I loved Barcelona. It was so fun to explore because it's so vibrant and beautiful with so many things to discover down every twisty street. Wandering around in El Born or the Gothic Quarter felt like being inside a novel or a movie. And then, of course, there are all the buildings (and benches and lampposts and statues) designed by Antoni Gaudi that make the city feel like a bright, colourful fairy tale.
I loved that in Barcelona you could just wander around all day and stumble across a half dozen things that were interesting or important or cool: that's how I found the cathedral, and a few of the beautiful old churches, and the gardens of one church that had fountains and palm trees and a group of swans just hanging out. But I also loved that there were things off the beaten path as well, and I was lucky enough to have some not-so-touristy experiences while I was there. A friend of mine from Montreal invited me out a few nights, once to a great bar that is always packed full that only serves cheap (mainly pink) champagne and good, greasy sandwiches. Another night, a girl I met in the hostel invited me out to this birthday party for a guy she'd met while salsa dancing: it turned out to be at a tiny little open-air beach bar and I watched people dancing barefoot and then running off down to the water, and then tried it a little myself. My last night, we went to the festival of Gracia, a huge neighbourhood street festival, complete with insane decorations on each of the streets, live music, a ton of sparklers and a parade with huge groups of drummers. It was so much fun.
Every morning it was open, I'd go to the Marche de la Boqueria and try a different juice. There are about twenty different stands of just fresh juices and fresh cut fruit, in amongst the stands for meat, fish, candy, wine, tapas, anything you can imagine really. The juices were so tropical, everything from mango coconut to lime melon to passion fruit pineapple (so good) and everything in between. I can't even remember all the flavours I tried, but it was always cheap, delicious and refreshing (and happily, on my way home every day!).
I also absolutely loved going to the Magic Fountain show at night. I only got to go once, but if I had stayed longer, I'd have gone every night. On the weekends during the summer, there is a huge fountain show complete with lights changing colour in time with music (half the time classical music, the other half top 40s type stuff). You can watch it overlooking beautiful views of Barcelona, and its such a fun atmosphere because everyone comes out to see it: tourists, families, backpackers. I loved it.
And then the Gaudi stuff! I found the Sagrada Familia to live up 100% to its hype, it was stunning inside and out, just such an impressive feat of architecture. I was so impressed, stunned really. It's gorgeous. The Casa Batlo was another construction of his, and while less immense then the Sagrada Familia, was still fantastical and wonderful. And of course, I loved his famous Parc Guell with amazing views of Barcelona and its fascinating aqueducts and beautiful mosaics.
I had such a wonderful time in Barcelona. I was lucky enough to meet up with old friends and make lots of new ones, and I really enjoyed myself. It's a beautiful city.
- Maoz: this little vegetarian falafel place is right next to the Plaza Real, just off the Ramblas. It has an amazing all you can eat salad and sauce bar, so you can just keep stuffing your pita full of veggies and it is so, so delicious. And cheap too!
- Hostel One Paralelo: this hostel was perfect for meeting people. It was a little walk from the touristy areas, but in a really nice quiet area. Best staff, best common areas, and they have these free family dinners every night. The best hostel.