I spent last weekend with three of my closest gal pals from university, in sunny Barcelona. As a lover of weekend breaks, and after hearing many rave reviews about the city, it looked like it would be a weekend we would never forget. And I suppose you could say that it was. Just not necessarily for the right reasons.
Firstly, the Positives.
Like every major European capital, Barca has a beautiful, eclectic mix of architecture.
Sagrada Familia: the most iconic building in Barca, and rightly so. Make sure you book your tickets in advance as they sell quickly! Although the outside looks fairly impressive, full of images and sculptures (which lack the sculpturing sophistication of the Greeks or Romans…and featuring a Jesus with a cubic head!), it is the inside that is the gem of the city). Although the the interior is all white, sunlight beams in through the stain glass windows which surround each wall. It may remind you of a set from a 50s fantasy film due to the overwhelming size and quirkiness, but I guarantee that you will be in there for hours. Photos and videos simply do not do it justice.
Parc Güell: also beautiful, think along the lines of The Secret Garden mixed with The 5000 fingers of Doctor T. Gothically angled columns and arches underneath bridges, mosaic walls and views of the whole of the city, this is an area full of surprises!
Montjuic: a beautiful collaboration of grand buildings, columns, topiary and a musical fountain show (along with a whole strip of foundations), this is Barca putting on a show.
Off the beaten track: I would have to recommend the Fairy Bar, next to the Wax Museum. The entrance is a walkway with walls filled of origami leading through to an indoor magical woodland with fairy lights in the branches of trees with faces on. Along with figurines, a Victorian circus room and yummy cocktails, this is not what you would get in London! Expect it to be packed.
The food: Tapas. The most ingenious, sociable, dining format ever created. Why have one meal, when you can have loads? AND for only €10 or so, per person…makes it totally acceptable to have the table overflowing with dishes…sharing is caring, right? 😉
Safety: I’d been pre-warned that Barcelona is a hub for muggings. However, this is pretty much the norm for all major cities, so I was expecting the standard levels you’d see in London, Rome or Paris. Most definitely not the case. Organised muggings attempted in the subway, punch ups, harassment on the tube from strangers to being followed back to our hotel, I can honestly say I have never felt so unsafe abroad (and that is saying something). So here is my advice, go in a large group, do not get drunk and wear shoes that you can run in!
Size: Barcelona feels like a very small city. There aren’t as many landmarks to see as you’d expect. You can do it in a weekend, trust me.
Shops: every other shop seems to be full of the same hideous, plastic, touristy rubbish. Avoid them by going to the Gothic quarter (where there are significantly less). But more importantly this is where there is THE best market with all kinds of delicious food’ There are also many vintage and interior shops, you just have to look!
Would I go again? No. Am I glad I’ve been? Yes. Barcelona is both beautiful, but terrifying. Most people only see the former, but in this case, I’ve seen both.
Where we stayed: BARCÉLO RAVAL (beautiful hotel, 360 degree roof bar views, pool, loads of little design features (you can change the scent of air freshener) amazing shower, super comfy beds, loads of breakfast options, wonderful staff; LOVED IT)
Who we flew with: MONARCH
Favourite place: SAGRADA FAMILIA
Most hated place: THE SUBWAY AND THE STREETS AT NIGHT.