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Oh summer of 2013, how I miss you! I backpacked through Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, and Greece. However, Barcelona was my favorite city on the journey. I did my research and found that La Rambla was a popular area of Barcelona for both locals and tourists. So I thought, cool! A perfect place to stay! My friend found a vacation rental, and we were all set to go.
Arriving by train from San Sebastián we took a taxi from the train station to La Rambla. The streets were packed with people and cars. We were dropped off in the middle of the street in front of an alleyway. After a few moments of confusion, the man who owned the vacation rental came up to us and lead us down the bustling alleyway. Go ahead, have a love affair with Barcelona, I did!
I’m not a city person, I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit so my life has been far from the city life, and walking down the alley to our apartment was an experience all its own. There were shops, restaurants, bars, and everything else you could imagine.
We had our GIANT backpacks (way over packed to the extreme, ugh I needed a major “how to pack” tutorial) on our backs and walked the 300 meters down to our apartment complex. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into…our complex was located in a courtyard that had flooding issues and feces smeared across the pavement. Three homeless people lived in the courtyard. Later on, we learned that they were affected by the economic downfall of Spain. Barcelona in particular, was hit really bad, even though the economy is starting to do better, there are still people in extreme poverty.
The apartment was a two bedroom, two bathroom. Basically, a dream because it meant not having to share a toilet. The air conditioning leaked and when you looked out the window across the courtyard you could see an older naked man walking around in his apartment.
I actually really loved staying in this apartment and neighborhood. I got to see and experience a life that I never would have gotten in the suburbs. I had a romanticized view of Barcelona and staying here brought me back down to earth. It reminded me that yes it’s beautiful, but it’s also a city.After unpacking, (throwing our backpacks on the bed, and running out of the apartment) we wanted to explore the city.
Top 4 tourist places in Barcelona to check out:
1. La Sagrada Familia
No matter what your beliefs are this place will inspire you. Personally, I am not an extremely religious person, but La Sagrada Familia changed my life. Of course, this amazing basilica was designed by Antoni Gaudí and it remains unfinished to this day. The architecture is so detailed that its not expected to be finished until 2026! I was in awe of the intricate, futuristic architecture, Gaudí was a man before his time.
Alright, so this quirky restaurant is a must! We were lucky enough that it was located about a hundred meters from our apartment complex. We stumbled across it while we were extremely hungry. This restaurant turned out to have the best calzone I’ve ever tasted! And it was only 2 Euros! The Sicilian owners are very down to earth and were willing to help us with any questions we had about the area in general. You MUST eat here because the food is cheap and amazing.
3. Park Güell
Ah yes, more Gauí. What can I say? I’m a huge fan. To get here I took the hop-on-hop-off Barcelona tour bus. Oh I know, mega touristy. If you’re interested in taking the tour bus there are people in red vests all over the city selling tickets. You have to be careful though because there are scammers out there, so only the ones in red vests are to be trusted. This park was like stepping into a different world. Park Güell is famous for its Salamander sculpture and stunning views of the city. If you’re in Barcelona, you need to go here, you won’t regret it.
4. Club Catwalk
Barcelona is famous for its nightlife so I couldn’t resist checking it out. I knew the fancy clubs on the beach were going to have very expensive cover charges so my friend and I opted for a cheaper option. On La Rambla young people would come up to you with club discounts and group pub crawls, it sounds sketchy but my friend and I decided to check it out. We were given a wristband and a free drink, for 15 Euros. The deal was you meet at an Irish pub by La Rambla, get your free drink, and then take the bus with a group of people to the clubs on the beach. So, with a shot of liquid courage, I ventured onto this bus with a group of strangers.
Our 15 euro wristband got us into three clubs on the beach, no cover charge. My friend and I ended up at Club Catwalk and loved it so much we stayed the whole night. Liquor is EXPENSIVE and watered down to the extreme. If you want to pay with a card you have to spend more than 20 Euro, which is crazy! I recommend getting beer and bringing cash.The club has three levels and a roof with an amazing view of the city and beach. Get your drink on, grab a friend, and dance the night away!
It doesn’t matter what age you are; Barcelona has something to offer you. If you’re a cheap backpacker like me, look at staying by La Rambla, it was in a good location and there is always public transportation to get around. We walked down to the beach and it took us about an hour, but time doesn’t matter because you’re in Barcelona!
Walking is the easiest and best way to get around the city. You get to see, smell, hear, and touch everything, you have no choice but to fall in love with the bohemian vibe.
We walked down to the beach and it took us about an hour, but time doesn’t matter because you’re in Barcelona! Walking is the easiest and best way to get around the city. You get to see, smell, hear, and touch everything, you have no choice but to fall in love with the bohemian vibe.