Barcelona. What can I say really is that as soon as we arrived I didn’t want to leave the city. I’ve never seen a place so full of culture, passion, amazing food and great people, from 360 hostel, from all over the place. It was truly a spectacle. But I could go on for days about what we got up to in this wonderful city, so I’ll sum it down to 6 must-sees in Barcelona if you ever get the privilege to go.
1. Beach Volleyball & La Plage Barcelona
I never realised how the Catalan people were so into playing their beach sports, but then after discovering the many beaches at the east of the city, then you see a completely different side to the city, a sportier and slightly competitive side even between strangers! Myself and some others from the 360 went down and grabbed a net, found a ball and played solidly for about 2 hours – soon realising that beach sports are EXTREMELY tiring due to the amount of effort to change direction – but even with our fatigue, uniting random people together through such a fun sport was one of the best experiences. La Plage Barcelona was the highlight beach, with copious amounts of all sorts of different people doing one of two things; relaxing or swimming. For a man made beach, the waves that came through had a decent amount of force, the water was so refreshing on a hot dry day. However make sure you don’t wonder too far down the beach to the nudist section if you’re not comfortable with that sort of stuff, as Paddy and I discovered when we wondered down to find something to eat, and all we saw was sausage and veg.
2. Arc de Triomf
With it being literally around the corner from our hostel, the arc soon became one of our chill spots. You could spend hours just chilling in the grassy areas across from the arc, or just travelling up and down from the beauty of the arc to the giant floor map of the city on the other side. But what stole the show as well as the arc, are what we decided to name The Amazing Bubblemen. At around 1pm everyday, this family of bubble-blowers would erupt onto the arc scene with their rope and basin, and honestly I’ve never seen so much joy brought to people than seeing giant bubbles majestically floating through the sky. Families, tourists, locals, dog-walkers alike all stop to admire the display, and it’s one you can really get up close and personal with also, they don’t mind people having a go with the rope, I’d definitely say to give it a try for something a bit different.
Even in the evenings/early morning, around the arc is always full of people chilling on the seats or having midnight picnics with friends. What we soon discovered also is that there were regular ‘drink businessmen’ who would offer you a can of Estrella for €1. We took full advantage of this opportunity and soon found ourselves reminiscing on past times whilst making the new. The arc was very much a point where you could really feel yourself.
3. La Rambla
I know it’s one of the main tourist places in Barcelona, but there’s definitely a reason for it, it’s absolutely magical. All the shops, and wee cafes and restaurants on each side of the spaced out road had something for everyones taste in terms of food, fashion and fun. With the trees canopying inside footpath from either side it felt like you were going to stride into a forbidden forest. The side markets are something I would definitely recommend, but note keep your wits about you. The markets were amazing with smoothie bars, delicatessen meat wraps, and much rustic Catalan offerings in the markets, but the tight vicinities make it a pickpocket hotspot, I’m not saying don’t enjoy yourself, but just keep yourself wary.
Other than that, you could honestly stroll down La Rambla a dozen times and still find new places to go on either side of the street, you get lost in the quantity of originality from all of the independent boutiques, mixed in the with corporate ones. I wish I had spent more time exploring what it had to offer as we only popped into a couple independent shops and a Starbucks to keep us going for the day, as there was so much left to explore. And with the original ‘raise the roof’ Buddha finding made the day.
4. La Sagrada Famillia
Even with poor pre-planning, as we biked to SF in order to fit in everything we wanted to do in that day, we weren’t allowed inside with our bikes to explore the inside, however even from the exterior, the grandness and the sheer rustic presence of SF was purely mesmerising, you’re really able to appreciate the architecture in Barcelona with this being a prime example. The park directly next to SF made it even better to be able to stroll around the nature-infused city and take in the site to behold in front of us. Not having bike locks to even secure them and then head inside was a major, probably the major flaw in the time we spent in Barcelona, but it gives us a more than good enough reason to go back to Barcelona, amongst so many others.
5. Get a bike, and just explore the city
With designated cycles highways all around the city, it costs next to no money to rent bikes as the bays are literally everywhere. It saves time to get around and there’s nothing quite like the whizzing by of a busy city to really get you into the mood for exploring. The cycle routes themselves even have their own traffic light systems that coincide with the pedestrian and regular traffic, making it super safe to travel on cycle. The best part was seeing how many other cyclists were around and how friendly they all were, many random conversations were had with other cyclists, however brief they may’ve been as they people often peeled off in different directions.
Cycling allowed for us to be able to either search for somewhere specific we were looking for, or just to explore and see what we found, which worked rather well in terms of looking for food, as there were an abundance of either food stalls, cafes or small restaurants that stretched far and wide, it was just a matter of stopping, locking up the bikes, and wondering in.
6. Barcelona Marina
Just up from the the main Barcelona beach is the marina that 1) Has a giant shopping centre within that has every fashionistas main wants that they could possibly imagine 2) Great affordable food either in the centre, or through pop-up stalls along the marina & 3) the biggest and most beautiful shipyard I’ve ever had the fortune of seeing. The quantity and sheer divineness of all the boats, whether they were sailing, motor or yachts, added a certain sophistication to the marine side of the city. With there being a yacht that could’ve been the size of around 2 houses, that had a whole crew that lived inside the yacht itself to maintain it showed that it would’ve cost an extremely pretty penny. However, with the aquamarine tech aside, there were also loads of street acts playing along the marina, from funky saxophonists to contemporary dancers which had tastes of all different cultures. And with many palm-treed grassy areas to sit and chill it made for the perfect way to stay out of the scorching midday sun.
This wasn’t all that we got up to on the trip, but these were most definitely the highlights I have to say, amongst that was the amazing catalan cuisine, where going into small bistros was a major benefit as the food tasted amazing and the prices were cheaper than you’d think. I honestly didn’t want to leave Barcelona once we got to our hostel, the city feels like an organism, as in the entire place is so alive all the time in day or night. For anyone who’s had that ‘on the fence’ moment of wanting to go to Barcelona. DO IT. Even if it were a long weekend or for a couple days, there’s so much you can do. I was only there for 4 days but I could honestly see myself in the future either living there, or more likely buying a time-share in a flat in the suburbs as a regular destination to visit in my spare time. Barcelona, in a word, was magical.