PLANNING HOLIDAYS & TRIPS CAN BE DAUNTING, ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU’RE TRYING TO KEEP COSTS LOW – HERE’S HOPING A FEW OF MY TRAVELLING PEARLS OF WISDOM CAN HELP A FEW OTHERS TOO!
Barcelona has been on my ‘to-visit’ list for a while now, so when I looked into booking a surprise trip in February, after scouring the best deals on flights and hotels, the city came up tops as the best and most affordable place to visit. A glass of wine later and I hit the confirm button (also worth noting this was my first ever trip I’ve booked solely by myself – which I’m not gonna lie, was pretty daunting!) The trip went seamlessly and we had a food filled, marathon walking, 4 days of site seeing.
Picturesque, filled with historic spots and loads to do from sailing trips to tapas and bike tours, we came, we saw, we Instagrammed. Here’s where we stayed (Warning, Pinterest heaven), where we ate and what we did – all whilst keeping the costs low and super, budget friendly!
WHERE TO STAY – AN AFFORDABLE, INSTAGRAMMERS, DREAM HOTEL
Being the typical, cliche blogger I am, naturally I wanted somewhere to stay that I could potentially snap up for a few photos (I mean, why not 😉 ) But more so, I wanted to enjoy my surroundings – we weren’t planning on spending a whole lot of time at the hotel, but none-the-less you want to enjoy the time you do spend there or relax for a cosy evening before heading out for a bite to eat. This was the most crucial part of our trip – I wanted somewhere I felt comfortable, that was close to everything but also felt like a nice, safe location, that had good reviews and that didn’t break the bank! I like to go on reccomendation – it just puts my mind at rest, and after stumbling across Magatzem 128, not only did the interiors win me over, but the reviews were glowing and it seemed like everything I wanted, so I didn’t hesitate to hit book! It came at a super affordable price for the time of year, and for 3 nights I paid £173 via Expedia, which was incredible value, especially compared to other places – I really felt like we had great value for our money.
It’s an old furniture warehouse, so has a cool, edgy, industrial vibe and there’s a variety of rooms. (we went for a double, city view) The bathrooms are CRAZY intagrammable, as well as the beautiful, plant and light adorned courtyard (which we obviously made full use of!) There’s a 24hr reception, so always someone to greet you and to ask any questions! You get fresh coffee and a variety of flavoured muffins for breakfast, which we really enjoyed sitting and enjoying before a day of exploring! There was the Rocafort metro stop a 5 minute walk away, as well as the Aerobus stops close by (to get to and from the airport) It was also a 10 minute walk from Plaça Catalunya – so perfect to get on the buses or head out for some dinner! I cannot reccomend this place enough – you could walk everywhere or catch the metro should you want to skip the walk for an evening out and it was in a really nice, corner of the city!
FIRSTLY; THE REVOLUTIONISER. BARCELONA IS A WALKING CITY, SO A FUNCTIONING SUITCASE IS KEY
For years, I stubbornly wheeled around a broken, 3 wheeled (The 4th had a mind of it’s own) and hand me down suitcase. Truthfully, it made travelling a lot more stressful than needs be. Walking with it became a nightmare, it would constantly tip over, hit people and cause me delays (as well as a killer back ache!) So when I upgraded to this American Tourister beauty this year, it was a total game changer. Nothing beats the way I smugly glide through the airport queues, looking like I have my life some-what together with my pristine, suitcase. Give a gal a great suitcase and she can conquer the world. We walked EVERYWHERE in Barcelona, even with the odd trip on the Metro and the bus, we still clocked up those steps, including for our transfers and with our case, so make sure you have something that doesn’t hold you back and have you cursing at it! I wish I didn’t stubbornly stick with such a bad one for so long, if you’ve been meaning to upgrade – do it! (Plus, they come in loads of incredible colours, so one for every personality and traveller 😉 )
SHOP THE CASE
FLIGHTS AND WHEN TO TRAVEL
I surprised my boyfriend for this birthday for this trip (You have to watch his reaction on my travel vlog!) so we went just after, in late February – this was a great time to visit as there were little tourists, hotels were cheaper and excursions and activities weren’t bursting to the brim with people. Flights were also SO affordable (I booked via SkyScanner and I managed to bag BOTH our return flights for £100, however I did also want to book seats together and include luggage, so it ended up costing £148 for two people, which was still crazy, affordable!) It’s also worth noting our flight wasn’t full both ways, we booked seats at the back of the airplane and had 2 rows to ourselves (Hello prime napping position 😉 ) The temperature was actually surprisingly humid and comfortable, sitting at around 18C, so overall, although it would obviously be lovely to enjoy the beach and hotter temps, with that comes more people and higher prices, so if you’re looking to keep costs low, I can’t recommend going at these times – it’s still warm and sunny, just less populated and more affordable – win!
AFFORDABLE THINGS TO DO
There’s a plethora of things to do in the city and a quick flick through sites like Expedia’s ‘things to do’ and Air BnB experiences, shows just how much there is to organise for a trip, should you want to try a variety of things out! Affordable options such as bike tours around the city with rooftop lunches, segway experiences and sailing afternoons all caught our eye, as well as being able to buy your ‘hop on hop off’ bus tour tickets online too. (although we bought them in person and found there wasn’t a price difference) Personally, I would actually REALLY recommend the bus tours, purely because you get to visit all the Gaudi hot spots, most of which such as Park Guell are free and make great photo opportunities! We saw the Sagrida Familia which was absolutely breath taking and a must see in person. There’s also free walking tours and we personally spent most of our time just wandering and taking in the beautiful buildings – the Gothic quarter was our favourite and we spent hours wandering the winding alleyways and marvelling at the historic buildings!
It’s obviously a very typically ‘touristy’ activity, but the bus tour meant we could decide where we wanted to re-visit another day! There’s also headphones so you can listen to the history behind the city, which we loved! Hop off whenever you fancy to enjoy an afternoon aperitif before exploring more! Many museums are also notoriously free on Sunday afternoons (after 3pm) and we found the Bunkers De Carmel absolutely breathtaking and a must do when in the city, just to look over the incredible city line! We feel like we got our moneys worth with the bus tour (we paid around £20) and also found affordable activities en route, such as the cable cars down to the port, and the beautiful gardens Mossen Costs i Llobera Garden and Jardí Botànic de Barcelona. There’s a variety of markets too – we loved the flea market that was set in front of the Gothic Cathedral, selling all sorts of trinkets – it’s a great spot full of street performers, musicians and markets. The Arc De Triomf was also a beautiful spot and had a lovely atmosphere on a sunny evening. Lots of lovely, affordable coffee shops here to have a caffeine fix with a view.
WHERE TO EAT
Barcelona is renowned with foodies and we had so many places recommended by you guys on Instagram! This is where most of our spending money went, but it was lovely to relax and enjoy dinner with a glass of something cold! There’s a huge variety of places to eat – Flax and Kale came highly recommended for it’s healthy menu, as well as Can Sole for paella! We also found a cute spot by the port for an affordable lunch, called La Casade Les Lletres! Barcelona is also pretty vegetarian friendly too and we particularly loved how cheap Cava is everywhere! Follow the locals for cute coffee and mid-day beer stops and there’s loads of amazing bars playing music and jazz in the evenings! As a rule, most people say to avoid Las Ramblas as the food is pretty generic and overpriced. We found Plaça Reial a beautiful spot to enjoy an evening drink and a bite to eat, where there were both reasonably priced and more fine dining options, all in one place! Eixample has some great places and our hotel was full of recommendations too, with Plaça Catalunya having some gorgeous restaurants to choose from. Search for places beforehand near your hotel so you have some fail safe options, but also enjoy wandering around finding hidden gems (The Gothic Quarter is full of great lunch spots.) La Boqueria is a MUST DO in Barcelona, it’s the most vibrant food market I’ve ever been to and came recommended by everyone to pay a visit!
GENERAL BARCELONA TIPS:
- If you’re not sure how much you’ll be travelling, grab a T10 travel card for 10 Euros (purchase from a metro station) – we shared one for the whole trip, giving us 5 trips each on either the metro, bus or local train. You can also get the Barcelona Passes which are pricer but include visits to attractions, so you can determine which is best for your trip. See here – https://www.barcelonapass.com
- Be Vigilant. EVERYONE we knew told us to watch for pickpockets. We were fine personally, probably helped by the fact that it wasn’t peak visiting season, but as a general rule of thumb (because it’s always mentioned so much) just keep an eye on your personal space, keep bags zipped up and tight to your body, don’t leave unattended and watch your luggage on the AeroBus. It’s probably easiest done when it’s packed full of tourists, just be sensible and aware, especially in the evening.
- One thing no one ever mentioned to us was the amount people hassling you at dinner trying to sell things, as well as people asking us to basically buy drugs in the evening. They tend to target younger people, so if you’re asked to go into a ‘coffee shop’ late at night, you know it’s not an actual coffee shop! Just keep walking! I thought this was worth a mention as it surprised us.
- Be wary of some street performers who will insist you pay them just for literally looking in their direction for 5 seconds! There was a bubble artist by the cathedral and I walked past him and was promptly rudely gestured to give him money, despite not even watching. Just something to be mindful of, as it took me ages to figure out what he was trying to tell me! Again, don’t let this put you off – I just really want to share the things no one else told me!
- Walk, walk, walk, – you’ll be exhausted but it’s the best way to see everything and you can enjoy a well deserved dinner and beer after!
- People tend to eat a lot later in the evenings, so don’t expect to have an early dinner at 4/5pm
- Grab supplies at a local supermarket – water, snacks, fruit – we packed food to keep us going on our walks and to save costs and make sure we didn’t get super hungry!
- Signposts can be few and far between, we found maps really helpful to find the tourist spots we wanted to hit – grab them from the bus stops and keep in your pocket.
Really hoped you found this one useful beauts – do let me know your top, travel tips and I’d love to know if you’ve been to Barcelona or are planning on a trip!
I have my Barcelona vlog, as well as loads of other travel goodness on my Youtube Channel so make sure you’re subscribed!
Photography by Ben Kapur & Myself