The first summer after starting university me and my sister decided to go on holiday just the two of us. My sister was low in spirits after being rejected from Camp America even after getting her VISA. I told her it didn’t matter, we could go somewhere else (the world is a big place) and it would be good traveling experience if she gets a placement next year.
We hit the Thompson website and scoured their latest deals. For a while we thought about South Italy. But in the end, Spain won us over. Salou was home to beaches, tourist shops, its own theme park and located not too far from Barcelona.
On our last day in Spain we booked a coach with a local travel company to Barcelona which dropped us off at 9am and picked us up at 5pm. The day was ours to do whatever we wished. On the coach, the tour guide came round everyone to see if they had any questions and to write our pick-up time on a complimentary map of the city. We thought it was funny when the guide thought we were traveling with the couple sat behind us – we look a lot younger than we are so people are often surprised when we say we are traveling alone.
We asked him about the Metro, and he told us to get a T-10 ticket. This allows you up to 10 journeys which is perfect for a day-trip around Barcelona, and not too expensive either. Even with a language barrier, the Metro is easy to use because the routes are colour-coded and clearly shown on the map.
Casa Batlló is located on one of Barcelona’s main streets, Passeig de Gràcia. This was a short walk from our drop-off point so we made this our first attraction. Designed and built by Barcelona’s iconic architect Antoni Gaudí between 1904-1906, it is known by the locals as Casa dels ossos (House of Bones) for its skeletal appearance. It is a truly incredible and curious building – an Alice-in-Wonderlandesque experience. An adult ticket is 21,5 Euros which includes an audio tour.
This was the most difficult attraction to find from the Metro – but if you lose your way (even with the map) the locals are more than happy to point you in the right direction. There is an entry fee, but if you want to skip the queues and fees, like we did, you can still walk around the outskirts of the Park with some amazing views that span the whole of Barcelona and out to sea. After Park Güell we stopped for a lunch break at a quiet cafe.
The Sagrada Família is a large Roman Catholic cathedral at the heart of Barcelona. If you’re using the Metro there is a specific stop for this iconic landmark. We surfaced from underground to find the cathedral right there in front of us. Another one of Gaudí’s designs, the cathedral is such an ambitious project it is still being worked on today. You can go inside, although if you’re doing Barcelona in a day it is recommended that you buy your tickets before you travel. If you just want to see the cathedral from outside there are still plenty of architectural gems to feast your eyes.
Unfortunately by the time we made it to the Gothic Quarter we were running out of time so it was a whistle-stop tour of running through the streets and taking some quick snapshots. But just strolling around the narrow streets with their quaint architectural features made for a nice end to our day in Barcelona. There are some churches, such as the one above, which are worth a look around if you have time. There are also some nice chocolate shops and cafes in the area if you want to take a late-afternoon tea break.
At 4:40 we hopped back on the Metro for the last time and ran down the Passeig de Gràcia towards our pick-up point. We just hoped we were running the right way. One thing to know about using a local travel company is that when they say pick-up is at 5pm, they mean it! They will not hang around for anyone.
If you do miss the coach, you can get a taxi or look into local bus services. But to be honest the taxis are expensive and the buses can only take you so far. (Of course if you’re staying in Barcelona this isn’t a problem.)
You can do planned coach journeys across the city of Barcelona, but there is nothing quite like finding your own way and making your own discoveries. It’s often cheaper too.