I went on a solo trip to Barcelona in February 2020 for 5 days. Although it was off season, there was still quite a crowd, but nothing compared to the summer crowds when it can be quite uncomfortable to move around.
Catalan, Spanish, English (in tourist areas)
I flew American Airlines. The cost of my trip was $267 round trip from Washington, D.C. I found this deal 4 months prior to my trip.
I stayed at Hotel Catalonia Catedral which was a 5 minute walk from the aerobús (airport shuttle) stop. For first timers I recommend staying in the gothic quarter as it is a central location to all attractions around the city. I also recommend booking your hotel about 3-4 months in advance for the best rate.
I used the aerobús to get from the airport to the city center and the city center to the airport. The ride takes approximately 30-35 minutes. There are a few stops along the way but the final stop and starting point (for returning to the airport) is Plaça Catalunya. I purchased my ticket online which was €10.50 euros roundtrip and €5.60 one way. If you purchase a roundtrip ticket, hold on to the receipt that you receive from the attendant or bus driver as you will need it for your return trip.
To get around the city I spent most of my time walking because Barcelona is a very walkable city. For attractions further out, such as Park Güell, I took the metro which I found to be very reliable and convenient.
Things I Did in Barcelona
Although most people visit this park to get the signature bench photo in the restricted zone (cost €8 euros), the rest of Park Güell is very beautiful and enjoyable to walk around. There are many places outside of the restricted zone where you can see beautiful views of the city, listen to local entertainment within the park, and walk through interesting structures (picture below).
To get to the park, I took the metro to Alfons X station, then I caught the Park Güell shuttle which was waiting outside next to the metro. The ride to Park Güell took about 10-15 minutes and dropped off all passengers in front of the park entrance. The shuttle also picks up from the same location (front entrance). You will have to show your ticket to get on at the Alfons X metro station and when leaving the park.
This was one of my favorite Gaudi buildings! The basilica is uniquely designed with tree like structures from the floor to the ceiling and sunlight shining through the stained glass windows. Along with the aforementioned, and looking up into the ceiling, you begin to feel like your in the middle of rainforest. You can easily spend 3 hours here trying to look at every detail from the inside to the outside facades.
I highly recommend going first thing in the morning or as the sun sets (purchase your tickets in advance) to beat the crowds and to see the sunlight reflecting through the stained glass windows that brings the entire basilica to life. I also recommend getting the ticket with the audio guide as it was very helpful in understanding the history and future progress of the basilica. Finally, if you have time, get a ticket to go up the escalator to the top of one of the towers for amazing views.
Casa Milia (La Pedra)
Casa Mila is another one of my favorite buildings designed by Gaudi. I did not originally plan to go, however I’m glad I did. Luckily, I was able to get a ticket at the last minute (2-3 hours in advance online) and to tour the building during the lunch hour (11:45 am- 1:00 pm). What I enjoyed most about Casa Mila was the rooftop where you can get great views of Barcelona (including Sagrada familia) and see the guardians of the rooftop (pictured below).
On the inside of the building, you will get a chance to view one of the apartments to see the bedrooms for the children, parents, servants, and the bathroom, kitchen, etc. to gain an understanding of what it was like to live in the apartments during that time period. Also, the basement is pretty cool too! The structure of the basement is said to resemble the inside of a whale. Wow! Here you will also find information about other buildings designed by Gaudi.
This was not one of my favorite Gaudi buildings. With your admission, you get an audio guide/cell phone which also serves as a visual aid to allow you to see how the rooms in the house were designed with furniture in it. Also, this audio guide/cell phone allows you to see a turtle or mushroom, when pointed at a window or fireplace, to understand Gaudi’s mindset when designing that particular piece or furniture in the house. In my opinion, the best part of the house was the interior where the elevator is located (pictured below). I thought the design was very unique and beautiful especially when the sunlight shined through the stained glass.
On the day I arrived in Barcelona, I took a food tour with Secret Food Tours Barcelona. This 3 1/2 food tour covers the Gothic and El Born districts. The size of the group was four people (two solo travelers, including myself, and a couple). We sampled everything from manchego cheese, sheep cheese, cured meats or olives (for pescatarians (like myself)/vegetarians), paella (option of chicken or seafood), fried padrón peppers, black rice with squid ink (very interesting dish), Catalan tomato bread, and washed it all down with plenty of sangria, cava, and of course water! Additionally on this tour we got a chance to tour the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, and walk along the boardwalk of Barceloneta Beach. I highly recommend this tour!
Day Trip to Girona, Pals, and Costa Brava
After spending a few days exploring Barcelona I decided that I wanted to explore nearby cities. After doing some research, I discovered a day trip to Girona, Pals, and Costa Brava, with In and Out Barcelona tours. This tour includes pick up and drop off from your hotel. The first stop on the tour was to Girona which is about an hour away. Girona is a beautiful city that was used as a filming location for the Game of Thrones season 6 (pictured on the left). Additionally Girona is home to the Eiffel bridge also known as Pont de les Peixateries which was designed by Gustave Eiffel (Eiffel tower).
The next stop was a small city known as Pals (pictured bottom right). Pals has an amazing landscape with amazing architecture that reminds you of a little bit of Tuscany, Italy.
For the last stop, we went to Costa Brava. Here we got a chance to eat at the La Vela restaurant on the Platja d’En Calau beach and afterwards take a walk along the beach. If it were warm enough, it would’ve been nice to swim. However, being close to it and enjoying the views was worthwhile for me.
This was the highlight of my trip in Barcelona! It was also my first time taking a cooking class in another country. The purpose of this class was to learn how to make seafood paella and sangria. Before the class began, the group (of 16) got a chance to tour the famous Mercat St. Joseph La Boqueria. Here, we watched the cooking instructor pick out fresh seafood and other ingredients for paella. We also got to see everything the market had to offer.
Once we arrived to back to the restaurant and kitchen we were presented with tapas and sangria to snack on before cooking the paella. The group was split in half and given the option of prepping the ingredients or helping to cooking the paella while the other half of the group watched. While waiting for the paella to finishing cooking, we learned how to make sangria and then participated in a contest to see who could make the best version of their own sangria! I participated and I won *cheers*. Afterwards we were served with large portions of seafood paella on our plates and unlimited sangria to top it off. Highly recommend! You will not regret it!
Photoshoot (Air B&B Experience)
Air B&B website has plenty of experiences to choose from especially when it comes to photo shoots in Barcelona. This was my first time doing an Air B&B experience and it was excellent! The photographer also served as a tour guide and gave us (myself and another person) a mini tour/history of the gothic quarter where the photoshoot took place. The pictures came out great and as a solo traveler, I was happy to have pictures of myself (without the selfie stick/tripod lol) to commemorate the trip.
To tour the Barcelona Catedral I paid €4 euros (online) for a ticket to tour the cathedral at 9:30 am. If you visit between 9:30 am-12:00 pm, you can pay €4 which will also include an audio guide. I found the audio guide to be very helpful with learning the history of the cathedral and everything within it. Without the audio guide, I would have missed out on a few things such as the cloister area where you can find the 13 white geese of the cathedral.
- Buy your tickets in advance for all Gaudi buildings!
- As for other excursions/adventures, you can wait until you arrive to Barcelona. Enjoy your trip!
- Pre-trip Tip: Buy a crossbody or anti-theft bag to protect your items from pickpockets.