A USEFUL BARCELONA GUIDE BY AN EXPERIENCED ERASMUS STUDENT
In 2008, I had a one-semester Erasmus-stay in Barcelona. So I have prepared some recommendations which might benefit you should you visit the city. They include nice destinations, eating addresses and places to have fun without being ripped off…
PLAZA CATALUNYA AND SURROUNDINGS:
It is like the Taksim square in Istanbul, which acts as the crossroads of the widest streets of the city. You can make your way everywhere from there. With La Rambla ahead and Passeig de Gracia on behind, you can also get to El Born if you walk towards the sea. The square is also home to a large shopping mall: El Corte Ingles. On the square there are a giant FNAC store where you might lose your mind amidst books and CDs; a department store called Habitat; Café Zürich where you can unwind while waiting for someone; and Hard Rock Café that offers succulent steaks. Some shopping, secluded from tourist crowds, is possible on Ronde de la Universitat, a thoroughfare that stocks less packed Oysho, Bershka and Stradivarius stores, as well as the only Topshop branch in the city.
Possibly the most famous attraction in Barcelona, La Rambla is a not-to-miss between the Drassanes and Plaza Catalunya stops on the green line, and is like a miniature of the Istiklal street. La Rambla is a great chance for taking strolls and watching street performers, but avoid eating there if you don’t want to be squashed by tourist crowds. And the price-taste performance is quite low. Instead, explore tucked-away restaurants and cafes on the back streets and arcades that run vertical to La Rambla. Just in the middle of La Rambla is the Liceu stop beside which there is a bazaar called Mercat de la Boqueria. Try out a variety of fruits or at least have a look at the fish and insects on offer.
Passeig de Gracia
I liken Passeig de Gracia to Nişantaşı in Istanbul both with its location and expensive designer stores it contains. This large avenue stretches from Plaza Catalunya to the Diagonal stop on the Green Line. It is an ideal destination for walking.
The two famed structures by Gaudi, Casa Batllo and Casa Mila (La Pedrera) are so close to each other that they are almost opposite each other on Passeig de Gracia. Admission fee for Casa Battlo must be around 16€ unless a special promotion is applied. Interiors are breath taking, but seeing only the exteriors would do, depending on the number of your days in Barcelona. Casa Mila applies fees that are slightly more moderate and you should definitely see its terrace.
Lying next to La Rambla nearby Liceu, Plaza Reial is on the left, when you face Drassanes and give your back to Plz Catalunya. It is a must-see in Barcelona surrounded by a plentiful of bars for youngsters. One of my favorites there was El Bar 13 (Trece). This small, cutely-decorated bar offers happy hours until 10.00 pm and serves unbelievably delicious Mojitos. You should try it out. Bars in Barcelona are legally allowed to serve until 3 in the morning, whereas nightclubs are open until 6. An underground alternative would be a bar which also acts as a nightclub. If you don’t want to end the night early, but also not really interested in jumping with to the music at nightclubs, Pipa Club is your destination.
Rambla del Mar
All the stores in Barcelona are closed on Sundays. If you need to do shopping on a Sunday, head to the Drassanes stop on the end of La Rambla (where the Colombus statue stands), and find the large, seafront shopping mall Maremagnum in Rambla del Mar. Rambla del Mar would be ideal for strolls in beautiful weather. You can also watch the fish in Aquarium there.
Barri Gotik / El Born / Carrer de jaume
The seafront side of La Rambla and gothic quarter of Barcelona is home to narrow, dim streets, old, gothic structures, and tucked-away bars yet to be explored. The atmosphere immediately changes once you walk from La Rambla towards the sea. I won’t give you spoilers. You should explore the area yourself. The surroundings of the large post office in El Born and Katedral Del Mar are always vibrant. Walk along the large, pedestrianised street (Carrer de Jaume) that opens up Jaume L. The back streets might reveal unexpected stores and cafes for you. It is also close to the Picasso Museum which showcases his non-cubic paintings, but those he painted when he was young. It might be an interesting experience to see another side of Picesso. You can also watch there his erotic pieces, for which he developed an interest after he got older. His famous cubic pieces are displayed at Reine Sofia in Madrid.
El Raval is a neighborhood that borders La Rambla from the behind. The top destination here is MACBA for me, which is the Museum of Contemporary Arts. You can easily find the museum, by following the MACBA signs nearby Plaza Catalunya in La Rambla. The square in front of the museum stages concerts and performances especially during La Mercè. In the absence of events, the youth gathers there to drink. And it’s a meeting point of skateboarders. The ambiance on the square is great, but don’t miss the museum, which incorporates a cinema and which is free of charge for students. MACBA and its surroundings are called El Raval that is filled with interesting stores and bars to try out. You can also find döner there. The neighborhood is also home to prostitutes and Pakistanis who sell beer for one Euro, which constitutes a totally cosmopolitan feel.
Stop at Fontana and walk down to Gracia on the Green Line should you want to see second hand boutiques and fashion designers. Daytime flaunts shopping options, while nighttime fun is non-stop at bars. You will for sure have a barrel of fun if you coincide with the Gracia Festival. I have not experienced it yet, though.
PLAZA ESPANA AND SURROUNDINGS:
Plaza Espana is also on the Green Line, where Palau Nacional, home to various permanent collections, is located. You might check it out if you have plentiful time in the city. A “jumping fountain” show, Font Magica, takes place on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights (with hours depending on the season) in the garden in front of Palau Nacional. I’d recommend you to watch this romantic dance of lights and waters.
Down the garden opening up the Palau Nacional, there is a German Pavilion, known as Barcelona Pavilion, designed by famous architect Mies van der Rohe for the 1929 International Exposition in Barcelona. This is a significant structure in architectural history, you should especially visit here if you are interested in architecture.
One of the galleries that compliments my taste is CAXIA FORUM. What I like most there is free admission. It hosts quite interesting exhibitions. I used to visit the venue once in two weeks thanks to its close proximity to my house. The museum shop of the gallery offers beautiful designer products, in addition to Lomo cameras and accessories.
Climbing up the hill of Palau Nacional, architecture enthusiasts would be amazed by Telefonica Tower, designed by architect Santiaga Calatrava, erected in the Olympic park which also features the stadium of Espanyol, the other Spanish Team.
One other interesting museum is Fundacia Joan Miro. After climbing up the hill of Palau Nacional, either follow the signs to the left or take the funicular from the Paral.lel stop on the green line. Miro’s paintings and sculptures are quite inspiring.
Let me recommend you one more tourist attraction you can experience if you’re nearby Plaza Espanya: El Poble Espanyol, where you can view the smaller versions of not-to-miss architectural structures in Spain. They are not miniatures, just smaller versions of those structures. If you fall in love with Barcelona and don’t want to visit another city, at least see El Hamra in El Poble Espanyol. Personally, it’s too touristy and not among the destinations I would prefer going. However, my friends, who visited me, loved there. Keep it in mind.
BARCELONETA AND SURROUNDINGS:
You can head to Barcelonata Beach for swimming. The sea is not bad at all. You can also come here in winter, to rest on the sun beds or to have a walk around the area.
Structures in Barcelona are old, with heights varying from low to mid. Port Olympique hosts two of the three highest structures in the city: one being a hotel, the other a business center both set in interesting architectures. In front of them, you can see the deconstructivist metal fish by Frank Gehry. Let me also mention the other highest structure in the city: It’s Torre Agbar by Jean Nouvel, which reminds me of the London Gherkin by Renza Piano. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the area, which is like 4. Levent in Istanbul, hosting plazas and uncharacteristic shopping malls. One original aspect of Torre Agbar is its nocturnal illumination (with some shows on the New Year’s Eve), but you can watch it from Park Güell or Sagrada Familia. Yes, it’s better to watch it from a distance
Park Cuitadella is a park where the youth lies on the greenery, perform stunts, run after Frisbees, play guitar, sing and drink.
Barselona is a genuine shopping destination for me. My beloved brands, Zara, Bershka, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Oysho, and Mango (not a big fan of it, actually) all are Spanish. Therefore, they are extremely cheap and collections are richer. Desigual is another brand, along with Zara and Mango, that the Spanish proudly present. It’s not my style, and the prices are a bit higher but it can for sure be a destination when you’re in Barcelona.
In Plaza Catalunya, namely in the heart of the city, there is a giant department store that offers everything you can dream of. El Corte Inglez, even if it’s not a favorite clothes shopping destination of mine, met my housing needs such as kettle and stuff, which weren’t available at IKEA, when I first moved in Barcelona. You can find anything in this supermarket, be it stationery, plants or a store completely dedicated to cosmetics. However, it’s just a random, enclosed department store.
My shopping address is Portal del Angel. With El Corte Inglez on the left, walk in parallel with La Rambla. The store contains Spanish brands such as Zara, Bershka, Pull and Bear, Oysho and Stradivarius as well as the stores with the best collections by H&M. Walk along this large pedestrianised street and you will reach La Ramba, nearby Liceu. I also recommend you to taste Catalan desserts from the street vendors on this street that also stages street performances.
For a Nişantaşı style shopping experience, make your way to Passeig de Gracia. which is a giant street that is just across Portal del Angel. In the middle of the passage is a host of trees surrounded by the stores of famous fashion houses set in beautiful, historical structures of Barcelona. The street is also filled with more moderately priced Zara, H&M, and Bershka the collections of which are, unfortunately, not as beautiful as those showcased in Portal del Angel.
Imagine you’re looking for a pair of shoes and can’t find it at Zara in La Rambla or in Passeig de Gracia. Portal Del Angels doesn’t have the fitting size, either. Then you should head to Ronda de La Universitat, a street which runs from Plaza Catalaunya, defined by Fnac and Café Zürich on the corner. Filled with again those Spanish brands and other stores, it is just across El Corte Inglez, on the right hand side of La Rambla. I frequently drop by the street as the only Topshop store in the city is here.
All the stores in Barcelona are closed on Sundays. If you need to do shopping on a Sunday, get off at the Drassanes stop (where the Colombus statue stands), and head to giant, seafront shopping mall Maremagnum on Rambla del Mar. The mall has a lot of stores, including those I mentioned above. They’re just a bit smaller.
Stop at Fontana and walk down to Gracia on the Green Line should you want to see second hand boutiques and fashion designers. Daytime flaunts shopping options, while nighttime fun is non-stop at bars. An ideal destination for some boutique shopping.
Park Güell is situated on a hill which can be considered the outskirts of the city. Step off at the Vallcarca or Lesseps stops on the green line; follow the Park Güell signs, and climb the hill on an escalator. It is a beautiful park where the house of Gaudi is located (it wouldn’t be worth visiting, instead enjoy the view and weather). Let me warn you, though, that it’s packed both in winter and summer.
Sangrada Familia frequently comes on the top of a must-see list for Barcelona. I named it the ghost of Gaudi and confess that I would not opt for rushing there. Gaudi died before completing the structure, and the construction is still due despite all those years that passed. Just have a look, for the sake of your Barcelona list. Stop at the Sagrada Familia stop on the purple line.
Watch a match in Camp Nou (buy your tickets at the Sports Bar in La Rambla). Unless there is one, at least visit the Barcelona Museum.
EATING & DRINKING:
An abundant of sea products and patatas bravas should be your priorities. On your way to Playa Barceloneta, where you can bask in the sun, stop by El Rey de Gambas. Definitely try out its Sangria.
Drinking Cava is a must-do in Barcelona. CHAMPAGNERIA serves you in a small venue a great meal of Catalan specialties accompanied by Cava. This gem in El Born also sells Cava in bottles during daytime, which wouldn’t be on sale at nights. All in all, you’re in Spain, where people dine at 11 p.m. Eating is not something you could skip. It’s an activity. Therefore, you might wait in the line before getting in the place, which is quite small and moderately-priced. However, expect a traditional service of delicacies. By the way, don’t leave Barcelona without tasting Jamon.
You should also have Almenditas (which you can find at the dessert vendors on Portal del Angel).
You might wonder the association noodles with Barcelona But if you love noodle and don’t want to waste time with eating, just head to WOK TO WALK, a chain of restaurants with three branches in Barcelona, one being in Jaume L on the yellow line. My recommendation is the one with mushrooms and meats topped with the sauce number 7. Eat for me, as well. If I was in Barcelona now, I would find directly head to the restaurant the moment I get off the plane.
Barcelona is a city of bars, where you can drink with your friends and then find somewhere you can dance, rather than wearing high heels and showing off. The majority of the population is young.
Dance crazily on your converse shoes at supersonic factory-turned nightclub Razzmatazz. The venue incorporates different halls playing 6-7 types of music, and it also hosts concerts. Get off at the Marina stop on the red line and follow the young people and the smell of weed. Before Razzmatazz, you should first have beer and sangria at giant L’ovella Negra which offers a great ambiance.
Another alternative is Catwalk in Barceloneta (Grab one of the fliers distributed in front of the venue so that you enter free-of-charge or at some discount sometimes). You should also head to Apollo at the Paral.lel stop after Drassanes on the green line. Mondays are Apollo days.
Reina style nightclubs in Barcelona are Port Olympique (one stop after Barceloneta on the yellow line). Most of them are similar to each other. Among them I could recommend Carpe Diem Lounge Club for its interesting decoration. If you swelter, Icebarcelona will chill you, with its ice Sagrada Familia inside. You are given coats and gloves while getting in the minus 0 degree club where you have your glass of cocktail made of ice. The music is not bad, but don’t forget that the place is a magnet for tourists.
CULTURE AND ARTS:
I described in detail the cultural and artistic attractions. You should definitely see MACBA, Caixa Forum, Fundacio Miro and Picasso Museum. Sagrada Familia, Casa Battlo, Casa Mila, and Park Güell are among ideal city attractions. El Poble Espanyol might also be an option.
BARCELONA AND SURROUNDINGS:
Girona and Mont Tibidado, to the north of the city, are attractions surrounding Barcelona. If your flight takes off from Girona, where low cost flights run, Dali’s house might be an alternative. You can go there a few hours before your flight, it’ll be worth visiting. Tibidabo is a hill loved by Barcelona residents which also features a lovely amusement park. You can get there by train (renfe). Taragona and Sitges are other attractions around Barcelona. Sitges has a beautiful beach, especially the hotspot of bisexuals.
Barcelona metros run till 12 during the week, until 2 on Fridays and until dawn on Saturdays. When Real Madrid wins a match in Barcelona, metros run till the morning, even during the week, because all the city celebrates the victory. If you’re seeking for a Saturday alternative, rest assured that you will have fun, just with a drink in your hand on the metro that drives you to the city center.
Bicing is something I would love to have in Istanbul. You subscribe for it on the Internet (unfortunately by giving your citizenship number) to receive a card, with which you can get your bike at any Bicing stop in the city to ride for an hour free of charge (one hours is pretty good time in Barcelona). If you exceed an hour, you will have to pay the price until you return it another bicing stop. Pedicabs look also quite interesting. I haven’t had a pedicab experience because it’s a tourist thing to do I was a resident, I wasn’t a tourist
A USEFUL BARCELONA GUIDE BY AN EXPERIENCED ERASMUS STUDENT In 2008, I had a one-semester Erasmus-stay in Barcelona. So I have prepared some recommendations which might benefit you should you...