the wandering bean – two days in Barcelona
Adventures Europe

the wandering bean – two days in Barcelona

After a 2.5 hour train ride my second stop was Barcelona. The train ride was awesome – European trains are SO MUCH nicer than British trains. There’s so much space, they’re clean, and the leave ON TIME. Though I did have to go through airport-like security to get to the platform, which was an unfamiliar experience. Even with that thrown in, the train experience was really simple.

When I got to Barcelona I used the Metro to find my next airbnb. Again, it was slightly out of the centre and not an easy walk to anything of significance, but the Metro system is really efficient so that wasn’t a problem at all. Due to being unfamiliar with the city I arrived slightly later than planned, but the other guest staying in the apartment was even later so I didn’t feel so bad. The lady hosting me was lovely and she had a looooovely little pug dog.

For my first evening I settled in and went for a little wander, but didn’t go too far as I don’t like being out after dark when I’m travelling by myself. The next day was when I started my real exploring.

The beach

the spicy bean - two days in Barcelona - www.itsthespicybean.com
I’ve always lived by the sea, and being away from the coast gives me an underlying sense of claustrophobia, so going from the middle of the country in Madrid back to the coast in Barcelona was super refreshing. I was still feeling anxious about being far from home by myself, so I headed to the sea for comfort. The sea in Barcelona means beach time. The beach was crammed full of people sunbathing, chilling out, doing a sport. I was too nervous to spend time on the beach myself. Besides, it was too crowded for me. I’m not a huge beach fan to be honest, the sand gets everywhere and I always get sunburn, being a ginge and all. Instead I wandered from one end to the other, enjoying the lively, bustling vibe.

There’s loads to do along the beach. If you’re hungry there are restaurants and cafés, and for booze there are tonnes of bars to choose from, including some on the beach itself. How cool is that? You don’t even need to leave the beach to get a drink! There’s also the option of renting bikes or segways to explore the seafront, but I chose a good old fashioned walk. For the first time on my trip I felt really relaxed.

the spicy bean - two days in Barcelona - www.itsthepicybean.com

Along the beach walk you can also detour to the Parc de la Cituadella, and as you may know by now I live for parks. This one also has a zoo, which I didn’t go to in favour of going to a zoo in another city. Instead I hang out with the swans by the lake and wandered along the paths for a good while in the sunshine. It’s a beautiful park, perfect for a spot of peace and quiet.

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Barcelona beach is fantastic. The weather was perfect when I was there in August. It was hot, but not humid, and there was no sign of rain at all. It’s really close to the metro, easy to find, and there’s plenty to do even if you’re not a huge beach lover.

Walking tour

the spicy bean - two days in Barcelona - www.itsthepicybean.com

In most major European cities you’ll find numerous options for sightseeing tours. There are buses, cycling tours, segway tours, walking tours… all of which will take you around the city and show you the main stuff. I am a walker, so I added to my daily step count and signed up for a walking tour. (Incidentally I was clocking up around 30,000 steps a day). The tour was a “pay what you like” tour, which means there’s no upfront cost, you just pay a tip at the end. We were scheduled to convene at a place called Travel Bar which is one of those places that backpackers go to eat and drink.

I’d visited the bar earlier in the day to see if I could find any new friends, but was too nervous to approach anyone. It’s kinda awkward when everyone’s sat in their groups eating breakfast. The barman did chat to me though, so that’s something.

Anyway, I went back for the tour which ended up only being me and a couple. I kinda chose the tour because I wanted to meet people, but it didn’t really work. The couple were really nice, but they were very much on a couple’s holiday. No fellow backpackers to befriend unfortunately. The tour guide was really good though, and knew the city inside out. He was originally from the US, so spoke perfect English, but had family in Barcelona and had lived there for years.

the spicy bean - two days in Barcelona - www.itsthespicybean.com
We saw a lot of the city, and I am glad I went on the tour. We went down all the back streets and saw all the main sites. I learnt a lot about the history of the city, and of the issues within Spain regarding Catalan independence. I knew nothing about Barcelona or Spain when I started, and left the tour feeling very enlightened.

We took advantage of the tour guide’s impeccable local knowledge afterwards and all went four lunch together at a proper Barcelona café. The kind where the staff only speak Catalonian and you need someone to translate. Our guide ordered for us, but we paid for his meal at the end because he’d been so kind to us for the whole tour. Of course we also left a generous tip. For tour guides on the “pay what you like” tours, what you pay them is their income, so it’s important to be generous if they’ve done a good job.

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I would wholly recommend a walking tour as a good way to see and learn about the city, but it’s not a sure way to make friends. I had a wonderful three hours and as a solo traveller it was really nice to have some real conversation, but there were no leads for further socialising.

Sagrada Familia

the spicy bean - two days in Barcelona - www.itsthespicybean.com
The basilica is one of the most famous sites in Barcelona, but I almost didn’t see it. I spent so much time wandering up and down the beach that I ended up not having enough time on my first couple of days. However I ended up spending en extra day in the city so I took a trip to see the Sagrada Familia.

From the outside it is beautiful. I didn’t go inside, the queues were super long and I didn’t want to pay, though I hear it’s just as beautiful on the inside. If (when) I go back to Barcelona I definitely want to go inside. Though I would say you can appreciate it from outside. The park opposite is really nice, though obviously busy with sightseers. I still manged to grab a bench for a little sit down though. If that one is too busy there’s a second park round the back. I’m really glad I got to see the Sagrada Familia, and I’m not really sure why it wasn’t on the plan in the first place. I suppose I centred myself around the seafront or the main street la Rambla, which is quite far. There is a Metro station right next to the basilica though, so it isn’t hard to get to at all.

I’ll definitely go back to Barcelona some day to sample the nightlife and spend some time on the beach. I had a great time on my own, but Barcelona is a city that would also be great to explore with friends or a partner. It’s such a lively and varied place, you can’t really go wrong! 

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