“So, where was your favourite city?”
It’s the dreaded question, that plagues the existence of every traveller. How, in the multitude of wondrous and exhilarating places can just one be the best?! After much soul searching and asking the tough questions, we at The Polar Pair, have *finally* found an answer. That’s right, it’s Barcelona!
This vibrant cosmopolitan city has it all – the architecture, the food, the ocean, the sangria… need we say more. Barcelona has been a mecca of culture and adventure since the dawn of the traveller, and as such thousands pilgrimage there every year.
Now before you scoff and decry the commercialisation and crowds of Barcelona, The Polar Pair has some fantastic news for you. Vibrant and lively, the city is constantly evolving and as such there are new hidden gems to uncover with each visit! Oh, and while you’re there why not pay homage to the ‘legends’ of the city – trust us, they’re famous for a reason.
Firstly, lets hit the big ones!
Gaudí and Barcelona. Barcelona and Gaudí. Regardless of how you say it the two are synonymous. With the city as his canvas, Gaudí’s stunning works of architecture are everywhere. Silence your inner architecture cynic and embrace the genius of the Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà and more. Local knowledge vastly improved our understanding and appreciation of the work. So even if you can’t fork out on a dedicated tour, a free walking tour that passes by will cover all your bases.
In particular, Park Güell was exceptionally special. Not only did the mosaic sculptures and unbelievably stunning city vista get our hearts racing, but the 700m uphill sprint to get there certainly did!
As we settled comfortably into a post-lunch food coma, we were feeling rather chuffed for remembering to prebook our Park Güell tickets in advance (sweltering heat and long queues? No thanks). That was until we relaxed a little too much. After leaving late, waiting for a train, realising said train was wrong, switching trains, discovering that the first train was actually right, PANICKING, eventually arriving at the correct station and running up 500+ steps we reached the entry gate. Lo and behold, we made it with one minute to spare, and we were chuffed once more. Moral of the story: Do as we say, not as we do.
The Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) is a stunning labyrinth of Ancient Roman ruins and alluring alleys. Highlights definitely include the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia and it’s mesmerising city views. While you’re there snap a pic of the Carrer del Bisbe, located around the corner, to add some *gothic* to your Instagram. If you’re more into real life stalking though, the Gothic Quarter has some gorgeous squares for people watching! The Plaça Reial is the nucleus for city-wide celebrations, ranging from football championships to New Years Eve. Boasting a more sophisticated 14th Century Europe vibe – yeah, that’s a thing now – Plaça del Rei is a perfect stop to relax before hitting up the Barcelona History Museum, which it backs onto.
Thirdly, what’s more Spanish than the football?! That’s right, (almost) nothing! FC Barcelona’s homeground Camp Nou offers a fantastic tour and museum experience, but if you can swing it, game tickets start at an extremely reasonable 10 euros!!!!! The energy and excitement is incomparable, and catching Messi score a few goals even converted Erin into a diehard fan!
Now, here’s our roundup of Barcelona’s best hidden gems:
Bunker Del Carmel
Did you really visit a city if you didn’t catch a glorious panoramic sunset, with a glass of red in one hand and jamón serrano in the other?!? This is where the Bunkers of Carmel come in handy! Originally built for defence during the Spanish Civil War, the hilltop view has since been abandoned (aside from a safety restoration or two). Our top tip is to visit the bunkers following Park Güell, which are only a short distance apart.
Festa Major de Gràcia
The Gràcia neighbourhood in Barcelona is always a perfect base to go out exploring from… even more so in August, when the streets and blocks themselves become the main event! Each street competes for the title of ‘Best Dressed’, complete with their own theme and sustainable initiatives. Don’t be fooled though, this neighbourhood goes all out, think ‘Alice Down the Rabbit Hole’ but with a Spanish flare, and you’re beginning to grasp the feeling of the festival. Pavement bars, bands and activities galore, prove this is one week you do not want to miss!
Labyrinth Park of Horta
Discovering the hidden secrets of Barcelona is all about getting lost right! Barcelona’s Parc del Laberint d’Horta is the city’s oldest garden, yet remains off the main tourist trail. Weave your way around to find the statue of Eros, the Greek God of Love. Or play a very mature game of ‘Marco Polo’… the choice is yours!
The Arús Library
Secret keeping and Freemasons are synonymous, so what would a list of underground attractions be without them! Once an official Masonic temple, the Rossend Arús Masonic Library now boasts of the history and power of the organisation. Looking straight out of Beauty and the Beast, the library includes rare literature, important texts and the third original miniature Statue of Liberty!
Ok, ok, it may not be exactly Barcelona but this day trip is well worth a mention. While the mountains of Montserrat are truely stunning, it’ll also be packed with tourists. Instead, take a 30 minute train to the medieval town of Girona. Ensure to stroll along the Onyar River, which is adorned with colourful and vibrant terraces! Girona is home to a lot of number ones – the best preserved Jewish Quarter of Europe, home of El Celler de Can Roca: the three Michelin star restaurant (which was twice named the best worldwide). Finally, Girona won out as one of the main filming locations in Game of Thrones Season 6! So you better hurry here, before the crowds start invading!
Rich in history, young at heart and forever reinventing itself, Barcelona will always be our top pick for European cities!
If you visit any of the places on this list, let us know either in the comments or on our Instagram @thepolarpair.
Mucho amor, much love,
E & A
*Hahahahah who are we even kidding – every place we go, is our new favourite!
If you enjoyed this guide, make sure to follow us and never miss a post of our ‘Favourite Things’ series.