J.J. Jenkins is a business administration junior and Mustang Daily study abroad columnist
Words can’t do Barcelona justice. That’s why you just have to see it to believe. But the key to any weekend trip in a foreign city is the advice of someone who has spent time there.
That’s why I’m presenting the definitive guide to a weekend in Barcelona after testing out my route through the grid on the Cal Poly study abroad group from Valladolid.
Assuming you arrive on a Friday evening after a stressful day of travel, it’s best to take it easy on your first night. If you just want to kick back at a unique bar, despite its American-ness, head over to Dow Jones to test your skills at the stock market.
Instead of set prices on all of its drinks, Dow Jones has screens above its spacious bar that display ever-shifting numbers next to a collection of beers, shots and cocktails.
Each time someone buys a drink, the price of that drink goes up, while the price sinks if the drink is unpopular. Beware of market crashes, as that’s where you can find the best deals, but be sure to go to the bar with money visible or you’ll just get ignored.
I concentrate in finance, so the bar has a particular appeal, but I haven’t yet attempted to buy low at the crash then resell the drink at a higher price. That might cause the whole system to crash and we don’t need that to happen … again.
Be sure to head home early so you can get a quick start on Saturday.
The optimal place to start a journey in the morning is Plaça Catalunya, where the old city meets the new. La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous attraction, is normally flooded with tourists weaving in and out of the narrow streets that form a maze of brick, but it’s often worth it to just get lost and stumble into interesting little stores. Walking down the main street toward the ocean, a large market appears on your right and if you’re hungry for a post-breakfast snack, there’s plenty to eat. From nuts, to lobster, to whole legs of ham, the market has just about everything under the sun, but the best deals are the one euro cups of fresh fruit juice. You won’t be disappointed.
It’s easy to spend hours wandering around the old part of the city and there are plenty of things to stumble upon: ruins of the old Roman wall, a small church plaza where missing chunks of the structure mark the location of a bomb thrown into the city by Italian ships during the Civil War, and a museum that takes you through each of Picasso’s stylistic changes.
Any time after one o’clock, retire for 30 minutes to Bo de B for the best sandwich in not only Barcelona, but possibly the world. Stuff it with as much steak, guacamole and whatever toppings you want and you’ll never come out paying more than five euros.
Though it’s better not to get too stuffed because the best place to spend an afternoon in Barcelona is undoubtedly Park Güell, which is a 15-minute subway ride away. The park overlooks the entire city and was designed by Antoni Gaudí in the early 1900s, so it never ceases to surprise visitors. From the twisted spires to curved walls, Gaudí crafted one of the most unique areas in Barcelona, where you could walk around for hours constantly finding intricacies to his work.
If you catch the Gaudí bug after seeing Park Güell — like I did — his masterpiece isn’t far. The Sagrada Familia juts out of the sky and is impossible to miss from any point above the short buildings that make up most of Barcelona. That, and the massive cranes still working on the project, are a dead giveaway.
I’m not used to paying 11 euros to enter a church, but this one is worth every centimo. Every piece of the church is a work of art, even the ceiling is a maze of light and texture that briefly disorients the viewer as they look up.
On Sunday, I would recommend a trip up to Castell Montjuic by bus. Built in the late 17th century, the castle was the site of mass executions following Francisco Franco’s victory in the Spanish Civil War. You won’t find on any of the information plaques. But now it provides one of the best views of the ocean and city. You can even walk down the hill and pass the Olympic Stadium built for the 1992 games and a large fortress that houses the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. Still no trip to Barcelona is complete without going down to the waterfront where small vendors set up shop and human statues watch silently.
Maybe as you wander around, an interesting tapas bar or local café will catch your attention (get café con leche; just do it). And that’s just what Barcelona is all about: wandering, stumbling and searching until you find what you like. It has just about everything.
Still, if you need more direction on your next trip to the metropolis on the Mediterranean, feel free to contact me and get recommendations on the cheapest hostels, best restaurants (cough, Cervezaria Catalana, cough) and coolest clubs.
Until then, adios.