It was my birthday on 19 August 2017 and I really wanted to do something special, so my sister and I decided to visit Barcelona for 3 nights to celebrate this occasion as well as have time for some sisterly bonding.
Unfortunately for us, the day before we left it was reported on the news that a tragic event occurred in the area of Las Ramblas, Barcelona. This was devastating news and once I heard that people were actually injured and unlawfully killed by someone driving a van that mowed down civilians, I contemplated going to Barcelona. However after speaking to a few friends and family members, they encouraged me to still visit the city as security would be heightened and I would therefore be safe.
We had an early morning flight and once we arrived in Barcelona, we were anxious to get on the shuttle bus to our hotel, so that we could shower and change and enjoy the beautiful weather as it was 83 degrees.
Our hotel Occidental Atenea Mar was stunning and the beach was literally across the road. Whilst I checked in, I reminded the reservations clerk that I was advised via email that due to it being my birthday I may be upgraded to a sea view room. To my delight, were upgraded free of charge and the view from our room was absolutely stunning.
Once we showered and changed we spoke to the hospitality clerk (Nela) who advised us of things to do whilst in Barcelona. She was extremely helpful and not pushing us to purchase any excursions from her. She recommended the City Bus tour to see the main attractions of Barcelona.
My sister loves shopping, so when were told that the Diagonal Mar shopping centre was literally 7 minutes walk from our hotel, the first thing we decided to do was check it out.
The shopping centre contained a lot of the same high street stores as the UK, i.e. Primark, Zara, Mango etc... I was more interested in local boutiques, as I personally don’t see the point in shopping in the same shops that are in your own country. We found that some of the high street stores were more expensive than the ones in the UK. For example, I went into Sephora (make up store) and saw that the Benefits Eyebrow kit cost £9 more than it does in the UK! People had warned me that Barcelona was expensive and now I was seeing this for myself (shocking).
My sister and I found a reasonably priced Bag shop that we liked; different styles in a range of colours and sizes.
After we shopped we had lunch at a restaurant called Kurz and Gut in the shopping centre. The food and service was okay, but not a place I’d be in a hurry to visit again as I found the food very basic and I am not a fan of Iceberg lettuce in salad. Yes I know I am fussy.
After we ate we strolled back to our hotel and enjoyed the scenery, clean roads, palm trees and the atmosphere was somewhat relaxing, perhaps because we were so close to the sea and could hear its light waves. It was very therapeutic.
Shopping Centre Rating:Shops: 7/10 Kurz & Gut: Food: 5/10 Service: 6/10
Once we arrived back at our hotel, we relaxed for an hour and then got changed to meet one of my English friends that had lived in Barcelona for 8 + years, in town for dinner. My friend knew that I loved Thai food and therefore wanted to take us to a nice Thai restaurant. However due the horrific events that occurred in Barcelona, a lot of restaurants were not open. Therefore we ended up at a small restaurant called Lam Thai Street Food The food was not the greatest but the atmosphere was nice because we were sitting amongst locals. My friend was telling me that the locals tend to eat dinner late in Barcelona i.e. 9pm.
Lam Thai Street Food Rating: Food: 6.5/10 Service: 7/10
After we ate, we explored a residential area called “Sants” so we could capture a real sense of how Spanish people lived, look at the architecture i.e. their apartments and houses.
Day 2 – My Birthday!
After a good night’s sleep we got up and ventured out to find somewhere to eat brunch. We found a nice decent restaurant a stone throw away from our hotel that sold Spanish breakfast, lunch and dinner. The waiter that served us was from Liverpool, and was very friendly and helpful. He gave us some great tips on where to visit and also recommended great dishes from the restaurant’s menu. Once we ate the food there, we knew that this would be our breakfast spot for the rest of the time we spent in Barcelona, as the food was great!
Food: 9/10 Service: 10/10 Price: Reasonable
After we ate we decided to do the city tour via the Barcelona Bus Touristic: Hop-On, Hop-Off Tour this cost 29 euros per person for the day, which I thought was quite expensive. The bus stop was located a few feet away from our hotel and outside the restaurant.
Our favourite areas had to be Barri Gotic, Port Olimpic, Sagrada Família, Barcelona Stadium and Las Ramblas. Admittedly, we did could not get off at all the stops we hoped, as we did not have much time, however I will visit Barcelona again to ensure that I see all the other areas I missed. I would suggest people purchase a 2 day pass, so that they have enough time to view this beautiful city.
Las Ramblas was filled with flowers, cards and candles for those that passed away due to the recent events. It was a very sad and morbid moment and I witnessed people crying around me. After we paid our respects and said a prayer we decided to explore the area more.
We went to the La Boqueria Market (Las Ramblas Market) in Barcelona where we felt the real buzz of tourists and locals mingling under one roof. The market consists of fresh fruit, sweets, fish, smoothies and more. We absolutely loved it here and the smoothies were delicious (100% natural).
The concept of Boqueria started from the 1200s and the market grew as neighbouring towns joined the trade of merchandise and today is known as the La Boqueria Market in La Rambla.
After we finished what we could see of our city tour, we went back to our hotel, got showered, changed and headed out for dinner. The hotel had left a beautiful cake and bottle of wine for me for my birthday - how sweet :)
We were told to go to the sea port area, as it has a good reputation for having nice seafood restaurants. We walked along the strip filled with restaurants and found one that looked nice. The food and service was okay, but not somewhere I’d personally visit again. The food was very bland and service slow and the waiter said he would do something nice because it was my birthday and completely forgot! Unfortunately I did not manage to get the name of the restaurant. After we ate we headed back to our hotel to relax and have our girly, sisterly chats.
My sister and I agreed that this would be our “relaxing day” therefore we got up a little later than usual, then decided to explore our hotel. The hotel had a lovely hot tub area, small pool and lovely roof terrace with sunbeds and a bar. The weather at this point was slightly overcast and we were hoping it would improve throughout the day.
After we investigated our hotel grounds, we went to our regular spot for brunch and headed across the road to the beach. The location of our hotel was brilliant, we had a mall on our door step, shops, restaurants and the beach literally 50 metres away (if that).
The beach was stunning and as soon as we put our towels down on the white sand, the sun came out and we were so pleased. We relaxed on the beach for several hours whilst talking, laughing and sharing stories from our past. The beach was filled with children and adults and I noticed that the Spanish women sunbathe topless; I was told that this was the norm.
We decided to get some cocktails from the onsite restaurant which looked stunning. Unfortunately the cocktails were not up to par, they gave us 2 more cocktails for free as we told them we didn’t like how they were made and still the second set were not good. There was no flavour to the Pina Coladas. We also looked at their food menu and it was very limited, so therefore did not eat there although we were hungry. The prices were also expensive but I guess you would be paying for the scenery.
We asked several people if they could suggest a nice restaurant for us to have dinner, we decided to go with our hotel’s recommendation as they were so helpful and gave us great tips during our stay.
We went to a restaurant called Le Fonda del Port Olympic and it was the best restaurant we had visited in Barcelona. Everything was brilliant, the ambience, food and service. This restaurant's food and service is 10/10!
After we ate, we headed back to our hotel and packed as we had to get up within 4 hours to catch our flight home.
Overall our visit to Barcelona was brilliant and I definitely will be visiting again soon and finishing the city tours. 3 days was not enough for me, I believe that 5 days would have been adequate.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible. If you have visited Barcelona, I would love to hear about your experiences too.