Barcelona or bust, Baby!

Before you ask your long-lost cousin twice removed if you can pitch a tent in their backyard for the summer holidays in Europe, remember that staying with family can be a bit like fish – it goes off after a couple of days.

Good news is that we’ve just been to Spain and were astounded by the value for money your randelas can enjoy. Our favourite? Beautiful Barcelona! So let us tell you why we think that’s where you should be headed to escape the South African winter…

Beer boep on a budget

Barcelona is renowned for its nightlife, its quaint cafés and hip and trendy bars. The majority of the bars in Barcelona are mainly located in the districts Barri Gòtic or El Born. But if you’re looking for a cheap deal, all you have to do in this world-class city is to venture just a few metres away from the popular touristy areas.

‘Nevermind’ is a grunge-style pub with a skate ramp, where you can get a beer from just 1.50€ (R26) and popcorn for free. Sugar Bar is another popular option that well known for its music, its friendly ambiance and its great prices. Go before 10pm and you can get a Mojito for just 2.80€ (R45). And if you roll the dice, you could get your drink in this bar for just 1€ (R17).

Party on Paella-style

It’s great to venture off the beaten track, but sometimes you will also want to be at the heart of the action. Plaça Reial with its fountain and palm trees is one tourist spot that you just can’t miss. Especially at night, this beautiful square is a vibrant spot. A dinner at Plaça Reial doesn’t have to break the bank either. Head to Les Quinze Nits where you can try Spain’s staple dish, Paella for just €8.95 (R140).

For the most ‘affordable’ tapas in town, La Esquinica is the answer. The queues outside are testament to the high-quality tapas at great prices. A firm favourite with the locals are the pataticas bravicas (spicy potatoes), the chocos (squid), the pincho moruno (pork with spicy sauce) and the lacón (ham with spicy sauce). Prices range from €0,85 (R15) to €11,95 (R200).

Also Can Eusebio in Poble Sec offers a great selection of tapas, a lively atmosphere and low prices. Most of the tapas dishes cost no more than 5€ (R85), so if there are a few of you, you can have dinner for under 10€ (R170).

On the Tourist Track

Quite a lot of tourism highlights are either free or are very affordable. All the city-run museums (including the Museu Picasso, MUHBA and MNAC) for example are free on Sunday afternoons, from 3pm to 8pm. There’s also always some sort of free cultural event going on around town, whether it’s jazz in the park, a poetry reading or a kids’ workshop

If this is your first trip to Barcelona, there are a few attractions you just can’t miss: La Sagrada Familia, Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter.

La Sagrada Família is without a doubt one of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona. This impressive place of worship was designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí and inspires awe by its sheer verticality, and in the manner of the medieval cathedrals it emulates. A basic entry ticket will set you back 15€ (R245).

Las Ramblas on the other hand is completely free. This 1km-long walkway is a quintessential Barcelona experience where you’ll be able to witness numerous inspiring historical buildings. The best time to stroll along La Ramblas is early morning.

Step back in time in the beautiful Gothic Quarter, which used to be a Roman village and still shows some remnants of its past alongside modern buildings. It is this mix of old and new that draws people to this neighbourhood with its narrow, winding streets. This experience is also free.

Living la vida local

By far the ‘funnest’ way to get around town is by bike, but unfortunately tourists can’t use the city’s community bike scheme. So unless you befriend a local, you’ll need to find another mode of transport.

Thankfully Barcelona has a fantastic public transport system. A single ticket for the metro, bus, tram or local train costs €2.15 (R36) but if you’re staying a few days, you’re better off buying a T10 ticket for 10 journeys, which will cost you €10.20 (R163). The T10 ticket can be shared by different people, lasts up to a year and can be picked up at metro stations. It can also be used on more than one type of transport and all count as a single journey as long as your journey is less than 75 minutes. So you can hop across town by tube, bus and tram for just over a euro (R17).

Barcelona on a budget? ¡Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba!

Mark Buck is the Managing Director of United Europe Travel Services (Pty) Ltd, a travel wholesaler based in South Africa

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