Not many people know I have a secret long distance love affair. I was 13 when we met, way too young to understand raw beauty. We spend one day together but there was not really a spark. Three years later we bumped into each other again and got a little touchy feely over the course of 6 days. I thought about you a lot, visited once more. But it wasn’t until 2 summers ago that we actually connected, when I finally got the courage to go see you alone. Whenever I feel down or happy, have a few days off or when its my birthday, there is only one I want to run to. Barcelona and I, we have a special thing going on. As strongly as I feel for her, she is too amazing to claim her for myself. So here it is, a partial disclosure on our affair, so you can have one for yourself as well.
Get to know her, and get to know her well.
1. Go solo
It might seem a bit scary and a bit crazy, but in my opinion, Barcelona is best explored when one is not bothered by anyone but the companionship of the city itself. Wander through the barrios at your own pace, grab a cup of coffee in the morning to do some people watching and get over the fear to dine alone (trust me, it took me some time as well). Get absolutely lost by yourself and enjoy it to the fullest.
2. El Born
If you took the plunge to go alone, make sure to book your stay in El Born. This little Barcelona maze is a barrio perfectly located near the beach, the centre of the city and parc de la ciutadella. Its filled with bars, little shops and laundry lines. Also it has a lest touristy feel then very popular Barri Gotic (also very pretty, but a bit more crowded with cruise line tourists).
3. Ride or die
Maybe this should have been the first on the list: rent a ff-ing bike! The city is equipped with nice bike lanes (and if not, there is always the sidewalk) and a bike gives you all the freedom you need. Pretend to be a local when you effortlessly cruise the beach promenade all the way to the north (where you see a different, more modern side of BCN). The wind in your hair and the city under your pedals. In only one day I saw all the beaches, made a trip around the Sagrada Familia and ended up at the olympic village (go here, it is super impressive with the best views over the city) without a hassle in the world. Also in the hot summers, the little breeze you feel when on your bike will be very welcome.
I got my bike at ‘ Ride or Die’ in El Born. Super friendly bike lovers with well kept bikes and very reasonable prices (10 euro for a day, including a map and a lock). They offer tours as well.
Ride or Die
c/ Pescateria, 2 BARCELONA
4. Beach bum
A city with a beach, must be heaven! The beaches are crowded during summer, but perfect for a quick cool down and an evening stroll. Or what I used to do: go there early in the morning and grab a coffee at one of the beach cabana’s. You get an overpriced coffee, but the quiet beach view with the sun on your skin is worth it all!
Now about that quick cool down, when you are alone you might not feel comfy leaving your bag unsupervised on the beach when you dive in. Which is a normal feeling since the speakers on the beach keep repeating not to leave your stuff alone. Here’s what you do: you’re alone, you don’t need much space so walk down the waterline and find a spot between the sunlovers on the first row. Being this close to the water you can easily dive in and float around a bit with your face towards your bag. Keep your head cool! After dipping in, your stomach might need some food. Head for Surf House or Habana Barcelona. At Surf House the staff can be a bit rude (they think they are really cool) but their menu will make your mouth water. Think laid back variations on classic food. The menu el dia at Habana Barcelona is true value for your money. Also, I eat the best Caesar salad ever here!
Carrer l’Almirall Aixada, 22, 08003 Barcelona
Passeig Joan de Borbó, 74, 08039 Barcelona
5. Drink cava, eat tapas and do it here!
Plenty of cava bars and tapas joints. But I made my best memories at Can Paixano, a crowded and little dodgy cava bar. Tourists mixed up with the locals and cava for 1,20 per glass. Great place to make some new (Spanish) friends! Fill up on the booze and then head for El Xampanyet to feast on tapas. It’s always busy at this place and for good reason. The lights are awful, the food amazing. Oh and did I mention the staff runs around with bottles of cava to fill up whenever your glass is empty?
Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7, 08003 Barcelona
Carrer de Montcada, 22, 08003 Barcelona
6. If there is one tourist thing to do…
I think Parc Guell is overpriced. I’ve never seen the magic fountains. I have yet to visit one of Gaudi’s houses or pay to get my picture taken with one of the living statues. The tourist highlights of Barcelona never really got my attention. But please do visit the Sagrada Familia. And do please buy a ticket to go inside. It took my breath away. Several times. The truest piece of art I have ever experienced. Be smart: buy your tickets online since that means no waiting with all the Chinese people standing in line outside.
7. Hit the roof
A sucker for rooftop bars like me? Every night after eight ‘o clock, the Grand Central Hotel allows non-guest at their rooftop bar. You do pay 6 euro’s for a beer, but that includes a bowl of crisps and a stunning poolside view. Come early and it’s still pretty quiet, the perfect moment to think about how happy you are to spend time in the best city in the world.
Grand Central Hotel
Via Laietana, 30, 08003 Barcelona
So, yes, you should stroll along La Rambla, watch people at place Catalunya and eat tapas. Of course you have to shop the Spanish clothing valhalla’s and drink Sangria. I don’t have to tell you that. But now you also have ammunition to explore the city a bit different. I have tons of tips more, but they’ll remain a secret for now. Get your own affair!
*Jill is one of our guest bloggers living in Amsterdam where she works as a content manager for a digital agency. She’s Crazy about traveling and has spend her studies in New Zealand . You can read a new article from Jill in every 3rd week of the month!
Wanna have 5 reasons why you should live in Barcelona? Check this out!