A visit to the Catalan city of Barcelona is a surreal experience. After all, this is the city of Gaudí, Picasso, Miro, and Dalí. The in-your-face architecture, the beautiful and balmy weather, the cool sangrias, and not to forget, those delectable churros; Barcelona sure is one helluva city.
All of this is bound to make you think that Barcelona’s got to be on the lines of other European hubs like London, Rome, and Paris, insinuating that it’s frightfully expensive. Well, expensive it certainly isn’t; and if you find that hard to believe, it only means that what follows is meant just for you.
Planning an Affordable Trip to Barcelona
Cheap flight tickets? Sure!
Booking a cheap air ticket to a destination of your choice isn’t the rocket science it used to be. There are tens and hundreds of travel portals and travel agents that offer cheap tickets to Barcelona. All you need to do is forgo all your expectations when you book tickets like these. You may be placed next to the toilet, you may have to bear a 10-hour layover in Reykjavik (or maybe Nuuk!), and you may reach Barcelona in the dead of the night. Or not. All said and done, you will effectively be in Barcelona.
Off season? What is that?
Barcelona’s climate is Mediterranean, with mild winters, warm summers. It’s a seaside city, so the humidity is on the higher side. Barcelona does swell with people in the summers, just like the rest of Europe. But rest assured that people keep visiting this city all year round. Which means that there isn’t an off season to speak of. Anytime is a good time to be in Barcelona.
How about some nice, yet affordable hotels?
If you’re looking to save some bucks, hostels would be your best bet. But if you’re open to be a bit flexible about your staying budget, here are a few options-
Hostal Mare Nostrum is located in the heart of Barcelona, in the famous La Rambla area. This is a clean and neat place to live in, and will cost you USD 60 and thereabouts a night, with (basic) breakfast. The Liceu (metro station) is at a stone throw’s distance.
Generator Hostel has dorm-styled as well as private rooms, and they could be yours for a steal. At less than USD 20 a night, you’ll get basic accommodation in this hostel, which is a short walk away from the Eixample area.
Violeta Hostel is in the Eixample area, and offers basic rooms. La Rambla and the Gothic quarter are in the vicinity, so you’re never too far away from all the happening spots.
Hotel Sagrada Familia is a couple of minutes away from the symbol of Barcelona―the Sagrada Familia. So you can obviously expect some stunning views from your window if you stay here. And that, my friend, is absolutely priceless.
Barcelona is dotted with hotels, hostels, service apartments, home-stay options, and B&Bs, so there’s always a place to suit every taste and every budget. All you need to do is research and/or inquire.
How do you get around?
You’re in Barcelona, one of the most chilled out cities in the world. There are metros and buses, and cars or bicycles to rent, but if you ask me, you shouldn’t opt for any of these. This is a city which is perfect for walking, and perfect for getting lost in the many bylanes and labyrinths. Check out SANDEMANs NEW Europe tour website that will help you book a walking tour with a superb, English-speaking, native guide. These tours work on a tips-only basis, and are amazing if you’re coming here for the first time. For your next trip (I bet there will be one!), you’ll just be grabbing a map, wearing your most comfy sneakers, and begin parading around town yourself.
Where can I find some cheap chow?
All. Over. Barcelona.
Okay, it’s actually true that this city has the most lip-smacking Catalan food at very affordable rates. Depending upon the area you’re in, you’ll easily be able to spot roadside cafés, restaurants, and tapas bars catering to your taste buds and pocket (most have menus posted outside).
But a special mention goes to Marsella (Carrer de Sant Pau, 65, 08001 Barcelona), the city’s oldest bar. It has served luminaries like Dalí, Hemingway, Gaudí, and Picasso, which makes it a shrine of sorts. Psst … order the absinthe here, and see what happens next.
Can Majó (Almirall Aixada 23, Barceloneta, 08003 Barcelona) ranks among Barcelona’s premium seafood restaurants, and although it may not be cheap, it does deserve one visit. Why? The Shellfish Paella Marinera is the answer to your question. Wonderful, succulent, with the most perfect caramelized crust on the bottom, this is one decadent delight.
Postcards from Barcelona
All trips to Barcelona begin and end at the Sagrada Familia. To come here and witness history being made, as we live, is a surreal experience that is sure to give you gooseflesh.
You may or may not believe in the divinity aspect of it, but you’ve got to doff your hat to Catalonia’s biggest hero, Antoni Gaudí and his marvelous basilica.
Well, you’re bound to hear how Barceloneta is too crowded to be worth a visit, but it is, after all, Barcelona’s best sea front. Based in the fishing district, you’ll find an array of seafood restaurants here, Can Majó included. So if nothing else, the paella is sure to lure you here.
Gaudí returns to stun you with his designs and sculptures in this hilltop garden. You’ll find his quirky designs all around you, be it the serpentine benches, the pretty mosaic patterns on the ceilings, the dragon fountain, or the superb tile work. Also, enjoy the panoramic views of the city sitting right here in Park Güell.
Referred to as Plaza de España in Spanish, this is Barcelona’s biggest square. To click a typical touristy picture, pose against the backdrop of the Venetian towers, after which you can visit the Las Arenas shopping mall. Interestingly, Las Arenas used to be a bullring once upon a time. Now, you can get to the viewing point on top of the mall and soak in some spectacular views of the city. And yes, there’s the weekend treat of the musical fountain in the center of the square as well.
This tree-lined pedestrian street is choc-a-block with locals and tourists alike, but is a must-see anyway. It’s got a lot of shops, so if you are anti-shopping, this may not really be your ‘thing’. La Rambla carries the notorious reputation of being a pickpocketing paradise, but isn’t that commonplace? You can get robbed anywhere in the world, so why single out Barcelona?
For good measure, keep your valuable wallet in your front pocket and be vigilant at all times.
Ah! L’Estadi Camp Nou―almost a pilgrimage site for all the Barça fans out there. Even if you’re not a fan, Barça is més que un club, which means that it’s way more than just a football club for not only the Catalans, but for a lot of people in Spain.
It would be a whole new story if you root for Real Madrid, though. In that case, stay away.
So this, ladies and gentlemen, was Barcelona. Or rather, my version of a fun, yet affordable trip to Barcelona. There’s so much to see, smell, taste, hear, and do, that you’re sure to keep coming back for more.