When my friend asked me late last year if I wanted to join her on a trip to Barcelona I did not hesitate. Not only had I been fascinated by the city I visited over 20 years ago for just one day, but also had I received more and more client requests for this area. Movies like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the fact that Barcelona is a major departure port for Mediterranean cruises has increasingly put the city on a map. Trust me, the trip and city did not disappoint!
Despite it being early spring (mid-March) the temperatures were fairly comfortable and the weather quite good. Although it is considered off-season, the city was packed with tourists from Europe, particularly lots of student groups.
Barcelona has come a long way in its recent years. It is a very creative and passionate place. Despite its multicultural appearance few English is spoken and we found ourselves in quite a few funny situations.
One of the main challenges are the streets and numbers. Once you find your path thru the maze of streets and squares, success is not guaranteed, as house number do not follow any particular rule. Sometimes number 3 is next to number 550, and some buildings have no numbers at all. We quickly learnt that the key to success was knowing your cross streets.
There are lots of things to see and do in Barcelona. The main attractions, e.g. Sagrada Familia, Balto House, Picasso museum, Guell Park can be visited in 1 to 2 days. Apart from these wonderful sites, Barcelona is famous for its phenomenal nightlife.
Taking advantage of our jet lag (EST – 6 hours behind) it was easy for us to go to dinner at 9pm and then check out the different bars and locales. Some of the coolest things we did was eating Calçots at Can Xurrades and then strolling the Gracia neighborhood, famous for it bars and restaurants where you can find locals and expatriates mingle until the early morning. We also went to the Aire de Barcelona, an old restored Roman hammam (bathhouse) for a 10pm to midnight session. It was fairly strange to receive a 10pm massage and then soak in different baths until midnight. What was even weirder, is that some people came in at midnight and stayed until 2am. Another event not to miss is an evening of Flamenco, we were enchanted by the performers at Palau de Musica.
In addition to Barcelona itself there are a few easy day trips that you can do. My top would be Sitges. It is a small picturesque town along the coast which can be reached in about 30 minutes by train from Barcelona. Sitges is a very cute town with excellent shops and a very nice beachfront where you will find plenty of restaurants to sit outside and soak up the sun. Some of the best Paella is served at Cal Pinxo.
There would be much more to tell but I think everybody should make their own experience. However, these are my main tips and conclusions:
- Getting from the airport to town is easy and takes about 30 minutes. The cab is probably the most convenient way and at EUR 30 reasonably priced. Know where you go though as language can be an issue.
- Cab fares are generally low and offer a great way to get around town particularly for shorter distances. The subway is EUR 2 per person/way and if you are only going 2 stops a cab for 2 is usually equal to that (EUR 4).
- Study your map before you go and know where you want to go. It will come in handy.
- Barcelona is generally safe, even at night. We walked around a lot, even late at night and had no issues. The only place I felt unsafe was walking the beach front between Hotel Arts and the W at night. Everybody will warn you about pick pocketing. Keep your purses close and make sure they are zipped close.
- Try to get off the beaten tourist path. It is so worth it. Not only are you going to have much more fun (the Spanish are super friendly and fun) but you are also going to pay way less.
- Spaniards are passionate. There is a lot of public display of affection.
- Make friends with some English speaking locals and have them give you tips. Alberto Jimenez at the Mandarin Oriental and Jordi Baldó from the Soho Hotel both proved to be great resources.
- Know your cross streets and do not rely on the cab driver to know your hotel and its location.
- Try Cava. This Spanish sparkling wine is delicious, inexpensive and there are lots and lots of different brands to try.
- It is not always easy to find “free wi-fi”. That being said, if you heavily rely on it, pick a hotel that offers wi-fi.Posted by: Stefanie Pichonnat can be reached at 812-917-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org