We met some family members in Barcelona, Spain, during the first part of our month-long stay. My sister-in-law and niece only had ten days to see and do as much as possible, so we had a blast running around as tourists, instead of taking our time on our own slow travel style.
Here are just some of the activities we packed into their stay that you may want to consider during a Barcelona vacation:
Electric bike rentals
We rented electric bikes to get up the hills to the Olympic Park and back down to ride along the seashore. This was my first time on an electric bike- and it was so worth the money to quickly get up those hills. Also, Barcelona has many bike lanes throughout the city, which made this a pleasant experience.
We used Budget Bikes, and it cost $25 USD for three hours per electric bike. Total splurge for us budget travelers. But the electric bikes were totally worth it because on regular bikes, our route would have been an all-day trip. Instead, our tour of two different spots in the city took only three hours, and it was a gas!
Budget bikes also has much cheaper options if you’d rather power the ride yourself. Their website is here.
La Sagrada Familia topside and audio tours
This is such a wonderful experience, it’s its own blog post. I previously wrote about the fabulous tour we took and you’ll find that post here. This is a must see in Barcelona – and the topside and audio tours make it even more special.
Tibidabo is an amusement park on the outskirts of the city. I actually skipped this trip, but Tedly tells me it was worth a visit. It’s historic – it’s the second oldest amusement park in Europe, with well-kept old rides. Tedly also said it’s cheap – those old rides cost about $2.50 USD each, or you can spend more money on newer rides in another park section.
Tedly called the park layout a bit bizarre: there is a cathedral in the center, with the older amusement park rides around it, and the newer rides on the outer ring.
To get there, it cost about $7.50 USD round trip by bus, or go by the mountainside funicular – which is a ride in itself – for about $8.50 USD round trip. The official site is here.
Tedly recommends this for budget travelers who like amusement park rides, and for anyone to see unbelievable views of Barcelona, the Mediterranean Sea, the Pyrenees Mountains, Montserrat, etc.
This was a day trip from the city to see a monastery and basilica on a mountainside. We took a train from the city, and then a cable car up the face of the mountain. We heard a monk welcome visitors in the basilica and offer a general prayer, instead of the usual boys choir (the kids were off for spring break).
We also rubbed the orb that is held by the Virgin of Montserrat – a wood carving of a black Madonna and child. I felt a good energy here in front of the statue. Some people believe it’s from the early days of the church, but it’s apparently more likely from the 12th century.
There are hiking trails in the area, and rock climbers enjoy the cliffs. May as well enjoy the whole site if you’re going to pay nearly $27 USD each to get there. Tickets include round-trip tickets to and from Barcelona, and the initial tram ride up the cliff. If you don’t want to hike a lot, additional tram rides to caves or other structures on the site cost more.
This was a fun thing to see: dancers stomping hard and fast in moves that looked like a jazzy kind of spicy tap dancing, if that makes sense. The flamenco style of dance comes from southern Spain, not Catalunya, but live performances have been in Barcelona for decades. We went to Los Tarantos, one of many places in the city that give live shows.
Tickets cost nearly $19 USD and the show lasted 35 minutes, drinks not included. The performers sure did seem to enjoy themselves. This is a dance I could never do! As we were leaving, I saw one of the musicians near me so I thanked him and got a selfie with him.
Sometimes the show sells out, especially in the busy summer season, because this is a touristy thing to do, so you might want to buy your tickets a day or two early. Their website is here.
Dining in the Gothic Quarter
Placa Reial is a square with many restaurants from white table cloth to casual. Here you’ll see everything from fashionistas to minstrels, tourists to locals, souvenir sellers to waiters practicing English.
All places on this square have higher prices if you want to make a splurge. We ate dinner at Restaurante Italiano Rossini, and it was good. Drinks, a couple appetizers, and dinners for four people cost $120 USD. We also had drinks and dessert a few times at the more casual Cerveceria Colon, which has giant mugs of beer for the giant price of $12.40.
What’s nice about this plaza is that it’s open and you can people with more of a view than in an really old, small bar or restaurant tucked into the Gothic Quarter. We also went to other restaurants in the Gothic Quarter and everywhere we went was good. But what’s most memorable for me was a great time with family.
Some budget-friendly options
The above activities don’t include: an afternoon walk around Park Guell – a beautiful, must-see place; walks to buildings designed by Antoni Gaudi; a stroll through the city down to the sea on Las Ramblas; walks around the Gothic quarter; souvenir shopping; Good Friday processions; Easter mass inside La Sagrada Familia; priceless conversations while chillin’ at my sister-in-law’s apartment rental that had an absolutely stunning view of La Sagrada Familia.
I miss Tina and Liz, and I’m grateful for the time we spent together. After their vacation was over, Tedly and I stayed to enjoy many other activities and sites. I’ve been a bit lazy writing about them lately, and promise to deliver the goods soon.
Upcoming blog posts will feature: more day trips outside the city, including to Colonia Guell, Tarragona, and the Salvador Dali museum on a high speed train ride; my recent excellent experience buying new eyeglasses and sunglasses at a Spanish company; free museums in Barcelona; our nearly disastrous experience with a HomeAway rental during the first part of our stay in Barcelona.
That’s a lot of blog work ahead for me. Seriously. I don’t know where I find the time in early retirement to do all this sightseeing, activities, reading, writing – and more. (LOL) I need an associate producer. For real. I told Tedly I’d like him to write at least one of those posts mentioned above, and he’s agreed – so stay tuned.
(*Note, Tedly took some of the photos on this post.)