*Note: I wrote this post about two weeks ago but have not had time to add pictures and post it until today! Find out why later this week in another blog post!*
With only four weeks left in my program here in Cannes (queue the waterworks), and the low balance of travel money I had left, I knew I could only take one more trip this semester so I had to make it a good one. So I chose the city I heard multiple people had moved to after only going for a small time span because the city was just so incredible. The city I dreamed of visiting when I saw my favorite childhood girlband strutting down its streets. The city where six friends from different countries could come together and build an incredible life together in L’Auberge Espagnole. That city was Barcelona, Spain. And it was truly one of the most, not dream-like, not crazy, but most captivating cities I have ever visited. I could understand why so many people who went for only a semester, or even 3 weeks, decided to move there. My weekend in Barcelona was filled with blister-and-sore-foot inducing amounts of walking, but also so many different, beautiful sites to see and an enormous amount of culture that I gobbled right up.
My friend and I left Nice at around 10:30 p.m. on Thursday night and got to Barcelona around 11:30 p.m. And – not going to lie – our first night was a little rough. We were deliriously tired and therefore determined to get to our hostel as fast as possible so we immediately went straight to the metro station downstairs to buy T-10 metro passes since we had heard that those particular passes were great. However, maybe it was our crazy fatigue or that they were no longer selling them, but we could not find the T-10 passes so we bought the more expensive 72 hour metro passes. And while I was a little bummed about spending the extra money at first, by the next day, it was not a problem at all because I had gotten so much use out of it. But after buying the passes, it was past midnight and the metro was closed. So we tiredly made our way to the airport-city bus which dropped us near the city center, about a half-mile from our hostel. We walked to our hostel, and checked in smoothly. And our hostel experience was honestly great. Personally, I am always weary of hostels because they have mediocre service and/or weird roommates, especially in mixed gender dorms (I’m looking at you weird men in your 30s with real jobs who can afford actual hotels – stop staying in youth hostels). I have never had a particularly awful experience in a hostel, I mostly just find them to be annoying from time to time, so I had low expectations for this hostel, despite its tremendous reviews on HostelWorld. Yet I was so pleasantly surprised.
We stayed in The Hipstel Hostel and it was a gem. First of all, the architecture on the inside of the building is very antique and cool looking. The reception is 24 hour and all of the employees I interacted with were very nice and accommodating. My friend and I paid for an eight bed mixed gender dorm, however the hostel obviously tries to pair up the genders as best they can because our room ended up being all girls (no weird adult men) and we had a cute little window that overlooked the street below (a little annoying when the wild city nightlife was making a lot of noise, but overall great). So consensus: great hostel!
The next day, after we were well rested, my friend and I headed off to find brunch. Our first stop was a little place called Brunch & Cake, but unfortunately they had a long wait so my friend and I kept walking until we happened upon a little coffee and breakfast shop called Cosmos. And wow did we pick correctly! This tiny little shop had an incredibly simple breakfast menu and yet it was so good. Firstly, the decor in the shop is very artsy and hipster, and secondly the food was amazing. We ordered a combination plate that came with a hard-boiled egg, toast, watermelon, and then various options for two other sides – I chose some brie cheese and avocado. Along with that I also got a matcha latte. And while all of this sounded so simple, it all tasted so rich and amazing – especially the toast with the homemade strawberry jam. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who wants a filling, simple breakfast.
After breakfast we took the metro to the Sagrada Familia, but were bummed to find out that we needed tickets, purchased in advance. However we are not tourists who quit easily so we bought tickets for 6:30 p.m. and decided to kill time doing other touristy things. So first we went to the Arc de Triomphe, which was beautiful and located right by a lovely little park which everyone who visits the Arc should explore. It was a lovely place to take an afternoon stroll and would have been a beautiful place for a picnic as well. If you’re curious as to where to get picnic food, do not worry because La Boqueria market is gigantic and has the most amazing food I ate in Barcelona.
It is located on La Rambla street, which is filled with street performers (but mind the pickpockets!) and artisanal vendors. The market is truly incredible though. They have amazing fruits and smoothies, seafood so fresh that the occasional lobster may escape from its tray on the booth, and a plethora of local spanish cuisine. I got nachos and watermelon (not spanish, I know but this Southern California girl just needed some guacamole) and it was so good. And after we stuffed ourselves silly on local market foods, we casually strolled through the market again before taking the metro back to our hostel to rest for an hour until it was back out on the Barcelona streets again!
We finally made it to the Sagrada Familia which is an incredible piece of architecture that I was in absolute awe of. But let me warn you about something I wish I had been warned about: a basic ticket gets you into the Sagrada Familia however it does not let you climb up the incredible towers, which is what I wanted to do. So when you buy your ticket, make sure you specify that you also want to take the elevator up the towers. But overall, the Sagrada Familia was one of the most beautiful – if not the most beautiful – pieces of architecture I have ever seen, and it’s still not even finished!
Afterwards, we were famished again so we set off in search for a perfect spanish food combo: sangria and tapas. We ended finding this cute little restaurant-bar where mostly locals were eating and ordered a liter of sangria. This place was my favorite place for sangria, too. It was cheap and it tasted the best out of all the sangria I had in Barcelona. It was not too strong and it had orange and lemon slices that made it the perfect amount of citrusy. The tapas were also very good – and we got a whole lot of them for the very reasonable amount that we ended up paying. Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name but if I find it I will add it to this post.
Afterwards, we went back to the hostel to find that they had organized a bar crawl so we decided to join in. And while it was probably fun for some, it was not really our cup of tea. We got a free small beer at the first bar and then a card for a free shot at the second bar but neither my friend nor I are shot people so we gave our cards away and left early because we were exhausted from our busy day around Barcelona. So, like the exciting kids we are, we went back to the hostel and got a full nine hours of sleep.
The next day was also full of exploration. First, we were determined to find good food so we went back to Brunch and Cake, waited for forty-five minutes then were finally seated and it was worth it! I got an amazing tropical smoothie, an iced latte, and a bagel with scrambled eggs, avocado, salmon, and hummus. It was a great meal for a fair price. Then we walked to the Metro station and took the metro to the Park Guell, only to have the same thing that had happened to us the day before happen again – we needed tickets in advance to get into the park. So we bought our tickets for the next available time, which was at 6:30 p.m. again, and then took the metro to the port where we saw the statue of Christopher Columbus pointing toward America, admired the beautiful bay, and then walked down La Rambla, which was on an adjacent street.
So, of course, we went back to the market for a small lunch. In the market they actually have these mini restaurants where you just find a stool at the bar in front of their booth and they serve you. So we ordered more sangria, calamari, and I got myself an oyster. All of it was amazing and probably the best seafood that I had while in Barcelona. Then we bought some candies for later and took the metro back to the Park Guell because it was finally 6:00 p.m.
The park was amazing and definitely my favorite sight to see on our trip. It was filled with greenery, incredible architecture, and stunning artistry. From the little balcony in the park, there is the most incredible view of the Barcelona skyline that I could have stared at for hours. We walked around the park, in awe of its beauty, eating the candies we bought from La Boqueria market, for a good hour or so then left for the beach.
We did not actually go to the beach, though. We took the metro to the Barceloneta beach and ended up just grabbing a dinner (more tapas and sangria) by the water. Dinner was also excellent, although I did not enjoy the sangria quite as much as the previous day’s, and afterwards we took the metro back to the hostel where we went to bed because we had an early 7:20 a.m. flight the next morning.
So my last trip was amazing and I would suggest traveling to Barcelona to everyone who studies abroad in Europe – or just as an incredible city to visit in general. Between its fruity sangrias, remarkable architecture, and fun culture, Barcelona will definitely captivate everyone who visits.