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Beautiful Barcelona, Spain: A Trip Review with Tips

Inside La Sagrada Familia

Inside La Sagrada Familia

We arrived in Barcelona exhausted but excited.  We couldn’t have chosen a more contrasting destination to Kathmandu than Barcelona.  The only thing they have in common is nine letter names.

What a difference a day of travel makes.

We arrived at Violeta Hostel which I highly recommend for the moderate-budget traveler.  Barcelona is expensive and I was hard-pressed to find a private room in the budget range.  We found this place quite comfortable and a short walk from all the major sights.  We paid 49 euros/night ($68 US) for a double room with a shared bathroom – a bargain in Barcelona.

I was giddy with excitement to share the city with my mom.  It’s my fourth time in Barcelona and her first.  I insisted that seeing Gaudi’s basilica:  La Sagrada Familia, would be worth the trip alone.  It didn’t disappoint.

As we walked from our hotel, we enjoyed the amazing architecture of the Eixample District. Intricate ironwork balconies, curvy lines, and floral decorations, influences of the Modernista art movement, are incorporated into so many buildings. The architecture is unusually beautiful.

Basilica La Sagrada Familia

I was living for the moment when my mom got her first glimpse of the church.

Turning a corner, it suddenly appears.  Her jaw drops.  Her neck cranes.  She has to sit down.  It’s too amazing.  I had the same reaction upon first glimpse and thought “my Mom has to see this.” And here we are!  Sharing this with her is a highlight in all my travels.

I’ve visited this church four times in the last five years and am amazed each time at the progress. Still under construction, it’s due to be finished in 2026 and then it will be the tallest church in the world. Mom and I made a date for 2026 to see the final product.

Like Gaudi’s style or hate it, the creative genius, the complexity of the construction and the human effort involved in the creation inspires awe.

Inside La Sagrada Familia

Inside La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece in Barcelona.

Tickets to La Sagrada Familia

Avoid the long lines by purchasing your tickets online in advance.  I highly recommend the audio guide.

Barcelona

Palau Güell

In following days, we visited Palau Güell, a mansion Gaudi built for a tycoon in the early days of his career. Neither of us liked the style much but appreciated Gaudi’s creativity.  “He was so weird”, I said.

Palau Güell

Inside Palau Güell, a mansion designed by Gaudi early in his career.

Tickets to Gaudi’s Palau Güell (Güell Palace)

This former mansion was built for the Güell family and showcases Gaudi’s earlier work.  It’s located right off La Rambla, making this an easy visit if you are also interested in visiting La Boqueria Market.  General admission is 12 euros which includes the audio guide.  If you’re on a budget, I think this is a far better deal than visiting Casa Batlló. Open Tuesday to Sunday. You can buy tickets here (if you can read Spanish) or close to the entrance.

Barcelona

As we walked the streets, we enjoyed the graffiti.  It’s certainly a high art in Barcelona.

Barcelona Graffiti

Barcelona Graffiti

Barcelona

We ate so much delicious food.  Tapas and fresh salads (so missed in Nepal), bakery treats, sushi, olives, Rosé wine, creamy Greek yogurt, fried Padron peppers sprinkled with coarse sea salt, manchego cheese, ice cream…  Oh.  We ate well.  It’s easy to do in Barcelona.

So many sweets!

So many sweets!

Our favorite restaurant was Xaloc Restaurant which is not far from La Rambla.  It’s located at Carrer de la Palla, 13-17.  We went there three times and every dish we had was outstanding and not ridiculously overpriced like so many other restaurants in the area.  Plus the waiters are really cute.

BarcelonaPark Güell

We spent a whole morning walking around Gaudi’s Park Guell and visiting the Casa Museu Gaudi (which is a tiny Gaudi museum in Gaudi’s former house)…

Park Güell

Park Güell is a great place for a walk and an excellent view of Barcelona.

Tickets to Gaudi’s Park Güell

Park Güell is free except you can’t enter the “Monumental Zone” (pictured above) without a ticket.  If you want all access, you can buy a ticket here. The cost is 7 euros for adults.

Tickets to the Gaudi House Museum (inside Park Güell)

This is a tiny museum inside Park Güell that showcases furniture made by Gaudi and some of his personal items.  You can buy your tickets in combination with La Sagrada Familia tickets on the site listed above for “Tickets to La Sagrada Familia” or you can buy them online here.  The cost is 5.50 euros for general admission.

Barcelona

We visited churches and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia and marveled at their construction.

Church of the Pines in Barcelona

Church of Santa Maria del Pi in Barcelona

Barcelona

Walking Tours

We took the Free Walking Tour of Barcelona through the Gothic District (old city) which I would highly recommend.  The tour meets at Travel Bar, which offers lots of other fun activities including a cooking class.

Barcelona

Museu d’Historia de Barcelona

We visited the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona.  My mom and I don’t like museums, but this one is really fascinating.  An elevator takes you underground where you see and walk around the excavations of the Roman city that Barcelona is built upon. It’s located near the Barcelona Cathedral on Plaça del Rei.  Open Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-7pm. Closed on Mondays.  It costs 7 euros/person and is well worth it.

Barcelona

After five days, we moved to Pension Arosa which is minimalistic but offers a balcony (if you ask when booking). The best thing is it’s location which is in the Gothic district with shopping, restaurants, and people-watching galore right at your feet.  I booked through booking.com; a double room with a shared bathroom runs about 49 euros ($68 US) a night depending on the season.

Barcelona

We ran into (not in!) a marathon…

Runners in Barcelona

Runners in Barcelona

Casa Batlló

…and visited Gaudi’s most famous building, Casa Batlló, which was cool but overpriced at 21.50 euros ($30 US) per person.

Casa Batlló

The roof of Casa Batlló

After that, we both declared that we were Gaudi-ed out.

Tickets to Gaudi’s Casa Batlló

I personally didn’t think the cost of the ticket (a whopping 21.50 euros per adult) was worth the experience. But I’m traveling on a budget. If you have loads of money to spend on vacation, by all means, take a gander inside one of Barcelona’s most iconic buildings. You can buy your tickets to Casa Batlló here.

Barcelona

La Boqueria Market

We couldn’t miss visiting La Boqueria Market which was packed with fresh culinary goodness.  We had cappuccinos at a stand and watched the world go by…

La Boqueria Market

La Boqueria Market

The market is open Tuesday to Thursday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Friday and Saturday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and closed on Mondays.

Barcelona

We spent hours and hours walking the narrow streets of the Gothic District, arm in arm,  looking at window displays, shopping unsuccessfully for new hiking boots, and admiring the architecture.  And eating ice cream.

Beautiful architecture

Beautiful architecture is everywhere in Barcelona.

We had the best time.

If you’ve never been, I hope someday you’ll visit Barcelona.  It’s got it all – history, art, great food, culture, beauty, generally great weather and nice people.  After this visit it remains one of my favorite cities in the world.

Barcelona

Getting To and From the Barcelona Airport

I’ve used Aerobus every time I’ve visited Barcelona.  Buses leave the airport every five minutes, drivers are helpful in my experience and it’s quick to get to many hotel hotspots in Barcelona. You can buy your ticket from the driver with cash or from a machine with a credit card (must have a PIN).  The cost is 5.90 euros, one way.

Barcelona

Photos of Barcelona, Spain:

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