A one-day guide to Barcelona

Anyone reading this post should note that it does not provide the best one-day guide to Barcelona. If, however, you find yourself taking a day trip to Barcelona and have no other ideas of where to go or what to see, hopefully this post can provide some guidance.

My trip to Barcelona was unorganized, and the group I travelled with did not plan sufficiently before arriving in the city. We knew how we were getting there, where we were staying, and that we only had about 28 hours to enjoy one of the greatest cities in Europe. Everything else was determined off the cuff. Although this clearly isn’t the best way to travel if you want to enjoy your stay, I could not be happier that I had the chance to see Barcelona. Many cities are not worth visiting if you have to travel 16 hours round-trip, including an uncomfortable overnight bus ride, and especially if you will only have one day to enjoy your destination. Barcelona, though, is a special city that made all of the uncomfortable travel worth my while.

Because we only had one day in the city and had not planned well, we really did not even scratch the surface. The things we did get to see, though, were unforgettable.

The Gothic Quarter is an area of the city that combines some of its oldest architecture with other areas that were restored in the 19th and 20th centuries. This area includes the Barcelona Cathedral, which is somehow not the most notable religious sight in the city, as well as Museu Picasso. Picasso spent much of his time in Barcelona in the Gothic Quarter, which only adds to its allure. Free tours of this area are given daily, but it’s also a great area to explore on your own.

After the Gothic Quarter, we visited La Boqueria, a massive market in the center of the city. At the market you can buy fresh seafood, fresh meat, fruits and vegetables, and much more. It also has a wide assortment of restaurants, including the famous Bar Pinotxo. Right next to La Boqueria is La Casa Beethoven, which is a perfect place to buy gifts for music-lovers.

Later in the day, we visited Sagrada Familia. Everyone I was travelling with had heard how stunning a building this is, and we all knew we wanted to go. I took several pictures inside and outside of the church, but none of them do it justice. If you are in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia is absolutely a must-see. Of all the places I have seen in Spain, many of them unlike anything I have seen before, this one is the most spectacular. The building is still under construction, and I can only imagine what it will look like once it is finished. General admission tickets are 15 euros online, and getting into the church is a simple process.

The last major sight we visited was Park Güell, a large public park that showcases the tile work of Antoni Gaudí. The park also provides a great view of the city and a walking path that is shaded by beautiful flowers and trees. This is perhaps a lesser known attraction of the city, but well worth the visit, especially for those who are interested in art and the works of Gaudí. Entrance to the area of the park that shows Gaudí’s work costs around 7,50 euros, but there is free admittance to the rest of the park. For me, the free admittance was sufficient and still allowed me to take good pictures of the city and landscape.

If you are going to Barcelona, I would recommend staying for more than one day and having a good idea of what you’d like to do once you arrive in the city. There is so much more to see than the places I have mentioned here. But, for a spur of the moment day trip, you could do worse than seeing some of the sights I was able to see during my short time in the city. All in all, Barcelona seems to me a wonderful place, and it has probably been my favorite city in Spain. Anyone who has the chance to go should see the things I have listed here and so much more.

A word on the people of Spain

As I was getting mentally prepared to study abroad, one of the things I thought about most was meeting new people. Thinking about interacting with native Spaniards made me nervous because, although I am here to study the Spanish language, I began my trip thinking I would not have the abilities necessary to have meaningful conversations with native speakers. Within my first few hours in Spain, these fears diminished quickly.

Although every person will react differently to an American student/tourist speaking their native language badly, I have found the majority of native speakers to be extremely patient and helpful, as long as I put forth a concerted effort to speak and understand. This is important for two reasons. One is that being able to work my way through conversations, even if I struggle to speak perfectly or to fully understand what someone else is saying, is invaluable in helping me to improve my abilities. The other is that each time I have a positive experience with a native speaker, I gain more confidence to talk to more people, and the more Spaniards I meet, the more appreciation I gain for their culture and their country.

One example of this sort of interaction is a conversation I had with an elderly woman on a train between Sevilla and Málaga. I sat next to her for awhile thinking about how to properly engage her in conversation. I finally settled for asking her if she lived in Málaga, and the conversation never stopped after that. She told me all about her life and her family, the history of Spain, and the pride she has for her country. Although I did not even come close to understanding every word she said, and I did not get a chance to speak much myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. Getting to know a complete stranger in a different country and in a different language can be a profound experience, and I am fortunate to have had this opportunity during my trip.

My advice to anyone trying to meet new people in a different country is simple. Just try. Not all people will be as welcoming as some that I have met, and you should always be wary of people trying to take advantage of/rob you. It may also be the case that people in other countries are generally not as willing to talk to Americans as they seem to be in Spain. But if you are in a place where you feel comfortable, and especially if you have any ability to speak the native language of the country where you are staying, don’t be afraid to engage people in conversation. I am confident that some of my most memorable experiences from Spain will be the new people I have met and the conversations I have had with native speakers. If you want to truly experience the country where you are staying, the best way is to get to know the people who live there.