Day two was our big sightseeing day – I had scheduled and pre-booked a bunch of tickets to hit all of the big tourist attractions. By the end of the day, Emily and I both agreed that we liked doing all of these in one day because a lot of the time, the tourist attractions ended up being a little underwhelming, though we are glad we could say we saw all of these main sights.
La Sagrada Familia
We headed to the subway which was pretty easy to navigate as long as you knew which station you needed to get off at! Our hostel was verrrry close to one of the main subway lines and a bus stop too, which was really convenient throughout the week.
As soon as we got off the subway, there was the Sagrada Familia, looming over us in all of its incomplete glory. It was definitely a “WOW” moment, to just see it there in the middle of the city. I guess it’s how some people feel when they find themselves standing at the base of the Empire State Building for the first time.
I was absolutely starving, since we had never really eaten dinner the night before, and we stopped into a café down the block and sat down for a quick breakfast. I ordered a ham and cheese with a coffee. When my sandwich came out, I was instantly transported back to my childhood, eating a grilled cheese sandwich with ham on perfectly buttered and grilled toast. It wasn’t anything fancy – but it was perfect.
We were a few minutes behind schedule after paying, so we scurried over to the entrance of La Sagrada Familia, which we had pre-purchased tickets for. They sell tickets in time slots and I highlyyyy recommend booking in advance of your trip.
We were told we needed to enter on the other side of the church so we walked around, only to be told that I had printed my ticket confirmation, not the actual ticket, and we needed to go back to the other side to have my ticket printed. We did that, then went back to the other side and finally, entered the church.
The inside was impressive for sure – and because we were there at 9:00 a.m., it wasn’t yet completely packed with tourists. The sunlight was streaming through one particular stained glass window and was casting pretty lights and colors on some of the columns.
The concrete inside of the church looked so soft – almost like putty. When we touched them, we realized they were SO SMOOTH.
After looking around for a little while, we did the Nativity Tower tour– it’s an additional fee and you can choose to go up either the Nativity façade or the Passion façade. I had done some research, and settled on the Nativity façade because it offers better views and has less construction happening on it.
The views were nice, but not breathtaking. The most impressive part was the walk down the spiral staircase (you go up in an elevator) and looking all the way down down down. I think the reason we didn't love the view from the top is because La Sagrada Familia is the most iconic part of the Barcelona skyline, and it was missing since we were at the top of it!
Our general consensus was that the outside of the church was definitely the most impressive part – it’s so massive and so so detailed. It wasn’t until I was running around trying to find a bathroom that I realized there was an entire museum underneath – I wish I would have taken some time going through it and learning a bit more.
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t say that the interior of Sagrada Familia is an absolute must-see if you aren’t really interested in churches – but absolutely go to marvel at the exterior. If you do pay to enter the church, I recommend going up one of the towers to make it more worthwhile.
Parc Guell - Monumental Zone
After Sagrada Familia, we took our time walking from the church to Parc Guell. We bought some of the classic giant water bottles I remember from my trip to Greece (1 Litre for $1) and stopped in some stores along the way. I found the CUTEST store that had all healthy foods, juices and KOMBUCHA. I wished I was hungry so that I could have eaten there! They also had veggie shaped pillows that I was really tempted to buy.
We had perfect weather the entire trip (minus the soccer game) – warm in the sun, cool in the shade. But man was the walk to Parc Guell hilly! After getting a little lost, we eventually made it to the park, but the signage made it difficult to figure out where exactly we needed to go to get to the “Monumental Zone” that we had purchased tickets for. Eventually, after asking a few people, we found our way to the queue.
From the line, we could see the classic Parc Guell benches that everyone takes their pictures at (including the Cheetah Girls). We were really underwhelmed at first because they were just in the middle of a big dirt patch. We thought that was all our ticket was going to get us – and we were pretty disappointed as we stood in line for 20 minutes waiting for our 12:30 entrance time. Eventually, we realized there was an entire area of the park we were going to get to walk around. PHEW.
We had our photo shoot on the benches and I must say, for such an iconic photo, the benches really aren’t the best part of the park by any means. Our favorite were the Monument Stairs, where we took tons of pictures and enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful tile work that the park is known for.
We stopped at the café inside the park and I had a delicious mango coconut juice.
We finished walking through the Monumental Zone and one of my favorite parts was how amazing the flowers smelled. We stopped on a bench to listen to some music and it was so beautiful.
Gaudi House Museum
Next stop was the Gaudi House Museum, which is located inside the park. It was the cheapest tour we did at just around $6 and while it wasn’t very visually impressive, I really liked reading and learning more about Gaudi since he is such a huge part of the history and culture of Barcelona. Did you know he was a vegetarian?!
After the museum, which didn’t take long to go through, we made our way down from Parc Guell to find the subway. We somehow managed to pass it and had to backtrack.
We got off at our stop which was right outside of Casa Batllo, our final tour of the day. We had some time to kill, so I wandered in and out of some stores, including the TIGER department store which I absolutely loved! It’s a chain throughout Europe that started in Copenhagen. http://www.apartime.com/barcelona-guide/shops-&-markets/tiger-store-in-barcelona
At 5:00 we started our Casa Batllo tour and it was hands down the coolest museum/tour I’ve ever been to. You are given a mini iPad and headset and using augmented reality, you walk through the house, garden and roof while hearing tons of interesting information. On the screen, you can see how the space used to look – as you turn in the room itself, the screen reacts and shows you the area that you’re looking at. Not sure if that made any sense – but take my word for it – it was very unique and very much worth it!
Jon met up with us when we were in the fourth room – his hangover from the night before finally cured. We took our time going through Casa Batllo and it was nice to take a last look at it from the street on our way out, once we had learned more about it.
Then, we started to make our way back, stopping in Zara before taking some pictures at Placa de Catlunya (I compared it to Columbus Circle). Then, we walked down the busy main street of Las Ramblas – essentially the Times Square (NYC) or 16th Street Mall (Denver) of Barcelona. Street vendors, chains, stores and tons and tons of tourists. We definitely saw someone get pickpocketed as we made our way down Las Ramblas, and while I’m glad I got to see it, it definitely wasn’t my favorite place to be.
We got back to the hostel around 8:15 that night and had about an hour to shower and get ready for our dinner reservations. Callie had told me about a restaurant she loved so much she ate it twice during her trip to Barcelona last year, so I had booked us a table in advance.
We all decided to dress up since it was our one planned dinner out – and also Jon was excited to wear the dress pants he had bought at Zara.
Arume was a quick 15 minute walk from our hostel, which was good because I was wearing heels. Jon and Emily took beers for the road – which I’m still not sure is legal or illegal – but either way, everyone does it.
The restaurant was in the El Raval neighborhood, which I had read was a little seedy. Sure enough, it was the only time the three of us felt even remotely unsafe during the trip. And that’s dramatic – it just was clearly a little sketchier than most other areas.
When we got to the restaurant it was packed – and the spaces are just as small as many places in NYC. I told them I had made a reservation, but we still waited about 15 minutes to be shown to our table. The wait staff were extremely friendly and the restaurant was adorable.
We ordered drinks (Emily loved her Blackberry Mojito and I was in heaven with a Jalapeno Grapefruit Margarita) and were given a bread basket with olives and olive oil. I swear the olive oil is 100X better in Barcelona than it is here.
Our appetizers were the highlight of the meal:
“Uncle Walter’s Ceviche” with Almond Milk:
SO FRESH with little crispy corn cornels and watermelon – it was different, but so tasty, light and refreshing. Even Jon tried it and took seconds!
Spanish Betanzos Tortilla with Iberian Chorizo:
“Tortilla” in Barcelona is a very traditional dish – and it isn’t necessarily what you would expect. It’s potatoes, onions and eggs – almost like a frittata! The waitress explained that the traditional way of serving it is a little liquidy in the middle – and asked if we were ok with that. YES, traditional way please! Later in the week, our cooking class instructor also explained that a good tortilla should be moist in the middle.
The tortilla at Arume was cheesy and chorizo-y and very very good.
For our entrees, Emily and I decided to split two different dishes, while I convinced Jon that he should get the pork cheeks!
Wok Cooked Udon Noodles in Red Curry and Langoustine Bisque
The monkfish itself was delicious, but even to me, the langoustines were super fishy. The udon noodles were very short, not typical udon noodles, and I didn’t get much of a red curry flavor. I didn’t love this dish.
Milk lamb “Raval Style:”
Sweet potato, cumin yogurt and Arabian Salad
I personally loved this – the lamb wasn’t the most tender I’ve ever had but I devoured the sweet potato puree and love cumin. It’s not for everyone though, and Emily thought that the dish was over-seasoned.
Iberian Pork Cheeks:
Iberian pork with orange, aniseed chestnut puree and apples.
Ever since trying my coworkers beef cheeks in St. Louis, I swore I would always order cheeks whenever they were on the menu. Instead, I convince Jon to order them. I tried a bite, and the meat was just as tender as I remembered. The chestnut puree was very interesting!
Opium Night Club
By the time we finished dinner it was pretty late, and we figured we had missed the group leaving for the bar. So Jon and Emily bought beers at the market next door and I bought myself a cheap bottle of Cava and we set out for the hostel.
When we approached the bus stop at the end of our street, we saw the entire group from Hostel One standing and waiting and decided, OK, guess we’re going out! I popped the bottle of champagne and passed it around before hiding it in my jacket and getting on the bus.
We walked a ways to the bar, I ditched the bottle of cava, and we entered the super packed space. Emily and I got margaritas which ended up being straight tequila. By the time I finished mine and Emily’s, the original plan was “just going to the bar, not the club” was out the window. I chugged a water bottle and said I would go to the club.
The group was going to Opium, a club that everyone had suggested. “We’ll just go to see it and then head home,” Emily and I said…….
Let’s just say, Opium was too amazing to leave at a normal hour. Instead, we stayed until about 4 a.m. and by the time we got a taxi and crawled into bed at the hostel, we had only 2 hours to sleep before our bus tour to Girona and Figueres.
I had spent the entire night telling Emily, “you don’t want to see me on 5 hours of sleep,” “you don’t want to see me on 4 hours of sleep…” etc. but we were having such a blast! Opium was great – it was on the water, it wasn’t overly packed, we got a drink fairly quickly, and the music was PERFECT. I was a little overwhelmed by all the strobe lights, but once I embraced them, I was in heaven.
Moral of the story? The following day, Emily got to see me on 2 hours of sleep.