This summer, we took a family trip to Europe to celebrate my sister’s graduation!
My mom is part Spanish and has always wanted to visit Spain before she wouldn’t be able to walk around Europe with ease. Her want to do it sooner rather than later and my time off of work made it the perfect time for us all to go! We decided on Barcelona since it is a major city and we could get a lot out of our four full days there. My mom wanted to go to the northern regions of Spain since that’s where her family history traces back to and Madrid would’ve been amazing, but for our first stop and my mom and sister’s first time to Europe, a big city gave us a good balance.
I love planning and doing research and when I asked my sister what she wanted to do in each place, her response was “I don’t know what’s there”… DUH, that’s why you do research into it and visit! While we were planning the trip early in the year, I would spend my free time at work making a doc of where we were visiting with places and things to do to show to my sister. I asked friends who had visited before as well as used the good-ol’ interwebs. I wrote up little blurbs of each place and also left links for my family to use to do more research and where to buy tickets. My sister put a star next to the places she was interested in since it was her trip and her overall decisions, and then we scheduled that out in a little calendar and were able to fill up some empty times with free activities or places my mom and I wanted to see too. About a month before the trip, I bought all the tickets and printed out the big doc and our calendar to keep us all organized. Buying ahead also saved us money and kept us doing things and had we waited until the last minute to buy something, out trip would’ve cost even more.
Below, you’ll find what we ended up doing in Barcelona with those blurbs, our experience, and where to find out more!
The hotel we stayed at was located a few blocks north of La Rambla, a popular street for food and shopping that you can walk along. Along La Rambla is also Boqueria Market, a marketplace to get anything you could want to eat. On our first full day, we didn’t have anything really scheduled so we could get adjusted from our long travel day, so we walked along La Rambla to get to the beach. While we did stop at Boqueria Market to pick up some fruit to enjoy on the beach, it was a bit longer of a walk than I had originally told my mom and sister. We finally got to La Barceloneta and picked up some thin blankets to lay out on from a store right on the boardwalk. The beach was pretty packed but nice to lay out at for awhile. Near the water isn’t the greatest sand (actually, it’s mostly rocks) but the water felt nice and was super clear. Along the beach were vendors trying to sell you water, beer, sangria, massages, and an invite to a “super cool” party which seemed more like an invite to a Liam Neeson movie to me.
Post-tanning, we grabbed food at “Lulu” in Barcelona because they had food that we would all eat and was super cute. But as you know, super cute doesn’t always equate to super good. It was fine, but I didn’t even get a pic for the ‘gram. We were all pretty exhausted and took a cab back to our hotel.
That evening, we went to the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc where there is a massive fountain and light show that goes on for a couple hours. The fountain is located at the head of Avinguda Maria Cristina and is situated below the Palau Nacional. It was constructed in 1929 and while you may want to stand close to get the best views, the fountain is so massive you’ll want to stay out of it’s splash zone. We stayed for over an hour and then called it a night and went back to our hotel.
The next day we went to Parc Güell which was designed by Antoni Gaudí in 1900 and opened as a public park in 1926. It was supposed to be a housing development but due to the land, continued to be built as a park without destroying the area around it. We got a timed entry ticket from the Parc Güell website and it only cost us 8€ each! We got in at about 11am and spent a few hours there and as we were about to leave, saw a parade from a school across the street. We got super lucky with being able to see locals share their traditions like that! Afterwards, we got a bite to eat nearby then took a cab back to our hotel. This was one of my favorite places in Barcelona because of the architecture, views of the city, and amazing colors.
The next day we went to The Horta Labyrinth and when doing research, I read that only 750 visitors are allowed in at a time so to get there early! We got there as they opened and went up to the booth expecting to pay for our 2€ ticket but since it was a Sunday, it was free! The labyrinth is a hedge maze in the oldest garden in the city and the whole area is so lush and large! Being there with it relatively empty was so beautiful. The maze itself is 820-yards long and was constructed by Marquis Joan Antoni Desvalls of d’Ardena in the 18th century. It’s pretty far away from the city center and finding any cab was so hard to get back so we ended up walking to a nearby metro station and taking it back down to La Rambla. We planned on getting off and eating at the market but since it was Sunday, it was closed. We ended up grabbing churros and gelato and wandering around the gothic quarter.
This wandering around led us to the Picasso Museum and while it wasn’t planned in our itinerary, we figured we had time so why not! Since we didn’t buy our tickets ahead of time and it was later in the day, we did have to wait in a line for our tickets and entrance but got an audio guide to share when inside. It was an easy museum to navigate and having the audio guide was great to hear more background on Picasso’s history! After the museum, we still hadn’t eaten a real meal and my sister managed to sniff out a Mexican restaurant nearby and we all got fajitas. My mom started to take notice that nowhere in Barcelona has a lot of added spice or herbs to their food and you have to ask a few times to get salt and pepper.
For our last full day, we went to La Sagrada Familia and booked our tickets in advance before leaving for the trip. We got tickets with an audio guide and access to the Nativity Facade. While it is still under construction, it is also still a basilica and you need to dress the part, their rules aren’t super strict but my belly button was slightly peeking out above my skirt and I had to adjust it before being allowed to pass security. Once past security, we grabbed our audio guide devices and were able to take as long as we wanted and we did in order to take in the magnitude and detail of the basilica. It’s Antoni Gaudí’s most celebrated work and construction began in 1882 but continues on today. With our ticket, we got took an elevator up one of the facades and looked over the city and walked a spiral staircase back down to the bottom. It was an amazing place to see and as someone who isn’t personally religious, seeing the detail and stories behind every inch still really touched me. As a bonus, we ran into our old neighbor and close family friend with her sister and husband as my mom was praying. Seeing them on what was both of our last days in Barcelona was a great end to the city!
Once we left La Sagrada Família, we walked to the Arc de Triomf and stopped at a few souvenir places and walked back towards our hotel. We stopped near another fountain to hang out with some pigeons then got a nice Spanish dinner of Sangria and Paella. The sangria was good and the chicken in the paella was nice but the seafood in it may or may not have been sneaky octopus which I am not a fan of. In each place, I love trying the local cuisine and although we did it on our last night, I’m happy I did it while in Spain!
Overall, Barcelona was tons of fun and a great first stop for our trip! Besides a bit of sprinkling when we flew in and out, the weather was great the whole time and we were lucky to have the sun shining for us. Shopping near our hotel at the top of La Rambla was also good and we spent one evening shopping around at Urban Outfitters and Zara.
In the document I made for my family there were a few places I listed but we didn’t see while there…
Tibidabo Amusement Park (Tickets are 28€ each)
Tibidabo Amusement Park is an amusement park located on Tibidabo in the Collserola Ridge in Barcelona. The park was built in 1899 by the entrepreneur Salvador Andreu and opened in 1905. The park is among the oldest in the world still functioning!
If you want to experience one of the best views of the city then the Carmel Bunkers are the place to head. Located on the foothills which surround the city, these former wartime bunkers are now a popular hang-out with those looking to escape the busy city-center and admire the impressive 360o view. Free to visit and good for a picnic.
Els Encants Flea Market : One of Barcelona’s largest and best loved flea markets! It has
been around since the 14th century, and it’s a huge open-air outdoor flea market.
Where: Plaça de les Glories Catalanes, Barcelona
When: Monday 8:30 am – 4 pm / Wednesday 8:30 am – 4 pm / Friday 8:30 am – 4 pm / Saturday 8:30 am – 4 pm
Mercat Gòtic: A quaint, well-stocked flea market in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, it almost overflows with a broad selection of vintage wares.
Where: Avenida de la Catedral, Barcelona, Spain
When: Every Thursday from 9 am to 9 pm
I hope you enjoyed this Barcelona trip overview! We got to do a lot while there and saw a variety of attractions. With my family, booking tickets ahead of time made sure that we did things and kept us on somewhat of a schedule.
If you plan on going to Barcelona soon I hope this helps you plan fun things to do and see!
*pics to come soon!