I had the pleasure of visiting Barcelona for a few days on a trip to the Iberian Peninsula in January 2016.
(Here’s how I was able to do it for next to nothing using points/miles)
Here are 5 thoughts I had after my trip:
1) Barcelona is Not the “Spain” That You Pictured
Yes, Barcelona is a City within the Kingdom of Spain.
But spend more than 10 minutes there and you’ll realize that Barcelona is far different from the rest of the country, and from what most people imagine “Spain” to look and feel like.
Barcelona isn’t the flamenco dancing, bull fighting, colorful/vibrant culture that you’ll find in other parts of the country (although you can find touristy versions of these everywhere).
But rather a cosmopolitan, laid-back city that emphasizes its different take on food, art, and language (Catalan).
In fact, many in Barcelona identify first as “Catalan” and secondly as “Spanish” (if at all). There is even talk of succeeding from Spain to become the independent State of Catalonia.
Flags supporting Catalonia’s independence from Spain seemed to hang on every balcony in the City.
2) Barcelona is Pretty Affordable
From the moment I arrived in Barcelona I was surprised to see how cheap everything was (as compared to other major European destinations).
Don’t get me wrong, Barcelona isn’t “buy everything in sight because it’s so cheap” cheap, but it certainly won’t break the budget to enjoy much of what the city has to offer.
(Some of this is likely due to the fact that we were traveling in January)
In general, I found everything to be comparable to prices in the Midwest. A decent meal will run you ~12-18 Euros and you can find cocktails for 5 euros each.
Here’s an example of what 15 Euros can get you.
Four courses later (plus a glass of wine) and I was ready for an afternoon siesta.
If you’re looking to save some money, make lunch your biggest meal of the day. You can get plates for about 60-70% of what they would cost at dinner time.
And whatever you do, do not eat on or around La Rambla. You’ll pay double the price for the Spanish equivalent of Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.
3) Brightside Tours = An Awesome Travel Experience
I’ve done some pretty neat things in all of my travels but I have to admit that my day spent with Brightside Tours is one of my favorite travel experiences to date.
Brightside Tours offers a number of different tours of Barcelona and many of them can be done by sidecar.
You read that right. By sidecar.
(I’m now thoroughly convinced there is no better way to see a city)
We opted to go with the Wine County – Vineyards, Wines & Sidecar, which is about a 3.5 hour experience from start to finish.
They picked us up from our hotel and took us on a short tour of the City before heading out to Alta Alella Winery, where we toured the property and sampled a number of award winning wines.
Tours with Brightside are certainly not cheap, but I won’t hesitate to book another one if I ever return to Barcelona.
4) Winter is a Great Time to Visit
We had the pleasure of interacting with a number of locals while in Barcelona and all of them told us the same 2 things.
- Barcelona is not “Spain” (covered above)
- All of the locals leave Barcelona during the summer because it is incredibly hot and crowded
The temperature during our January trip hovered in the lower 60s by day, mid 50s by night. Perfect weather for walking around and exploring a new city.
But summer is a different story, when temperatures exceed 90 degrees as the City fills with sweaty tourists from every corner of the earth.
So if you’re looking for the perfect time to visit Barcelona, consider going in the winter. This will also allow you to take advantage of the off-peak rates for lodging and airfare.
5) La Sagrada Familia is a Must See Attraction
I’m not a huge architecture fan, but still found La Sagrada Familia to be the most impressive attraction in Barcelona.
This breathtaking church is the crown jewel of the work of Antoni Gaudi, who seemingly built the entire City of Barcelona (according to the locals, anyway).
Pictures can’t come close to doing it justice, but here are a few anyway.
Gaudi is said to have spent his last few years exclusively in La Sagrada Familia, obsessing over the construction and design of the building. He died while still working on the church and is buried in a crypt deep within his most prized work of art.
La Sagrada Familia is set to be finished in the late 2020’s, more than 140 years after it was started.
Assuming there is not a huge line to get in, you can visit La Sagrada Familia in about 2-3 hours. It’s a little off the beaten path but well worth the trip.
And while we are talking attractions, Park Guell (also by Gaudi) is also worth a few hours of your time. Make sure to book a guided tour so you can fully appreciate all that the park has to offer.
Barcelona is an absolutely beautiful city that is well worth the visit. To get the most out of your trip, try to avoid the peak summer months and be sure to see La Sagrada Familia, try the amazing food (during lunchtime), and immerse yourself in the culture of this truly unique place.