Traveling solo has been a goal of mine for awhile. I’ve traveled alone many times for work but it usually involves a hotel in the business district with little time for wandering or exploring the city beyond the office. Basically, not very adventurous. So as the end of January rolled around and I had a free weekend and no one to travel with, the opportunity to fly solo presented itself. I chose Barcelona for this quest for a few simple reasons:
- Spain had some of the cheapest flights in January according to my new online friends Skyscanner and google.com/flights.
- Warmer weather than London thanks to Barcelona’s Mediterranean location.
- Their second language is Spanish (first language Catalan), my second language is Spanish, perfecto.
- Unexpected benefit: January in Spain is a big retail sales month.
So with the flights booked and hotel reserved I embarked on 3 days alone in Barcelona and survived to tell the tale.
I arrived Saturday afternoon and dropped my bag off at the hotel, gave myself a pep talk, and headed out to explore on my own. Barcelona’s most famous street is La Rambla which stretches through the center of the city connecting the modern buildings to the waterfront monument of Christopher Columbus. My favorite destination along La Rambla is La Boqueria, a crowded market bursting at the seams with shoppers and colorful produce. I stopped here for my first tapas of the trip to satisfy my craving for tortilla de patatas (also known as tortilla española), a delicious omelet of eggs and potatoes drizzled in Spanish oil olive and doused with sea salt. Mmmm.
My next stops both involved the work of Antoni Gaudí, the famous Spanish architect who spearheaded the Catalan Moderism movement. Casa Batlló is a building with a fantastical and imaginative facade that is like no building you’ve ever seen before. The name comes from the family who owned the apartment building and commissioned the work in the early 1900s. You can pay to tour it, but I just admired the exterior.
La Pedrera is another famous Modernist Gaudí work built between 1906 and 1912 and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. I paid the €17 to tour this because I saw that people were on the roof and it was nearing sunset. This made for some fantastic views of both the architecture and Barcelona in the fading light of my first day.
I woke up to warm, sunny weather and dedicated the day to two parks and a walking tour. It was the perfect weather for outdoor exploring. First stop: Parque Joan Miró, a short walk from my hotel. Joan Miró was a sculptor and painter from Barcelona who created the colorful sculpture that gives the park its name.
Second stop: Park Güell, another Gaudí creative masterpiece which sits high above the city and has views of the Mediterranean.
I spent an hour or so enjoying the warm weather and design of the park and then headed back into the city center for the Sandeman’s free walking tour. This is the same company I toured Amsterdam with and had a good experience, and our Barcelona tour guide was just as interesting and engaging.
A few of the tour stops included the Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona…
Trekking through the narrow streets and alleyways of the Gothic quarter of the city…
Quaint courtyards and plazas where locals meet friends and take leisurely walks with family…
And the Parc de la Ciutadella, formerly built as a city fortress and nowadays a green space for residents and guests of the city.
Within the park this fountain was designed by Gaudí – his influence reaches all corners of the city.
Exhausted from walking for 8 hours straight at this point in the day, I took refuge on Calle de Petrixol, a narrow walkway off La Rambla known for cafés serving up churros con chocolate. If you like chocolate and sugar (who doesn’t?) you can’t miss this Spanish treat. I finished the day with a delicious dinner at Bar Calders where I found Mexican food in Spain. I have a knack for finding coffee, chocolate, and margaritas in any city – it’s a gift.
You could say I saved the best for last, because on day 3 I finally toured La Sagrada Familia, the epic cathedral designed by Gaudí which is still under construction today and not expected to finish until 2026 (144 years total) and built entirely on donations.
Here’s a 3D video showing the finished product in 2026.
My last stop of the trip was to Montjuïc, a hill overlooking the city and port of Barcelona with museums, a botanical garden, a castle, and an Olympic stadium.
Montjuïc was beautiful and you can arrive there by cable car, bus, or on foot. I took the bus up and walked down – I was feeling lazy on the final day. It’s worth a look around, but wear comfy shoes.
Now that my first solo trip is done, I could definitely see myself doing more trips like this. I still prefer traveling with friends or family, but traveling alone had its benefits. I got to choose my agenda without regard for anyone else, eat whenever or whatever I want, and had lots of quiet time for myself. Not too shabby. Gracias, Barcelona!
Know Before You Go:
- Barcelona has an easy-to-use public transportation system. The metro will get you anywhere within the city, although I only used it twice in 3 days because I could walk everywhere.
- Take the Aerobús from the airport to the city center for only €5. Catch it outside the airport terminal.
- If you go to Montjuïc beware that Fundació Juan Miró is closed Mondays.
- Several friends recommended Tickets as an amazing place to eat but unfortunately I didn’t make it there. Have a tapa for me when you visit. In fact, have tapas as often as possible in Spain. They’re delicious, plentiful, and affordable.
- The Picasso Museum is free on Sunday afternoons after 3pm.
- I stayed at the Amister Art Hotel and give it two thumbs up. It’s far enough away from La Rambla that you avoid the tourist traps yet it’s close enough to walk everywhere. Most importantly for me, I felt safe at all times.
- If you’re a coffee drinker, walk into any cafe to have a café con leche (coffee with milk) at the bar. If the weather is nice, find a cafe with outdoor seating (they’re everywhere) and relax like the locals for a bit.
- Once you’ve seen all the main attractions in the center of Barcelona, you can take a half-day trip to Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery in the mountains surrounding Barcelona.