Located on Spain’s northeastern coastline is the city of Barcelona. Some say it’s one of the world’s most beautiful cities filled with colour, mouthwatering food and breathtaking architecture. I say it’s baffling.
Mid 2016 my boyfriend, James and I ventured off to Europe on an unplanned three-month holiday. Seven countries, 13 major cities (not including revisiting London for an extra four days), and only 6 flights booked in total.
Barcelona was unfortunately one of those cities that I didn’t enjoy.
The tourist driven Spanish city known for it’s architecture, vibrant food and perfect coastline could only be best described otherwise on my behalf. Unsafe, artsy and only good for the summer.
Booking accommodation in one of the world’s most unsafe cities was the hardest task out of the entire trip, especially when opting for an apartment without the help of a travel agent. Thankfully, we chose accommodation on a hidden street – Carrer dels Carders. Sitting four flights of stairs above small shops, bars and restaurants was our traditional Spanish city apartment.
The apartment itself can only be described as having a whole lot of cats, with a cute courtyard where you could see everything your fellow neighbours were up to.
Yes, that’s a 35-year-old man hanging out his washing in his underwear.
I should’ve known what we were in for when it would take four locked doors to get up to our front door. But I needed to keep an open mind and stick it out for the remaining time we had left in this much-loved city.
Our first night was spent at the local “Ina Espai de Cafè I Piadina” bar watching Italy vs. Spain in the euro football. The drinks were flowing and the bar was filled to its brim with screaming locals.
Spain lost. What a time to be alive.
In this little bar, filled with people of all ages we notice that we weren’t the only tourists – less than a metre away sat a British couple. The mood instantly changed.
James yelled at me, “Grab your phone and bag now!” Even though everything was placed in front of me, just a mere 30 centimetres from a windowsill, I quickly grabbed my belongings and threw it into my lap. I looked up and a young man in his 30’s was lurking outside the front of the bar.
He was eyeing out the belongings of the British couple. The waitress yelled out something in Spanish to the patrons and in less than a second all eyes were on this mysterious man. Even with so many eyes locked onto him, he still did laps back and forth around the entry. And as soon as he took a step inside, two workers ran over and immediately pushed him out, yelling every Spanish swear word you could think of.
This was a game changer.
An hour or so after the game had finished; we slowly walked back to our somewhat dodgy apartment contemplating on what had just happened on our first night in Barcelona. We didn’t know what to say.
We got home and hid our extra cash and passports within the apartment – I was scared that we’d come back to all of our belongings missing.
My parents reassured me before I left Sydney that the most valuable thing was my Australian passport, which was my ticket home.
Pickpocketing was the highlight of the trip.
Watching other tourist’s fall into the trap of being pickpocketed surely stunned us. This doesn’t happen back in Sydney, so watching a man or woman reach into someone’s bag surely is a sight to see.
Not to mention, losing count of how many fights broke out because of people catching their criminal.
On day two, we walked outside of our apartment and a fight broke out in our street. A man hit a pickpocketer with a 20cm metal bike lock because he tried to steal his wallet out of his back pocket. It’s weird to think how much of a norm pickpocketing is in Barcelona.
Knowing how fast time passes when travelling, we decided that our three days in Barcelona should be spent eating the vibrant and mouthwatering food Spain had to offer in between visiting the most infamous tourist attractions.
Our best option for the next 72 hours was a hop on hop off tour. I assured James, we would be getting off at every stop.
From visiting the Castell de Montjuïc by cable car – a 17th century military fortress situated on top of Montjuïc hill with stunning and panoramic views of the city below. To visiting many of Antoni Gaudi’s masterpieces such as Casa Batllo – a building that features tiled walls in a vivid snakeskin formation.
You name it, I saw it in Barcelona. Up high, down low and a whole lot of art – maybe too much?
So what was the issue?
Like any other tourist driven city there’s queues for everything. If you don’t pre-plan and pre-purchase tickets for these attractions it becomes a headache. Apart from restaurants, cafes and bars, we felt that wherever we went, there was always a line and somehow we always stayed at the end.
The wait time to get into Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Família was two and a half hours and $40 per person – a church that is still under heavy construction and won’t be finished for another 10 years. No thank you.
We waited in line for 45 minutes and were nowhere near the front. We had enough. So we circled the fascinating building, took our photos and left. We would have preferred to spend our very limited time somewhere else.
On our final day in the much-loved city, we walked to Santa Caterina market/Placa de Joan Capri for breakfast. Coffee and baked goods were definitely the way to go, but somehow we were offered wine at 9am. After politely refusing, we planned our final day. We looked at each other like stunned mullets.
We had seen everything Barcelona had to offer which is 50% art and 50% artistic architecture.
But not the beach! We had planned to quickly go back to the apartment, pack swimsuits and walk through the little side streets without a map to the beach. Sounds perfect!
Within five minutes of our walking expedition we both felt extremely uneasy. At first we were the only ones walking and then somehow a group of three men started to follow us. We sped up the pace. To make us feel even more anxious and agitated, when we walked past locals standing outside their shops or homes, as soon as they saw the three men behind us, they ran inside.
By the time we got to the beach we realised how stupid we were, and going in for a swim meant that our belongings would most likely be taken. So we had lunch and walked back.
On a positive note, the food was just as striking as the architecture. Tapas, paella and even the cocktails we’re all screaming with character and passion. Every paella tasted different, with a personality attributing the chef.
Like I said earlier, Barcelona tries to establish too much art and architecture. I like to refer to Antoni Gaudi as Barcelona’s hero and involuntary spokesperson or mayor. Everywhere you look is art.
Within the main city circle is an abundance of art all created by Antoni Gaudi. Then, moving closer to the beach you’ll notice even more art. A giant lobster and even a random face that has many similarities to a few of Andy Warhol’s pop art pieces.
Overall the locals were lovely and incredibly inviting but I can say that my mind frame for three days was whether or not my belongings would be pickpocketed or not. I was extremely uneasy. I felt that I couldn’t relax and just enjoy myself – I was constantly thinking about myself, my belongings and those around me.
And is there such thing as too much art?
The much-loved city is an art lover’s haven, but a tourist’s nightmare.