It’s that time of the year, so here I am again in Barcelona. Given this was my first visit since I left back for London last year, I felt a pang of melancholy when I got off the plane. Luckily, the pleasant weather and the familiar sights acted as a balm as I set to exploring.
The best times to visit Barcelona are around April or May. If you’re lucky, the weather will be sunny, not too hot and not very rainy. July and August are the hottest and see the least precipitation, while at the same time being quite humid. I felt those conditions on my own skin, during my first visit some eight years ago, so be warned about visiting when the summer is in full swing.
Given it’s May, the weather was quite pleasant and warm most of the time, although it got a bit nippy at night or when strolling on the windy waterfront.
This five-day trip was not very expensive, given I have paid for it in instalments, so to say, by purchasing the plane ticket and the accommodation in one go about two months ago when the prices were still decent. I’d always recommend buying tickets in advance unless you get your hands on a last minute deal. I find it preferable to know in advance when I will travel so I can book the time off work and get affordable tickets. That makes the last minute deals more favourable for people who have a flexible schedule than for employees. There is a price breakdown at the end of this article, so be sure to check it out if you’re curious about how much you are expected to pay for a no-frills vacation in Barcelona.
Having lived here for six months and visited many times before that, I knew I have to find some new places to inspect. Otherwise, this would have been one boring vacation.
Day 1 – Back in town
I thoroughly hate waking up at 4 something in the morning, but if you are planning to do something with your travelling day, it’s probably one of the best solutions.
I’ve tried waking up around 2 AM for various flights and I’ve come to regret my decision, being too sleepy to be functional for that day. Waking at 4 or 5 AM for an 8 or 9 in the morning flight seems like a good compromise. Depending on how far you live to your local airport, you can have an even better deal than this.
Having a bio-metric passport does wonders. Courtesy of the self-scan passport control booths, before having time to properly stretch after being elbowed by a burly chap for two straight hours, I was already out of the airport, looking for the bus towards the city.
You gotta love Barcelona Aerobus!
Once you have found the stop, all you have to do is to queue (if you have euros), as you can pay directly to the driver, or get a ticket from one of the vending machines (if you are going to pay by card). Then you’re in Placa d’Espanya or Placa de Catalunya in 35 minutes, depending on traffic.
5.90 euro will get you one way or you can pay 10.20 euros for a return trip. I wouldn’t bother buying them tickets in advance, as the process at the airport is quite intuitive and fast. Just make sure you hold onto the ticket after the ride, if it’s for a return trip.
It’s good being back in town, as I read with satisfying recognition all the street name plaques. A bit of forced marching got us to the Airbnb keys before the landlord went away for band rehearsals.
Speaking of landlords, It’s always a good idea to ask them or hotel receptionist for a couple of recommendations on whatever might interest you. So we did ask. About food, of course. We got a very well researched, plastic-coated three-page long leaflet in English, with useful local hot-spots like restaurants, pubs or pharmacies. First food, then the rest.
What I like best about Barcelona and Spain at large are the lunch (and sometimes dinner) meal deals. For a set amount you can get two courses, a drink and a desert. The prices vary from 8-9 euros up to 20 for a set meal; with a bit of Google research, you can get find some delicious and very affordable spots in your neighbourhood.
With proper grub in the system, we were much more inclined to explore at leisure. Stated destination: the beach.
By the time we got to the Fira fleamarket, they were already packing up so we didn’t stop to visit. The Design Museum and the Agbar Tower were beckoning from nearby. Is it just me or the Museum looks like a pixelated doggie from this angle?
Another great thing about Barcelona is the way locals meet up at the beach for various joint activities: volleyball, drinking, sunbathing, weight lifting, football tennis and who knows what else. It gives the city’s beaches a lived-in vibe the flocks of tourists (like us) can’t provide.
Along the way, I had the pleasure of spotting the first Tesla Model 3 I’ve ever seen outside a showroom. I may be a huge Tesla fan, still 42.000£ have an extra zero over the sum I’d be willing to pay for a car (4200£, in case I was too vague). Disclaimer: the base version does come at 35.000£, which makes it still quite an expensive car.
Here, a sunset walk along the waterfront can be beaten only by a sunrise one. That’s because the sun generally rises over the sea and sets over the mountains behind the city. Which means you can get more spectacular views the earlier you rise.
That being said, if you’re ever up around 5 in the morning when visiting Barcelona, you know what you have to do. I did, once, when I couldn’t fall back asleep and the trip to the beach was totally worth it. Imagine, all the beach to yourself!
As the night was upon us by the time we reached Barceloneta, I took my friends to #Bacoa, my favourite burger place in town. They have 5 restaurants dotted around the centre, so you’re bound to bump into one at some point.
The other great place I can recommend for burgers is Big Al’s American kitchen. Go to Al’s at lunchtime during the week; for around 10 euro you’ll get such a lunch deal you won’t be able to move afterwards.
After my mushroom ragout burger and the satisfying subsequent food coma, we headed back home with slow, ponderous steps. The sluggish pace allowed noticing an unexpected but fascinating trio of erotic vending machines. They were selling everything from condoms and lube to anal beads and dildos.
In case you’re wondering, the most fascinating vending machine I’ve seen was a salmon filet dispenser in Singapore. Talk about a fishy business.
Had no idea on the location or how the National Theatre looked before this walk, but I do now. It has the air of a modern take on a Greek temple; quite an audacious design. I wonder how I managed to miss it until now.
Another great place for a photo-shoot, a coffee or just for shading from the summer sun is the covered sidewalk of Passeig de Picasso, bordering the Parc de la Ciutadella. Totally worth the visit.