The German Wings flight from Stuttgart to Barcelona is only an hour and 20 minutes direct. Super cool. We chose it because it the warmest place we could fly on the cheap this time of year direct from Germany. There was concern (not on my part) that we would get bored because we usually don’t stay in one place for longer than a week. That was not the case with Barcelona. We left the city with plenty of things we still wanted to do. As lists go, of course I had a spreadsheet of everything to do including food, dessert, beer and landmarks. We downloaded it to our phones so when we weren’t in free WiFi zones, we could still access it. In the first bar we visited, one of the locals starts up a conversation with us. He started learning English at 34 years old, though he spoke perfectly with us (which made us feel better about trying to learn German now being in a similar age bracket) so he enjoyed speaking with people to improve. He automatically crossed off a few places and suggested a few better ones to add to our list. Very helpful.
We stayed in the Sant Antoni area which was between Plaza Espanya and El Raval. We walked to everything including the Segrada Familia which is about 3k each way. We had originally planned to get the T10 train pass from the airport to share (10 ride card for 10 Euros vs. 2+ euros per trip per person), but the weather was so nice during the day, we just walked and made stops along the way to each place so nothing was that far. As soon as the sun went down though, it was really cold. We carried layers with us to put on after sunset if we hadn’t made it back to the hotel yet.
- Fleece lined leggings are still awesome even in Barcelona.
- Bring more than 2 pairs of shoes to rotate over the week. This isn’t New York anymore, walking used to be no big deal for hours and hours, but now that we drive and take the trains, we were a little sore walking the city 8 hours a day.
- Eat on a holiday week before midnight.Other than NYE, everything pretty much closes, including the kebab places that are normally open late. We spent a few late nights out starving on the way home with nothing open.
- Shopping and most things are closed on New Year’s Day and Kings Day Jan. 6th.
In Barcelona, the language or regional dialect is Catalan which is a mix of French and Spanish. There were different menus in Catalan and Spanish at restaurants. Everyone had an English menu too. We tried to get by on the Spanish we knew, but it was harder to understand Catalan.
New Year’s Eve was also a learning experience. Everything we read said people in Barcelona don’t do fireworks or anything big. Many do gather in the Plaça de Catalunya as they light the tower up for NYE but there is no music or anything spectacular. It’s more typical to have dinner with family at home then go out to a club after midnight. No fireworks except those that clubs may have set up from the beach but nothing official. Having read all that, we followed suit and made dinner reservations to ring in the New Year as many articles suggested we do.
We should have made the reservation earlier, and then at 11:30 pm gone to the Magic Fountain of Montjuic instead. The fountain puts on a show that goes along with music and changes colors which doesn’t sound that amazing, but then we saw it lit during a regular scheduled show a few days later, we realized it’s HUGE. It reminded us of the Bellagio in Las Vegas only bigger. It would have been an awesome thing to see at midnight then find a bar or club after. While the restaurant was good, there wasn’t a count down or anything that felt special. They did give us 12 grapes at midnight. It is a good luck tradition to eat a grape at the sound of each bell at the stroke of midnight. Try it, it’s harder to do than it sounds.
The morning of NYE there was a line out the door of few bakeries. Naturally, we jump in line too to see what everyone is excited about. Everyone was buying the same thing, these large flat bread roll with cream and candied cherries, powered sugar or chocolate sprinkles on. They are about the size of a large pizza, so not really great for the 2 of us to pick up and try. We found another place, also with a long line out the door, that sold a smaller version. So tasty, not as sweet as you would imagine. Of course, we got the one with chocolate sprinkles.
Aside from breads, another good luck tradition is to find the pooping man in the public Nativity scenes in the city. We found him.Yes it’s a real thing.
There were a few food markets in Barcelona but the largest was The Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria. We had amazing prawns at one of the restaurant counters inside. I don’t recommend you walk through here unless you can handle a lot of animals for sale… with the fur and feathers still on. Nothing goes to waste. The best snack was the fresh juice (find the 1 euro stands past the 2 euro ones in the front) and the cones of meat and cheese to eat on the go.
Must do: The Segrada Familia. Get the ticket online ahead of time to reserve an entry time, go before 5pm to make sure the sun is shining through the windows and don’t do the Gaudi House ticket with it, just do the church. We made that mistake. The cost to go inside the church is worth it and proceeds go toward the foundation to finish building it (projected by 2030). It’s not your average church. The color and light inside is “wow” when you walk in. The outside has so much going on but overall is meant to tell the story of the birth of Jesus. Each section is a different part of the story.
Casa Batillo is also by Gaudi in the Passeig de Gràcia area which is about 2k south of the Segrada Familia. The Park Güell is where Gaudi’s home is located, another 2k north of Segrada. We didn’t realize these distances until we got there and took a 10 euro cab (expensive) to the park. There is a great look out point at the top of the park which is a hike, and spots to bring lunch and hang out but it was nothing compared to the church. It’s huge though and has lots of hills, stairs and walking trails. The Casa Batllo is in the city center, unlike the Segrada, so you could walk right by it without noticing it if you aren’t looking, but the architecture is amazing. It is expensive to get in though at 21 euro per person.
Sitges And More Barcelona To Be Continued… Next Post Climbing (attempted) and local breweries.
Happy New Year!! PROST! (Rogue in Barcelona)