Date & Time: November 9 - 16, 2018
Flight: Boston -> Barcelona via Iberia (7 hours)
Cost: $260 round trip (~$230 with points)
Barcelona: Things to see!
The obvious thing to see in Barcelona is the amazing Sagrada Família. It’s truly a work of art and one of the few times I went “wow” upon seeing it. It was originally designed by Antoni Gaudí along with some of the other main places to check out in the city including: Park Güell, Casa Milà, & Casa Batlló. You’re also in for a treat if you visit Casa Batlló on Saint George’s Day (i.e. April 23). It’s a special day that’s celebrated in several regions of Spain and Casa Batllo gets completely covered in red roses on this day making for an awesome display & IG-worthy shot.
If you have time for a day trip, you should definitely check out Montserrat. It’s about a 1.5 hour trip from Barcelona city centre via an FGC train and a cable car, but I would say it’s well worth the investment (I wasn’t able to make it). From reviewing various things about it, it can easily be regarded as the highlight of a trip with its breathtaking views; it’s also considered a religious pilgrimage for some. Personally, I wanted to visit to snag an IG-worthy picture of the Stairway to Heaven.
Things to eat!
Tapas, tapas, and more tapas! We actually ‘tapa-hopped’ to 5 different locations to try out different tapas around the city on one of our days there because it rained the entire day. My favorite was probably the smoked Salmon tartare (I need to find the name of that restaurant in my notes still) followed by the tuna steak from Tuscan?
Aside from tapas, you’ll want to sample their fragrant wines, sangria, and churros con chocolat.
Transportation was fairly simple to navigate. Albeit, there are quite a few options to choose from:
Hola Barcelona Card
T-10 (also comes in T-30 & 60 variations)
Single rider cards
I originally bought the Hola Barcelona card x 4 days for 28 Euros as I was expecting to do quite a bit of hop on/off to make efficient use of my time navigating the city while snapping photos. However, I ended up walking everywhere as everything was quite close together. It was also quite nice outside when I went (November). I ultimately only took about 8 trips, in total, during those first four days and the T-10 card would have probably been a better route to go. I ended up getting a T-10 on my last 3 days in Barcelona and that worked out a lot better.
Navigating around: I have T-mobile so I get free international data and used google maps to navigate around. The app lists the direction of the metro (as opposed to only the first and last stop) and made it extremely easy to know which side of the metro to hop on.
Since most of the attractions are within Barcelona Zone 1, your travel cards allows you to utilize the bus (e.g. H16, D40) , metro (e.g. L1, L3) , and FGC trains (e.g. R1, R4) to get to your destinations.
Tickets: The ticket machines all have an option for English, so it’s fairly easy to use. A helpful thing to know, if you’re planning on taking any of the FGC trains you have to be at specific stations, mainly the ones it arrives/departs from, in order to buy/pickup tickets. Some of the major stations, do allow pickup of all tickets though.
I arrived at Madrid’s puerta de Atocha stop around 11pm and only had a few stops to catch to my accommodation for the night at TOC hostel. First impressions arriving at the station was how large the station was - which in some ways not unexpected considering it’s Madrid - but my reaction after taking the metro 3 stops from Atocha to Sol and exiting the station was pure amazement. Although Madrid is a big city, walking out of the metro stairs into Madrid’s Main Square from the Sol station on a Tuesday at around 11:30pm, I found myself engulfed in a hustle and bustle night life. I thought I myself, “Don’t people got work in the morning?”
In any case, it was a beautiful site as it’s their main place of gathering in Madrid. From the Sol stop, I had about a 7 minute walk to TOC hostel and felt quite safe walking through the crowds as the area was very well lit. After arriving at the hostel and checking into my room, I was a bit taken back by how nice it was. Although I stayed in an 8-bedroom dorm, entry was granted via fingerprint access, two large areas within my room: 1 with 2 bathrooms, 2 showers, and 2 sinks, and the other room containing the sleeping area. By the time I walked in, it was already 12 and all my roommates were already sleeping so I didn’t get a chance to meet anyone new. I just went ahead and jumped into bed to get started the next day.
I had less than a day to explore Madrid since my train left at 9:25PM the following day (Actually writing this on the train now - so no I don’t have grammarly). I had already searched a few photo spots to hit up before my trip, but didn’t organize it at all. So I figured before I set off, I’d quickly map out an efficient schedule so I wasn’t aimless wandering around. I ended connecting all the spots I wanted to check out in a circle in about 20 minutes and began my exploring at 11am.
Circulo de Bella Artes
This is a popular spot for photographers as there is a classic rooftop shot of Madrid that you’ve probably seen before. It has a nice view of the city from multiple angles and was simple beautiful at the top (7 floors high). Due to the popularity of this spot, there’s actually now a 4 euro charge to get up there now. However, definitely worth it as it provides access to the cliche, IG-worthy, shot of Madrid along with multiple other vantage points of the city. If you’re feeling hungry, there’s also a nice restaurant and bar on the top as well.