Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Barcelona: Post 1 of Many
research told us there's lots to do, so we devoted 2014's longest trip to the capital city of Catalonia! Nine days provided plenty of time to leisurely explore the city and take a couple day trips. Although we still couldn't possible do everything we wanted in our time there. Which means we'll be back!
Below is a quick rundown of the basic logistics of the trip and how we spent our time and money in Barcelona. Our budget was approximately $3,000, which we stayed within (keep in mind we were flying from within Europe). Everything was so inexpensive in Barcelona! I'll be devoting the next few blog posts to more specifics and reviews.
Travel and Lodging in Barcelona
We flew to Barcelona on Iberia, operated by Vueling, direct from Zurich for $209 each roundtrip. This was our first experience with Iberia and Vueling. We were thrilled to have one checked bag each included in the price, but were disappointed that no complimentary refreshments were served on board the plane. I'd clearly take the checked bag over free peanuts and coke, but we flew at dinner time both ways and I was hangry by the end of the flight. Matt can vouch for the fact that hangry Becky is The. Worst. Also, flights ran late both ways. It's always tough to tell who is truly at fault. This time, the airline blamed French air traffic controller strikes.... Thanks, France.
We stayed at Hotel del Mar, Barcelona for $125/night. Finding a decently priced hotel in Barcelona during tourist season was, unsurprisingly, a chore. Hotel del Mar was a deal, but also a risk based on very mixed online reviews. We didn't anticipate spending much time in our hotel, so we crossed our fingers and booked anyway. Overall, Hotel del Mar was exactly what we expected. The room was tiny and a bit worse for the wear. The cable and television barely worked and I had to buy a blow dryer because the bathroom's built in blow dryer was baffling and ineffective. Also, bring your own shampoo and conditioner; they were not provided. But the room was was clean, the bed was comfortable enough and the location couldn't be beat! We were a block from both El Born and Barri Gothic, a block from the Metro, and a 10 minute walk to Barceloneta, the beach and La Rambla. We recommend Hotel del Mar only for the low-maintenance traveler looking for a great location at a reasonable price.
This is a rough breakdown of how we spent our time. It *almost* follows the plan I made before we left.
Day 1: Our flight arrived late the night before, so we began our day bright and early with a walk to the beach and around the beachside neighborhood of Barceloneta. The afternoon and evening were spent exploring Barri Gothic and La Rambla, and generally getting our bearings around town.
Day 2: We attempted to beat the crowds to Sagrada Familia and took a self-guided architecture walking tour through Eixample before spending the afternoon at the beach and evening at a late night shopping festival on the Diagonal.
Day 3: A highlight of our trip was the six-hour Culinary Backstreets tour, followed by an evening visit to the Picasso Museum.
Day 4: Montserrat, a nearby multi-peak mountain with a well-known monastery, was an easy day trip. We returned to Barcelona in time for a nighttime Ghost Tour.
Day 5: We began our day at the beach, spent the afternoon exploring El Born and evening on Montjuic with a fantastic sunset picnic and the beautiful Magic Fountain of Monjuic.
Day 6: With a beautiful city beach just ten minutes by foot from our hotel, it was hard NOT to spend every day there. Our sixth day was another beach day followed by an evening at the beachside casino.
Day 7: Sitges, a nearby beach resort town, was another easy day trip followed by a late night on the beach packed with locals celebrating Nit de Sant Joan.
Day 8: Another early morning to beat crowds at Gaudi's Parc Guell, followed by walk through Eixample, one more walk down La Rambla and an evening shopping trip to the nearby Maremagnum Mall.
Day 9: Our last day, a little more than half a day before our flight, was spent revisiting a few favorites spots, including a tasty lunch, walks through Barri Gothic and El Born, and a visit to the Merkat Santa Maria for souvenirs.
Stayed tuned for more details about Barcelona and lots and lots of pictures!!