I saw at least 6 pairs of boobs in one day at Barceloneta beach. I didn’t exactly go scouring for them with a set of binoculars, they were just out, getting a tan. In Spain, the culture is a bit more lax than what you may be used to in the states. If you’re at the beach, chances are you’re going to see a few topless women. Don’t just start staring though, that’s rude, asshole!
People seem much more open minded and the pace of life is slow, making someone like me, who lives in New York City, very antsy due to the lack of speed. Once you synchronize yourself though, with the sun shining every day, your mood quickly turns to bliss.
Every time I told someone I was going to Barcelona, they responded with “You’re going to love it! Barcelona is awesome!” People talk about how fantastic certain cities are, but the enthusiasm surrounding Barcelona was much louder than usual. I was hoping it didn’t create high expectations that Barcelona couldn’t live up to.
When we landed we turned off our cellphones, so we had to find out how to get to our destination the old school way, by finding a map and talking to people in information services. Originally, we were thinking of taking public transportation, but since we had our bags and didn’t want to end up getting lost, we figured we’d take a cab. It cost us around €35 ($45) to take a cab to the Barceloneta neighborhood, which is right off of the city center. For reference, you can take an airport bus straight to the middle of the city, near Plaça de Catalunya, and then take a train or a bus to any part of Barcelona for about €7 total per person. That’s the method of transportation we used when going back to the airport at the end of our trip.
Neighborhood of Barceloneta
We rented an entire apartment from Airbnb in the Barceloneta area. Airbnb is what I usually utilize when traveling and need a place for 3+ nights. I’m surprised many people still don’t know about it. Airbnb is a great alternative to hotels, but enough free advertising. Our apartment was a fifth floor walk up in Bareloneta, two blocks from the beach. Being on the fifth floor in a building without an elevator was difficult for our fat American blood, but when in the apartment the views were excellent.
The neighborhood is at the east tip of Barcelona. Directly west of it, maybe 10 minute walking distance, is the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla, El Raval, and most of the main sites in Barcelona. Though we stayed near the beach we were only able to have a full beach day once. There was just so much to do in Barcelona, that most of the time we were sightseeing and walking around in areas outside of Barceloneta. So if you think you’ll be hitting up the beach everyday, that’s the neighborhood to consider. However, if you’ll be spending most of your time wandering around the city, Gothic Quarter is another great choice and it’s more trendy and has a lot more options for food, shopping, etc.
Yummy in my Tummy
The food was delicious (outside of Barceloneta neighborhood at least), and most places had a lot of fresh food. You’ll see notes on the menus like “0km”. This means the ingredients are brought in from within 100km (60 miles) of the restaurant. So you’re eating very fresh food, even though the moniker “0km” makes it seem they grew everything in the kitchen. Some of the restaurants I would recommend, from cheapest to most expensive: Bo de B, Cafés El Magnífico (Coffee), Maoz Falafel, Temaki-Ya, Bliss, FOC, El Ben Plantat, Pla (romantic). There are a ton of other places that seem good, and a quick Yelp/TripAdvisor lookup can help you in your search as well.
One thing to keep note is the way they charge your credit card. If you are using an international credit card (which I recommend because you won’t have to pay international transaction fees), most shops will ask you if you want to pay in Euros or US dollars. What they’ll do is convert the price for you, so that when you get your receipt you’ll know the amount you paid in the currency you use. On the surface, it seems very helpful, till you learn that the companies charging your credit card will charge you a 2-5% fee to convert your amount for you. So, if you ended up spending €1000 ($1280) on your trip, instead of paying the true cost, you’ll pay €1050 ($1340) for the convenience of getting your totals in dollars. My recommendation is to pay in Euros, your bank will convert it using the actual currency rate, and learn how to do math or use a calculator if you just HAVE to convert the charge for your own purposes.
Visit All the Sites!
Barcelona has the Picasso Museum, La Rambla, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Sagrada Família, Park Güell and a plethora of other places that are must visit! You’ll definitely see a lot of architecture by Antoni Gaudí, his best works being Sagrada Família and Park Güell. I would say you must go check out the latter two. We didn’t go inside Sagrada, but in hindsight, I wish we had. In terms of Park Güell, the area itself is huge, but the monument area, where the different Gaudí buildings are located, is very small. You will need to purchase tickets for the monument area (worth it), and they only have a set amount of tickets for each half hour increments. The entire park itself is nice, but I would suggest to purchase your tickets online and give yourself time to checkout the entire park as well as the monument. I didn’t research as to how the ticketing system works, so when we arrived we had to wait two hours for the next available slot for tickets. So we killed time by walking around the forrest like park and got lost several times. It’s okay though, we had time to kill.
You’ll see a lot of dogs without a leash. It’ll look like they are stray, but their owner is always around and the dogs never bother you. We probably saw 100+ dogs the entire time we were there, and not one bothered us. Not even when we were eating. That kind of shows how leashes may just be a cultural thing, because those dogs walked around like they were human, and probably had better etiquette than most adults.
Best City in Europe
Barcelona was my by far the best city I have visited in Europe. Sure, I’ve only visited 5 cities, but they were the major ones, and it’ll be hard to topple Barcelona. The food, the sun, the culture, really slow you down and make you realize: man, I love life. I am so happy. This is awesome!!