Barcelona has been at the top of my Wanderlust Wishlist for absolutely ages and I was beginning to think I would never get to visit it, so I think you can guess how excited I was when Mark surprised us with a trip there for my Christmas present! (Yes I cried when I opened the envelope telling me where we were going!)
The kids came with us because I want them to see as much of the world as possible. It’s not something that I was able to do when I was a child so it makes me really happy to be able to give them these experiences. Our trip was booked for February Half-Term so that the kids didn’t miss any school and it fitted around Mark’s work schedule. We flew out on a Monday lunch-time and arrived in Barcelona just after 3pm and our flight home was on the Wednesday at about 5pm, so we had roughly 48 hours to explore the city.
Whenever we have gone away in the past we have stayed in a hotel, but this time we decided to try a serviced apartment and we loved it! The location of the apartment was fantastic, we could see La Rambla from the balcony, and we had so much space, with a small kitchen area, lounge and dining area, two bedrooms and two bathrooms. We really liked this type of accommodation and I think it’s something that we will definitely use again. The only downside was that it was very noisy. Our bedroom was at the front of the building and there was a lot of noise all night, which meant we got very little sleep on both nights. Fortunately the kids’ room was at the back and they weren’t disturbed at all. But this hasn’t put us off using serviced apartments and to be honest, we would probably give this apartment another go if we were to return to Barcelona.
It was pouring with rain when we arrived, but this didn’t dampen our spirits. After getting the keys and dropping off the bags, we headed out for a wander and to get something to eat. We were advised to find somewhere on one of the side streets to eat as they were much cheaper than eating on La Rambla, and we soon found a lovely little restaurant to shelter from the rain in. After our meal (I was on a mission to try Patatas Bravas, which were totally delicious and completely lived up to my expectations!) we decided just to have a wander and fortunately the rain had stopped by this point, so we set off. We walked up to Placa de Catalunya and stopped in a few shops (Abby had saved all her money for Sephora so we popped in there) and then headed back in the down La Rambla, towards our apartment. On the way we had a look round the La Boqueria market and then we came across a festival, which involved very tall models of women and was fun to watch them parade past.
We hadn’t made an itinerary for our time in Barcelona, but I did have one ‘must-do’ and that was to see La Sagrada Familia, the cathedral built by Gaudi. We found a little cafe for breakfast and then had a stroll through the Gothic Quarter to see the Barcelona Cathedral. As we didn’t have very long in Barcelona and we wanted to see as much as possible we decided to use one of the hop-on, hop-off buses. This isn’t something we would normally do as we prefer to just wander around at our own speed, but the bus seemed like the best option and we actually really enjoyed it!
We hopped off the bus at La Sagrada Familia and marvelled at the intricacy of the building. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get tickets to go into the towers and the only tickets available for the main part of the cathedral on the day we were visiting were for late afternoon, which didn’t fit with our plans, so we didn’t go inside – something we’ll save for another day. I wasn’t disappointed though as I just really wanted to see it in real life and it didn’t disappoint, it’s absolutely spectacular and the towers are even taller than I had imagined them to be.
After a warm drink we hopped back on the bus to see some more sights. Originally we were thinking about getting out to have a look around Park Guell, but the weather had turned and it had started to drizzle so none of us really fancied it. Instead we left the bus nearer to the end of the tour so that we could see two more beautiful examples of Gaudi’s work – Casa Batllo and La Pedrera. From here we walked back down to Placa de Catalunya where he had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe (a treat for Harry as he is a huge rock music fan).
The bus tour runs two different routes and our ticket allowed us to do both, so after lunch we got on the bus for the second route. I was a bit worried that the kids would be totally bored by this point, but it turns out that they were actually enjoying hopping on and off of the buses, especially as it meant a lot less walking for them!
The second route took us past the Arc de Triomf (yes you read that right, I had no idea that there was one in Barcelona either!), down along the marina and then up to Montjuic, where we got off the bus to see the spectacular views. The sun had come out again so we decided to continue on foot for a while and walked up the hill and have a look around the Estadi Olimpic, originally built in 1929 but not used until the 1992 Olympics. We had a good look around the Olympic Park before catching another bus (they run roughly every 20 minutes, so you don’t have to wait too long if you miss one). Back onboard, we sat upstairs for a while but we were soon all freezing and decided to move downstairs where it was slightly warmer. We had considered touring Camp Nou, home to Barcelona FC, but the kids declared they were too cold, so instead we found a little cafe and had cake and hot chocolates before heading back to the apartment.
Our second morning arrived with blue skies and slightly warmer temperatures. After leaving our bags with the office attached to the apartments, we grabbed some breakfast and decided how to spend our last few hours. We opted to spend the time just wandering around and seeing anything that took our fancy. We spent some more time in the Gothic Quarter and headed in the direction of the Arc de Triomf as we hadn’t managed to see it properly from the bus the previous day. From there we strolled around the side streets and stumbled upon some stunning architecture. It’s very easy to wander around without getting lost in Barcelona and we felt completely safe, but you do have to be careful with your belongings as there are lots of pickpockets.
We walked down towards the marina to see the Christopher Columbus monument and Mark spied a Game of Thrones exhibition. We had plenty of time to spare so we headed inside. Now, I know very little about GOT and the kids know even less, but Mark loves it and has watched the whole series twice so it was a treat for him., The kids and I still found the exhibition enjoyable (plus it was warm in there!). We then explored the side streets to the left of La Rambla (if you were standing on the marina looking towards it) and Harry was delighted to find lots of shops selling musical instruments and music paraphernalia. It felt a little bit like Carnaby Street back in the 90s and I really liked this area. We had a lunch in a small cafe and then it was time to collect our bags and head to the airport.
Although it was a very short trip I felt like I saw plenty and got a real feel for Barcelona and I’m delighted that I’ve finally managed to tick it off of my list. On the flight home Mark and I talked about whether we would return there and at the time I said no, I felt like I had seen enough and had thoroughly enjoyed myself, but Barcelona hadn’t captured my heart like Paris or Rome did. However, while writing this I do wonder if the weather tainted my view a little, because it was so cold it meant that La Rambla was very quiet and there was none of the cafe culture that I was expecting. I think if I was to go back I would like to go in a warmer month, and maybe also for a bit longer, so that I had more time to soak it all in and I would definitely visit the beach (which looked stunning), Parc Guell and Tibidabo.
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