The proximity of places in Europe is truly astounding. I woke up one morning in chilly Lyon, and by lunchtime I was strolling down the sunny streets of Barcelona.
My time in this beautiful Spanish city elicited my first stay at a hostel (or “Hipstel” as it was appropriately named). It was quite an experience sharing a room of bunk beds among Penn friends and strangers alike, with no towels provided and only a small locker to store my things. I would certainly recommend trying out this type of lodging once in your college years, but past a certain age, it’s time to splurge for the hotel!
Outside of the hipster motel, a vast city full of food and fashion awaited us. You couldn’t go one road without passing an oversized Zara or Mango on the corner, which had me scrambling to decide how many purchases I could make before running out of room in my tiny overnight bag. Starving after the plane ride and bouts of shopping, my travel buddies and I decided to search for some traditional tapas. We quickly found a small but famous restaurant and sat at the bar to order from an extensive menu of Spanish flavors. What I love about the offerings at tapas restaurants is the variety and freshness of the items. The menus always contained both rich flavors, such as truffle, as well as brighter notes, including citrus or avocado. Having both tastes in one meal is such a satisfying balance. One of the best dishes I tried was paella, a type of rice stew, which paired perfectly with fruity sangria. In addition, I enjoyed a lot of seafood while I was there, particularly flaky codfish (one of my favorites!).
Along with the food, I also experienced several sites. Walking through Barcelona is like walking through a living piece of art. The architecture of Gaudi that surrounds the city is so colorful that the mosaics automatically lift your mood. One of my favorite places to visit was the Sagrada Familia. Even though it was my second time at this unique church, the stain glass windows shining rainbow light on visitors still enthralled me. Another important feature of Barcelona that you won’t want to miss are the incredible parks. We were lucky enough to see two on our short trip—Parc de la Ciutadella and Park Güell. Even though Park Güell is more iconic of Barcelona for its Gaudi influence and recognition, I really enjoyed the vast garden areas and golden fountain inside Parc de la Ciutadella. Each offered eye-catching landscapes with very different vibes, so I would highly recommend seeing both if you’re ever in the city.
The ultimate combination of site seeing and food emerged with the amazing Mercado De La Boqueria. This popular outdoor market was a vibrant display of everything from candy to fresh fruit and veggies. The brightness of walking around each merchant stall is both a feast for your eyes and your taste buds—a perfect situation in my book! There were so many options that we ended up dining here twice over our short weekend stay. If you’re a fan of heartier flavors, I would definitely suggest getting a paper cone of Iberian ham and Manchego cheese (prevalent all throughout the market!) and enjoying the two together.
My visit to Barcelona was one of the most memorable and enjoyable weekends I had while I was abroad. I would consider it a must for anyone traveling through Europe!
Image(s) courtesy of: Nicole Luo