Best time to visit: Summer & surprisingly spring (we visited in Feb).
Reasons to visit:
- Catch up culturally: The whole region is a cultural hub with the Dali Museum in Figueres & the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona being the most famous examples. Salvador Dali is one of the most famous painters that ever existed to seeing to many of his works under one roof is really exciting, even for people who are not that into art. Then there is the imposing & unique Gaudi built cathedral Sagrada Familia (buy tickets online) that looks very different from most cathedrals one comes across in their lifetimes. Apart from these, there is also the Girona walled town & cathedral to visit.
- Walk about & chill out at the beach: Barcelona in particular is a delightful place to walk about in. From the bustle of Las Ramblas, the architecture of the Gothic quarter & the beachfront in Barceloneta, there are many flavours tied to walking around in Barcelona. The crescent shaped Barceloneta beach is also a wonderful place to walk or just chill out on the pristine sand (Sitges is a more popular beach destination just south of Barcelona). Girona & Figueres are very lovely towns for walking in the English towns kind of way (cobbled streets, cathedrals, museums, etc).
- Eat & drink a lot: As mentioned previously on this blog, we love Spanish food & wine a lot. The top foodie destination in the region is obviously the La Boqueria food market. We drank many a 1 Euro fruit juice, bought many a food items such as saffron & had a meal there. We recommend atleast as many trips to this food market as possible (we lived next door to the market, so high was our excitement to see it). We also had Paella for lunch everyday & had 2 of our most memorable meals in Barcelona.
The 1st one was in a non-descript treasure find of a seafood restaurant called Can Mano in the Barceloneta area. It was a busy local’s favourite and luckily had an English menu so we had a fresh & filling seafood feast for a low price point (4 EUR wine bottles). The best part was that aroud the middle of our meal, a group of singers & buskers serenaded the restaurant with some Spanish songs. It was pretty magical.
The other memorable meal was a fine dining experience at the beachfront featuring yummy Paella & Sangria. Even the Gazpacho soup was so delicious. We highly recommend the restaurant Xiringuito Escriba.
- Shop: We are going to talk a bit beyond the normal mall or tourist souvenir shopping (Barcelona is very good for both with prices for most brands much cheaper than UK). One of the most fascinating places we visited was the oldest shop in Barcelona which sells candles, Cereria Subirà. This store dates back to 1761 and sells candles in so many shapes that it is mind-boggling. We bought a few scented candles back that we use for special occasions & a very cute candle holder that has the Sagrada Familia in stained glass. Also buy some quality Jamon (cured ham similar in a way to Proscuitto) from either one of the many chatcuterie shops in La Boqueria or larger chains with English speaking staff such as Enrique Tomas. We recommend avoiding the Jamon experience, there is a much better experience to be had IMHO by visiting these shops.
Public Transit Logistics
Getting in: Barcelona El-Prat airport is a major air hub of the region with cheap & frequent EasyJet connections. The Barcelona Girona airport is the RyanAir hub and is quite far from Barcelona (1.5-2 hour bus ride) but is perfect if you plan to see the Dali Museum in Figueres (we stayed overnight in Girona).
- From Girona to Figueres: Bus, regional trains & high speed trains connect the 2 towns. Regional trains are the most effective way in our opinion (we used the bus).
- From Figueres to Barcelona: We took to ultra-modern & comfortable high speed AVE train from the Figueres Vilifant station to Barcelona Sants. 200 kmph train ride with great views.
- In and around Barcelona: Metro was our preffered mode of transportation & we took bunches of 10 tickets to travel. There is a good airport bus connection downtown to the El Prat airport. This bus does not run between 1-5 am but there are night buses at that time to achieve #legendStatus (check which terminal the night bus goes to).
As mentioned earlier, buying a ticket from the Renfe website is a challenge (we bought our tix 1.5 years back, things may have changed). The guide below helped us then. Renfe also sells passes starting from 163 Euro for 4 days allowing unlimited travel.
Renfe website : http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/