Central Spain: Madrid, Segovia & Toledo

I have to admit, going to Central Spain was never part of the plan. I had a few days between Portugal and my tour of Morocco, found an extremely cheap flight from Porto to Madrid (only 20 euros, plus 20 euros for luggage), so I thought why not. I had three days to spare, so I decided to spend one in Madrid, one in Segovia and one in Toledo (I thought I’d better take the opportunity to see as much as I could).

I was very impressed with the Spanish capital, I liked it much better than Barcelona. The Palacio Real (the royal palace, so magnificently restored after the Spanish civil war), The Prado Museum (great for all those art lovers), Plaza Mayor (the main piazza in Madrid attracts hundreds of tourists, and just as many pickpocketers), Parque del Buen Retiro (a beautiful park in the centre of the city), shopping on Le Gran Via (the main shopping street in Madrid), Estacion de Atocha (an amazing place which is half train station, half rainforest), San Miguel Markets (the best place to shop for fresh produce and food in Madrid), not to mention the array of fantastic restaurants and bars. I could have spent more than a day or so in Madrid…

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Whilst in Madrid, I also visited the towns of Segovia and Toledo. Whenever I visit Europe, I enjoy taking some time out of the big cities and visiting towns in the countryside. Being only about one hour’s bus ride out of Madrid, Segovia and Toledo were the perfect little out-of-city get aways.

The main attraction in Segovia is of course its famous castle, which could have inspired fairytale writers many centuries ago. It is the quintessential fairytale castle in every respect – the moat, the peaked towers, the drawbridge, etc.  Aside from this attraction, the old town of Segovia, as well as that of Toledo, are the perfect places to spend a day meandering through the narrow streets, enjoying a beautiful ‘alfresco’ lunch and wandering through the many little interesting stores.
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Getting there:
Madrid is well connected with many European cities via air, and most Spanish centres via bus and train (but these days, flying may be the cheaper option). Ryanair flies from Porto to Madrid, for as little as 20 euros. Buses to Segovia leave regularly from Chamartin Station and return tickets are approximately 15 euros. To get to Toledo, take a bus from Puerta de Atoche Station, which also leave regularly and cost about the same price.

Stay:
I stayed at The Way Hostel, c/Relatores 17. Centrally located and right next to a metro station, this hostel had clean and tidy rooms, and was in a side street, so noise wasn’t an issue. The had a fantastic communal room, organise sangria nights and dinners, to create a great atmosphere and made it extremely easy to get to know fellow travellers.

Eat/Drink:
There are so many fantastic places to eat and drink, I don’t know where to start. For lunch or snacks, definitely visit San Miguel Markets. I ended up one night in some fantastic bar, not far from the hostel. I’m not sure what is was called, but I do remember some great tunes being played and peanut shells all over the floor.

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Seville, Spain

Before I start, one thing I have to say about Seville is that I recommend, if at all possible, not to visit in the hight of summer. Although such a beautiful city, rich in culture and history, it becomes unbearably hot in July and August. We visited towards the end of August, and apparently we just missed a two week long heatwave. We missed it, meaning that the 35 degree celsius days we were experiencing were cooler than those the previous week. So, if you’re not a fan of hot weather, try visiting Seville in the spring or autumn months.

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Ok, so Seville, known as Sevilla by the Spanish, is the capital of Andalusia. The city was founded in Roman times, during which is was known as Hispalis. It was conquered by the Moors in 712 and became the capital for the kings of the Umayyad Caliphate. In 1248 it was conquered by the Christian King Ferdinand III and continued to developed under the Christian influences.
Today, Seville is a major tourist attraction for visitors of southern Spain and Europe in general. There is a plethora of places to stay, fantastic restaurants to eat in and a myriad of places to visit and explore.

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Places to visit:

The Cathedral of St Mary: This Christian cathedral was built on the foundations of the original Islamic mosque which was located on this site. Containing both Christian and Islamic design and motifs (the Giralda, which was originally a minaret and later converted to a bell tower, is a clear example of the converting and blending of the original Islamic building to a Christian church).

The Alcazar: The former Moorish Palace. A blending of Moorish, Renaissance and English traditions, the rooms and gardens of this palace are impressive and worth the visit.

Plaza de Espana: Set in Maria Luisa Park, this enormous and impressive building was built by the architect Aníbal González for the 1929 Exposicion Ibero-Americana. Today it is full of people enjoying the sunshine, admiring the building and exploring the adjacent park.

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Getting There:
There are regular bus and train services between Seville and other major towns in Andalusia, such as Cordoba and Seville. There are less frequent services to smaller towns and villages, as well as inter-city and international services to and from destinations such as Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon.

Stay:
We stayed at the Oasis Palace Hostel. Like others of this chain of hostels, it offers everything you want and more from a hostel – good location, clean rooms, organised activities, complementary breakfast, happy hour and even a roof-top swimming pool. Aside from having continuous problems with a card key to get into our room, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Oasis Palace Seville.

Eat:
Aside from frozen yogurt (the best one is located beneath the Metropol Parasol), all three nights we stayed in Seville was had a tapas dinner at Dos de Mayo, Plaza de la Gavidia 6. This was by far the best tapas we had in all of Spain. The food, the service and the entertainment by the bar/waitstaff was second to none. Try the grilled squid, drizzled with extra virgin oil oil, garlic and parsley, or the eggplant fritters, lightly battered and drizzled with molasses syrup.

Andalusia, Spain

Whilst in southern Spain, we took a little road trip from Seville to explore the landscapes, from the dry hinterland to the breezy Mediterranean coast, and of course the famous white hilltop towns of Andalusia. Our route took us firstly to Vejer de la Frontera, where we explored its quaint narrow streets and marvelled at the beautiful whitewashed houses, whilst enjoying an ice-cream with the locals in the heat of the clear summer’s day. Next we headed to Zahara de los Atunes, hoping to soak in some sun and cool off in the clear Mediterranean (we were unfortunately a bit disappointed, as the strong southern African winds made sunbaking rather unpleasant). Next stop was the historic seaside town of Cadiz. Being more sheltered from the winds, we enjoyed a tasty lunch by the beach, and spent the remainder of the afternoon lazing in the sun and bathing in the enticingly cool sea. We head back to Seville at dusk, making a quick stop at Arcos de la Frontera for an afternoon snack before watching the sun set over the freeway.

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Essentials:

Getting there:
We hired a car from the Europcar office at Seville train station. With a GPS is quite easy to find your way around Andalusia. Going south from Seville, take the E-5/AP-4 freeway and this connects you to minor roads throughout Andalusia. There are so many hilltop and seaside towns to visit in this area, each being unique and all of which have their own beauty. Do a bit of research on where you want to go and what you want to see, as there are so many places it is difficult to choose. If these is something interesting on the side of the road, stop and take some photos too! I wish we had a few more days exploring the rural and coastal areas, and the little towns of Andalusia, as it was so interesting and beautiful.

Eat:Andalusia has some amazing food. In small towns, try to discover where the locals eat. These will probably be the best places, as they will hopefully be using local and fresh produce. On the coast, always try the seafood. Remember, it can get extremely hot in Andalusia during the summer months, so keep hydrated with lots of water and I always tuck into a few ice-creams too! Track down some local gelatarias.

 

Cordoba, Spain

In the very heart of Andalusia is the quaint little town of Cordoba. The town has been given a prominent position on the tourist map of Spain thanks to its Mezquita (I’m sure you’ve all seen those red and white striped arches in any Spanish travel brochure). But there is much more to Cordoba – it is a town rich in culture, history, architecture, cuisine and home of the best hospitality that we had during our travels around the European continent.

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I can’t begin this post without a little bit of information about the Mezquita (it is, I guess, the main reason why anyone visits Cordoba during their travels through southern Spain). The Mezquita was built in 786, during the Muslim rule of Andalusia, as a Islamic mosque. The origins of the mosque can be seen by the red and white stripped arches that dominate the interior of the building. After the Reconquista, work immediately went underway to convert the mosque into a Christian cathedral. What is interesting is that they kept islamic elements of the building and create a cathedral with Christian designs and motifs in the centre. I found this juxtaposition rather interesting, seeing the way in which the Christians re-asserted their power in Andalusia, by taking over Islamic buildings, as if they were directly mocking the previous ‘owners’. Wikitravel eloquently expresses that,

At the center of the building, the Cathedral towers over the rest of the building, and the transition from the impressive-but-intimate mosque structure to the overwhelming awe of the cathedral is abrupt and rather jarring, but don’t let that stop you from taking in the beauty of the cathedral, with its rich decoration and well-illuminated interior, standing to suggest triumph over the Muslims who previously used this building. The presence of the cathedral also offers the unique opportunity to so easily compare the differences between Muslim and Christian architecture.

This is exactly the impression I felt during my experience in the interior space of the Mezquita. I recommend you visit the Mezquita early in the day in order to experience its magnificence before the hoards of tourists arrive. Apparently, entry is free before 10am on Sundays, but I tried to take advantage of this, but unfortunately I had to pay. I’m not sure where this ‘rumour’ generated.

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Another building of great importance in Cordoba is the Alcazar de los Reyes Christianos. It was originally the home of the Islamic rulers in Cordoba, which like the Mezquita, was taken over by the Christian monarchs Ferdinand and Islabella. Much of the interiors are now bare, but the Alcazar has some impressive gardens and from the watch tower, you have a beautiful view over the old town of Cordoba.

Although I wasn’t in Cordoba in May, I have been told that the best time to visit the city is during the Festival de Patios. During two weeks in May, many of the residents of Cordoba open their houses for people to visit their beautiful courtyards. Many buildings in the old town are constructed around courtyards, many of which are meticulously looked after and decorated. Make sure you book accommodation well in advance though, as rooms get booked out extremely quickly.

One must do activity whilst touring Andalusia is visiting one of the many Hammams (Islamic baths). During the height of summer, it gets a little too hot to meander around cities and do all your sight-seeing activities. This is best left to early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. Midday is the time for a siesta, or spending a few hours relaxing and re-energising in the Hammam. We decided to splurge and spent a few hours at the beautiful Hammam Banos Arabes. The idea is to rotate between the three baths, the cold one at 18 degrees, the warm one at 36 degrees and the hot one at 40 degrees. It is thought to improve circulation and be beneficial for general well-being. In the Hammam, you can also enjoy the sauna and sip all the mint tea you want. We left the Hammam feeling revitalised and ready for more late nights and action-packed days of travelling.

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By far the best part of our stay, and worth a mention, was our accommodation and the hospitality we received at Cordoba Bed and Be. This was by far the best hostel we stayed in during our travels. It was AMAZING! Not only was the interior decor beautiful, the 1933 apartment building was amazingly restored (the hostel is located on 3 levels of the building), the hostel was centrally located only a few hundred metre from the old town, the extra little details, such as a couple of carnations on our freshly laundered towels made us feel at home, and the hospitality was incomparable with anywhere else we stayed. Jose, the young owner of the hostel, made us feel more than welcome, and almost part of his family. During our two night stay, we met his mother, father and hung out with his friends on the rooftop playing drinking games until 3am. On our second evening, Jose organised a bicycle/tapas tour of the town, with a few of the hostel guests which was fanstastic. He was such an amazing host, being so full of information, so happy to help and he went out of his way to make sure our stay in Cordoba was perfect. This hostel comes highly recommended. I’d even visit Cordoba just to experience Cordoba Bed and Be.
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If you’re a bit of a party animal, I recommend a visit to Sojo Riberia, located by the river, on the edge if the old town. This funky and beautifully designed nightclub seems like the place to be seen. We enjoyed great cocktails, with a beautiful view over the river from the balcony. Not the best if you’re after a quiet drink, but if you want to get up and dance, meet new people and have an amazing view, it’s worth checking out.
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Essentials:

Getting there:
There are regular buses and trains from Cordoba to other cities in Andalusia, such as Granada and Serville. It’s about a one and a half hour train trip, or a two and a half hour bus trip for about 10 or 15 euros. The high-speed train takes 20 minutes and cost 20 euros if you’re in a rush, but remember you’re in Andalusia and no one here is in a rush. The bus and train stations are located in the new part of town, but just ask for a map at the information office, or ask from direction to the ‘centro historico’ and you’ll easily find your way.

Stay:
Cordoba Bed and Be. Possibly the best hostel in Europe. Immaculately clean rooms, beautifully decorated interior, comfortable beds, air-conditioning, simple breakfast, well located, an amazing host, simple little extra details such as flowers on the freshly laundered towels, just staying there makes you feel at home. Perhaps it is not the best place to stay if you’re after a party hostel, but that is the only negative drawcard. Definitely a hostel which you must experience. And 40 euros for a private, double room – you can’t do much better than that.

Eat:
Spanish Omelette at Bar Santos, Magistral Gonzalez Frances, 3. Get a piece to take away and eat it on the steps of the Mezquita. It was the best Spanish Omelette I tried in Spain. And don’t forget to ask for the homemade tomato sauce. It’s the icing on the cake.

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Granada, Spain

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After spending a few days in the craziness of Barcelona, we headed south to the picturesque and quaint little town of Granada, made famous due to old Moorish castle and fortress, known as The Alhambra.

If you’re visiting Spain, this is an icon not to be missed (and it seems as though everyone has been told likewise). Tickets have to be booked online in advance, with specific entry times, so that the main palace does not become too over crowded with visitors. If you’re visiting in summer, I suggest that you visit in the early morning or late afternoon, as southern Spain becomes extremely hot in the middle of the day, and there is a fair uphill walk to The Alhambra, or you could always take the bus if you forgot to take your walking along.

The Alhambra complex is absolutely mind-boggling. It is enormous – the buildings and gardens never seem to end. Originally constructed in 889 as a fortress, it took prime position over Granada, with a fantastic view over the town and surrounding countryside. It was transformed into a royal palace in 1333 and its Islamic palaces were home of the last Muslim Emirs in Spain, the Nasrid Dynasty. The gardens and buildings are all evocative of wealth and power. The immaculate and highly detailed wall carvings and plaster castings, the skilled mosaic and tile work, even the ornate wood carvings on doors and ceilings. No corner is left bear – the interiors and exteriors of the palaces are all ornately decorated – it really is a feast for the eyes. The entire place is magical. I would definitely set aside a good half a day or more just to explore the complex. Take your time admiring all the amazing art work, stroll through the peaceful gardens, and enjoy the spectacular view of Granada from one of the many vantage points.

The Alhambra was taken over in 1492 by the Catholic monarchs after the Reconquista, during which time some Christian elements were added to the complex. Over the centuries, The Alhambra was slowly neglected and began to deteriorate, until it was ‘re-discoverd’ in the 19th century by scholars and travellers. From this point in time, restoration work began on the buildings and gardens to restore it to the excellent condition we find it in today.

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We were also lucky enough to visit Granada during the season of the Flamenco Ballet. And we were also so lucky as to get tickets for the final show, which was being performed in the gardens of The Alhambra. So we got a little dressed-up, sipped a champagne or two before then show, and then had the most wonderful experience of watching a group of talented performers under the starry mid-summer night sky.

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Aside from The Alhambra, Granada itself is a beautiful town to visit. Located in Andalucia, the region in southern Spain, which was for centuries ruled by Moorish/Islamic people originally from northern Africa. Granada is a typical Andalucian town with many influences of the Islamic culture, both in the architecture and layout of the town, as well as the attitudes and values of the people. We were so fortunate enough to stay right in the centre, in the Albayzin – the old Muslim quarter, an area bustling with stores selling Arabic sweets, homewares, alternative medicines and a number of quaint little Middle Eastern/North African inspired restaurants. It has been created by a labyrinth of streets, weaving up and down the hill, which are rather easy to get lost and disoriented in. It is a great place to wander around and literary lose a few hours in.

Another interesting part of Granada is Sacromonte. This area was originally the neighbourhood of the gypsies, who arrived after the Christian conquest. This neighbourhood is a collection of cave houses built into the side of the hill, known as Sacromonte. The area still has a bohemian feel, with flamenco music softly dancing through its desolate streets at all hours of the night.

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Granada is also a great place to do a spot of shopping. Aside from the usual tourist paraphernalia, there are all your regular stores, such as Zara, H & M, Mango, etc. Granada was also the first place we tried this amazing frozen yogurt which we later found all over the towns in southern Spain. We couldn’t get enough of it. We would eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So delicious and refreshing in the summer heat of Andalucia.

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Essentials:

Getting There:
We were originally thinking to get the bus from Barcelona, which would have been long and tiresome. Then we discovered that Veuling flew from Barcelona to Granada for only 80 euros. Perhaps cheaper than the bus and 10 hours quicker. Flight time is about an hour, and hassle free. There is a shuttle bus waiting for you at the airport in Granada to ferry you to the town centre without a trouble in the world.

Stay:
We stayed at the Oasis Hostel in Granada. This chain of hostels is well-known in Spain for their friendliness, party atmosphere and cleanliness. The room we had was not one of the best during our trip – you heard a lot of street noise, the rooms were very small considering the amount of bed they squashed in, and my travel partner was ferociously attacked by bed bugs. Its good points were that is was well located and it had a friendly atmosphere.

Eat:
The frozen yogurt, of course! A perfect way to cool down in the scorching sun. Or a cheap and sweet meal choice in our case. Chose your size, select your toppings and away you go. Toppings include such things as dulce de leche, cookies and cream, brownies, M & Ms, nuts, fruit, etc. There are about 30 to chose from, and making that chose is probably the most difficult thing you’d do during your stay in Granada.

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Cadaques & Tamiru, Spain

Whilst staying in Barcelona, we hired a car for the day and did a little road trip up Costa Brava, visiting the small towns of Cadaques and Tamiru. It was a nice break from the hussle and bussle of Barcelona (and cities in general – prior to visiting Barcelona, we spent a few days in Berlin). We enjoyed the open roads, fresh sea air and the small town/holiday atmosphere.

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Our first stop was Cadaques, located about a two hour drive north of Barcelona (take the E-15 freeway and turn off at Figueres. From there you will see signs to Cadaques. Or just simply take a GPS). Once you arrive in Cadaques, follow the signs to the council carpark – although the parking fee is quite high, there are plenty of parking spaces, which are scarce throughout the rest of the town. The carpark is also only a short walk to the town centre. Cadaques is reasonably small and easy to navigate – although, like many small old towns, it’s not difficult to get a little lost in the labyrinth of small, narrow, windy cobblestone streets. Cadaques is a beautiful little whitewashed seaside town. We unfortunately visited on an overcast day, but I can imagine that it would be absolutely spectacular on a clear summer’s day.  It’s little wonder that Salvador Dali, and other well known artists, such as Miro, Picasso and Duchamp spend summers in the town. I’m sure it gave them plenty of artistic inspiration.

To get the best view of Cadaques, take a little walk along the promenade which circles the bay in which Cadaques is located. No visit to Cadaques is complete without tasting their exquisite gastronomy, particularly their seafood. Being originally a fishing town, Cadaques prides itself on the quality of its seafood. Many restaurants serve up a delicious paella, or many have set tapas menus, which often serve up a variety of seafood delicacies. Being so close to the French boarder, many people in Cadaques can speak French fluently. So if your Spanish is non-existant (such as ours was), and your French just a little rusty, it is a great opportunity to practice.

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After Cadaques, we drove back south towards Barcelona and took a little detour to the tiny town of Tamiru. I would have never thought to visit Tamiru (it doesn’t even appear on many maps), except that my friend in Barcelona mentioned it as a friend of ours worked there one summer and said it was one of the most beautiful and untouched little towns in Costa Brava. To get there, follow the signs, or your GPS to Palafrugell. From here, there will be some small signs to Tamiru which you follow (ignor your GPS, as it, like ours, may lead you down a dirt road about 2km from Tamiru with leads to nowhere). As you drive town the steep and narrow pinetree lined road leading into Tamiru (make sure you stay away from the cliff edge), you will get glimpses of the picturesque bay which appears to be hidden away from civilisation. Again, park in the council carpark (at arount 1 euro an hour, it’s a bargain compared to the parking in Cadaques. There isn’t much in Tamiru except for a few houses, a couple of hostels and a handful of cafes and restaurants. But that’s the beauty of Tamiru. We were lucky to arrive as the clouds were parting and the afternoon sun was glistening on the sea. The crystal clear water was so inviting, that as soon as we arrived, we jumped in. We spent the final hours of the afternoon just basking in the serenity of the beach and enjoying some delicious gelato.

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IMG_8759Essentials:

Getting there:
We hired a car from Europcar (located on Gran Via, Barcelona). It’s best to use a GPS if it’s your first time in Barcelona to get out of the city, but once you’re on the E-15 freeway, the drive is quite simple – most decent sized town are market on the freeway exits. This freeway north of Barcelona is one of the most expensive in Spain. I think our total tolls there and back were about 20 euros. Staying on the freeway, although expensive, saves a lot of time, especially if you’re only doing a day trip. But if you have time to spare, taking the coastal road would be a lot more scenic and interesting.

Eat:
Seafood! Costa Brava is famous for its seafood. This is the place to try Spanish paella. Try it in different restaurants, as everyone has there own spin on the all time favourite and iconic Spanish dish. And like everywhere in Spain, tapas is extremely popular in Costa Brava, particularly the seafood options.

Barcelona, Spain

Perhaps Spain’s most lively city. And possible the city most full of tourists. That was one thing so evident in Barcelona, that the city was overcrowded with tourists. Everywhere you looked there were hoards of tourist, especially on La Rambla (the main tourist drag leading from Plaza de Catalunya to the sea at Barcelonetta), Park Guell (Gaudi’s, and everyone else’s, ‘Wonderland’) and La Sagrada Familia (Gaudi’s famous neo-gothic cathedral which has a 1 km line of tourist around its periphery).

I had heard so many good things about Barcelona from friends and family prior to my visit. So I was expecting the amazing. But unfortunately, there was something about Barcelona that didn’t quite grab me. The city was extremely crowded; you had to watch out for pickpockets, especially on La Rambla, where you must make sure you don’t keep any money in your pockets and hold onto your bags tightly; the beaches at La Barcelonetta were teaming with sunbathers (if you want to go to the beach, I suggest you hire a car for the day and head north to Costa Brava. More on that in my next post), the water was murky and you were constantly harassed by someone selling jewellery, water, beers, mojitos or even coconuts; and in comparison with everywhere else I had been up until then (northern Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, BiH, Berlin), Barcelona seemed so expensive.

Aside from this, there were a few positive things about Barcelona, and a few great experiences we had in the city, which are listed and described below.


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Things to see and do:

Seeing Barcelona with a local: Seeing Barcelona with a local is by far the best way to see the city. My friend Marc, whom I’d met in Bolivia the previous year whilst travelling around South America, lives in Barcelona and it the assistant director of an amazing hotel, Hotel Pulitzer. If you can afford it, I highly recommend this hotel. Not only is it stunning, but the staff are amazing (and no bias there). We were invite one evening to enjoy a private concert at the rooftop bar of the hotel – all food and drinks included. They have the most amazing cocktails. The perks of knowing a local. Marc also took us to some of the best, and least known, tapas bars in town – the ones that only locals know about. We were also lucky enough to experience a Barcelona verses Madrid football game with Marc and his friends. The zeal and passion of the Barcelona fans is indescribable.

La Boqueria Markets: For all those foodies out there, you cannot leave Barcelona without visiting La Boqueria Markets. These are some of the best fresh food markets I have ever seen. The variety and the quality is insurpassable. Amanda and I went every morning for a breakfast of refreshing coconut juices, fresh and dried fruits and a grand selection of nuts – oh so healthy! And so tasty too. In the markets you can also purchase fresh and cured meats, seafood, cheeses, deli goods, bread, vegetables, herbs, spices, the list goes on and on and on. Located just of La Rambla, it’s centrally situated and not easy to miss.

Gaudi’s Casa Batllo: As a lover of interior design and architecture (I completed a diploma in interior design a few years ago, but yet to work in the field), I could not leave Barcelona without visiting at least one of Gaudi’s houses. There is a bit of a debate about which Gaudi house is more worth seeing, Batllo, La Padrera or Calvert, and at first I was too sure which one to see. A friend of mine went to Barcelona a few years ago and recommended Casa Batllo, so that’s the one that I visited, and I wasn’t disappointed. The interior design of the house is utterly spectacular. So beautiful and unique. The lines, the shapes, the colours…. Gaudi was really a master of his profession. I highly recommend visiting at least one of the Gaudi houses, just to experience his genius.

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Essentials:

Stay:
Violeta Hostel: Although the location is great, being on the corner of Gran Via (the main throughfare in Barcelona) and Carrer Girona, about an easy 10 minute walk to Plaza de Catalunya, the hostel lacks character. It is neat and tidy, and constantly being cleaned, but it lacks a ‘hostel’ atmosphere – it seems more like a budget hotel. Their isn’t any air-conditioning, so the rooms can get rather hot in the middle of August. And unfortunately we had a room which faced the street, and being in the very centre of Barcelona, it was rather noisy. I would have to say that this was probably the hostel which we liked the least during our travels. It would probably be more suited to couples that are not travelling to meet other travels.

Eat:
La Boqueria Markets: My favourite, and most visited, place in Barcelona. A must for all foodies. There is everything imaginable. A great place to get a healthy breakfast of fresh juices and fruits. Try the strawberry and coconut juice – it was my favourite way to start the day.
El Vaso del Oro: My friend Marc to us to this amazing tapas bar (the best tapas we ate in Spain, except for in Seville, which you’ll have to read about in a few posts time – by far the best food in the country), located near Barceloneta metro stop. Hidden away down a dodgy looking side street, you wouldn’t find this gem without a local’s knowledge. We had a few drinks, some great food and many many laughs – there are always many laughs when both Marc and Amanda are involved. Try the fois gras (sorry to all those animal lovers, I’m also one of them, but I had to try it for the first time, and it was I have to say, delicious) or the Padron chillis (some are hot, some are not – I was a it paranoid whilst eating these, as I was afraid I’d be the one who picked out the hot one).

Getting there:
I flew direct to Barcelona from Berlin Schoenefeld with EasyJet. When leaving Barcelona, I flew to Granada with Veuling Airlines for about 80 euros for a 2 hour flight – that cheaper and more comfortable than the 10 hour bus ride.
Barcelona is also well connected with bus and rail to other parts of Spain and Europe.