Barcelona: A Dream Come True

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What a magical city. It’s spotlessly clean, the people are wonderful, the food is phenomenal, and it has it all from the beautiful hills to the sea. I was lucky enough to spend almost a week in Barcelona and I still wish I had more time…

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Transportation

The metro system is the BOMB. Very well organized and can get you pretty much anywhere. The only down side is that they close after 3 a.m. (which is pretty unbelievable considering their night life has people staying out until 6 a.m. Perhaps they want to encourage people to stay out partying until the metro starts back up in the morning. However, if you manage to be in that no-metro time slot, have no fear because taxis are inexpensive and easy to flag down. Walking is always an options, especially when you’re in the Las Ramblas area which is around the Gothic district and near Port Vell and La Barceloneta.

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We decided to do the hop on/hop off bus tour for one day, which totaled to €24 and came with a mini booklet of discounts for different tourist sites (usually most of them were €1 off of the original ticket price). It almost seemed unnecessary taking the bus tour simply because it went so many places that the entire bus ride would loop around the city–taking around two hours. I think taking the metro would have been much faster (and cheaper), but it’s always fun to listen to interesting facts about your surroundings, while helping you know your way around the city.

You can also take a gondola throughout Port Vell up to Parque de Montjuïc, a gigantic area (250 hectares) with different sites from castles, to museums, to beautiful gardens .

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Admission is free, but the gondola costs about €10 depending on your trip. I suggest taking the L3 metro to ‘Paral-lel’, then taking the tram up to the gondola point of ‘Parc de Montjuic’ (you can use your metro ticket for the tram). From there, hop the gondola two points (past Mirador) and your stop will be..

Castell de Montjuic

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Besides having the sickest view of ALL of Barcelona, they also had random military paraphernalia strewn about the castle:

kickingass

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Just me and my tank. No big deal.

Again, admission is free and absolutely worth the visit. Plus there were hardly any people there, which made it even more enjoyable!

Park Güell

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Our main stop on the hop on/hop off bus was this INCREDIBLE park displaying Gaudí’s unique tile work:

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I LOVE GAUDI.

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When you walk into this park, it feels like you’ve just entered Candyland, but instead of candy, you have a bunch of huge mosaic lizards and gorgeous tile work that makes this park sparkle from every angle. This park has free entry and is a bit of a hike to get to the entry, but it is beyond worth it:

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Question: Can it get any cooler?

Answer: No.

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There are also a bunch of epic lookout points that help you see all of Barcelona. Be careful not to get blown away!

Sagrada Família

I would have included my own picture, but every photo is surrounded by half a dozen cranes because this cathedral is always under construction.

Another stop on the hop on/hop off, we actually did not go inside and it was unfortunately so under construction that it was hard to get the real magnitude of its beauty. Oh well, hopefully I’ll come back by 2026 to see the finished product!

Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya

MNAC was another stop on our hop on/hop off tour, but unfortunately we arrived when it was already closed. However, another perk of this museum is that not only were we getting there as the sun was setting, but it also has an amazing view from the entrance.

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The building itself is beautiful, but when you turn around..

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it gets pretty epic.

Catedral de la Santa Creu i Santa Eulàlia

Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia

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You only have to pay for this cathedral if you arrive after 2 p.m (I’m pretty sure it’s normally around €7 otherwise).

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It’s all about the sacred geese!

Museu D’Historia De Barcelona

Picture courteous of frontrage.ca

After the cathedral, swing by MUI-IBA where you drop below ground floor to see the ancient ruins that lay beneath. You even take an elevator that goes backwards in time as you descend floors–and just €5 for students!

Throughout the Gothic District, you will find random shops and open markets…

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Of course, there were more creepy people dressed as statues…I guess this is just what every city has. Barcelona had some of the creepiest statue people, which I guess can only be a sign of a job well done! They are mostly at the end of Las Ramblas, near Port Vell if you feel the need to have a creepy twist on your family holiday card.

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…As well as random bits of modern art strewn about the city:

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Sole! 🙂

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Is it a cage? A champagne wire cap over the cork? Nay! It is actually supposed to represent the human tower, otherwise known as a castell, during festivals within Catalonia. Not too sure what the hell a castell is? Here’s a little refresher:

INSANITY

Talk about teamwork. They always put a child at the top of the tower. Mind you, the child is the only one that wears a helmet (which is a new rule resulting from a small girl falling to her death a few years ago).

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Statue of Christopher Columbus near Port Vell.

Mercat de la Boqueria

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A HUGE open market with one of Europe’s biggest and best, fresh food markets. We mostly lingered around the candy and chocolate and the fresh squeezed juice (for only a euro!!!) is mouth-watering and kicks Jamba Juice in the face. Repeatedly. While you’re here, beware of being overcharged and make sure you watch your belongings as it can be very crowded and equally hectic; the perfect combination for thieves!

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Noms, Noms, Noms

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Natural Coloring vs. Artificial ColoringIMG_6531

Where to Stay:

St. Christopher’s Barcelona Hostel

Happy Happy Joy Joy!!

There are honestly no words for how incredible this hostel was. Not only is it brand new, but there is a restaurant and bar  (Belushi’s) located within the hostel that gives you 25% off food and 2 for 1 drink specials if you’re a guest. Not to mention the food is insanely delicious and some of the dishes have an American twist on Spanish classics. There are huge lockers beneath the beds to keep your things safe and breakfast is included. The hostel itself is incredibly safe, clean, and the PERFECT location–smack in the Gothic District,  at the top of Las Ramblas, next to a metro stop and was a five minute walk from the airport bus stop. Not to mention they offered a free walking tour that left from the front desk, Flamenco show + Tapas & Sangria for €24 , and a Paella cooking class for €17 euros. We decided to do all three and the cooking class was my favorite.

The chef picked us up from our hostel and walked us to the Boqueria market. He walked around the market for an hour explaining the different ingredients needed for certain classic Spanish dishes, as well as explaining what to look for when you’re buying certain products (especially with meat), as well as explaining parts of Spanish culture through food. I saw some interesting sights along the way…

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Yes, those would be a heads, testicles, and a couple o’ penises! Yum.

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Paella is a largely seafood based dish and we spent a lot of time walking around the fish section of the market, hence my head wrap to prevent me from making obscene faces and also vomiting everywhere.

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Once we were done in the market, we walked to the restaurant near Port Vell and discussed the process of making paella, while the chef taught us the ‘how-to’ of paella, we gobbled up tapas and continued slurping our delicious sangria.

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While the paella cooked (it usually takes at least twenty minutes), we went over to the bar and had a ‘how-to’ sangria. As you can see, you just need cheap wine, brandy, sweetener, juice (usually a citrus juice), ice,  and chopped fruit.

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It’s…just…so…beautiful…(and bottomless, which was another bonus of the cooking class).

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Tadaaaahhhh!!!! Paella. God was it delicious.

Need I say more? Nope. I will absolutely stay here when I come back to Barcelona

(and you should too: http://www.hostelworld.com/hosteldetails.php/St-Christopher-s-Barcelona/Barcelona/61557)

CosmoCaixa

Museu de la Ciència

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Let me just say that yes, I am basically a five year old. If you thought I was excited about the Dublin Zoo, you have no idea how stoked I can get. Before I show you how cool this museum is, let me just say that I LOVE INTERACTIVE SCIENCE MUSEUMS.

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This was probably the hardest place to get to since the metro and the hop on/hop off bus do not stop near the museum. Unless you feel like doing some heavy walking, I suggest taking a cab. The museum itself looks like a huge boarding school, but oh how wrong I was…

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Entrance fee is 3 euros for students, but since we had a coupon book from the hop on/hop off tour, we only paid 2!

So. Worth. It.

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Biggest fish tank…ever?

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Like…what!??

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Mmm….bacteria.IMG_6893 IMG_6897   IMG_6901

They had a section on wildlife, marine species, paleontology, geology, epidemics (which was terrifying and would make anyone a germaphobe), and more– As well as a planetarium that had a few shows throughout the day.

Nightlife

UNTZ. UNTZ. UNTZ. UNTZ.

First of all, no one parties harder than Barcelona. NO ONE. Second of all, NO ONE PARTIES HARDER THAN BARCELONA. Good god I’ve never had so much fun. Make sure you don’t start going out until midnight at the earliest, and don’t plan on coming home until five or six in the morning. Who needs sleep when you’re having the time of your life? A few of the good clubs to hit up: Razzmatazz, Opium Mar, Apolo, La Terrrazza, Shoko, Catwalk, and the list goes on and on. Usually entrance fees are anywhere from 15 to 25 euros, and that includes a drink card for one drink. However, I highly recommend you do some research on your club before going (via Twitter and Facebook) because the club will usually post some secret word that you can say to get in for free. I did some research on Opium Mar before we went there on Halloween, said we were on the DJ’s guest list and badabing-badaboom…we got free entry (thanks to Twitter–and my friend jiggling her beaded top at them may have also helped). No matter what, get ready to dance all night, see some crazy things, and remember half of it the next day. Always a good idea to dress to impress (and undress).

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A tourist, Lara Croft, and a belly dancer? It must be Halloween in Barcelona!!

I see this and I want to dance. Now.

Let me just say that if you are unsure what to do for Halloween in Europe…GO TO BARCELONA. Razzmatazz has about 5 clubs WITHIN the club (it’s a huge warehouse that takes up the entire block), Opium Mar was decorated from top to bottom and even had stilt walkers in full costumes (demons, zombies, and even Edward Scissorhands)…and the most surprising part was that everyone was dressed up in costumes!

(courtesy of jollygiants.com)

Word for the wise: make sure you take as little with you to the club as possible, make sure you have money for a cab in case the metro closes, and it’s always easier and safer to use coat check if the club provides it!

Luckily we planned out Halloween and good god did we do it right.

If you don’t like liquorice…I suggest you do not have absinthe.

And don’t forget to try some Absinthe at Marsella. It’s one of the oldest bars in Barcelona that honestly has not been renovated once–the chandeliers are caked with dust and spiderwebs and the paint is peeling off the walls and ceiling in chunks.

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In sum– go to Barcelona. Immediately. It will blow you away. It was my favorite city that I visited during my study abroad travels and I would love to live here permanently if I get the chance.

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