I know, what a cliffhanger. Did I like the cable car? Was it worth it? Better yet, DID I SURVIVE IT?
Hopefully there is an obvious answer to the last question.
Well, to be honest, the cable car was meh. Kind of expensive, I think it was €11 one way, and it only last 5 minutes and got us to the base of Montjuïc. If you want to go to the top, you have to pay for another cable car or walk it. The line was also pretty long, we had to wait at least half an hour if not more. The views were pretty, but you could get the same from the mountain itself or Park Güell without dirty window. I wouldn’t recommend it.
But have no fear, I still had fun! Once we got off of the cable car, we decided to walk up Montjuïc to the Montjuïc castle. It was only a mile so we thought, “Hey, no problem!”. We had been walking miles upon miles so one more was nothing, right?
The hike up Montjuïc was not a little stroll. It was really steep and ended up taking about half an hour if not more to get to the top. There are some gardens along the way though, so that was pretty, but be advised that it is quite a walk! If you don’t want to walk, however, there is another cable car you can pay around €6 I believe to take you to the top. Here are some photos of the gardens and the walk up:
Finally, we made it to the top of the mountain and to the Montjuïc castle! Once a military fortress, the castle now has some of the best views of Barcelona in the whole city. For €2 you get entrance to the castle and that’s pretty much it. There isn’t much to see in terms of the actual architecture or anything, but it’s pretty worth it just for the views!
Another fun thing is that it smelt like rice the whole time we were on the mountain?? We think it is because of the factories that are located on the water and below the mountain. Or maybe just another wonderful restaurant waiting to serve us paella. Who knows. Anyways, after we spent a good amount of time at the castle, it looked like it was going to rain so we began our trek back down! After, we caught a cab and headed back into central Barcelona to the gothic quarter. General note about Barcelona, the cabs are pretty cheap and very efficient!
Located just to the right of Las Ramblas and a little north of La Barceloneta, the gothic quarter ended up being my favorite part of Barcelona. Winding alleys, brilliant old architecture, flags and laundry hanging off the balconies- It felt like you were really in Europe. Where we specifically wanted to go was the Cathedral of Barcelona. Unlike most other places we visited, a lot of the parks and cathedrals were open later! We didn’t get to the Cathedral until 5:00 pm and were able to go in during its night hours that began at 5:15 pm. You know, after they finished their siestas.
The Cathedral of Barcelona was stunning. Absolutely amazing. The rainy weather added to the dark, medieval feel of the architecture, creating a perfect ambience. I loved it and even better, it was free!
After the church, we stumbled upon one of the world’s greatest stores: Happy Pills.
Essentially, you pick a pill jar size of your choosing and fill it up with candy and you get to pick a sticker to put on it! They range from things like “Happy Birthday” to more risque things. I ended up getting one that says “I love Barcelona!”. Classic tourist me. It was €2.5 and all the candy was delicious, except I ended up getting mint flavored gummy bears by accident? An unexpected surprise to say the least.
Once we had our appetizer of candy, as is usually the order in which your mom teaches you to eat, we headed off to find somewhere to get dinner in the Gothic Quarter! We didn’t have a plan, just enjoying wandering around. Most of the restaurants were still closed because it was fairly early to be eating dinner, but we found a really cute restaurant (THAT ACCEPTED AMEX!!!! Actually, most places in Barcelona did, which was literally AMAZING) called Bliss. It was bliss. A homey atmosphere with ballin’ sangria and even better food. It also head a painting of a dog so basically, it was perfect. I got a rice dish with chickpeas, pork, and a ton of spice. I was craaaaving rice after smelling it on the mountain all day and this more than fit the bill!
We had one more mission for the day- Find gelato. We paid, and then ran into the rain to the nearest gelato shop we could find! I don’t remember the name, but I got stracciatella and it was pretty yummy! I’ve had better, so I was determined to find better gelato.
Thankfully it had stopped raining a little so we ended up walking around the gothic quarter a little more before heading home for the night.
Our last full day in Barcelona was absolutely my favorite. It started with the 40 minute walk to La Sagrada Família, but this time, WE WERE ACTUALLY GOING TO GO IN IT!!!!! Seeing La Sagrada was one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to come to Barcelona, so I had butterflies in my stomach as we walked. Tip: Some places will make you book tickets for certain entrance times, so make sure you plan ahead!
We had some time before we were going into the church and not food in our stomachs, so for a glorious €.85, we got a baguette to share. This baguette was AMAZING. If you’ve ever seen Disney’s Ratatouille, (and if you haven’t then literally stop reading and go watch it. It’s on Netflix so you have no excuse.) Colette says that you can tell a good bread by the crunch it makes. This baguette was crunchy AF. You didn’t need butter, jam, anything. Just the glorious, glorious carbohydrates.
We sat in a little park outside of La Sagrada as we waited for our time and our friends, and then, it was time.
Photos simply cannot do La Sagrada Família justice. Designed by Gaudi, the basilica was started in 1882 and is still under construction, not due to be completed until 2026. It is a fantasy design of a church essentially, the ceiling so high that it seems to touch the sky. There is intricate stained glass everywhere that pours in color onto the white stone. It was truly and utterly amazing.
We spent about an hour in La Sagrada before it was time to go in order to depart on our day trip to Montserrat, a mountain range on the outskirts of Barcelona about an hour away via train. We got the train at Plaça D’Espanya and it cost €20 for our round trip fare, including the cable car up to Montserrat. You could do a train up to Montserrat, but I highly recommend the cable car not only because of the amazing views, but also because the train looked absolutely terrifying!! It took about 5 minutes to get up the mountain via cable car and run pretty much nonstop.
When we got up, my mind was blown. It was amazingly, amazingly beautiful. You could see snow capped mountains on one end and then the Mediterranean on the other. That, and there was a whole bunch of buildings, including a beautiful basilica.
After getting a bite to eat at the overpriced cafeteria, we headed to see the Basilica. For being in such a remote location, the Basilica was incredibly ornate and beautiful. It is mostly known for being the location of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Catalonia, making it a sight of pilgrimage. I’ve never been in the presence of something even close to a relic, and you are able to touch the ball the Virgin is holding. I rubbed it, said a prayer, and then felt this wash of emotion come over me. I wasn’t the only one either. Because of this, we spent some time just sitting in the church. Being able to sit, think about my family, and just relax was a truly special moment.
We went outside of the basilica and there were candles you could light. Every church I go to, I actually always pay to light a candle for my family and say a prayer for them, so this was no different. It was unique though because it was outside and the candles were large and colorful.
One of the main attraction to Montserrat is the plethora of hiking paths it has. Although I am not one for hiking, I acquiesced and soon found myself traipsing through the mountains! Thankfully the path we stuck to was paved and actually had a bunch of beautiful statues and memorials along it.
It was pretty much all fun and games until we got to this:
The path downhill to seemingly nowhere.
Well, good news was that it led to somewhere, and somewhere we wanted to go:
The Cross of San Miguel, the patron saint of Montserrat. This cross from the main abbey and area of Montserrat literally seemed like it was miles away. Thankfully, our hike to it only was about 40 minutes to the cross! It was at this point that we stopped having the mountain at one side of us and had to venture out onto one of the cliffs to get to the cross. It was almost an out of body experience simply because of the adrenaline rush of going across a tiny strip of land where with one wrong step, you would be off the path and falling. Obviously, it was worth it.
I ended up on facetime with my parents when were out there because my mom had texted me, and they were in shock! I think mostly because they were surprised I had hiked. But still! How could you not be amazed with a view like this?
As you can tell from the photos, the weather was not on our side so we quickly headed back to the abbey and back in the cablecar to the train. Climbing Montserrat is one of the things I know I will never be able to forget and never want to forget. It was one of those moments where I went “How absolutely lucky I am” and reflected upon it. I am so lucky to be able to study abroad and would not give up this opportunity for anything.
To celebrate our last night in Barcelona, I’m going to let you take a moment and guess what we did.
EAT TAPAS AND DRINK SANGRIA!!
We ended up heading back to the Gothic Quarter after walking about an hour and a half from Plaça d’Espanya because we loved it so much, and because that’s where most of the restaurants were. Our final destination ended up being Taller de Tapas, and I am now a huge fan of this place. The food was delicious and affordable, and our waitress was a ball! All of the people we met in Barcelona were actually very friendly and understanding with the language barrier, even though two of my friends were pretty close to fluent. Here was my meal from the night:
To top it off, we finally found good gelato so I got brownie and mint chocolate chip:
We didn’t quite stop there, though… Next was a bar! We just wanted to get a drink and found a little place close by where I got a glass of white wine and there was a guy playing guitar. It was the perfect end to a pretty much perfect trip.
With that, we headed back to our Airbnbs to sleep and to back. The next morning we stopped in a cafe where I got a croissant and cappuccino, having realized I hadn’t gotten a cappuccino in Barcelona yet!
It was delicious, as was expected.
Sadly thought\, that cappuccino and croissant marked the end of time in Barcelona. It is probably the first place that we’ve visited that when I got back to London, I missed it. I feel like I could have spent a whole week in Barcelona with no problem. There are so many parks, little stores, and day trips that you can do. Because of this, I am giving Barcelona a well deserved 10/10. The culture is amazing, it’s fairly cheap, there is tons to do for artsy and outdoorsy people alike, and it’s warm!!! I really want to go back someday. Hopefully when La Sagrada Família is finished.