A breakdown of my recent trip to Europe (Barcelona Edition)
My recent trip to Europe was pack full of fun and involved lots of tapas, wine, sangria, sightseeing, photography, Cathedral visiting but also a lot of walking, rushing from place to place, and just a tad of stress travelling with the parents (younger peeps will understand what I mean). Just so you get a big picture idea of the trip, it was: Barcelona > Valencia > Madrid > Paris > Toulouse > Barcelona. This blogpost will cover the first and last leg of my trip and subsequent ones will cover the rest. So Without further ado let get right into it!
The First & Last Stop and the focus of this post: Barcelona!
I flew in with Lufthansa and transited through Frankfurt, the total flight time was about 11hours 45minutes. It was a pretty comfy flight (got to watch lots of movies) aside from the connecting flight from Frankfurt to Barcelona (it was a much smaller plane and older plane).
Upon arriving in Barcelona the first thing I did was to get a local SIM card with data (definitely cheaper than using your home network provider) from the Vodafone stall by the exit. Then I took the Aerobus to the city which is much cheaper than taking a cab (I believe the bus ticket cost like 5 euros). It was a pretty good ride and I got to the city in about 25mins where my parents were waiting for me. Thankfully our hotel wasn't far from the bus stop so we went up to the room to drop my luggage and begin our exploration of Barcelona.
We spent 3 days in Barcelona and here are some of the highlights and my recommendations.
La Rambla and La Boqueria
La Rambla is this nice stretch/main street you have to walk down. Its pretty nice and there are vendors and some street performers but beware of pick-pockets (didn't happen to me but always a good idea to be cautious with your belongings in that area).
However if you are a foodie like me you can just speed through La Rambla and head on to La Boqueria (a market place to the side of La Rambla) which is full of colour, fruits, meats (especially that really awesome Jamon), and most importantly tapas. We settled on a restaurant/eatery toward the back of the market called "Restaurante Bar Boqueria" which was the bomb. They had beer glasses the size of my dad's face and the best tapas I ever had. We got a seafood platter and other small bites but what really stood out as my favourite of the entire trip was that steak cubes and foie gras (so so good). And of course we couldn't leave the market without buying some jamon (cured ham). This place has to be on your list if you're a foodie!
Mercat Del Encants
This huge flea market was the probably the nicest designed (architecturally speaking) flea market I've been to. The roof/ceiling was made up of mirrors at different angles which made for some unique photographs. There was of course everything you could ever expect from a flea market on sale, from antiques and fabrics to old gadgets.
La Sagrada Família
This architectural masterpiece designed by Catalan Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí was definitely a sight to behold. It's beauty and sense of peace was just breathtaking and left us speechless. Fun fact: the construction of this basilica commenced in 1882 and is still under construction till today with its anticipated date of completion being 2026. Definitely worth the visit and actually going in to admire the beauty even if you aren't Catholic or religious. A little tip is to book your tickets online ahead of time as there are set timings for the tickets that will let you enter the basilica, and going there to buy them from the booth might mean you have to wait a couple hours.
Another one of Gaudi's major works, this place is a public park consisting of gardens and architectural elements located on Carmel Hill. Although we didn't get tickets to go into the paid area (because my folks were too tired from all the walking), the free area of Park Guell was beautiful enough and worth the walk up the structures to get a good view of the city below.
Camp Nou to catch a FC Barcelona game
We watched an FC Barcelona game against Celta Vigo and it was pretty amazing, the atmosphere and seeing the players right infant of you is really something else. Like every time that Messi would score a goal, the whole crowd would just erupt and chant Messi Messi Messi...
My little tip is not to buy the food inside because the bread was really hard and none of us liked the sandwiches, and if you want to get a drink just be aware that they do open the bottles and keep the caps so you got to be careful not to accidentally knock/spill you drinks. Another tip is to book your tickets online way in advance because they get bought up real quick and there aren't many open seats available that are close to each other because season pass holders usually buy blocks of seats together. We got pretty good seats in the stadium close to the action and though the tickets were a little pricey it was well worth it. One last thing to take note of is that it is almost impossible to catch a cab right after the game because the streets are just filled with people coming out.
Shopping at the "La Roca Village" Outlet
I was abit hesitant about including this in the post but oh well I'm sure there are a number of you reading this who love shopping. I apologise for not taking more pics here (because we were too busy shopping and I don't bring my DSLR to outlets.. nobody really does). It's a really nice place with good brands and big discounts and if you are from out of town like me then you can get a tax return which is pretty sweet savings. Only draw back is that it is not close to the city and you have to take a shuttle bus or a taxi to get there.
Hunt for good tapas & dinner spots
I went to a bunch of tapas and paella places and also got the chance to catch up with my friend Alice who was in Barcelona on exchange. On the first night in Barcelona we went to a place with really good seafood paella called "La Barca del Salamanca". It was by the marina and was a nice place for a family dinner.
On the other night we met up with my friend Alice for dinner at a place she recommended. We had a tapas dinner at an awesome spot called "Sensi Mezzanine Tapas" around the Gothic quarter area and it was awesome! Small portions and good variety meant that we had a lot to eat and got to try many items on the menu.
Overall a good foodie experience in Barcelona. I kinda wish I had remembered to take pics before eating so I could share with you guys and gals but most of the time we were too hungry and totally forgot.
The Cathedral of Barcelona (and surrounding Gothic Quarter)
On the opposite side of the La Rambla stretch from La Boqueria market is the Gothic Quarter which has a different feel and nice architecture (great for photography). It is also where the Cathedral of Barcelona is located. It was totally worth going in and admiring the beauty of the design and architecture of the Cathedral as well as pray and be in a state of peace. You can also access the rooftop of the Cathedral which offers stunning views of the city and surrounding buildings.
While in the Gothic Quarter is a nice place to take photographs, it is also a good shopping area. So I found myself being pulled into stores by my mom such as this shoe store above (I really can't remember the name of it.. really colourful shoes though).
Last but not least, pay a visit to Montserrat
Monserrat (serrated mountain) is a multi-peaked mountain range located near the city of Barcelona. It is the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary. According to the guide on the tour bus (which by the way is the best way to get there), it is considered to be a holy mountain by Catholics in Spain and an important spot to go on a pilgrimage. This beautiful mountain offered stunning views and even if you aren't religious, I highly recommend a trip here.
Photographer Tips for Barcelona:
- No need for a tripod! If you brought one you can leave it in the hotel because you likely not going to use it. Most places are crowded (at least the ones I went to) and a tripod can be heavy and bulky (at least mine is).
- Camera Strap & Secure Camera Bag! Because your camera will often time cost more than your phone, keep it safe and close to you at all time and if you have it in a bag-pack then make sure it has some sort of security feature.
- If the weather outdoors isn't good, head into a Cathedral. There are always things/subjects to photograph indoors like churches and food.
- Don't forget to look up! Great architecture everywhere makes for interesting compositions and street photography.
- Don't get too engrossed with taking photographs all the time, live in the moment and don't forget to have a good time!
Well that about sums up my trip to Barcelona!
I hope you enjoyed it and have an idea of what to look out for if you are planning a trip there :) Stay tuned to the blog for the next section of my trip: VALENCIA!
Till the next post, take care and keep shooting!