the catalan capital might be known for its art and architecture, but there’s a hella lot i wish i knew before embarking on a 4 night, 1* hotel, city break.
get to know gaudi
antoni gaudi was the master of modernism, and whilst it’s very fair to say that i know diddly squat about architecture, it’s pretty easy to intuitively spot a gaudi masterpiece. as the creator of fairy-tale-esque buildings (park guell is a dream, and casa batllo is breathtaking) which undoubtedly make the cut for the perfect instagram post, his work definitely deserves admiration and a place on your itinerary. even his incomplete (incredible) sagrada familia manages to be crowned the most-visited monument in spain so, get a crinked neck, and be amazed by his voluptuous textures, vivid colour and characteristic forms.
book book book
it’s known that we brits like to queue, but i’m sure we all have our limits. arriving at the sagrada familia at 11am to be told by a very agitated tourist information advisor that the next entry into the basilica is at 7.30pm is certainly not ideal. to avoid walking 20,000 steps in primark sandals and 27-degree heat… book those tickets online in advance.
comfort over style from here on out
we’ve probably all laughed at our parents’ choice of ‘sensible’ footwear but hell, give me those walking trainers with the neon sides over thin strappy sandals any day. my five days in barcelona (and 20 odd blisters, bruises, aching feet and crooked walk) have truly changed my perception on shoes. unless you want to walk like you’ve soiled yourself, struggle to wiggle your toes and stare in awe at others strolling pain free and casually – get yourself a pair of memory foam trainers, be sure they’re the right choice and pack a shit-ton of plasters. Then still take a couple of hours to relax on Barceloneta beach, maybe grab an eyescream and friends whilst you’re at it.
the metro is not scary, the metro is our friend
i for one am a nervous wreck when it comes to public transport, my organisation skills crumble and screenshots of the route appear in my camera roll. getting the metro from the airport was surprisingly easy and the routes are certainly less complicated than first anticipated. stupidly, I avoided the metro for the care-free ‘let’s walk and see what we see!’ attitude, which resulted in having to sit down in the shower from foot pain and pulling a muscle on the way up. the metro takes you right outside the landmarks, is cheap and is simple to navigate – for your feet’s sake, make use of it.
bread, hummus, crisps and strawberries…
i always wanted to visit the magic fountain of montjuic and boy did it live up to its name. the hour-long spectacular displays light, water (obvs) and colour to a very strange variety of music i must admit. from wonderwall, to bruno mars and authentic spanish tunes, the magic fountain attracts 1000s of tourists. as street performers entertain the crowds beforehand, and located in beautiful green surroundings, it calls for a picnic. head to the supermarkets, or the street markets on the ramblas, grab some snacks and drink, get the best spot for the show, and enjoy the atmosphere and delicious cheese platter.
beer is tempting, beer is also illegal
exploring central barcelona is exciting, but also very tiring. you might think to yourself that a refreshing can of estrella seems satisfying, but not when it can also come along with a fine from angry police. locals will try and sell cans of beer in the streets and although tempting, it is illegal to drink in public places. drinking in the streets is forbidden, but go get a beer from a local bar anyway.
if you’re wondering what blanket sellers are, they don’t actually sell blankets but they do sell keyrings, those fake nike shoes, novelty cock bottle openers and useless items like lights you catapult into the sky and break on the fifth try. it is also illegal to purchase any of the ‘goods’ displayed in the streets on these blankets and police will fine on the spot. first, think long and hard whether the product is even worth your euros which could contribute towards a pitcher of sangria, if yes – then visit a souvenir shop. €102 for a magnet would not be cool.
people watching is free and also very fun
sit in catalonia square, take a stroll up the ramblas, take a seat outside the cathedral and people watch. people watching made our trip, and is quite frankly the best entertainment. the tourists and locals both provide drama, comedy and anticipation: if you’re having hollyoaks withdrawals, sit back and watch confusion over maps and failing selfie taking. Barcelona is even one of the largest networks of free internet in Europe, there’s over 1,970 hotspots in the city so you’ll be able to update your facebook friends for free, too.
Words by Yasemin Gumushan