The Best Barcelona Experience: Highlights

Posted November 4, 2013 by Elica Sue in Travel Lists

Spain has been my ultimate “dream country” to visit ever since I started liking languages, and I never imagined I would be going any time soon after that dream emerged. A little over two years after the dream was dreamt, I was on a plane to Barcelona. Granted, I never expected that Barcelona (or Catalonia in general) would be the first place in Spain I’d visit, I was still super excited.

Super excited because it would be my first time in a country I’ve only dreamed about going to. Ecstatic, because it was my first time in Europe, ever. Barcelona being one of the most popular cities in both Spain and Europe, I felt like it was something I had to experience at least once, being a lover of photography, travel, and everything related. Though I usually prefer being in small cities like Girona or Gósol, or being around nature, there were unique things that I was only able to do in Barcelona.

Despite loving some other parts of Catalonia maybe a tiny bit more, Barcelona will always be special to me because it was my first city in Europe, my first city in the country of my dreams; it was where my journey started, and where my journey ended. Even if Barcelona wasn’t my absolute favorite city, it’s charming, beautiful, and unique.

Here are some of the highlights of the time I spent in Barcelona:

The Gothic Quarter

The Gothic Quarter might be something that a vast majority of people know about, have heard about, and have seen pictures of. I definitely studied this in my senior year of high school in Spanish class, and it was one of the coolest experiences having it come alive right before my eyes. The Gothic Quarter is filled with a mix of urban charm and unique gothic architecture–roaming around the streets, through the people and in front of the shops was a journey in itself!

I’m a sucker for beauty (honestly, who isn’t?), and I love photographing architecture and landscapes. As a photography enthusiast, I’m always the one taking pictures–I rarely have photos of myself, no matter where I am. On our tour through the Gothic Quarter, we were lead by a photographer, Joan Figueras, who actually captured moments of us bloggers exploring the city and explained the secrets and some of the history behind the pretty face of the architecture. With Joan’s insight on the Gothic Quarter, I was able to appreciate the Gothic Quarter for way more than just its beauty.

What made the Gothic Quarter so special was, at first, the architecture, but after seeing what the Gothic Quarter had to offer beyond its “façade,” it began to tell a story. From the simplest buildings to the most intricate ones, everything was photogenic and had its own personality while still be part of a renowned unit.

Morning Stroll

A morning walking in the streets of the Gothic Quarter


Simpler buildings displaying the Catalan flag


Amazing architecture on the Carrer del Bisbe


Our group of bloggers on the Carrer del Bisbe (photo by Joan Figueras)


In front of the Barcelona Cathedral (photo by Joan Figueras)

Paellas, Crema Catalana, and Group Bonding

Food is one of the most defining components of travel. You’re put out of your comfort zone to (most likely) try something you’re not used to eating or drinking, and you’re exposed to something new. You’re in a new and exciting place, so why not try the new and interesting food while you’re at it? One step above trying the local food? Preparing it yourself. Our group of travel bloggers had the unique opportunity of shopping for our ingredients, then preparing regional Catalonian dishes like seafood paella and crema Catalana with Rais at bcnKitchen.

After meeting at bcnKitchen, we headed out on the streets of Barcelona to the market; I got to see the differences between my home grocery store and the market in Catalonia, which was a small but interesting detail because it relates to every day life. Afterwards, we headed back to the kitchen to attempt making some Catalonian dishes with Rais giving instructions. It was a great bonding experience with not only learning how to prepare the local food, but for our group of bloggers as well.

When all the food was prepared, everyone had a chance to sit down at the table, talk, and enjoy the food we created–here, you can have your crema Catalana and eat it too. It was special because not only were we able to get a taste for the food in Barcelona, but we were able to have fun preparing it ourselves and getting to know each other better.

BCN Kitchen

BCN Kitchen: teaching us how to make great regional food


A trip to the market to shop for our ingredients

The Group

Working together with other bloggers to make a delicious meal

Seafood Paella

Another dish we made: a seafood paella!


Finishing up the Crema Catalana, which is very prominent in Catalonia


…and finally, we dine.

Socializing with the Locals

When traveling, there’s always the “touristy” route and the “do what the locals do” route. In my opinion, I think it’s good to walk down both routes, because the popular sites are popular for a reason–but when you’re searching for something authentic, it may be difficult to get the same experience that some locals do. Luckily, we were able to slow down and take a breath from touring Barcelona by sharing lunch with a local family. Entering the somewhat suburban, residencial area gave another face to Barcelona’s big city atmosphere. It was calm, quiet, and serene.

We met the family who would be our hosts, and we were immediately welcomed. The food they had prepared for us was magnificent, in both presentation and taste; at the table during our feast, someone said, “In Europe, eating is an event.” Coming from the United States, I could see the big difference in the culture of eating and food.

We got to relax, talk, enjoy the food and each other’s company. The hosts were incredibly warm and friendly (not to mention hilarious) people and we (at least on my part) couldn’t have had a more perfect afternoon.

Time to Eat

The beautiful location of their home


All the food our hosts made for us (it was delicious)


Had to try a little bit of everything..


Good to get away from the city and into a more quiet, residential area

Futbol Games

I don’t play, watch, or understand sports. But I would have to say one of the highlights and must-do’s of going to Barcelona is seeing a futbol game (unless you’re a fan of another team). Even if you don’t watch sports, go see a futbol game. Even if you don’t understand futbol, go see a futbol game. Even if you think you don’t like sports, go see a futbol game. I walked into Camp Nou one person, and I walked out of Camp Nou a completely different person (kind of).

I still don’t understand futbol and I’m not a crazy FC Barcelona fan now, but I can tell you watching futbol on TV versus being in the stadium is a very different experience. I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did, but the live energy of the players and the passion of the fans made me feel excited. Originally thinking I would be bored, I walked out of the stadium at the end of the game very pleasantly surprised because my attention was captured. By a sport.

You might be surprised–I definitely was.


My first futbol ticket ever?


The first view of the stadium

Flailing Arms

Players fighting over the ball

Final Score

FC Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad: 4-1

The Architecture

Another of the characteristics of Barcelona many people are familiar with is Gaudí and his architecture, but some people might not know until they’re actually in Barcelona, is that there are a lot of other beautiful monuments and buildings (guilty–I was one of those people). While exploring Barcelona in the free time that I had, some of the non-Gaudí monuments I encountered were the Arc of Triomf and the Palau de la Música; both had an incredible amount of presence, beauty, and intricacy–the detail on both the Arc of Triomf and the Palau de la Música were stunning!

On the same day, though in a bit of a time crunch, I had a chance to see two of Gaudí’s buildings on the tourist bus: the famous Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló. I wasn’t able to visit his other sites, but just after catching a glimpse of these two, I made a promise to myself that if I were to visit Barcelona again, I would go see other locations like Park Güell.

Tip: If you’re under time constraints, a good way to get around the whole city is to sit on the tourist bus for a round trip. It’s a good way to relax and to avoid the crowd. I passed both Gaudí locations mentioned above while on the bus, and was able to get a little taste of Barcelona’s city personality.  I would recommend finding a seat on the top floor though!

Arch of Triumph

Arc of Triomf in Barcelona


Detailing on the Arc of Triomf

Palau de la música

Palau de la Música

Not sure..

Gaudí’s Casa Batlló from the tourist bus

In the Works

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

Backside shot of Sagrada Familia

Disclaimer: This post was made possible by Catalunya Experience, but all opinions expressed are our own. 

What would you do in Barcelona to make it a special experience? If you’ve been there, what do you recommend? Leave a comment down below!

About the Author

Elica Sue

Elica Sue is WildJunket's web editor and writer specializing in languages and student travel. Based in California, she grew up with an exposure to a menagerie of culture, language, and art, and is a student pursuing what she is most passionate about: writing, traveling, and learning languages. She blogs at Travelengua.

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