How To Do a Lot in Four Days Without Dying: A Barcelona Itinerary

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Ok. So as you might have noticed I always have an existential dread about writing blog posts at all. I constantly ask myself, why anything I want to write is relevant and -maybe more realistically speaking- who the fuck is gonna read this anyway? So much so that this post has been pending for almost a year. Yes. It’s January 2017 now. But here we go. I was in Barcelona last February with my two uncles and my boyfriend (because why not?) and it was a trip I had planned meticulously, so I had wanted to share it. Now I know, I am not presenting you some little unknown village somewhere in Moldova, but a city that attracts about 7 million visitors per year- which is making the place sometimes unbearable for its 1.7 million inhabitants. Barcelona as a tourist hot spot has seen it all. From naked Italians roaming the streets to housing insecurity because of Airbnb flats. There is even a documentary about the issues this city has with its tourists. Seeing all of this put me off at first- do I really wanna go on a weekend trip to Barcelona and contribute to this? The way I managed to square with my conscience was to go in February, one of the months with the least amount of tourists. I also decided not to turn into a drunk, naked, Italian man for the time of my stay and to generally try to be as un-touristy as possible (more on that on another time maybe?).

As to what to do in Barcelona- I don’t think anyone needs another list, but in case you really wouldn’t know you can look at these lists right here. Or type Barcelona into Pinterest and get sucked into the vortex of travel photos with ridiculously increased color saturation. Once you get sufficiently dizzy from that, the question is only how much you will manage to do within your time there. And that is what this post is for: I have a 4-Day-Itinerary of what we managed to do, which is indeed something I would have liked to see before going. Because sometimes you look up all this great stuff you want to do, but once you are at your dream destination nothing goes as planned. You realize that you completely misjudged the distances, the time you need to stay in queues, you missed that one train because how the fuck do foreign ticket machines work? and mostly, visiting stuff is usually more tiring than you expect- especially since you’re supposed to be on holidays and, you know, relax a bit.

So here is how to do a lot in Barcelona on an extended weekend without dying:

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T H U R S D A Y – arrive, chill and get a first taste of the city

  • Arrive ideally before noon in Barcelona. Morning flights are more expensive so if you’re on a budget, make sure to reserve your flight about three months in advance. Unfortunately there is no night train anymore from Switzerland but if you can afford to take off one more day, there are some attractive trains, especially TGV trains through France. We took the 7.10AM flight from Zurich, arriving at 9AM in Barcelona El Prat for 71 CHF.
  • If you want to follow this itinerary it is worth to get a Barcelona Card (4 Days for 55 Euros). Which you can buy online and then pick up at the Airport in Barcelona. Many free attractions and of course the free use of the public transport are included!
  • The first thing to do is to drop your luggage at your hostel / hotel / flat. I did actually book an Airbnb for this stay (shame!), since I wanted to stay in a less touristy area and preferred to go out for breakfast. We stayed in Sants neighborhood because it has good connections to the city center, while also being quiet at night.
  • Arriving at „your“ place you might realize that you’re already tired (damn it), so better put on your walking shoes immediately and go out exploring (before you take a nap by accident and screw your whole day). What we first did, was to go to Camp Nou– the infamous football stadium of FC Barcelona. It’s a good rainy day activity, as the stadium is covered and the museum is indoors.
  • Take the next Metro, either from Placa del Centre to La Rambla or the R1 train back from Sants to Catalunya and just take a stroll through the streets.
  • You might wonder at this point why I haven’t said anything about food yet, so here is a Pro Tipp: instead of immediately sitting down at the next restaurant, you can grab small things on the go from markets and bakeries almost everywhere. We had some fruit from the (super) markets in Carrer del Vallespir, some pastries from an Espresso Bar at Placa del Centre and then once on La Rambla stocked up on Nuts, Smoothies and local specialties from the Mercado de la Boqueria.
  • My uncles then used the BCN card for the Jamon Experience (tolerate your omnivore companions, people!) while I bought myself a bottle of wine and simply enjoyed watching people on La Rambla. This too is a Pro-Tipp: if your family, friends, partner, random-person-who-got-stuck-to-you-on-the-journey wants to do something you dislike, then you either clench your buttocks and go along or you take the time for some dignified people-watching. Plus points if you make up life stories for strangers.
  • Our dinner location for this evening was Teresa Carles, which even the two meat-eaters enjoyed (more on food later).
  • End your day with a stroll to the port and breathe in the crisp, salty air. If you are a normal 20-something you might find that there are plenty of clubs, bars and lounges at Port Vell and Port Olympic. If you are me however, you could take a walk on Barceloneta beach at night and then head back early in order to induce yourself into a food coma with whatever you picked up from the market.

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F R I D A Y – all about that architecture, also: too many meals.

  • After having had breakfast, which consisted of more market goods, we set out- to have second breakfast! And our first  Catalan modernist piece of architecture: Casa Comalat. In order to combine the two: get off at Diagonal, walk up Passeig de Gràcia to Onna Café and see the building on your way back down.
  • Number two on the architecture list and the first Gaudi is the Sagrada Familia. Take the Metro from Verdaguer (or back from Diagonal) directly to the stop with the same name. As for all the Gaudi Tickets: buy that shit online (the night before if you visit in February- a month before if you come in August) and spare yourself from standing in a queue- or ten.
  • Because you will probably just have spent two hours sitting on a chair and staring at the ceiling with your mouth open, a little walk might do you good. Walk to the Arc de Triomf and photograph the shit out of those palm trees.
  • Before we stuffed ourselves at lunch we made sure to walk around in El Born and Gòtic, where there might be a festival, mind blowing mural or an entirely new world behind every corner. The arguably most beautiful facade of Barcelona can be found here as well, in Carrer de l’Allada-Vermell.
  • I had my lunch on Plaça de George Orwell at Gopalwhere I basically smeared a burger all over myself.
  • After our digestion walk to Plaça Reial we took the Metro to Passeig the Gràcia, took a good look (=500 photos) at Casa Batlló and then went on to visit Casa Milà. If you want to do both, you can. However I preferred to only do one, but really take my time. Despite this I didn’t have nearly enough time in the museum because we walked in circles on the roof for about two hours- as you do.
  • We finished our evening the same way we did on Thursday, which is another Pro Tipp: don’t be afraid to do something twice or come eating at the same place, just because you are afraid of missing out somewhere else.
  • Except we then had a second dinner which was composed of three trips to fast food restaurants and supermarkets in our street. I’ll spare you the details.

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S A T U R D A Y – Barcelona from above and back to sea level.

  • You know the drill: eat for breakfast whatever you can find (today: unidentified pastry) and get going!
  • We got to Plaça Espanya and walked all the way up to Palau Nacional, but we didn’t stop at the museums but transformed our walk into a veritable hike around the Estadi Olílmpic and Jardí Botànic until we were rewarded with an incredible view of the port and later of the city at Castell the Montjuïc. If you prefer less walking and more seeing: many of the attractions on Montjuïc are free with the BCN Card.
  • For more sights from above we took the Transbordador Aeri del Port, which is frankly quite expensive but the views (to me) were worth it. Tipp: Only take it one way and make it the way down, since the queues on top are significantly shorter (or in our case: non existant).
  • Restaurant hopping on Barceloneta is a special treat. Our first course were burgers at Bacoa, dessert was ice cream from La Heladería Mexicana (spicy dark chocolate?!), followed by several pit stops along the beach for drinks.
  • Now I know this is sort of lame but we also went shopping this afternoon, especially since there is no Muji near me.

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S U N D A Y – a last Gaudi & taking it easy

  • A big mistake with city trips is trying to squeeze in as much as possible and especially so on the last day. This is also the ultimate way to come back extremely stressed and tired. So instead of scheduling five museum visits for your last day, pick out one, big attraction where you can spend little or much time and stick with it. We choose Park Guell– and it was perfect!
  • If you haven’t done this already: go and eat in your favorite spot on your last day. You won’t have tried everything they have by now anyways and it’s nicer to play on the safe side. We went to Teresa Carles again and it was delicious!
  • On your last day, make sure to take some unexpected walks, like getting off a metro stop early.
  • Last but not least: make sure you leave early to get to the airport. There is nothing worse than finally having reached a relaxed state and then having to sweat blood to make it onto your flight.

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