My first experience of Barcelona was having all my possessions stolen without even noticing. Joking, but I had been warned about this by almost everyone I had spoken to and every blog/guide that I had read!
Whilst there, I stayed (again in an AirBnb) on a block next to the Sagrada Familia – so had an amazing view from the terrace at the top of the apartments – but got bored of tourists very quickly! When I arrived, I had lunch on the terrace with some Dutch people who had been staying in the apartment, they said that people-watching from the roof had been very peculiar, including seeing one woman walking around in circles for 20 minutes, and witnessing street vendors running away from the police!
This apartment had more of a hostel feel, as people would only stay for a few days before moving on. This was fine because I was only there for ten days, but wouldn’t have liked this arrangement for a month. It was great though to meet a whole range of people of different nationalities including: Belgians, Canadians, some French, South Americans, Singaporeans and some Chinese.
Some mentioned they had arrived in Barcelona using a service called BlaBlaCar, which is basically a long distance car sharing site/app. If I’d known about this sooner, I would probably not have booked a flight to my next destination, as car sharing is much less expensive than flying (and arguably better for the environment). Someone staying at the apartment said she arrived in Barcelona from Madrid – using the service – in a Porsche driven by a “really hot guy” (although would he have had as much sex appeal had he been driving a 1989 Eagle Premier? I’m not so sure).
People watching from the balcony (less spectacular view and closer to the ground than the terrace) of the apartment was very interesting. At one point I heard a commotion and saw two people running in the distance. As they got closer, the first man was clutching a bag which was definitely not his. In hot pursuit was another man armed with a raised selfie stick – presumably attempting to recover the handbag. After barging through crowds of tourists and almost getting knocked down by a motorbike, the two men disappeared around the corner and out of sight. I never saw the outcome, but I think the thief was slightly quicker (and had the advantage of knowing the area well).
I worked in the Betahaus coworking space most of the time I was there. I wanted to work from a few cafes as well, but most of the recommended ones were closed for August (Spain seems to stop for holidays in August). I didn’t really end up getting to know any locals there unfortunately, but I wasn’t in Barcelona for really all that long.
Betahaus is in the Gracia district of Barcelona (which is a much nicer, less touristy area), so the famous Gracia Street Festival was taking place at the time. I kept my distance slightly, because there were kids dressed up as devils, wielding sticks featuring live Catherine wheels. I saw my grandfather being chased by a rogue Catherine wheel once, so am slightly more cautious around them!
I decided to climb up the hill to Tibidibo (a church and a fairground on top of the hill), which took a lot longer than expected and involved finding several hidden paths (thanks to Google Maps), great walk though, with amazing views!
The beach (not Barceloneta, go further north where it is less crowded) and the perfect temperature water in summer is also great (warmer than in Portugal which gets cold weather from the Atlantic).
I also enjoyed having Tapas with some South Americans, one who now lives in Madrid. We didn’t do this, but apparently, the Spanish way is to eat a bit of tapas (and have a drink) in one place and then move onto the next, and then the next, and then the next…
Overall, I found (in my experience) Barcelona to be a lot less charming than Lisbon (grid system and loads more tourists), but I still enjoyed this unique city.