Experiencing The ‘Real’ Barcelona

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for any amount of time, you know that I wrote a guide on what to see on your first trip to Barcelona. Recently, the hubs and I had the opportunity to go back for a second dose and what we experienced the second time was way different — in a good way.

Hotels vs. Airbnb in Barcelona

The first significant difference between this trip and our first one is that the first time we went was on our honeymoon. As you can guess, we wanted to stay in a nice hotel, in a beautiful area, and so on. We always book our trips through our travel agent, Atlas Cruises & Tours, because, well, things just always work out better that way. They had us booked at Hotel Claris, and it was a beautiful place to stay and was only a few short walking minutes from everything we thought we wanted.

This second trip, however, we were traveling with some family, so we wanted a 2 bedroom if possible. We still booked our flights and cruise through Atlas but after seeing the hotel prices for 2 rooms caused us to think a little different. We decided to take a look at Airbnb, and we found a cozy 3 bedroom apartment that was perfect for our short stay in the city.

Getting Around In Barcelona

One drawback of our Airbnb, or so we initially thought, was that it wasn’t near the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus route that we found to be so convenient the first time. What is was near, however, was a metro station, which it turns out made the experience so much richer.

In Barcelona, it turns out that they love tourists and their public transportation is extremely safe (like all public transportation we have experienced in Europe), so we opted for the Hola Barcelona Tourist Pass. This gave us unlimited access to all public transportation for the duration of our stay.

The public transportation option was nice because unlike most cities in the US, there are no Uber or Lyft services. And, the taxi service is, well, challenging when you don’t speak Spanish. Public transportation, however, was an option in both Google Maps and Apple Maps. All you have to do is enter a destination. Either one will direct you to the nearest metro station or bus stop. It then tells you what direction to go and when to get off. Way cool.

Local Food

So in my original post, I referenced Las Ramblas. We enjoyed that area so much it was one of the first places we decided to return to. This time, since we could go virtually anywhere in the city without having to stay close to the tourist bus stops, we decided to look for the best-rated tapas.

This search led us to not just one, but several different places in an area called Carrer de Blai. Oh my was that a lucky find. The tapas were less expensive (€1,00 and €1,50 versus €3,00 – €4,00 on Las Ramblas) and the crowd was local. There were no street vendors selling knockoff purses or any of the other tourist traps you find in other areas. Just great food, great drinks (you HAVE to try the Sangria) and a good time in every place we stopped.

What We Had To See Again

So, of course, there are some staples that we had to revisit. The first one was the Sagrada Família – It’s just amazing enough to have to see a second time. This time, however, we came from a different direction (since we were riding the Metro). We came across a nearby park and neighborhood almost the exact opposite angle from the first time. Like the time before, the place was under construction, but it didn’t stop us from getting some great photos.

The next place we had to see was a place we didn’t actually experience the first time. Casa Batlló is one of the most iconic sights in Barcelona. Until we toured it, we had no idea why. On our first trip, we thought that it was a sight to be seen just for its strange architecture. Taking the tour teaches you that this place takes odd to a whole new level. I don’t think there is a straight wall in the home. If you do decide to take the tour, do yourself a favor and purchase your tickets online before you go. It will save you about 30 minutes of standing in line.

Finally, no trip to Barcelona is complete without visiting the Gothic Quarter. It was one of our faves from our first trip, and the second time didn’t disappoint. Given that we had easy access to public transportation, we had much more time to spend here than before.

To Sum It All Up…

Barcelona was one of our favorites since the first time we ever set foot in Spain. Going back the second time was even better. We really felt like we experienced it more as the locals do. The fantastic food, rich culture, and overall “pulse” of the city have us seriously considering living there a few months each year.

Have you been to Barcelona? Was your experience like ours? I’d love to hear about your experiences, and if you have any tips, please share in the comments below!

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