After growing up in Hertfordshire and studying at Cambridge, Megan Proops decided to get some post-graduation sun and move to Barcelona. Based there since the start of 2017, she has been teaching, writing, and eating her way through the city. Follow her on Instagram here then sit down & enjoy this guest post filled with hints & tips and things to do in Barcelona, Spain:
Barcelona seems to be having something of a resurgence in recent times. Having lived here for the past year and a half, I can certainly see why it’s at the top of so many people’s travel lists.
It’s a place that really has everything: all the amenities of a lively city that you could want, bordered by fantastic beaches and surrounded by woods and mountains for those wanting a bit more fresh air.
When there’s so much to see, it can be hard to pinpoint where to start – but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
What to Do
The first thing that most guidebooks mention in relation to Barcelona is, of course, Gaudi. Without wanting to be a cliché, his buildings really are worth a visit. I was in Barcelona for many months before I finally went inside the Sagrada Familia, and I was astounded by how stunning it was. Though the outside looks dark and gothic, the inside is bright and airy, with colourful light refracted by the stained glass windows.
Casa Milà (also known as La Pedrera) is similarly impressive. I’d really recommend timing your visit there for the late afternoon so that you can end the tour by watching the sunset from the roof.
Another great spot to watch the sunset is the Bunkers del Carmel. Pack yourself some refreshments – you can’t buy anything up there – and with a bit of an uphill walk you can enjoy the best view of the Barcelona skyline.
Sitting at the Bunkers is free, but for all of the other touristy things, buy tickets online first – you’ll skip the queues and save money in the process!
What to Eat
Barcelona has absorbed a lot of food cultures from other countries and from the rest of Spain. Some have travelled better than others – paella for instance is really best eaten down in Valencia.
The pinchos culture though, from the Basque region, is fantastic. Head to Carrer Blai in the Poblesec barrio. It’s a street full only of pinchos places – like tapas, but crusty bread with various toppings, with each one normally costing around one euro. In the summer it’s full of people sitting outside, having a beer and a bite to eat. It gets packed, so get there early if you want to nab an outdoor table and soak up the buzzy atmosphere.
For traditional tapas, head to Las Delicias. Right next to Parc Guell, it serves the best, authentic and reasonably-priced tapas around and is worth the short queue to sit outside. Jai-ca is another key tapas destination, and located by the port it is particularly renowned for its seafood.
For a more international feel, I’m a big fan of Firebug. Just by Arc de Triomf, it serves fantastic brunches and a range of choices for dinner, from tapas to sharing platters and peking duck pancakes.
What to Drink
Spain is famous for Sangria. Eschew this and ask for a tinto de verano instead. Made with just red wine and soda, this is simpler, more refreshing and what locals really drink.
In any bar, a ‘gin-tonic’ is also a good shout. Just don’t expect it to be a British G&T – here, they make them far stronger!
Barcelona is full of rooftops to get the best views while sipping on your drink. Try 1881 Per Sagardi, a surprisingly cool terrace on top of the History Museum of Catalonia, for views of the port, or the rooftops of the hotels Yurbban and Barcelo Raval for 360 degree views of the city.
The Born barrio, particularly round Paseo de Born, is full of bars you can dip in and out off. Bormuth is a personal favourite, and Upiaywasi has a cozy interior with good cocktails.
Where to Sunbathe
Barcelona has plenty of beaches to choose from. I’d recommend staying away from the most touristy, Barceloneta, as it gets dirty quickly and you’ll be bothered by club promoters and beer-sellers. Head up a little bit to Bogatell or Mar Bella – just a walk away but with clean water and a much more local feel.
The Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc is also a hidden gem, open to the public during the summer. Get the funicular up the hill, pay around 7 euros for an adult entrance fee, and get access to the pool and breathtaking views of the city.
Where to relax
One of my favourite things to do on city breaks is to simply watch the world go by. Barcelona is so packed with things going on amongst its winding streets that it’s the perfect place to do it.
I love spending a few hours lolling around in the sun in the Parc de la Ciutadella. Grab some snacks and enjoy the atmosphere, with locals doing acro-yoga, strumming guitars or playing with their kids.
Sit on the bench opposite the Cathedral to enjoy the street performers and sometimes traditional dancing (though I’d recommend going to the Santa Maria del Mar for an equally pretty but much more peaceful, and free, cathedral if you want to go inside).
When it’s time to chill with an ice cream, head to Oggi Gelato in Gotico or Gocce di Latte in El Born for the best Italian gelato in town.
How to get around
When I first moved here, I spent hours just wandering around. Every time I have visitors they laugh at me for always answering the question ‘How far away is it?’ with ‘About a 20-minute walk’. Really, though, walking is the best way to enjoy the tiny streets and pretty architecture.
If you do need to go a little further, the metro and bus system is incredibly easy to navigate. Buy a T10 ticket at the metro station – this allows you 10 journeys, on bus or metro, for about 1 euro each trip and multiple people can share the same ticket.
Everyone who comes here declares that Barcelona is one of the best cities in the world. There’s always something new to discover, so enjoy exploring!