Traveling to Spain has always been on the top of my wanderlust list. In October, my mom and I stopped over in Barcelona, Spain for a few days before making our way over to Amsterdam. Finally, one of my international travel dreams has come true. Barcelona is known for its beautiful avant garde architecture. Thanks to the brilliance of Antony Gaudi and his understanding of nature it is a sight to see. But most importantly, Barcelona is famous for their food.
See my trip to Barcelona in under four minutes:
Review of Barcelona’s Oasis Hotel
We took the bus from the airport to the Placa Espanya. We lucked out that my mom still had Euros from her previous trip to Italy in February. The public transportation only accepts Euros, and the price is a bit high so make sure to exchange some money before leaving the airport. We got off the bus at Placa Espanya and took a city bus to the closest bus stop to our hotel. We used Apple maps to figure out what bus to take and at what time. Hotel Oasis was a short walk from the bus stop so we knew we were in a central location.
Upon checking in and walking the staircase up to our room, we were concerned that our room was next door to the patio bar. Being the numnut that I am I convinced my mom it wasn’t a problem since October isn’t a high tourist season. I was wrong. That first night it was like sleeping in a nightclub. I was just happy that I finally got my own bed, after sharing a bed with my mom in our apartment in Croatia.
We noticed that the Bus Tourista (tourist bus that picks you up and drops you off around the city) had a stop just across the street from our hotel. We purchased Bus Tourista passes from the front desk for a 10 euro discount.
Just remember to bring the whole packet with you when you board the bus because you can’t get your discount without one of the flyers inside the packet.
We used the Bus Tourista to get us around through our 3-day trip.
What to eat in Barcelona, Spain
When you only have 3 days in Barcelona, it may feel like a race against time to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. You are totally right. You have to be ready to eat often and even when you are not that hungry. Prior to visiting Barcelona, I made a quick list of things I needed to try:
- Patatas bravas
Let’s just say I wasn’t able to find all of these on the menus. I was especially bummed that I didn’t see churros on ANY of the menus at the restaurants I visited.
Here are a few of the places I ate at in Barcelona:
Let’s just say my spotty Spanish abilities left my mom and I eating things we did not intend on ordering. The first day in Barcelona, two out of the three orders I tried to make in spanish came back incorrect. On the second day I decided to strictly speak English because it beats having to pay 15 euros for something you didn’t intend on ordering. On the plus side, one time we got the grilled prawns instead of squid and it was delicious.
Spanish olives were my absolute favorite. Even more than the jabon, I ordered spanish olive tapas at every meal. They are drastically less salty than anything you would get in a jar in America.
I couldn’t go without trying as much paella as possible. I think I ate paella about four times, the first time I had mariscos paella, then chicken paella, and arros negra (aka squid ink paella).
If there is any reason to travel anywhere, it’s to explore the cuisines of other countries. Some people travel for the music scenes, the architecture, or the history, but I travel for the food. I wish I had more time to explore the less touristy areas of Barcelona, and do what my favorite chef suggests: “go to the last stop on the subway.” But all the food was so good I couldn’t tell if I was just being caught in a tourist restaurant trap or if what I was eating was actually authentic.
I turned to the restaurants fellow diners to find out if the restaurant was good. The more people speaking Spanish, the better chance I felt I had at picking a Barcelona winner.
What to see in Barcelona, Spain
When you only have a few days in one of the most beautiful cities you have to prioritize where you go and what you see. I feel like you need to visit a country multiple times to really understand the food, culture, history and the people. Hence, this Eurotrip full of two or three-day trips is what I would consider a tourist trip. For a first time, short trip, seeing the city’s main historical attractions was top priority.
Park Guell was my second favorite Antony Gaudi site I visited in Barcelona. The park is an impressive work of functional art that it’s kind of a shame you have to pay to view. I understand why UNESCO protects this beautiful park, as hoodlums these day would probably ruin it in no time. But there’s something about using nature to build a masterpiece that seems unnatural to not let everyone see it.
The park is covered in musical artists showcasing their talents and utilizing the acoustics in several areas. You can see some of the musical talents of Barcelona’s art scene in my Youtube video. The view from the tallest point in the park gives you a spectacular view of the city. Face your fear of heights and walk up the narrow little stairway to the top of the rock spire. It’s totally worth it.
This was our first Antony Gaudi stop on our Gaudi tour of Barcelona. La Padrera was built as a residential building for some of Barcelona’s elite. Now, La Padrera is a a well crafted beautiful office complex. Boy are the people who work there lucky. To be able to work from inside a piece of living art that people from all over the world flock to.
This one of the few times in my tourist-life that I actually purchased a audio guided tour to better understand Gaudi’s history and inspiration. The audio guided tours are actually really enjoyable. You listen at your own pace and the headphones kind of make it feel like you are taking a tour alone. I learned a lot about Gaudi’s life, inspiration and history.
I wish I would have visited Casa Battlo before paying to tour La Padrera. After taking the tour of La Padrera, I realized if I wanted to continue on my Eurotrip without having to dig through the trash for food, I could not keep spending 30-40 euros per entry. Casa Battlo was my favorite residence building that architect Antony Gaudi designed. The color of the building and bone inspired exterior really makes you do a double-take when driving around on the tourist bus.
My recommendation for people taking a short trip in Barcelona, utilizing the Bus Tourista, is to walk between La Padrera and Casa Battlo. Or, get off at Casa Battlo before continuing on to La Padrera. Otherwise, you have to take the bus route all the way around to see Casa Battlo, which could be hours. Apparently, Casa Battlo looks really beautiful at night. Unfortunately, my tight schedule did not permit me to double back to see it lit up.
La Sagrada Familia
I’ve been to churches all over Europe. I’ve been so small churches, I’ve been to big churches, I’ve been to mosques, I’ve been to monasteries, but I have never been to a church a beautiful as La Sagrada Familia. I repeat, this is the most beautiful church I have ever been to in my years of travel. Before visiting the La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, my top spot was held by Il Duomo di Firenze in Florence, Italy.
Il Duomo di Firenze and La Sagrada Familia are the only two historic buildings that I can say took my breath away. La Sagrada Familia is your chance to really see what natural architect Antony Gaudi had in store. Imagine if he lived past 1926 and continued to construct things beyond La Sagrada Familia.
I highly suggest buying a ticket to go inside. You can buy them at the door, but will be subject to the time slots they have available. If you only purchase a ticket to go inside one Gaudi creation, make it La Sagrada Familia.
Sagrada Familia tip: BUY YOUR TICKET ONLINE! You are not guaranteed entry just because you try and buy a ticket at the door. Sagrada Familia sells tickets by time slot, there is a good chance you will be forced to come back another day.
Museum Nacional d’ Art de Catalunya
By the time you get through all the beautiful Gaudi sites, you will be overwhelmed by Barcelona’s art history. Hop on the hop-on-hop-off bus (Bus Tourista) and take it to Placa Espanya. There is a lovely mall in the circle, and the museum sits up at the top of the hill outlined in a large road of columns. When you walk up the steps to the museum you get to see Barcelona from a higher angle. When my mom and I went to visit, there was no one in the museum’s park so it was peaceful and almost euphoric. We spent a solid 15 minutes standing on the cement bench outside of the museum cafe admiring the view with the 17 year-old kids smoking cigarettes on their field trip.
Mom and I sat at the cafe and enjoyed a piece of cake and two coffees with shots of Baileys in it. My mom downed her like a champ but I had to nurse mine as we walked around the gardens making friends with the park cats. Then on the way out, I managed to spill the coffee all down my dress. I can’t walk and eat or drink at the same time.
Tips to mastering a 3-day tourist trip in Barcelona
- Plan before you land
- Map out your must-see places ahead of time and see if the hop-on-hop-off tour buses make stops there — one multi-day ticket can save you a ton of money on what you would spend on public transit. Just keep in mind the times that the bus stops running. Mom and I almost were stranded in Park Guell because we didn’t check the bus schedule. Luckily, we grabbed the last one heading into the square.
- Buy your tickets onlone
- Once you establish what you want to see, go online and buy the tickets. Both Park Guell and Sagrada Familia had time slots you needed to purchase tickets for. Mom and I ended up hopping back on the bus. We explored other areas as we waited for our 6 o’ clock time slot for Park Guell.
- Know your worth
- Don’t waste your time with eateries that are rude to tourists. We found this awesome bakery that literally refused to serve us. They continued to take people in line behind us as we stood there like WTF. It didn’t help that my bad Spanish didn’t let me communicate with them very well. We tried to get service for about 10 minutes before finally giving up.
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