Jenna’s Top 5
1. Best activities/attractions: A MUST - take the time and spend the money to go see a good flamenco show. We highly recommend the dinner/flamenco show at "El Tablao de Carmen". Also, make sure you see "La Familia Sagrada"! One of the most popular tourist locations, but for a reason! Just make sure you buy a "skip the line" ticket otherwise you will wait HOURS in a long line baking in the sun.
2. Best Restaurants: El Asador de Aranda - AMAZING restaurant that isn't as touristy. We were brought here by our Barcelonian CrossFit friends. Tapas galore and you cook your own meat on a hot plate. Beyond Delicious! La Taguara Areparia - but I'm a little partial because I haven't found a Venezuelan Restaurant with authentic arepas and cachapas since leaving Venezuela! Best
3. Best mode of transportation: If you are planning on visiting more than three different tourist sites, then you should by a pass on the Barcelona Bus Turistic (about 25 euros). This Hop on Hop off bus continually runs to about 40 different tourist sites in Barcelona and is the cheapest way to see the sites! You have to be willing to sacrifice a little bit of time and convenience though as sometimes there is a line you have to wait in to get on a bus. If you are only going to 2 or 3 different tourist sites, it would cost about the same to get a taxi and that is SO MUCH more convent.
4. Best Cultural Tip: Tipping is very different in Spain, you don’t need to tip taxi drivers and only if your meal and service was EXCELLENT do you tip a couple euros on a meal. This was very different from what matt and I were used to and felt completely awkward to not tip nearly as much as we usually do, but the Barcelonians friends that we were out with assured us that it is not expected and not necessary.
5. Best CrossFit Gyms: B23 and Condal CrossFit were both awesome!
While we were in Spain (Matt was working a CF L1 Course there), we only had the opportunity to go to Barcelona, so I definitely want to go back and explore other cities such as Madrid and in the South of Spain to get a better idea of what Spain is like. Overall Matt and I enjoyed our time there, but we aren’t big city people, so I don’t know if we would choose to necessarily go back to Barcelona. We are happy that we got to see some of the amazing sights though. Just a little warning: Barcelona IS super touristy. The CONSTANT hustle and bustle was a little overwhelming at times. I did love being able to actually use my Spanish for the first time in Europe though! It was SO nice to be able to easily get around, ask for directions, and have actual conversations with the locals!
We started off our "tourist" day by getting on one of the hop on hop off Barcelona Turistica Buses and going down to Port Vell. It was beautiful to just walk around explore this area of Barcelona!
We next decided to walk up "La Rambla", a massive street that has restaurants and stores on each side and that leads up to another main square - Catalunya. Matt and I got lunch at a cute little restaurant on "La Rambla" and caught another tourist bus at Catalunya. We decided that we should try to get up to "La Sagrada Familia" as soon as possibly, so bypassed all of the other tourist stops, but did get to see some other landmarks such as La Pedrera (also designed by Gaudi) since we were on the top of the bus (open air). Upon arriving at "La Sagrada Familia" we were in awe of the magnificent building, AND the astonishing line to get in!
I had seen "skip the line" ticket on viator the day before but neither of us had expected a line like this! My advice - DEFINITELY pay a little extra and get a skip the line ticket! We ended up walking around it outside and looking at all of the different "facades" built into the architecture describing and illustrating the birth and death of Jesus, amongst other symbolic moments in the church's history. AMAZING. I took a "virtual tour" inside once I got back to the hotel because I still wanted to be able to see it!
Next we went to Park Guell, also created by Gaudi. Make sure you also buy tickets ahead of time for this one! We loved being able to walk around the gardens and explore the area. It was HUGE! We eventually walked about a mile up a massive hill with steps and paths to see the most beautiful view of Barcelona.
We ended our night with our favorite activity - a Flamenco show! After reading a lot of reviews I booked us ticket to "El Tablao de Carmen". It is located inside of "Poble Espanyol" (an architectural museum that looks like a castle with amazing restaurants and shops AND one of the stops from the tourist bus), which usually has an entrance fee, but if you have a reservation to "El Tablao de Carmen", you also don't have to pay the fee to enter (and you can still explore the area inside)! We also got a 10% discount because of the coupon book that the Barcelona Tourist Bus Service gave us. Overall, it was a super romantic and enjoyable dinner watching a flamenco show. Matt and I loved it because it was off the beaten path and we could just relax, drink some wine, eat delicious food, and not feel like we were in the center of the city with the constant tourists.
I was fascinated at the fact that Flamenco is such an intimate dance between the singer/musicians and the dancer. It is truly an art to be able to work together and stay on timing to create a very passionate performance!
Oh and I just HAD to put in a picture of my arepas from the areparia that we found! I was in HEAVEN eating authentic areas and cachapas! Don't worry, I also tried a TON of Spanish food and Tapas while in Spain!
Questions about any of the places we went? Any suggestions for places you've been in Barcelona?