Things to do in Barcelona, Spain | Exploring Barcelona, Spain
During the summer of 2019, me and my two sons decided to take a European vacation. We ended up traveling for 26 days to a total of seven countries and over 17,000 miles. Day nine through twelve were spent in Barcelona, Spain. The Barcelona airport is very well organized but it does not feel like an airport. It is designed like a large shopping mall that just happens to have airplane terminals. For the most part, the airport is easy to navigate but taxis are very expensive. We used Barcelona as our hub so we used the airport several times as well as the train station. The main train station is extremely efficient and easy to use.
Where we stayed
We stayed about a half-hour out of the city in Sabadell at Hotel Arrahona. We had a two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen. The kitchen was very small as was the second bedroom. The first room we were assigned was not well kept as it had broken floor tiles and worn paint. They reassigned us to another room which was in much better condition. There isn’t much located in the immediate area around the hotel except for a large discount mart. The room had a washing machine, but to me as an American, this seemed useless since there was no dryer or any way to dry clothes (no private outside access for a clothesline). The cost of transportation from Sabadell to Barcelona made the savings on the hotel a moot point. All-in-all, it was a decent place to stay. We also stayed for a single night before we returned home to California. For the single night, we stay at Hotel Porta Fira which is beautiful and just outside of Barcelona on the airport side.
What we did
We had three main activities planned while we were in Barcelona. First, we did Turistic’s Hop-on Hop-Off Bus Tour. The bus tour was very informative and had two routes. We did only one route and got off the bus at a mall to eat at Subway. Barcelona was exceptionally and untypically hot (there was a heatwave floating across Europe) so we decided to return to the hotel and cool down after completing the bus loop and having dinner. We ate dinner at what is typically one of my kids’ favorite places, Taco Bell. Their menu numbers didn’t seem to align with the programming on their registers so naturally, they messed up part of our order. After waiting 30 minutes just to get our food, we were happy with anything and just ate what we had, even though it was not 100% correct. Another day, we booked a tour with Julia Travel to see Sagrada Familia. This is a fascinating Basilica that has been under construction for over 100 years. It is strikingly beautiful and the artistic details are eye-popping. One of the highlights of Barcelona was our Mediterranean cooking class at an apartment in Barcelona. The apartment was specifically set up to do cooking classes, so our group and four other people were in one half-day class. Our small class started by sampling tapas from different regions of Spain. Then we made a dessert and our main entre Spanish Paella. It was by far, the most exciting activity we did in Barcelona.
Mobile phone service
Since there were three of us, I rented at MiFi device through cellhire.com so we could all have data service. I know that from a technical perspective when a phone is connected to WiFi, most apps think the data is fair-game and will use an unlimited amount of data, so I installed an app called NetGuard. This app installs a firewall and will only allow certain app access to the internet when connected to the MiFi device. Then, once we were on unlimited WiFi at the hotel, the other apps could download and do whatever updates they wanted. With the NetGuard app, we all stayed under the 10GBs of data I purchased. For telephone service, I used my Google Voice account to place calls – calls to the US are free and calls to most of the places we traveled were under five-cents per minute. The calls worked flawlessly while on most hotel wifis and worked reasonably well when connected to the MiFi box.
How did we feel about Barcelona?
If I had to do it again, I would not stay in Sabadell – I would stay much closer to the city to avoid the high cost of a taxi. Spain has a great train system which may make getting to Sabadell a little cheaper, but I didn’t want to spend that much energy trying to figure out how everything worked and where I may or may not end up. There were two times where I did not feel safe in Barcelona. At Mercat de la Boqueria (a huge market similar to a farmers market) there was only one way in and out. With the huge crowd of people, the danger risk (terrorism or a shooter) and the potential to get pick-pocketed, it exceeded my comfort zone so we left as soon as we arrived. There was another time walking on the street where a member of our group appeared to be being targeted by a would-be pick pocketer; we made this would-be thief aware that this person was not alone and he left us alone. Other than those two instances and the bare streets of Sabadell at night, we felt generally safe. Barcelona is a very busy and crowded city, but it did not seem cramped or uncomfortable except during the heatwave during the day.