Barcelona, you were good to me. You gave me the ‘I am so content with life right now’ feels. I am absolutely 100% certain that I want to return.
In the meantime, a whopper roundup of my first trip! As I’ve mentioned about 50 times already, this was my first solo overseas experience, so I’ve written this as a diary / thoughts and advice for other first time solo travelers / general observations on Barcelona. Plus tips for how to meet people on your solo jollies.
Oh and I went on my own, did I mention that?!?!?!?
I took a similar ‘not too planned’ approach as I did in Budapest, which works especially well on your lonesome because you can literally just meander aimlessly without considering if other people would rather meander the other way. As for transport, I bought my T10 ticket straight away – 10 journeys worked out to be the perfect amount for 3 days of sightseeing and exploring, and was so much better value than in the UK. Whaddya know, there isn’t a ‘no eye contact and be rude to strangers’ rule like on the London tube, either! The fact that 1 journey could actually involve as many metros as you liked within an hour meant travel worked out so cheap and easy. I felt like I got my bearings pretty quickly in Barcelona too, despite having not looked at a map much beforehand.
Beach was my first port of call – my first time visiting a city on the seafront so seemed an obvious place to start. Lots of peoplewatching to be done. I made my way veryyyy slowly along Barceloneta promenade – a walk I very much enjoyed and only regretted A) wearing a maxi dress when I wanted to walk in the sea and B) not buying a crepe to snack on. You live and you learn. Barceloneta beach was absolutely packed, but it wouldn’t have stopped me taking a dip if I had someone to leave my bags with.
Sunglasses c/o VIA eyewear
Parc De La Ciutadella
I bloody loved this park. So much random stuff going on! I felt like it was a real ‘anything goes’ kind of a place where anyone and everyone rocks up to just do their thing. Acroyoga, trumpet playing, beatboxing, roller skating, the lot. Or just chilling, y’know. That’s allowed too. Cool vibes.
Lol at all your holiday pics being selfies until the point when you find someone you trust enough to hand your camera to.
Arc De Triomf
I gawped and walked under it. Not a massive amount else to inform you of with that one. Worth a good gawp at though!
Basically a fruit lover’s dream. Soooo many smoothies! Tbh I can’t actually remember which flavour I eventually decided on but I could drink a ton of these every day. Really cool market selling tons of cool fresh stuff.
I didn’t take too many photos in there as I’d been warned the markets around Las Ramblas were the worst for pickpockets, so I left my camera in my bag. Tbh I kept a pretty tight grip on my bag at all times, but have no bad stories to report! Felt very safe at all times.
As meeting points go, this was a pretty impressive one!
Gaudi walking tours
The idea of having someone else take the navigation part out of sightseeing appealed to me, so I literally just googled ‘free walking tours Barcelona’ and chose one that ranked pretty high and had good reviews and booked myself on. Couldn’t recommend Runner Bean tours enough! They’re technically free, but obviously you leave a donation of what you believe the tour was worth at the end.
More stopping and staring and snapping. The stories behind Gaudi’s work and life were fascinating – crazy how many ups and downs this guy had! Bearing in mind how straight and symmetrical most architecture is, Gaudi’s curves, colours and wacky shapes are just something else. I took the advice I’d heard from many not to bother going inside any of the Gaudi buildings – whilst they look impressive as hell, it didn’t seem worthwhile to squish an expensive visit into my 2 and a half days in Barcelona. So I gave them a miss and admired from the outside instead.
The seafloor tiles wouldn’t fit in the house so Gaudi lined the street with them instead, don’t you know. 😛
Well duhh. You can’t go to Barcelona and not see this one, can you? Our Gaudi tour ended here, and as soon as we came out of the metro station everyone turned round and came out with a synchronised ‘Wow’. Not even joking! That thing is mahoosive. Crazy to think how long it’s been in the making too – especially when you can see clearly from the plans how far there is to go.
Turns out walking tours are a fab place to meet people! Michelle was so lovely and we got on really well straight away. Yay for pals from across the Atlantic!
Lunch in the Gothic Quarter
Because when you meet people on walking tours, you meet people to have lunch with. 😀 Finding a menú del día was recommended as the best lunch option – definitely true! Eating in Barcelona seemed generally be quite expensive (as I expected), but a 2 course lunch plus wine and dessert for between €11-14 was pretty good. Many places offer a menú del día (set menu) between 1pm and 4pm, so if you’d rather only eat out once per day due to budget, I’d definitely go for a late lunch rather than evening meal.
Any chance to eat seafood, I’ll take it! Bloody love squid lol.
Only a brief stop here! Observations: many topless people; some bizarre floating sculptures that strangely resemble men peeing; and expensive boats. Michelle and I bought a desperately needed cold drink from trusty Starbs in the shopping centre, and headed our separate ways for the evening.
Santa Maria del Mar
Another one I stumbled across unintentionally when I found myself with an hour to kill! I *should* have taken a chill pill instead of rushing like hell to get ready, and then I might have realised that the meeting time was actually 7, not 6. Classic Lily dimwittery. Howeverrrrr, if I had actually double checked the meeting time like any sensible human then I wouldn’t have explored the gothic quarter and found the Santa Maria del Mar, so swings and roundabouts!
A few of my friends have already joined this group since I mentioned it on my Instagram, and I’m gonna send the rest of you (girls only, soz) that way too! So many inspiring ladies in there. I saw chitchat about Barcelona going on a few weeks ago, messaged one of the girls living there, was added to a BCN Girlfriends WhatsApp chat and ended up meeting up with these fabulous girls whilst I was there. Our night started with puppy cuddles (see if you can spot Remi the pup in this photo!), followed by juices at the place where Dayana works, followed by pizza and wine and lots of getting to know each other. As a solo girl it’s not a bad idea to arrange to meet up with people who know the area better than you if you’re heading out at night too. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Dayana, Kristina, Caitlin, LeAna & Brandon, and Lucie – thank you for making it so!
Gothic Quarter Walking Tour
If I had to recommend only one walking tour, I’d probably make it the Gaudi one. However, I feel like hearing the history and the anecdotes gave me a far greater appreciation for the Old City as we walked around. Interesting to hear how many of the facades were relatively new and had just been transplanted from their original locations, too! The photo above isn’t of any particular location, but the way the shards of light fell on the leaves just caught my eye. Sun high in the sky + tall buildings with narrow streets = interesting light play!
More lunch from a menú del día.
Michelle and I asked our Gaudi tour guide Zoe for other recommendations in Barcelona, and at her suggestion met up to see Montjuic for ourselves on the Thurday night. Here’s a pointer for other first timers: heading up Montjuic requires taking the slanty metro (technical term unknown) halfway up the hill, then taking the cablecar up the remainder. Sounds ridiculously simple there, but somehow the signposts and maps managed to make that simple journey somewhat confusing!
Anyway, once halfway up the hill we decided to take the short walk to the Olympic Stadium, and boy am I glad we did. Wasn’t on my must-see list, but I’d urge you to add it to yours!
Think I’ve found THE perfect OOTD location.
Montjuïc Cable Car
Worth it for that view. I love taking cablecars!
Very jealous that Michelle had 2 weeks to explore Spain!
Spot the Sagrada Familia. 🙂
Magic Fountain of Montjuïc
If somebody had shown me a video of this setting, I’d have 100% guessed they were at Disney. The crowds of people sitting on every step and all over the floor, the music, the lights – definitely had that feel to it! So touristy and kinda cheesy (and also with very poor toilet facilities lol), but one of those things I’m glad I did. Was a fun way to end my last night.
And that’s a wrap. Jeez that was a long one. If you’ve ever been to Barcelona, please tell me your highlights and stories in the comments!
Part 1: Flying with Monarch Airlines
Part 2: My stay at Retrome Urban Retreat, Barcelona
lily kate x
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malu21st September 2016 at 3:03 pm
YESS Barcelona is so great!
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Mathilde1st January 2017 at 6:18 pm
I have no idea of what GLT Meetup is, could you please enlighten me a little ?
Barcelona seems like such a vibrant city. at the top of my European capital travel buck list for sure
Lily Kate France6th January 2017 at 12:22 pm
There’s a Facebook group called Girls Love Travel, and it’s one of the best, most supportive, fascinating groups I’ve ever seen! I met up with some other girls from the group whilst in Barcelona, who were from all over the world. I’d 100% recommend Barcelona!