Diving in: Barcelona Sightseeing - the Essentials

After having spent the rest of the day roaming the streets of Barcelona, we were pretty hungry and decided to just go and look for something to eat. Since La Rambla was the only thing that sounded familiar so far - we read our city guide - we headed over there for dinner. Total tourist trap! 

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The sangria was giving me a headache, the beer was utterly expensive and so was the food that, to crown it all, was not the best. Flop.

Well, I guess it happens. The funny thing about it is that we were looking up tapas bars online the next morning and stumbled upon a post explaining the 10 things one shouldn’t do in Barcelona: Eat on La Rambla. We took it in good part. There was nothing we could do about it anymore and so we just forgot about it. 

Anyway, day 2 was dawning and we were ready to soak in as much as possible.

After a goodnight sleep in a cozy bed and a decent breakfast, we were ready to dive into Barcelona life. This was our first real day. 

It was a very tourist day, I have to admit but actually, we only had 3 days and wanted to make the most of it. So, what are you going to do when you’re new to a city? I believe one should at least have seen the main sights. Not everyone might agree but those are not called “main attractions” for nothing. I can already say that this has not been my last visit to Barcelona so next time I will dig a little deeper. 

But first, we had the popular places on the agenda. We started our sightseeing tour at the Plaça d'Espanya.

To make it even more touristy, we purchased a hop-on hop-off bus day ticket which should be our means of transport for the day. It was about 27 Euros each, however, there are three bus routes and if you leave your accommodation early and basically take the last bus, then it is well worth it. You can hop on and hop off whenever you want to and buses show up approximately about every 10 minutes. It was indeed convenient. 

Our first stop was the Montjuïc (Jewish Mountain). We jumped in on of the cable  cars and went up the mountain to enjoy a wonderful view on the city. 

When you go with Barcelona Bus Touristic, you will also get a little booklet with many discounts. Sure, some are better than others but for our ride up, we each had to pay 2 Euros less than others. One doesn’t complain.

I love seeing cities from above and when in the gondola, I had the feeling that this view point would be a cracker. (We hadn’t been up to Tibidabo Mountain up to that point so chances are I might change my opinion here. I do actually.)

The weather was exceptional and our mood couldn’t be better; we were far away from the ordinary and enjoying every single second. I don’t know why but I thought Barcelona would be a nice city - that’s why we wanted to visit it - but I didn’t think I would come to like it that much. There it was again:this feeling of pure ease and the thought that living here would be oh so perfect. 

Having reached the top (not even a 10 mins ride up), we jumped out of the gondola and continued our little walk. The sun was burning already, which definitely made this city trip a bit of a challenge. It’s definitely a little more exhausting than exploring a city let’s say in England or Scotland due to a different climate. Duh, who am I to tell you (I know, quite obvious actually)? Sunscreen, sunglasses and loads of water in the backpack are definitely the three essentials otherwise a headache and lobster look will be saying “hello” shortly. No fun. You want to avoid that. 

Right when leaving the gondola, you’ll see a lush green castle. You have the chance to visit the Castell de Montjuïc (Catalan), an old military fortress. 

I had the feeling that many locals come up here with their bikes. We also saw quite a few runners. If it hadn’t been that warm, I would have totally gone for a run up there, as well. But walking was enough for now as temperatures were high already 9.30 in the morning. We took it easy.

I was thoroughly immersing myself in the atmosphere up there. It was a mix of easy-peasy weekend feeling, total happiness about being able to explore another city and a thirst for action and simply…more. The rush of adrenaline was undoubtedly there. Obviously, the sun was making an outstanding contribution to my mood. Happy hormones!

It’s a weird feeling I have when on the road, running shoes on, camera in my hands. It’s pure freedom. You never know what awaits you. Each corner is a new surprise. This feeling of not knowing is pure bliss - at least this is how I see it.

We walked the whole way around the castell before we went back down to the gondola station where we took the next bus that was just showing up. Perfect timing. We then continued our way to the harbor and enjoyed the nice breeze sitting on the top deck of the bus. 

We got off at the Maremagnum, a very big shopping mall right at the harbor. 

After a little coffee break, we continued our tour around the city. Look, there’s love everywhere.

The next stop was Barceloneta, probably the beach that is closest to the city and that was buzzing already. You also find many bars and restaurants. 

We were really debating whether we should go on a little jet ski ride but we didn’t have our bathing suits with us. Too bad!

We watched the hustle and bustle for a little while and then hopped on a bus once again. It took us to the city and I couldn’t help but aw and oh at the pretty buildings. Barcelona is a very clean city and the living standard is comparatively high. 

We randomly got off another stop to go for a walk through the little alleyways that I particularly like and that exude a certain charm. 

Look at those little bars! You find them everywhere. I really would try to eat and drink at all of them if I lived there. 

The little alleys make Barcelona seem so cozy and familiar. 

Another one of our items on the list was the Mercat St. Josep, the most famous and I also think oldest market in Barcelona - correct me if I am wrong. It’s also the most crowded and most touristy one, but you know, since we were tourists that day anyway… The food is second to none! 

After an overexcitement of our senses, we were ready to move on. There was still a lot of ground to cover and I was afraid we wouldn’t manage to see all of it. “But we will be back, for sure”, I kept telling myself. 

Antoni Gaudì is a big modernist artist and very, I mean very famous. I have to admit that I am really not much of an art or architecture expert, by no means, but some works seemed quite impressive. This is the Casa Milà.

Next on the agenda was the very popular Sagrada Familia, the cathedral that has been under construction…forever, so it seems. 

Then we were ticking one thing off the list that we were both very excited for: Tibidabo Mountain, the highest view point in Barcelona. We went up with a train and due to the fact that we had the discount booklet, we only had to pay 6 Euros instead of 7.70. I know, this is still not the cheapest fare but I am of the opinion that city trips are not meant to save every penny. Of course, you shouldn’t blow your money like crazy but it’s experiences you pay for and those remain in form of memories. Those should be worth 6 Euros, I believe. 

Having reached the top of Tibidabo, we found ourselves right in the midst of the hustle and bustle of an amusement park. Yes, you heard it right: there is an amusement park right on top. 

However, I was more interested in the view and this was second to none. 

From up there we could oversee the whole city. This view is a cracker.

Going up Tibidabo was my personal highlight of the day. 

We spent about an hour walking around and just soaking it all in before we decided it was time for some dinner. Our feet were getting a wee bit tired, anyway. We went back to Plaça d'Espanya where - not far from our hotel - we found ourselves a little restaurant filled with many locals. After the dinner disaster the night before, we thought we should eat somewhere locally as we can’t go wrong with this. And we were right this time. Luckily. 

Two drinks and a big pizza for 9.99 Euros? This made us stay and the escapade from yesterday was forgotten. 

We finished off the day with a cool drink and loads of cheese on the pizza (for me). Why do the most fun things always have to go by so quickly?

What we saw in a nutshell:

- Montjuïc

- Maremagnum (shopping center)

- Port Vell - Harbor

- Barceloneta (beach closest to the city)

- Barrio Gotico Area

- Magic Fountain - Font Màgica

- Park Guell by Antoni Gaudi

- Casa Milà

- Plaça Catalunya

- Mirador De Colom - Columbus Monument

- La Boqueria Market - Mercat de Sant Josep

- La Sagrada Familia

- Camp Nou Stadium

- Tibidabo

Very exhausted, yet very happy we hit the sheets and were dreaming about living in Barcelona for a little while, as the city made a wonderful impression on us. Unfortunately, Sunday, the last full day, would be dawning soon…(more about that shortly.)

Have you been to Barcelona before? Did you see the tourist sites first or did you start exploring the city differently? How do you usually go about seeing a new city: Do you see the tourist attractions first? Share your thoughts with me below!