72 hours (ish) in Barcelona is all we could smuggle hubby out of work for. Here’s how we got on and where we visited during a Summer heatwave.
Getting from the airport
We like to take the most economical way from the airport to whatever city we are visiting, when we go on a city break. From Barcelona airport there are of course the usual taxis, an airport shuttle bus or the train. We chose the 30 min RENFE train ride followed by the Metro underground.
There are lots of travel cards you can buy before you go or once you arrive at the train stations. We chose the T-casual card which allows travel from the airport and within zone 1 for 10 journeys. It cost €11.35 each and you can use it on the train, tram, metro, bus and funicular railway. One journey is valid for 75 minutes and within that you can make three transfers. These worked well for us being there for such a short time. However, be careful with them! A slight crease, fold, or just because it feels like it and it will become invalid and stop working. On the way to the airport, 6am, and a little stressed about the time ticking away, we got briefly lost in the underground system. Three of the family went through the turnstiles, their tickets validated and popping out with no problem. Until it came to mine! My family now the other side of the barriers and there I am stuck. Luckily I had my cards and a bit of cash on me and managed to find a ticket machine nearby. After refusing my cards, the machine finally accepted cash for a single ticket to the airport. I had visions of not being able to get out of the country or getting a fine! Thank goodness we had sent the kids through in between us or there would have been a meltdown. Find out more about the T-casual here.
Before we arrived in Barcelona we bought tickets for the Bus turistic. It’s one of two, open topped ‘hop on, hop off’ sightseeing buses with commentary. There were two routes around the city and it enabled us to see lots without having to tramp around too much. There were Gaudi buildings, the football stadium, La Sagrada Familia (which had hordes of people queueing to get in), and swanky designer shops – funnily enough I wasn’t allowed off at the shoe stop! We spent all morning riding the buses. Face masks are said to still be required on public transport and in taxis in Barcelona. We seemed to be in the minority wearing them, however the sightseeing bus was quite strict about you having them when you got on. It was the only place we saw them being enforced. Find out more here.
Park Güell is a UNESCO world heritage site and is famous for its history and the works that can be found of artist Gaudi. As such it is hugely popular and its recommended that you buy tickets before you go. We opted for just an entrance ticket but you can have a guided tour in your language. Although the entrance is timed, you have half a hour from the time to make your entrance, once you’re in you can stay all day. We took the metro underground to a stop nearby the park and then it is a 20 min walk uphill to one of the entrances. We wandered around for a few hours and saw the iconic Dragon staircase, portico, The Greek theatre and porter’s lodge and pavilion. The popular sights were heaving and we queued to get pictures at the dragon staircase. There is a tiny café for refreshments but at the height of Summer the queue was ridiculous. There are illegal hawkers within the park selling sunglasses, fans and water. We paid €10 for adults and €7 for a child ticket general admission, guided tours start at €22 each. More information here.
Telefèric de Montjuïc and Castle Montjuïc
On the spur of the moment we took the funicular railway to the Montjuïc park and from there the cable car, that takes you up 750m to the castle. The cable car was approx. €50 for a round trip for four of us. There was a festival vibe on the rather noisy funicular trip, lots of cheering and lively 20 somethings holding bottles. We wondered where on earth we were going. It turns out there was a rave in the park! The cable car went right over the top so we got to see everyone dancing and enjoying the music. The castle proved to be a bit of a disappointment (should have gone to the rave!) On Sunday’s after 3pm the castle is free to get in. However, we found most of the rooms off the parade ground were closed. We were able to climb to the roof for panoramic views of the city. Maybe when you pay to get in there’s more to see. Cable car information here.
By day a fountain in a huge park, by night a light and water show set to pop music! Wednesday’s to Sunday’s from 9.30pm – 10.30pm the fountain show takes place and its free. The deserted park and surrounding streets hours before were then packed and thriving. If you want to get up close to the water you obviously have to get there early. We were able to stand across the street and were still able to enjoy the spectacle. Here for information how to get there. We suggest eating before heading to the fountain area as we found there wasn’t a lot of restaurants nearby. We did find a pizza place down the road but the service was terrible.
Also on our trip we went down Las Ramblas (expensive and touristy but great for people watching – be careful of your bags though) and also down to the marina area where there is a swing bridge and shopping centre.
We enjoyed our time in Barcelona, ate lots of tapas and walked for miles. The heat was insane and we did dive for cover into air conditioning and had a few siestas too. Our hotel sent us to a recommended restaurant and the one thing I did learn about Barcelona was, not to judge a book by its cover! A seemingly shabby looking place had a wonderful fine dining restaurant hidden in the back of the building. Side streets off main roads, we thought had nothing there, turned out to be lively, noisy, bars and tapas restaurants. We fit quite a lot into our short stay and I’m only sorry that the heat meant we didn’t explore further.