 4 euro or less. The public transit is amazing, making getting around the city by bus/subway preferable and cost-effective. There are ample hostels and AirBNBs to stay in. We found a gorgeous, clean airbnb in the center of the city for $30 a night per person. This also gave us a kitchen to keep snacks and water in, so we could save money there. Also, with the exception of a few key items, most activities we did were FREE!
Buy timed tickets in advance for La Sagrada Familia & Parc Guell, even if it’s “off-season”. For La Sagrada, also purchase the audio tour and the tower tour. For just $10 more you get such an enhanced experience.
Stay off a big subway station – Plaza Catalunya was extremely convenient so everything we did, including a $5 airport shuttle. We bought the tickets from the tourist desk at the airport – the man spoke great English and gave us all the tips we needed for navigating the city.
If you are traveling with a group, do an AirBNB. With all the walking we did, it was nice to come back to our own place as opposed to a hostel.
BUY WATER BOTTLES – you can not drink the tap water in Barcelona. Restaurants will charge for glass bottles of water. Large water bottles are 90 cents and worth lugging them around instead of paying $3-4 at a restaurant. You can also ask for glasses carafes of water – some places will do this for cheaper than individual bottles.
A big thank you to Sophie & Becca for their photos (girls know how to rock a DSLR) – due to my stolen phone, their pictures are all I have.
Pin it with the image below!