Oh, Barcelona! On my Grand Contiki Tour I had the privilege to visit this amazing city. It was our only stop in Spain. After Paris we had a couple nights in the French countryside after which we swung west to hit Spain.
We had two nights in Barcelona, however, our hostel was on the outskirts of the city and the drive into Spain was very long and tiring. So once we got to the hostel we were in for the night. So in the end we had about 24 hours in the city, well, really only 24 hours in the country.
We headed out early the next morning to fully experience our day in Barcelona. Our first stop – Montjuïc.
This is a hill in Barcelona that has an almost flat top which hosts a castle and an impressive view of the city as well as one of the best views of the city’s harbour which lies immediately below a sheer cliff on the hill. This is also where the 1992 Olympic Complex sits.
The 1992 Olympic Torch. An archer shot a flaming arrow from the other side of the stadium and managed to miss the torch… however the clever Spanish pumped enough gas through the torch that the mere passing of the arrow through the air near the torch set it aflame – disaster averted.
la Sagrada Família
Once we left Montjuïc we did a little driving tour of the city. This included the famous Sagrada Familia. This enormous Roman Catholic church was designed by the architect Antoni Gaudi. One of his most famous works, it is still unfinished though work commenced in 1882 and it’s current estimated completion date is 2026. You can definitely tell the difference between what Gaudi worked on and what was completed after his death. Gaudi’s style is definitely distinct and (I believe) in an effort to speed up the process was not fully continued on the newer parts of the building.
The Gothic Quarter
After our drive past la Sagrada Familia, we took a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter. This is the old part of Barcelona and sits in the centre of the city, where the streets are cobblestone and labyrinth like and the buildings are old. Most date back to the medieval times and were built as far back as the Roman occupation of Spain. There is a palace and numerous churches as well as a myriad number of other things.
The rest of the afternoon was free to explore the city. I chose to go it alone and headed down to la Rambla. This is a tree-lined pedestrian street in central Barcelona that stretches for 1.2 kilometres. It is lined with tapas bars and full of street performers. A mixture of shops line the street and down the side-streets from the high-end to the quirky.
I have to admit, I went shopping. I browsed in and out of stores and wandered the streets and just took the atmosphere in. I think this was my favourite part of Barcelona. I bought an adorable purse for my mom and myself a pair of leather stilettos. Afterwards I met up with some of the girls on the tour and had the best sangria I have ever tasted.
A Night Out on the Town
Once the tour all got back together, those of us who had opted in (which I think may have been everyone) went to a Flamenco show. I highly recommend doing this if you’re ever in Spain. The dancing was spectacular and it is a bit of culture that you must experience.
Afterwards we headed out to the Harbour and Port Olympico area for dinner. Everyone was free to find there own food and about 16 of us ended up walking along the harbour searching for a restaurant. And we found the most amazing seafood I have ever eaten. I really mean it – the best. A couple of the guys managed to finagle us a four course Spanish dinner for about €16 each. It was pretty much as much food as we could possibly eat. I don’t remember all of the specifics but I do remember the mussels. I had never had mussels before and I didn’t know what I was missing. I dream about those mussels. There was a huge selection of other seafood plus wine and dessert. It was by far one of the best meals I had on my trip to Europe.
We ended the night by going out to the bars in the Port Olympico area – I must note, it was in the middle of the week, so one of the best things about taking a tour with about 50 people is that it means no matter where you go you already have a crowd – and this draws in more people. This was probably best demonstrated in Barcelona – we walked into an almost empty bar but by the time we left it was the busiest place on the street. The fact that we were there drew in other tourists and even the locals and the bartender/owner knew this. Half-price drinks all night long.
So ended our time in Barcelona and in Spain. The next morning we headed out to the French Riviera!