When we arrived at the beach at ten in the morning, it was already heating up and the sand was warm under our feet. I had never seen so many nude sunbathers in my life. It was all there...the good, the bad. There were the Spanish women who looked like they bathed in the sun regularly, and also the much more senior women basking topless in the sun. The architectural giant called the 'W' sat high overlooking the waves. I was so happy to finally be in Spain.
We still had our bags with us because we were waiting to check in to the apartment, so we decided to order some sangria, after all we were in Spain! It was as delicious as ever, except it was really expensive. We learned quickly that in the tourist areas of Barcelona it's really, really expensive! If you find yourself in Barcelona, try to go a little off the beaten path to find more local cheap eats (and drinks). Then we made our way to the apartment to check in. The place we stayed at sat four stories up and due to our poor planning didn't have a/c. I don't know what I was thinking when I booked it. I guess I was expecting the weather to be a little cooler with the ocean breeze rolling through. Nonetheless, it was two minutes from the beach and the place was nice and clean. The area is called Barceloneta and has everything you need within walking distance.
We didn't make any firm plans for Barcelona because we didn't want to be tied down. In the end this ended up being a good and bad thing. It was so nice not having anything planned out, but by day three I kind of wish we had planned one excursion or trip. Although there was so much to look at and check out that we did end up staying fairly busy and walking around a lot. La Rambla (Spanish: Las Ramblas) is a mile long street filled with shops, restaurants, bars and street entertainment. Narrow side streets branch off of La Rambla in every direction, twisting and weaving throughout the area. This is where we found the best places to eat and oh wow! the shopping in Barcelona is phenomenal. If you want inexpensive, I mean really inexpensive clothing, then make a trip to Barcelona. It is worth it! Also, if you want the expensive high end brands, there are streets dedicated to Armani, Coach, Burberry, and any other brand you can imagine. There were also quite a few Irish pubs which was very exciting for us. Germany has a few Irish pubs but these were much nicer, and while I'm not sure if they're authentic, they were more like the Irish pubs we're used to in the U.S. It seems that no matter where you go, you can always find an Irish pub.
Barcelona is teeming with art and this is visible in the architecture and in many areas of the city. Gaudi's work is a huge part of Barcelona's culture and history. Born in the 19th century, he was known for his unique style with curved lines and used elements in nature to help shape his art. His most famous works in Barcelona include the Sagrada Familia, the Batllo House, Mila House, and Guell Park (among others). If you make the trip to Barcelona, you need to check out his architectural masterpieces.
If you want to check out the nightlife in Barcelona, there is no shortage of options. There are bars on and along the beach and La Rambla has many many bars as well. All around the area are lots of clubs and places to check out. One place that we decided to check out was the Eclipse Bar, located at the top of the W Hotel on the beach. We went up before the strict dress code was enforced (7-9pm is open) to see the views overlooking the city and the beach, and to have a cocktail. I was so glad we decided to check this place out. The views were out of this world and although the drinks came with a high price tag (my martini was 13 Euro), they were well worth it. If you ever get the chance to check out this bar/lounge/club, try the watermelon martini. They use real watermelon and no syrups to make it. Yum.
Seeing the Sights
For an easy experience and enjoyable way to see all the sights in the city without emptying your pockets, use the hop on hop off buses. They run all over the city to all the major attractions through three different routes. We took one of the longer routes and if you didn't get off the bus it was a two hour trip. If you did decide to make a stop, the buses run every seven minutes so you won't be waiting long. For a one day pass it's 24 Euro and well worth it.
There are also scooters, bicycles, mopeds, smart cars, and other means of transport available for rent. They have these new small cars called GoCarTours. We didn't end up using them but if we ever go again I would love to try them out. They are your own personal cars that have a computer and GPS system built in to them. It's a much more personal experience and while you are the driver and navigate, it is like having a co-pilot that guides you and explains everything along the way. It is also a great way to see many areas of the city that you can't get to with the buses.
If you just feel like walking around and seeing things as you come across them, Barceloneta and La Rambla are quite close. This alone could keep you busy for at least a day.
Overall we had a good time in Barcelona. I think we realized that we aren't really beach people. Seeing the ocean was nice, but for me I'd rather be hiking alongside it and not just sitting on the sand. I get antsy after about an hour of sitting on the beach.
Go on the hop on hop off buses on the first day (or go on something similar). This way you can see a lot more of the city, and get a feel for the areas you want to explore further. We waited until our last day to do this and I was bummed that we didn't go the first day. There is so much to see in Barcelona!
Do a little research, or ask around, for the local restaurants. If you can get away from the tourist areas you can save a lot of money!
Everything I read online repeatedly mentioned to be wary of pickpocketers in Barcelona. We didn't experience any problems, and felt fine walking around with our stuff. This isn't to say you shouldn't be careful when in another place, especially when they know you're a tourist, but don't let this scare you away. It's not as bad as they make it out to be....Italy, on the other hand, is a different story!