The last day of our Catalonia Road Trip finds us back where we started as we explore Barcelona. We arrive into town after a five day whirlwind road trip around the northeast region of the country. We visited the hometown of Salvador Dali, a volcano that expired centuries ago, another country and the sparkling wine region of Spain.
Spain vs. Catalonia – You may have noticed we reference both Spain and Catalonia when it comes to large geographical regions on our trip. Catalonia is an autonomous community in the sovereign state of Spain. For many years, Catalonia has identified as an independent nation but is not currently considered to be under the Spanish Constitution. As a result, there is a consistent state of unrest and conflict between the two bodies which is very apparent if you spend a couple days in the area.
Barcelona Card Low Down
We spend a total of four full days in Barcelona. Kat was busy at a work conference all week, so Phil did the majority of the exploring solo during this leg of the trip. With all the time he was going to have to himself to explore, without an agenda, he decided to pick up a Barcelona Card. If you travel to Barcelona, you might find yourself debating which of the ‘travel cards‘ to invest in. They do vary in usefulness per agenda, but for our purposes, the Barcelona Card was the best fit.
There are three iterations of the card, each of which depend on how long you are plan to spend exploring the city. There are 72 (€46), 96 (€56) and 120 (€61) hour passes, which include unlimited use of the subway/metro during that time. You’ll get access to 25 museums for FREE as well as many discounts on museums, attractions, tours and entertainment. Phil picked up the 96 hour card to keep him entertained while Kat was busy at work. Here are the museums he got to around to as he set out to explore Barcelona:
- Museu Picasso (€12)
- Jardi Botànic de Barcelona (€3,50)
- Museu de la Xocolata (€6)
- Metro to Airport (2x) (€4,60)
- Museu Olímpic i de l’Esport (€5,80)
- Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona (€6)
- 96 hours of metro access (€28,50)
- Museu de l’Eròtica (22% off)
Needless to say, he got his money’s worth!
Jardi Botànic de Barcelona
Being we have the opportunity to explore Barcelona during the month of December, the crowds are minimal and there are no lines. Phil scans his Barcelona Card and ID, and enters the gardens at no cost. Phil lucked out with a sunny day, with only a few clouds and a cool breeze. The ‘jardi’ (garden) boasts a landscape of similar latitudes across the globe, including California, Chile, South Africa and Australia. Each section has species specific to that region and although they are similar, they differ in appearance greatly. Being so close to the winter season, there were only a few species in bloom but almost every cluster hosted bees doing their thing. The gardens even have their own ‘bee hotel’! Phil weaves through the labyrinth of paths, taking in all the plants he can. Next he decides to move on to the Olympic Stadium and Village that hosted the 1992 Olympics.
Museu Olimpic I de l’Esport
In one word, Phil describes this place as MASSIVE! It’s crazy to see the grass uncut, the parking lots empty, roads completely bare minus a few dog walkers and joggers in a place that once held the world’s Olympic audience. The door to the Stadium is open, so he walks in to where the field games were held. This is one of the biggest stadiums Phil has ever set foot in (and he’s seen a couple in his day).
Next, he heads over to the Olympic Museum. He is really looking forward to this, the sports enthusiast that he is. The inside of the museum is modern and super informational, providing a hub of world sports records from bob sledding to foosball.
Barcelona Travel Tip: A lot of museums in the area are closed on Monday so the curatorial staff can work on the pieces or exhibits undisturbed.
Museu de la Xocolata
Another attraction included with the Barcelona Card, your entry ticket to MX is an actual chocolate bar!
The sculptures in this museum are exquisite. Every one of them is completely made out of chocolate! The detail is incredible and the smell within the museum is delectable. Part of the museum is dedicated to the history of the cocoa bean in Europe, which is a new lesson for Phil. Originating in Mexico, the cocoa bean ended up being so valuable that it was traded as a currency, for goods, services, food and sex.
After completing the informative and interactive museum, Phil is inclined to indulge in some samples. He grabs an espresso with steamed milk and chocolate flakes, as well as a truffle that melted in his mouth. So rich and creamy!
On one of the mornings, we made a very early start to try and beat the crowds at Park Güell. We took the subway to the station nearest the park and started our trek up, up, up! There are escalators built into the alleys here. We head straight to Turo de les Tres Creus and make our way to the ticket gate! The park spans 42 acres and overlooks Barcelona, another one of the attractive features. They have time slots for entering the park, so you’ll want to align your schedule to minimize time waiting around. The entrance fee is €10 (not included with the Barcelona Card).
The park entrance starts you off at Salle Hypostyle and the famed benches backed by a view of the city. As you make your way around, take notice of how different each and every bench really is. We made our way to the North path which sends you below the bench terrace. Here you can take in highly ornate ceilings supported by pillars, an actual work in progress.
We continue to wander the park, taking in all the glorious architecture and admiring how it interweaves with the natural landscape. We venture through the winding gardens and squeeze through the Guard House and souvenir shop. An entire loop of the park is 1.7 miles (2.7km).
Travel Tip: Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, and is known as a ‘Global City’ , a major player in the global economy. As one of the top tourism cities in the world, it’s important to keep in mind that pickpockets and scammers are a plenty.
Exploring Barcelona at Night
Barcelona is an absolutely stunning city to explore during the day, but can be equally stunning at night! Due to the nature of our trip to the city, Kat only had time to explore after dark. So we took full advantage of exploring the city in all it’s glory, lit up at night!
Sagrada Familia, the Gotchic Quarter, Casa Batllo and Font Magica de Montjuic are just some of the beautiful spots to see at night. Visiting the city in December added some extra visual stimulation by adding a few layers of lights to the city at night. In addition, the Christmas Markets, make for some excellent browsing after dark as well. Just don’t leave your exploring too late, as we noticed the lights start to go out after various times. It’s best to start right at sunset to make the most of it.
The Magic Fountain is located at the foot of the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya). It’s a good idea to check their website for a schedule so that you don’t miss a second of their sound and light shows while you explore Barcelona.
Casa Batlló started offering night tours, permitting one small group at a time to explore the venue guided by only a headlamp. What a fun idea!
The city is also home to MANY beautiful structures that you’ll find randomly around the city. Parque de Diagonal Mar and the Gothic Quarter offer up a variety of historic, modern and timeless pieces to feast your eyes upon.
Hash & Hemp Museum
One of the museums that stays open a little later is the Hash and Hemp Museum. This museum is the sister to a museum in Amsterdam, and your €9 admission includes an audio guide. Our tour takes us about an hour and is so very informational! The museum takes you on a trip through the history of hemp and it’s travels to the New World. We marveled at it’s versatility as well as the propaganda that has followed it over the years.
Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona
If you’re a bit of a natural history nerd (as we are), you’ll take pleasure in Barcelona’s Museum of Natural Science. The museum holds a vast collection of bones, fossils and taxidermy animals (and some fun art on the outside). Depending on what peaks your interest, you can complete a lap of the exhibits in less than a half hour.
‘Must Eats’ of Catalonia
Our favourite discovery about life in Spain was definitely the tapas! And while wandering the streets of Barcelona for several days, we had a few opportunities to check off several boxes on our ‘Must Eats’ list.
‘Traditional’ tapas in these parts include:
- Pan Con Tomate (with Balsamic)
- Patatas Bravas
- Crema Catalana
- Ensaladilla Rusa
- Croquetas de Pollo
- Pescaditos Fritos
To name a few…
Favourite? Tough one. But we have been able to recreate Pan Con Tomate at home and it is SPOT ON!
There you have it – our 10 day Catalonia Road Trip all wrapped up! If you missed the beginning of the trip, start here.