At this cold and wintry time, I often like to look back on warmer times. In April 2011 I visited Barcelona, Spain with a friend for five nights. With sandy beaches, sunny weather and fascinating tourist spots, it was the ideal destination for a short break.
We stayed in a reasonably good hostel, Diagonal Home, in the Eixample district of the city. Although we were a good half hour walk from the major tourist spots, public transport in Barcelona is excellent, with a well connected Metro service and reliable buses.
One of the first places we visited was Parc Güell, the unusual garden complex designed by famous Catalan architect, Antoni Gaudi. Situated high above the city, the park offers spectacular views across to the ocean, as well as intriguing artwork around the site, including the house where Gaudi lived for the later years of his life. A sight not to be missed is the Sagrada Familia, another of Gaudi’s architectural works. When he died in 1926 the building was unfinished, and construction of the church continues to this day.
For a lazy afternoon stroll, La Rambla is the best place to go. Stretching from the coast up to Plaça de Catalunya, the street is always busy, with souvenir stalls and human statues to entertain the tourists, as well as some of the well-known landmarks: Gran Teatre del Liceu, one of the world’s finest opera houses, and Mercat de la Boqueria, Barcelona’s bustling street market, are both found along the route. Day or night, La Rambla is the best place to go to eat, wander and explore.
I couldn’t talk about Barcelona without mentioning how fantastic its beach is. I visited in April and the weather was great enough even then to spend a day lounging round in the sun, enjoying quesadillas purchased from one of the frequent beach bars and sipping cocktails. I can imagine that in summer the beaches get quite busy, but with miles of sandy coastline, there are plenty of alternative spots if the central stretches are too crowded.
On our final night in Barcelona, we signed up for a all-you-can-eat-tapas-all-you-can-drink-sangria night featuring a flamenco performance. This event was run by the Travel Bar, a tour company who own three bars in the Barcelona area, all of which were filled with English speaking tourists. The flamenco performance was fantastic, and the tapas and sangria buffet were perfect to encourage us to mingle and get to know the other tourists. If I return to Barcelona, the Travel Bar will definitely be a stop I make.
The best months to visit Barcelona are May-July, or September, however my visit in April was amazing. There is so much to do in Barcelona for free or low cost, although the food is definitely good enough to make you want to splash out a bit. If you want fun in the sun with easily accessible culture, Barcelona is the ideal destination!