Ever since I started learning Spanish at 7 years old, I have wanted to visit Spain. Specifically I wanted to see Madrid and Barcelona as those are the two cities you always learn about in class. I visited Madrid back in 2013 and absolutely loved everything about the city, but all my friends told me, “just wait until you visit Barcelona!” I finally made it to Barcelona in March 2016 and, of all the cities I visited on that trip, it was the one where I planned to spend the most time and it was definitely the destination I most looked forward to. Unfortunately, during my three days in Barcelona, almost everything that could go wrong did and as a result, I kind of hated everything. Now, I don’t know if my hatred for Barcelona was actually about the city of just about a bad visit, but here are all the reasons I hated my trip and how you can avoid my mistakes.
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Before I go into all the negatives of my trip, I do want to say that Barcelona is an amazingly beautiful city with a rich history. Unfortunately for me, a serious of unfortunate events made my trip there the worst part of my 2 weeks backpacking, including the time I was stuck in the cold and rain outside the Anne Frank House for 3 hours and ended up catching a terrible cold(pro-tip: bring an umbrella and/or raincoat with you everywhere friends). Anyways, here are the reasons I hated Barcelona so that you can hopefully avoid my mistakes! Stay tuned to the end of the post and you will be rewarded with some of the amazing photos I was able to take!
The Reasons I Hated Barcelona
1. A General Lack of Important Information
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the kind of person who does a lot of research and planning before going somewhere new, which is why I was surprised that, upon arriving in Barcelona, I knew very little about the important information you need to make your trip enjoyable. Upon arriving, I discovered that most museums are closed on Mondays, which was my first day there. In addition, I decided to get the Barcelona card because it gave discounts to museums and free public transport, but what they don’t tell you is that you have to buy attraction tickets at the locations in order to get the discount. This normally would not be a problem, but do to certain rules(see reason #2) it posed a major issue. The Barcelona Card was essentially worthless to us on our trip so I advise against getting it. If I had known it was useless aside from the transport pass it came with, I would have just bought a transport pass and saved myself some serious $$$.
In addition to the lack of information I found when looking into attractions, my friend and I also had a lot of issues finding places to eat. I am not sure if it was where we stayed(near Plaza de catalunya) or just our bad luck but we seemed surrounded by shopping but nnot a lot of restaurants and the ones we found were super touristy. We tried asking our hostel about places to eat and they just pointed outside and said “there is food everywhere” which was less than helpful. If you are the type who prefers more local places and less touristy, definitely look into the area you are staying in before you arrive because otherwise you may get unlucky like us.
One last little rant on the “Lack of Information” point is the hostel we stayed in. Online, it looked like a normal hostel, nothing too nice but decent and the reviews were all positive. In person was a very different story. Itwas up 2 flights of stairs with an elevator you needed a key to access, it was further from the Plaza de catalunya than the website implied, the rooms smelled strongly of feet and weed and the bathroom situation was its own nightmare. I am not sure what rooms/bathroom they took photos of for the website, but it was not the ones we used. Be sure to research your hostel carefully if you are picky and if this sounds like an unpleasant experience, avoid The Hipstel at all costs.
2. You have to schedule visits to attractions in advance
Okay back to the negatives(sorry guys). The BIGGEST problem I had with my trip was that I was unaware you had to buy tickets to some of the biggest attractions(specifically Parc Guell and la Sagrada Familia) for a specific time slot and time slots sell out quickly. As a result, we wasted almost our entire first day in Barcelona on a trip up to Parc Guell only to discover they had sold all the tickets to the Monumental zone(aka the part with all the things you go to the park to see) for that day and we would have to come back the next day. This meant that on our second day we would be going from one side of the city to the other and wasting a lot of time on public transit.
This rule also prevented me from seeing the inside of La Sagrada Familia because it was something I planned to see my last day before flying out that night. I looked on the website ahead of time to check that I wouldn’t encounter the same issue and could not find anything about it and as a result, got there too late to see it before I left. One of the reasons this was such a big issue for us was that we were dumb enough to buy the Barcelona Card and therefore couldn’t buy our tickets for attractions online and still get the discount from our card. So even after we had the issue at Parc Guell, there was nothing that could be done to avoid the same problem at La Sagrada Familia unless we wanted to forfeit the discount from our BCN card(we were getting pretty poor at this point so we were trying to use that discount for all it was worth). We stupidly decided to risk it and missed our chance to see the inside of the La Sagrada Familia, which sealed the deal for us on Barcelona being a lost cause.
Still with me? Here’s a few more pictures to brighten things up:
3. No Free Tapas/General Food Problems
On top of the inauthentic and expensive tapas, my friend and I had a lot of issues finding places to eat. Shopping? EVERYWHERE. Food? Nowhere to be found. Restaurants had seemingly weird hours and were very sporadically placed meaning we often settled for overpriced touristy places. The one redeeming fact about our hostel was that it had dinners available nightly for only 5 euros and they were usually delicious, but served on the later side(9PM).
How to avoid these mistakes
- DO A LOT OF RESEARCH. I cannot stress this enough because I really think I was too lax in my planning. Know the area you are staying in, look in detail at your accommodation, and research the places you want to visit. As tacky as it can seem, I recommend investing in a Travel Guide for your planning because they really do have a TON of important and useful information.
- Do NOT buy the Barcelona Card. This was a massive waste of money and note worth the “discounts” it gave us. 10/10 would not recommend.
- Buy a Transit Pass. The buses and metro are great for getting around the city and since many of the sites are very spread out this is 100% necessary.
- Invest in great walking shoes. We did so much walking in Barcelona and especially in Parc Guell, its not just flat land so your feet will hate you if you don’t wear good shoes. I personally wore my Vibrams and TOMS while there and they saved me a lot of pain.
- Do a walking tour. And more importantly, do it your first day. The walking tours are great for getting acquainted with the city and guides are really helpful when it comes to giving advice for the city. We waited until our last day to do this and regretted it because we heard a bunch of stuff that would have been great to know before the day we left. If you are looking for a good one, this is the tour we used and it was awesome and I highly recommend it: http://freewalkingtoursbarcelona.com/
- Temper your expectations. I think a big part of our bad experience was that both my friend and I had built up Barcelona in our minds to be this AMAZING place and then when things started going wrong it was really hard to accept that the city wasn’t perfect. Be sure you are realistic in your expectations of every place you visit.
What have been some cities you thought you would love but hated? Leave a comment and let me know, but hopefully no one else has as bad a time as my friend and I did in Barcelona. The city is definitely beautiful and really doesn’t deserve all the negativity I have given it.
I’m spanish and if you want a true authentic experience, REAL tapas and amazing flamenco you need to visit Seville in the south of Spain. That is the heart of Spain.
Seville is on my list of places to visit! I have been to Barcelona and Madrid so next time I visit Spain I want to explore less common destinations. A friend of mine studied in Seville one summer and loved it so I might just have to move it to the top of my list now!
I really enjoyed reading this post! I’m in the same boat as you. In my case, the problem with Barcelona was having really high expectations. I studied abroad in the Basque country, and all the other students were raving about Barcelona.
I was so excited to visit, but when I got to Barcelona I thought it was boring, to be honest. Other than the Gaudi architecture, I don’t see the appeal of this city. The beach is overcrowded and dirty. Everything is so catered to tourists that it doesn’t even feel like Spain.
My second visit to Barcelona was better. I did a 3-hour walking tour and visited La Sagrada Familia. Still, I think Barcelona is way overhyped. On the other hand, I lived in Madrid for a year and loved it!
YES! I totally agree with all of this! I had friends that hyped it up so much that I was just disappointed with everything from the food to the overall feel of the city.