(Pre-Covid)| When you envision Barcelona, you typically think sunshine, laughter and most definitely heat. But have you ever wondered what a destination like Barcelona is like to visit in the off-season? More specifically slap bang in the middle of January, Spain just had a hurricane type of season? Back in January (it honestly feels like years ago at this point), I took a chance for a day trip over there for just £60 return. Adorning our thick jackets, my friend Devina and I hopped on a plane at 7am in the morning, with the intention to return to Heathrow Airport at 9pm that same night.
*Disclaimer: I was working at British Airways at this point in time, so I did receive a 10% staff discount on these flights. However, I have flown on day trips more expensive without that discount, to be honest with you.
La Sagrada Familia
Our first stop of the day is one of the most iconic images of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia. One of the world’s most unique looking buildings, this beautiful Basilica is still being worked on to this very day (despite being started in 1882) and not expected to be finished until 2026 (maybe even later now due to restrictions!) It is always decorated with cranes, so don’t let Instagram fool you.
However, this may or may not surprise you, but the Sagrada Familia was still incredibly busy for a January morning! It was undeniably hard to get a photo just in front of it. Luckily, this was my second visit to Barcelona, so I didn’t really have any interest in visiting inside or getting any closer. Regardless of Covid restrictions in the future, I would always advise you to book a ticket in advance. As of September 2020, an adult ticket is 20 € and under 11’s go free. If you plan to visit Park Güell on your trip in the future, it might be worth looking into a Barcelona CityPass.
A Visit To La Boquería
Back in January, visiting the world famous La Boquería (market) located in Las Ramblas was one of my top recommendations. Your first view of the market would be stalls decorated with a huge variety of local fruits, but walk a little deeper into the heart of the market and you will find locals selling a variety of meats, cheeses and wines. You will also find people cooking up storms of Tapas, Fish and other World foodie dishes. The market was not busy at all, so I could see and enjoy every single stall.
Our choice of the day was a local Korean pop up restaurant to stop at for lunch. Devina lived in Korea for a few years and was missing homemade authentic dishes and we jumped at the opportunity. Devina can speak both English, Spanish and Korean, so there came a point in our conversation with the owner where she was like “Do you want me to speak English, Spanish or Korean?” as the conversation seemed to flow in all 3 haha!
*Important note: Unfortunately there are good and bad people in this world, and some bad like to operate in the market and down Las Ramblas’ street. These are hot spots for pick pocketing, so please keep an eye on your stuff. We did experience someone walking really close behind us (I had a backpack on) but I just went “oh hell no” and moved my bag to the front, before he walked off. Just keep an eye on your belongings, but don’t let this fear ruin your trip!
Getting lost on the streets of Barcelona
Luckily Devina and I are on the same page about a lot of things, we don’t like to plan too much, that means we can just walk without a destination in mind. We decided to take a walk around the streets and absorb everything surround us. Any time a colourful street was spotted or a flat decorated with flowers was seen, we just walked down it. With us walking everywhere anyway, this was an ideal way to truly see Barcelona and I definitely recommend it. It’s free, too! The street that you must visit is Las Ramblas. There are florist stalls, art stalls, souvenir stalls and much more.
*Tip: I always recommend one cocktail bar to everyone who is visiting Barcelona. It was a secret shared with me a few years back by a local. It’s called El Bosc de Les Fades and it is located down the back of Las Rambla. The inside is decorated with trees, lanterns, animatronics, origami and much more. If you like art or quirky establishments, this is the place for you! The cocktails are also pretty nice too.
Barcelona Beach and Marina
My first time visiting Barcelona was actually the first time I had ever been on holiday to a hot destination. It was truly the first time I found out how much pain burning hot sand can be on your feet! Having fond memories of the beach, (despite the chilly weather) I wanted to head over there and see it in it’s “winter” glory. As mentioned above, there was a storm and flooding previous to our arrival. So when we got there and there was debris all over the sand, it was a little bit of a sad sight. But did it stop the locals from playing football and enjoying themselves? No way! A trip to Barcelona beach is a definite must. Luckily for you, you also pass the port to get there, so you get a two in one experience. Try not to get incredible Yacht envy as you do!
A stroll around the shops
With our feet hurting and achy bodies (we walked around 9 miles by this point!) we decided to wind down our day by hopping in to any shops that were still open. We found this amazing stationery shop (both of us are art geeks!) with an incredible ceiling. Unfortunately I didn’t grab the name, but if you come across it, definitely visit inside! We also visited a local mosaic shop called Mosaicos Barcelona. This is a tourist attraction in itself and is so beautiful! I grabbed a little fridge magnet for myself, but we definitely spent more than half an hour in here looking at the pretty bowls and plates, as well as resisting the temptation to buy everything.
Off-Season Barcelona, What’s The Difference?
So what exactly is different about off-season Barcelona? Well, to tell you the truth, nothing! The atmosphere was still the same, if not a little sleepier. The colourful buildings still stand out against the Grey skies, everything is still open and lively. I would say it’s definitely quieter in general (minus the Sagrada). At a stretch, I would say the locals are even nicer (which is impossible as they’re all incredibly nice anyway!) due to less stress from the amount of tourists. The flights are also much cheaper.
But would I recommend it?
100%! If you’re visiting Barcelona because it’s on your bucket, then definitely visit off-season. You get the full experience and not have every Tom, Dick and Harry bumping into you. If you’re going for the heat as well as the attractions? I would say visit in April/May time.
That concludes my little day trip, we hopped on the plane as planned at 9pm and got home around 11.30pm. I did a page in my travel journal inspired by Barcelona that you can see below too. Let me know if you want to see more of my journal on posts like this and let me know if I’ve convinced you to add off-season Barcelona to your future bucket list!
*Disclaimer: I do not advocate travel to Barcelona at this moment in time. This post was purely for your future bucket list. Safety is priority for everyone and you should check your local government website for details and follow local guidelines with travel, masks, tourist attractions etc.
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