Go Solo In Barcelona
Where, When & Why
Praktik Rambla, Barcelona // November 2017 // Booked it, packed it, fucked off
With a few days annual leave to use up and wanderlust burning a hole in my pocket, I found a cheap flight and, armed with a huge stack of recommendations, headed to Barcelona a week later. For three days, the Catalan city was my oyster of festive fun in the freezing cold. If like me, you only have a short amount of time, these are the big hitters & slightly odd "attractions" I think you'd have a great time visiting.
El Raval has a bit of a reputation for being “edgy”. It’s a melting pot of culture due to it being the spot where a lot of immigrants tend to make home, which has both good and bad results. The bar tender in The Libtertine likened it to Walthamstow but in my opinion it was far cooler. Expect very cool people, coffee in hand, meandering along the narrow streets lined in vintage shops, tattoo parlours and cannabis dispensaries. I ventured into many vintage stores but luckily EasyJet’s carry-on luggage restrictions and my focus on ticking off as many sights as I could in three days prohibited me spending an actual fortune on bomber jackets intricately embroidered with Japanese iconography and jewellery I’d probably never wear.
It’s also the home to some of the most impressive street art in Barcelona. Take the Uncensored Barcelona walking tour to get a real insight into the art, politics, and gritty history of this up & coming hipster central. If Aidan is taking the tour, you’re in for a treat.
Without a shadow of a doubt this is one of the most breath-takingly beautiful buildings I have ever encountered. The outer facades are awe inspiring with so much detail it takes a minute for your eyes to take even a little in, but for me, the light inside the church took it to the next level. No spoilers, but Gaudi was a magician of architecture & design. Everything he created connected to nature, down to the shapes and materials used. I strongly recommend
Book tickets online before you go - €15 for basic entry or cough up the extra €14 to get the audio tour and views from one of the intricately designed facades. Providing panoramic views across east Barcelona to the Mediterranean, the Nativity Tower was the one for me. Plus, it was December so I being festive at every single opportunity is incredibly important.
Feeding The Pigeons at Plaça de Catalunya
Coffee & Instax Mini 8 in hand I headed to pick up the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour from Plaça de Catalunya. First thing I noticed was the pretty fountain and statues around the square. Second thing I noticed was the Alfred Hitchcock/Mary Poppins scenes thanks to hundreds of pigeons flocking around various people.
Pick up a bag of bird seed and literally feed the birds for €2 a bag. At one point I had two birds in my hand, one on my head and one cheeky fellow perching on my chest.
Something that used to happen in days of yore in Trafalgar Square still goes on and is very silly fun. Just don't forget your hand sanitser (in case you do, there is a pharmacy a few minutes walk away down La Rambla here).
From lamp posts in Plaça Reial, to the more infamous landmarks such as Casa Batllo, Park Güell and Sagrada Familia, Gaudi's influence on this city is felt and seen at almost every single turn.
For me, the best part of Park Güell was Güelly Sandwich Park, but then I had just come from Sagrada Familia and I had a feeling that the views from Tibidabo would knock it out of the park. However, Palau Güell is one to see.
From the outside this palace looks like it should belong to James Bond or Bat Man, but I urge you to step into the grandeur inside and make your way to the rooftop guided by the audio tour. It's certainly worth the €11 entry fee.
Hitching a ride on the funicular railway to the peak of Tibidabo came highly recommended so I'd be failing us all if I didn't pay it forward. I love a funicular almost as much as a cable car so the €7 was a bargain to reach the top.
At its summit you will find the best panoramic views of the entire city and beyond, a quaint fairground and a fantastic church all within 60 seconds of the train stop. The church and fairground provide a perfect juxtaposition which weirdly works and makes for some top notch Instagramming.
There are loads of free walking tours to be had. I chose the Gothic Quarter tour and despite making two silly mistakes: number one, I turned up a day late (you can’t make it up!), and number two, I should’ve done it on my first day, the tour was excellent. Aidan was a fantastic guide with a deep knowledge and appreciation for the history, people, and traditions of his new home town.
Highlights for me included but are not limited to: standing on a river of shit, discovering the importance of chocolate to the Catalans, Aidan's recital of the literal translation of Caga Tio, standing in a square once battered by WW2 bombs, which was also a film location for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, an Evanscence video and the playground for two very good dogs, and meeting some awesome people.
From fine art to street art and sculpture to the most incredible chocolatiers, Barcelona is dripping in all manner of creativity. Palau Nacional offers something inside for traditionalists and outside for everyone - the views from above the Magic Fountain are insane!
As previously mentioned, El Raval boasts work from some of the world's premier street artists, while head beachside for interesting sculptures providing a stage for some local musicians.