When I got married to my lovely wife, we decided to spend our honeymoon traveling across Europe. Although we were born half a world away from each other, we had both traveled in many of the same places, often at the same time, but it was not until we both lived in New Zealand that we actually met. So we created a travel plan, bought lots of plane tickets and embarked on our travels. It was a sound and interesting plan. Amsterdam-Barcelona-Cordoba-Nice-Rome-Athens. But there was one thing that neither had taken into account. The lure of Barcelona.
I had previously lived in this city, and it is probably one of my favorite places on the planet. It is compact, easy to get around in, it has more sights per square meter than just about anywhere I know. plus both beaches and mountains are very close by and the Catalan people are very friendly and welcoming. Many of the larger cities in Europe have made locals a bit jaded towards travelers, but this is not the case in Barcelona. Of the 100 or so people who I have told about the secrets of this place, not one did not fall in love with it. It has changed a huge amount since I first lived here in the 90s, and not all for the best, but that is what happens to any popular location. The special charm is still there.
We spent a week in Amsterdam and then flew in to Spain. It was September, so the vast majority of the tourists were gone, but the weather was still fair and warm, as it often is right up until December in this city. We found our hotel, dropped our bags and went off in search of wine and tapas. if you chose to visit, the best time is Spring (late April – June 1st) or Autumn (Sept/Oct). In summer the city can get very busy and over the very short winter it can get a little chilly. But actually anytime is good for a visit.
You don’t have to look far in Barcelona for good food. It is everywhere, and nothing beats lounging around in a square in the old town drinking a glass of Rioja with a plate of pulpo gallego (a delicious octopus dish). We took a stroll on the Ramblas taking in the flower stands, pet shops and living statues. This avenue is magic. it is the main pedestrian street in the city, where you will see people of all ages, walking up and down at all hours, laughing, flirting and just enjoying life. Something the Spanish call “La Marcha”. This expression can actually mean a lot of things, so perhaps learn some Spanish before you use it. The Ramblas has become very tourist-centric but it’s still great for a stroll in the evening. Otherwise look for Paseo De Gracia just above Plaza Catalunya, there is great food everywhere and lots to look at.
Later that day we took the subway to Sagrada Familla, the fantastical church designed by Antonio Gaudi that is still not completed after 100 years of work. It is awe-inspiring and humbling to see this structure but it’s just one of the many fingerprints that Gaudi left around this amazing city. You’ll find his work everywhere, from park benches, to fountains to lampposts.
After the second day there, my wife asked if we could just rent a flat for 6 weeks, skip all the other stops on the journey, and just immerse ourselves in Barcelona. It took less than a second to agree, because falling in love with this city is just way to easy. My advice if you are coming here? Don’t make any plans past Barcelona.