Let me start out by saying that I visited Barcelona knowing absolutely nothing about it-- not even a picture in my head. Somehow, I'd never seen a picture of Barcelona anywhere-- on TV, in history books, in magazines, anywhere. I was never into the Cheetah Girls, so I missed out on that movie where they all go to Spain and do whatever Cheetah Girls do. My boyfriend insisted that we add Barcelona to the list of cities we were going to visit over the summer. So, with a hint of reluctance, I agreed to travel to Spain. Needless to say, for an entire five days, my sheltered self was AMAZED. Barcelona quickly became number 1 on my list of favorite cities, and I'm already looking forward to going back.
For anyone wanting or planning to visit this beautiful city, here are the lessons I learned on my trip, and I hope you'll learn a few things as well!
1. Tapas are my BAE. These fun-sized dishes are sold at restaurants and bars and they're to die for. Pasta salad, tuna tartar, fried calamari, patatas bravas (my personal fave) are some examples of the tapas I had there. Not to mention, they're pretty cheap since they're so small! The first tapas I ordered was pasta salad, and it was legitimately the best pasta salad I've ever had.
2. Gaudi is everywhere. I mean it when I say this city is positively stunning. The work of the famous architect Antoni Gaudi is well-established throughout Barcelona, and you will find his unique architecture everywhere you turn. This helps to create a similar style and vibe for the entire city, which I absolutely loved, as a die-hard aesthete. The first thing I saw when I stepped out of the subway and onto the streets of Barcelona was Gaudi's famous Casa Mila. My first sight of Barcelona pretty much predicted how the rest of my time spent there would play out: Me falling in love with everything I see, everywhere I go.
3. Park Guell is totally worth the money. This beautiful park created by Antoni Gaudi has two parts, an unrestricted area open to the public, and a Monumental area you need to buy a ticket for. The person who recommended we go to the park told us about the option to buy a ticket, and they said it wasn't worth it. After seeing how cheap the tickets were (7 euros per person), we decided to get tickets anyway, and thank goodness that we did. The Monumental area of the park was absolutely magical-- we were able to see so much more of the park, and standing at the top of the mountain gave us an extraordinary view of Barcelona.
4. There is a large statue of a cross at the outskirts of Park Guell. Not a lot of people know about it, since it isn't advertised anywhere around the park or at the entrance. We spotted it while looking around the mountain that the park resides on, and we decided to try to hike there. We couldn't find any signage or marked trails, but we followed the one trail leading out of the park, and it luckily led us to the cross. I'm not the most religious person, but sitting there and watching the sun set over Barcelona was such a peaceful and romantic experience.
5. Stay away from Barceloneta during peak seasons. Barceloneta is the neighborhood where city's most famous beach is at, but you can barely see it when beach-goers are packed side-by-side like sardines. Now, I'm no stranger to crowded beaches-- the Jersey Shore is my second home-- but since the Barceloneta beach is so small, there is little space on the sand for everyone to fit. There were also a ton of people trying to sell things, and they do not care if they step on your towel or right over your feet. Ah, the tourism industry at its finest. Also, if you aren't used to nude bathers, you should prepare yourself. While it's not common in the U.S., it is very common in Europe.
6. You will be eating seafood at least every day... if not every meal. Barcelona is a beach town, so seafood dominates nearly every menu at each restaurant we came across. The most common seafood meal you could order is Paella, a rice dish that contains seafood and sometimes other meat, and you can't leave Barcelona without ordering it at least once or twice. Unfortunately, as much as I love seafood, I did start to get sick of it by the end of the week.
7. Exploring the lesser-known parts of the city is just as fun as visiting the famous attractions. I was lucky enough to meet up with an old friend living in Barcelona, and she showed us around the city to the spots that tourists don't know about it. The Bunkers del Carmel gave us a beautiful view of the city, and we had a chill night at The Black Sheep, an underground bar, popular among college students and backpackers.
8. Thieves are not everywhere in Barcelona. The first thing I was told when I talked about traveling to Barcelona was to be careful. I heard stories of expensive bags and jackets getting stolen, and how thieves cut the bottom of bags to let its contents fall into their hands. That freaked me out significantly, so I made sure I was super cautious of my surroundings all the time. Alas, I felt completely safe in Barcelona wherever we went-- even safer than I felt during my trip to Paris! (I'll write about my experience in Paris, eventually.)
9. Las Ramblas is a great place to do some touristy shopping, but not a great place to eat. This pedestrian-only street is lined with small shops and markets, many of which sell the typical touristy treasures that you can bring home to friends and family. Since most of the people that go here are tourists, the prices in restaurants are a lot higher than they would be if they weren't at Las Ramblas. Think of it as trying to find somewhere to eat in the middle of Times Square. You gotta admit, most of those restaurants are tourist-traps. So, while it may be worth it to pick up a few souvenirs, you don't want to stop for a bite while you're there.
10. Sangria is always a must. Sangria is a popular Spanish drink consisting of red wine, chopped up fruit, and usually fruit juice or spice. Although this drink isn't native to Barcelona, it is made exceptionally well there, and is served at most restaurants and bars. I'm not even a big wine drinker, but I must've ordered a glass of sangria with every meal I had in Spain... #noragrets.