July 25, 2016

4 Day Guide to Barcelona: Top Money Saving Tips

"Little by little, one travels far"

Fresh off the plane from my latest travel adventure, pockets full of advice and tales of the most beautiful city - Barcelona is a little gem full of culture and diversity, and an absolute must on any travel list, but from experience of my travels I have pinned a few handy tips..

A place to rest your head..

Accommodation in Barca is pretty expensive, and I personally don't find much point in spending much of my small budget on fancy hotels, so Scott and I had our first Air BnB experience and I honestly don't think I will opt for hotels when taking breaks any time in the future.

Our apartment was the Park Guell Penthouse which was perfect for just the two of us - comfortable, clean, safe, accessible and affordable. (Apart from the five flights of stairs - 80 steps to be exact...). If you are considering visiting Barcelona I really recommend this apartment, Abdul who greeted us was extremely welcoming and helpful and answered any questions we had. The apartment was a two minute walk from the metro station, was in a safe area with plenty of supermarkets and pharmacies and hosted amazing views of the city from its own private terrace. They also offer an airport taxi service for twenty-five euro which I advise you make use of, without Andres' help, finding the apartment among lots of buildings may have proven a little difficult for us.

Street view from our terrace

View from our terrace - Tibidabo is on the hill

Seeing the City..

I'm just going to cut to the bad news and admit that everything in this beautiful city is a force for money. Pretty much every tourist attraction we visited came with a price tag, and a hefty one at that.

In this particular department we learned a few things. So here goes:
  • Don't book tourist bus tours - we spent almost £60 on a bus tour which we used for twenty minutes, mainly because we didn't want to spend so much money on it and not use it at all. The best thing about Barcelona is how central everything is, get the metro to Catalunya, the main plaza, and from here you can walk to almost everything - Las Ramblas, the beach, Montejuic Cable Car, Gaudi Museums/Houses, the Gothic Quarter etc. For everything else that isn't within walking distance the metro is perfect, but I'll get to that later.

Las Ramblas
  • Book in advance - Especially the Sagrada Familia. We were told by the tourist board that we could purchase tickets at the gate, when we arrived there in the morning they were all sold out for the whole day and were told we had to book them online for the next day. The Sagrada ended costing us £50, but it was an unmissable experience so bite your fingernails and forget the price tag because every penny is worth it!

  • Plan ahead - When you have a long to-do list and four days to complete it time is a very precious thing so planning what you will do each day ensures you don't waste your time and make the most of your trip. So grab a map and plan a route around the city. 
In any city transport will drink up most of your expenses. In Barcelona the metro system is great, much like the London underground except a lot easier to make sense of. Grab a 10 euro metro card which provides 10 uses, this card can be used between two people and is relatively cheap considering. In most of the smaller metro stations that are not guarded by workers we usually just passed through the gate at the same time and only cost ourselves one trip for the both of us, so don't be scared to be sneaky..

Food & Service
The only let down of this beautiful city was the food and restaurant service. A smile and a good meal is hard to come across, and honestly was something we didn't even experience during our trip. Be prepared for ignorance and having your plate lifted before you have even finished. And always check your bill before paying, locals here love adding extra expenses which you didn't ask for.

In terms of cost, food here isn't cheap either. For two of us each meal was roughly 30-40 euros, which when eating two meals every day for four days, can be pretty hefty. On each bill soft drinks were usually 3-4 euros per can, and even a glass of water was above 2 euros each. Having an Air BnB allowed us to grab food from the supermarkets and cook breakfast and snacks when we wanted them and also cost considerably less.. If on a smaller budget dinner meals in is always an option here too.

Highlights and Recommendations
For me the highlight of the entire trip was our visit to Tibidabo. This is an area high above the city in the mountains and offers the most breath taking views I have ever seen. Since this place is so far out I recommend getting the metro to Vallcarca on line 3 (which was our stop) and grab a taxi for the rest of the journey - it cost us 12 euros. 

I recommend heading up here to watch the sunset, when you reach the top of the road there is a viewing point which hosts the sun going down over the city, I sat here in awe just watching the world pass me by.

After the sun has gone head further up the hill to the Cathedral. Here we stumbled upon Saturday evening mass for local Spaniards and I honestly can say my experience here will stay with me for the rest of my life. I had goosebumps all over my body watching the service and listening to the choir. A once in a lifetime opportunity. 

Once we had got our fill of the views and sounds from the top of the Catherdral we headed down to the amusement park just below. There isn't much for adults here, but it gave incredible views to share some candy floss over so I can't complain.

Other things I highly recommend:
  • Cable Car over the city - only 20 euros and a fantastic experience, once you forget how high up you are of course..

  • Barcelona Markets - all the fruit, sweets, bread and meat you could ever imagine. Skip breakfast and head straight here, you will be spoilt for choice on what to eat.

  • Gaudi's Wall - another viewing point with amazing views over the city, this historic art piece is a nice place for a breather and a minute to sit back and take it all in
  • Nou Camp - for the football lovers of course, but still something great to see. Although it's a pretty small pitch.. 
  • Churros on Las Ramblas - as a treat at the end of the day head into Las Ramblas and grab churros from the street vendor about half way down. My mouth is watering at the thought of them right now
  • Take a few hours and get lost amongst the streets around Las Ramblas and Catalunya. The streets have so much culture and you can't really explore a city without getting lost in it.
  • Spend some time in the Exiample district, it's full of buzz and life of local Spanish people going about their day and the streets are an Instagram dream.

Safety and Pick Pockets
It's no secret that Barcelona has a reputation for pick pockets, and from the minute we booked our flights this was all the advice people could give me. Fortunately during our trip we didn't experience any theft, but I have heard many a tale of the woman who got her bag stolen whilst eating dinner or her phone stolen from her pocket.

Like in any city be conscious of your surroundings and keep everything as close as you can. I always either kept my bag over my body whilst eating or tucked tight between my legs. Whilst walking down the street I always held my hand over the tag of my bag zip so no wondering hands could find it, or for an over-the-arm bag I kept the zip tucked tight under my arm closest to my chest. Don't carry your phone or camera in your hands all the time, and at least have a safety strap for your camera.

Where we were staying I felt extremely safe, however in the city centre in the late evenings things can get a little uneasy. I recommend to not stay out on the streets too late and be aware of everything around as you stand or walk. More than a few times we experienced large groups of men targeting us to talk to them as they asked questions and followed us along the street as we minded our own business in the evening times. Barcelona has nothing to be scared of so long as you are wise, careful and conscious of your surroundings all the time.

And that's a wrap on my Barcelona tour guide, I hope this was in some way helpful and gave you a little sense of direction for your trip ahead. Enjoy every second of this beautiful place and immerse yourself in the culture and history of it all. Please leave me some comments below if you are planning to visit Barcelona, or if you have any questions regarding this post!

Sara x 

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