For New Year’s 2023 we decided to go to Europe to visit friends in Romania and ski. ⛷
Wanting to make the most of an expensive cross Atlantic flight, we decided to make the trip into a two week escapade across 4 countries, and share the adventure with 13 of our closest loved ones. 😅
You see, when traveling to Europe, most of the cost is the flight there, but you will find that travel within the continent is very inexpensive. We highly recommend trying to fit in a few different countries if you have enough time to make the most of the opportunity. The intracontinental plane or train ticket will be totally worth it.
A very useful app for navigating various cities public transit is Citymapper.
Our 1st stop was a day in London from a direct flight from Phoenix and Boston. Dre and I landed only 30 minutes apart at Heathrow. 🧑🏽❤️💋🧑🏽 We decided to make a quick stop in London since some in the group (Dre 🖐🏽) had never seen this beautiful city. (checkout some of our pictures)
It's pretty exhausting to stop just for a day but the whole group appreciated the experience. Once we were done exploring London, we headed off to spend 3 nights in beautiful Barcelona.
A trip to Barcelona should be on everyone’s travel bucket list, this city is just so rich with culture, uniquely stunning architecture (especially the churches), and fun activities.
We knew that this would be our main destination, flying from Phoenix there is always a connection so it was a no-brainer for me to work my magic and find super affordable multi-city tickets so we could spend a few days during our layover there and back to maximize our trip.
Gothic Quarter, Telefèric de Montjuïc, and Museu de Cera (wax museum)
Since we had limited time in the city, we decided the best course of action was to find an Airbnb with a central location so we would minimize travel time.
Perfectly located, and walking distance to everything, Gothic Quarter is as beautiful as it is convenient. Walking through it feels like you’ve traveled back in time. Its labyrinth of alleyways feels almost like being Diagon Alley (of Harry Potter) Shadowy, yet vibrant streets are full of amazing architecture, lively nightlife, and endless options for restaurants.
This was truly one of the most uniquely European experiences we had during the 2 weeks. We spent most of our day exploring this beautiful neighborhood which was our favorite part of the trip.
For a half day trip, we headed to the Telefèric de Montjuïc for a beautiful ride and view of the city. The walk was a bit long from the gothic quarter to the teleferic (up a very steep hill 😮💨) but on the way we saw a lot of the local cultural, and some incredible graffiti art, so it was worth the effort!
The tram brings you to the top of Montjuïc hill, which looms over the entire city below. Also at the mountains peak is the massive fort, Montjuïc Castle. The views were breathtaking.
You can visit inside Montjuïc Castle for an additional fee.
For an alternate amazing view of the area, try the Port Cable car. It travels high over the bay in front of the Port of Barcelona.
For dinner we ate at Beirut Barcelona. Having a Lebanese in our group we decided to enjoy the middle eastern cuisine which is very popular in Barcelona.
The food was delicious but there is only beer available so if you are craving a cocktail this might not be the best option.
Luckily, the area we were in, La Rambla, is full of food & beverage choices. Also in the area are some amazing street performers and the Museu de Cera wax museum, so we checked it out. It was small but worth a visit if you are in the area.
Mercado de La Boqueria, La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Arco de Triunfo Paradiso Bar
When you are in a group of 15, it’s a little challenging to have a super productive day while navigating through a city. So for our second day, Dre and I decided we wanted to be up extra early and squeeze in as much as possible and the group could catch up to us later.
For breakfast we visited Mercado de La Boqueria, which was a quick walk through the now empty Gothic Quarter. The alleyways looked completely different in the morning sunlight, empty of the busting pedestrian traffic of the night before.
Vibrant bar fronts full of intoxicated nightlife, were now closed steel garage doors, covered in beautiful graffiti.
The city was now alive with a different kind of energy, that of starting a new day. 7:30AM in Barcelona feels like 5:30AM in Boston, this city cleary operates on its own time zone. Adding to the false sense of pre-dawn, the winter sun was still so low on the horizon, most of the streets still felt like they were in the previous night's shadow.
The outdoor market, however, was bustling with activity, still setting up for the days business. An army of shopkeepers were arranging their presentation of fresh produce and seafood.
Some, still alive and moving.
Chocolates, nuts, gummies, and smoothies were painstakingly divided up in to perfectly segmented variations to entice your sweet tooth while intoxicating your senses in rainbow displays.
La Boqueria reminds you how intimate it is to be that close to the source of what you eat.
We loved this market; walking around gave us a sense of what being a local in this beautiful city is like. For breakfast, we had outstanding fresh egg sandwiches.
The best option we found to get around this long day of exploring, was to use the Barcelona City Tour, a hop-on / hop-off bus, so we could minimize the time to get from place to place at a decent price.
Europe has some of the most stunning churches we’ve ever seen. Barcelona has several that look like they are from a fantasy realm. La Sagrada Familia is the largest, most popular site in Barcelona. Built by the famous Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, whose other works we’d see throughout the city.
We recommend a paid tour during busy times of the year. The line was extremely long so we made the decision to not see the inside which is something we highly recommend.
Make sure to book ahead, tickets sell out fast
You will have an assigned time so purchasing on the spot won’t work.
After exploring the surrounding area we hopped on the bus and stopped at Park Güell. Also designed by Antoni Gaudí, this park's blending of nature and Gaudí’s organically sculpted architecture was an amazing experience.
Filled with exotic tree birds, this park is gorgeous with a ton of unique architecture to explore and vistas of the city below. It is also recommended to get your tickets ahead of time. We lucked out by making it to the park before 10 AM.
Unfortunately, half of our group arrived about 2 hours later and could not get in.
The park was sold out for the day.
Back on the hop-on / hop-off bus we next visited 2 more of Gaudí’s architectural works of art Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. Both are located near Plaça Cinc d'Oros and Passeig de Gracia (the Rodeo Drive of Barcelona).
Lined with tons of high-end stores, this’s a good stop to visit these unique homes and also do a little shopping.
The interior of Casa Batlló and Casa Milà are breathtaking so allow time to visit the inside as it is totally worth it. At the next bus stop you’ll arrive at the Arco de Triunfo, a great place to take some pictures and explore the gardens.
Dre took some amazing drone photos that you can check out the city from high above and within!
We ended our day at Paradiso Bar, voted the number one bar in the world. This is an absolutely must. Their unique drinks are all themed and the whole bar is an experience.
The wait times can be extremely long so arriving early is your best chance to get in under 90 minutes. You also may need to try to break up in smaller groups. Our group ended up going early and as some of our group left others came in and took their spot so we wouldn’t have to wait in line. Check out our REEL!
Starting at the towering Columbus Monument, the waterfront at the Barcelona Port Vell is worth checking out, there is a lot to do specially for families.
The shore was packed with people, a street fairs lined the parkway filled with live entertainment, food vendors, and crafts for sale.
Across a bay full of sailboats is a larger shopping complex with great waterfront restaurants and an aquarium. A Ferris wheel towers above everything, the sidewalks filled with a diverse swath of vendors selling knock-off luxury accessories and bootleg Jordan's.