If you tell Fernanda I wrote this I'm a dead man.
I've been in Barcelona more than 30 years ago, in a rush to proceed to France and Germany. I got an excellent idea of the town, but, for one reason or another, I never went back - even when we went to Andorra, and Salou, visiting Montserrat, we skipped Barcelona.
Last year I decided It was time, and convinced Fernanda to spend a week in the beach (near Barcelona...), after returning from Croatia. It just happened that we made some Spanish friends in Croatia, and, after 2 days in Gava (as previously booked) we decided to move to Roses to meet them. That gave me only 3 hours to visit Barcelona. Now the secret:
I spent 5 of those 3 hours... standing and waiting at the door of El Corte Inglês!
Shush! If you say I told you something I will deny it until death!
Poble Espanyol (touted as a "one hour" way to get to know Spain) is just a couple of fake buildings, some with painted on windows, and fake artisan workshops. There is one interesting contemporary art collection there, but it's not included in the price of the ticket and they ask you for more money at the door.
Unique Suggestions: If you have to go in - and I would say don't waste your time - try and organize a group of 15 from the people standing on line, even if you don't know them. Then it's only half price. Don't feel uncomfortable about it - people are usually very happy to save a buck, and every place you want to go into on Montjuic costs about 7 EUR. They ask where you're from, so just say "America," or whatever, and go in through the separate entrance for groups.
Fun Alternatives: Get a T-10 travel pass (a real bargain, at 8.25 EUR for 10 rides) - pronounced "te deu'" - which can be used on any form of transportation. Stamp it in the machine. A date and time will be printed out on the back (rather faintly). It can be used 10 times. After that the machine will not accept it. You can share it with a friend - just pass it back over the turnstile. You can also use it on the airport train. Pick up a free map from your hotel or the tourist information bureau. Each time, choose a section of the city and walk the streets.
Flamenco in Barcelona = tourist trap.
Flamenco is from Andalusia, in Southern Spain, and has not much to do with Barcelona or the rest of Catalonia.
It is true that in Catalonia there's more than 1 million people from Andalusia who emigrated in the 1960's and 70's but even so these people do not usually attend the "tablaos" (flamenco venues). These people usually like "sevillanas", which is different, and have a "Sevilla fair in Catalonia" in April, attended by hundreds of thousands of people at the Forum area.
I have read hundreds of times reports on forums of tourits who say something like "we had been told that in xxxx there was real flamenco. We were surprised the attendance consisted of tourists only. The quality of the music was not very good and we were overcharged with the drinks and food".
If you want to see real flamenco go to Sevilla or Granada in Andalusia, or if in Barcelona, you might be lucky if a famous (and quality) flamenco dancer or guitar player who is doing a tour is playing at a theater, such as you might catch such a show in Tokio or NY.
The internet site of this GOBCN short term apartment renting agancy is misleading according to our experience.
We rented an apartment. It turned out to be one...
...without any exterior window.
Safe but ...smelly bunker, although with really pretty Ikea type of furniture, and very very very nicely web presentation.
The apartment is located close to the Sagrada Familia catherdal. It is rented as "first floor" but in fact it is an intermediate floor between ground floor (behind) and the real first floor.
It is located just behind a bar with no noise reduction at all and the bars toilets have their "inner windows" peeing right under your bed!
The warm water heating has capacity for a kitchen so your water does not get warm at all. When finally the bar is closing Coal monoxide gas exhaust fumes are mixed together with toilet , sigarette and cooking smell and all coming back into the apartment, and you still can't sleep.
It is really an unforgettable experience :-)
We were only three days there, reported the problem to GOBCN at return, but they refused to remediate nor to correct their website.
Be ware! Don't try GOBCN at home!
But well after all why to complain, what you see at GOBCN is much less then what you really get :-)
La Fonda was so highly recommended by all the sites I could find online, but if you enjoy fine food, you will be sorely, sorely disappointed. Diners are herded in and out like cattle, and although we were among the first diners of the night, our food tasted like microwaved frozen dinners from the day before.
A roasted tomato was nearly raw and flavorless, the fish and crab coquettes seemed to have neither fish nor crab in them, and the squid with ink, one of the night's "specials", made me want to retch. It's cheap, but the food is terrible and gives you no sense of Spanish cuisine. When I tried to cancel my order because the previous two dishes were so bad, the waitress was very rude and made us pay for it anyway.
If you dislike bland chain restaurants, you won't like La Fonda.
We went there on reccomandation from hotel staff and at first it appeared impressive with pleantty of bars restaurants and craft shops, but it appeared quiet. We went back that night (the entrance ticket of 7.50 E lets you in and out) to eat for a birthday celebration. As you enter there are a couple of restaurants on your left, the second one (it has Isi in its title), avoid it all costs. We should have gone with our instincts cos it was quiet, but the service and food was really poor. Starters arriving after main course, no accompanying vergetables or side orders offered. One meal was burnt. When we asked for another bottle of wine later we were told it was closing and then the waiter proceeded to serve drinks to the next table of 'locals'. Having spent over 200euros, we were not pleased at all with our treatment, on what was supposed to be a special night for one of oue party.
Unique Suggestions: Go in the day, mooch around, have a drink in the sun, dont go there and eat.
Fun Alternatives: The mael ruined our perception of what appeared a nice place.
This is about the central bus station Estacio Nord. I live very close to this place and I travel from there quite often. Ryanair bus shuttle services to/from Girona airport go there. Beware of pickpockets there, especially at night. The critical moment is when buses arrive. Then small groups of young Moroccans or even single individuals on their own mingle with passengers (most of them tired and absentminded) trying to pick up their luggage from the boot. The "operation" is very quick and most victims will not notice. Also beware of them as you head for the main (narrow) stairs and the exit, because they will also wait there to avoid being seen.
Unique Suggestions: Mind your wallets all the time or even hide money inside your underwear. If you are in a group, arrange for some of you to look after while the other picks up the suitcases. Bear in mind pickpockets are not violent, but somehow barefaced in their way of working. I have seen them acting but I admit I haven't dared confront them, as they are usually not alone and are no little kids. At this staion, securtiy control is poor at night.
This tiny section of land inbetween the Harbor of Barcelona is a big tourist trap. Food is overpriced and tourists are everywhere. The only positive things about this strip of tourist bumping tourist land is perhaps the IMAX theatre showing kid flicks or an ancient wooden submarine from the 1800's proudly displayed on the grass.
Unique Suggestions: Take a look at the Wooden Submarine from the 1800's.
Fun Alternatives: Pass Moll D'Espania and the Harbor and then take a right down first large street. Walk all the way down this street filled with Vendors and tourists. The harbor will be on your right side. If you follow this street all the way down, you will eventually hit Barceloneta Beach. Once on the beach, take a left and walk down the beach and enjoy the beaches of Barcelona!
We had just visited "La Pedrera", feeling very tired and hungry. Yes, we know we should have looked for a "menu fixe" restaurant, but this was the first establishment we found and in we went to taste the local food, the paella.
There was a placard outside, advertising this item, but failed to note there were no prices. There was a snack bar just inside, with prices posted. Further inside, was a restaurant with waiter service.
We ordered a meat paella and mineral water. The bottle of mineral water was so small you could hardly see it! And we were each given a cheap plastic glass and a napkin which looked like toilet paper. The food arrived in the pan it was cooked in. There was no extra dish
At that point the waiter insisted on being paid, before we began to eat.
The bill came to EUR36!
In truth, the food was tasty, but the price was ridiculously high for what we got. Also their toilets on that day were dirty and disgraceful. Look somewhere else for paella.
Well, Maremagnum is the name of a big structure situated at the end of La Rambla de Mar (the wooden bridge after Las Ramblas)
It's a nice structure and there are a lot of nice (and a bit pricey) shops and restaurants inside, and it's worth a visit on daytime.
For the nightfile, if there are plenty of small clubs (not bad ones, but small and full of drunk people) and a couple of irish pubs, it's nothing special. Many people will came here and waste the night just because they don't know that there are VERY better and biggest clubs in the Olympic area (near beaches).
And, to speak frankly, most of people in this area are very young people, drunkish and aiming to drink-dance-drink only.
My advice, if you want to see REAL clubs, is to head to the beaches after the Barceloneta and ask for places like Catwalk, Pacha, Shoko, and so on. visit www.bcn-nightlife.com for great info about the clubs...
I'd read that this square was really nice and while parts of it ARE it just feels very seedy still. A lot of graffitti and homeless people lying in corners. There are a bunch of cafe terraces and it seemed fairly busy but I think there are prettier squares that feel safer
Please keep in mind that I was in Barcelona in 1997.
This place is home to trendy cafes, nightclubs, and the Kabul hostel. However, what I really found interesting was the number of junkies and pickpockets here. I used to sit up in the Kabul Hostel and watch as some knob would put down their backpack. In an instant it would gone. The pickpockets are some of the best in the world. It was here at 3 am in the morning I had a woman approach me with children and bump me. She started to apologize and pat me down at which point I shoved her and ran. All travellers know that trick!
Plaça Reial was built on top of an old Capuchins convent. Daniel Molina was responsible for the construction of it from 1848 to 1859. In the center of the square, there is an iron fountain dedicated to the Three Graces, and Antoni Gaudi designed the iron lamp posts.
Placa Reial is located in Barri Gotic east of Las Ramblas.
Unique Suggestions: Come down here to watch the fun but don't bring your valuables.
Fun Alternatives: Stay on Las Ramblas and venture around well lit areas of Barri Gotic closer to the seaside.
Spanish Village was listed as a must see in the Japanese guide book. It turned out to be the standard craftshops and souveniers as in most other tourist traps. Nothing here caught my interest, including the Picasso Museum. Even the architecture seemed forced and in your face. It didn't have a natural feel to it. They billed Spanish Village as a place that represented, culturally, each different region of Spain, but everything I saw seemed very generic.
Unique Suggestions: Above all else, do NOT eat here. The food is not prepared, only microwaved from frozen. Fresh ingredients are not used, and it will all set you back two to three times as much as out in town. Even pa amb tomaquet costs like 4 euros.
Fun Alternatives: They don't water their drinks so at least you can sit down and get drunk enough to kill some of the misery.
La Ovella Nera/Oveja Negra is nightlife hell for me. It's a huge, loud pub where they sell beer and Sangría in pitchers. It's mostly a place for travellers to meet and get locked. But I suppose that's what many are looking for and if you are, you can have the night of your life.
Unique Suggestions: All right if you are in a big group, cause they have the space and you kind of provide your own environment.
The next tip is a REAL TRAP
In Ramblas Street ( the most famous street in BCN) you bump into some people try to 'play' (trick) illegaly with 3 cubes and a small ball inside one of them over a cardboard table
Trick is easy: seek the hidden ball!! dont try to win ..its imposible. There is always a 'buddy' that act as a customer (its a great performance) and win in the first, second, third frames , he is used to lure people.. in consequence foreign people believe that they could win too and fall into the trap!!
In conclusion (tell all this to friends and family)
DONT BET MONEY, cause you'll be the loser SURE
take it easy !!!!!
Fun Alternatives: screw them