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28 October 2016

Living In Leuven | A Trip To Barcelona

Two weeks after leaving Valencia at the start of July, I decided to fly back out for the last of my time in the Spanish sun this year. This time, I was flying alone from Brussels Zaventem and meeting my then-boyfriend on the other side in Barcelona. I boarded the lunchtime flight, then hopped on the airport shuttle bus to Plaza de Catalunya.

After dropping our stuff off at a friend's apartment in the Gothic Quarter area of Barcelona, we headed out to explore some of the city. The apartment we were staying in was right by Barcelona's Cathedral, so we had a look in and around there, then continued towards the Arc de Triomf. We took a break and sat on the Passeig De Lluís Companys before grabbing a bite to eat. 

On our way back to the apartment that evening, a friend recommended we visit the Nevermind Bar. We really didn't know what to expect from the exterior of the building, but we entered a set of double doors to find a room covered in graffiti and an area to skate around the back. It wasn't entirely to my taste, as the music was a bit too heavy metal and I felt a bit out of place, but it was definitely a bar experience I'll never forget. Something I really love about Barcelona is that is seems to be oozing with energy absolutely everywhere you turn and I guess it's impossible for any two days spent there to be absolutely identical, which is a trait I really admire about the city.

On Sunday, we left the apartment quite early and hopped on a bus to Park Güell. We struggled a little bit with finding the attraction itself, but we were greeted with some stunning views on the long walk up to the top of Carmel Hill on the way there. Both originating in Barcelona, entrepreneur, Eusebi Güell allowed architect, Antoni Gaudí, to design the park, where he created the well-known seating area covered in mosaic tiles (where the first photo of this blog post was taken from). He also constructed a series of buildings and lived in the park at one stage of his life. 

The architecture in Park Güell was simply stunning. One of my favourite features was the 'Dragon Stairway', which led to a room held up by 86 columns. More information about Park Güell and it's construction can be found HERE

Note: I'd highly recommend booking for everywhere in advance before visiting Barcelona as, thankfully, we could skip the entrance queues. Unfortunately the queue to get into Gaudí's house (now a museum) was too long, so we had to miss out.

The passage to Güell's former mansion is interesting to say the least. It's designed to look like a wave forming from the top of each of the slanted columns. It's known as the 'Laundry Room Portico'. Overall, I'd say a visit to Park Güell is a definite must-see and is a fantastic display of Gaudí best architectural work, in my opinion. 

We booked tickets for 'Brunch in the Park' that afternoon, so we took the metro to the closest station to Jardins Joan Brossa and climbed up the hill. That's something I will say about Barcelona. It gets really, realllly exhausting walking around in soaring temperatures, so we tried to make use of the Metro as often as we could. For our time in Barcelona, we got through two T-10 tickets, which made each journey cost only €1 each.

Barcelona surprised me (again!) and we had a really great afternoon/evening at Brunch in the Park. The festival runs every Sunday during the Summer months and hosts a number of electronic DJ's. There were food stalls and bar stands, where we spent the rest of the day dancing, drinking Sangria and cooling off under one of the sprinkler booths. I really enjoyed the music and felt at home in the crowds - definitely a festival I knew I enjoyed a whole lot more than a muddy day surrounded with mainstream chart music at T in the Park, for example!

On Monday, we walked to the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (National Museum of Art), where a little walk through the park behind it lead to the Olympic Stadium. Ever since visiting the Olympic Stadium in Berlin (you can read my post about it HERE), I grew a bit of a strange fascination into visiting old Olympic Stadiums. 

The stadium was re-named after the former President and is now known as Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys. It overlooks the rest of the city and the Telecommunications tower, which is a symbol of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1982. Apparently this tower can be seen from anywhere in Barcelona.

That afternoon, we booked to visit the Sagrada Familia, a Catholic church designed by Gaudí. It's still under construction, despite having been worked on since Guadí's death in 1926. It's thought to be fully complete by the end of 2026.

The history of the architecture of the Sagrada Familia is really interesting as each of it's 18 towers represents figures such as Jesus Christ, the Gospels, Virgin Mary and the 12 Apostles. I only discovered this after visiting the building, but if I had known at the time, I probably would've appreciated the origins of the architecture a lot more than I felt I did. Unsurprisingly, the exterior completely blew me away, so much so, that it makes sense how long it has taken to construct the building because the structure is really spectacular. 

The interior, for me, wasn't as breathtaking as the outside. I'm still not actually sure of my reasoning behind this and although it is a commendable work of art, I sometimes fail to appreciate modernised Basilica interiors. I had the same opinion as with the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, although the two are not comparable in the slightest! To read more about Sagrada Familia, click HERE and for 15 facts about the construction, click HERE.

On our way back to the apartment, we stopped by L'Antic Theatre for a drink. The theatre is home to a lot of music and performing art shows, but we just sat outside and had a couple of drinks in the chilled out atmosphere of the bar's gardens. Afterwards, we went to Bacoa burger restaurant for dinner before calling it a night.

We decided to explore more of the Gothic area we were staying in on Tuesday morning, before heading to our second accommodation later that day. I booked for our final two nights to be spent in Hotel Parallel, which was a short 15 minute walk to the beach and close to the Parallel metro station, in case we wanted to venture to another part of the city.

I was really impressed with the hotel room and, that evening, we went across the road to a restaurant/bar called Pasapalo for a burger before heading back to chill on our terrace in the hotel room.

On our final full day, we did a bit of shopping around the Plaça de Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia areas of the city, then jumped on a metro which took us to the beach. We decided to go to Bogatell beach, slightly north of Barcaloneta beach, which we read would be extremely busy during the Summer months. The beach was really nice and not too crowded, which was what we were hoping for. After a couple of hours, the weather started to cloud over so we left and headed back to the hotel to get ready for dinner. 

That evening, we had our last dinner in a restaurant about a 30 minute walk away from our hotel. We spent soooo long trying to find a square of restaurants we walked by the previous night, and finally found it with a bit of google mapping (I still can't, for the life of me, remember the name of this square!).

Thursday consisted of checking out of our hotel and hopping on a metro to Plaza De Catalunya, where we got the airport shuttle bus to the airport and I headed back to Leuven for another round of exams that were fast approaching.

I really fell in love with Barcelona when I was there. As I was born and raised in a capital city, I really enjoyed the vibrant and fast-paced life Barcelona seemed to offer. I'm intrigued to discover the city more, so much so, that it's currently at the top of the list of places I'd love to study my master's degree in in the future. Here's hoping!


  1. Reading your post makes me want to go there again. ���� Really nicely written. ��

    1. Thank you, we will go together one day! :)



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