THE BLOG
07/03/2011 07:55 pm ET Updated Sep 02, 2011

A Student's Guide to Backpacking: Barcelona

The first stop of my European tour, Barcelona, immediately struck me as one of the most beautiful cities that I have ever visited. Clearly, the "city that Gaudi built", Barcelona, is heavily influenced by his style of organic, surreal architecture. At the same time, the Mediterranean supplies the city with some of the best seafood in the world. Barcelona couples brilliant architecture and good food with fantastic beaches and friendly people, making the city a fantastic destination for travelers of any variety.

Food & Drink
La Paradeta -- Located just outside of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia, La Paradeta is a seafood market unto itself. Seemingly operating entirely on the catch of the day, customers' choices are immediately taken into the kitchen and prepared to order. Be cautious, though. La Paradeta deals only in fresh seafood, the staff will -- however playfully -- attempt to goad you into purchasing more food than you need. Keep your wits about you and La Paradeta can be one of the tastiest, and cheapest, dinner options in the city. (€10/person)

Mercat de la Boqueria -- If you're exploring Barcelona on a budget, restaurants clearly can't be the cornerstone of your diet. While Barcelona does have a wide array of well-stocked groceries, Boqueria provides a welcome alternative. On the famous La Rambla boulevard, Boqueria has nearly every piece of produce imaginable and a beautifully arranged fresh meat and fish market. Take time to shop around, both for fun and to find the cheapest prices, and the experience alone will more than make up for another visit to a restaurant. (€7/person)

La Champagneria -- Upon entering the cozy confines of La Champagneria, you should immediately notice -- apart from the gorgeous jamon iberico hanging from the ceiling -- the ambiguous red wine spritzer that everyone appears to be drinking. While not necessarily a tapas bar, La Champagneria follows in the tradition, serving up small portions of food for Barcelona's beach-goers. Despite being located near a Barceloneta beach, La Champagneria doesn't appear to receive a lot of attention from tourists, making it all the better for a respite from other travelers. One rule of thumb for bars in Barcelona, or any city for that matter, is to stray from the beaten path. Bars and restaurants become progressively cheaper as they get farther away from major tourist destinations. (€5/person)

Sights
Barceloneta -- Many guide books will tell you that Barceloneta is one of the less-crowded, less-touristy beaches in Barcelona and, while this does appear to be true, don't plan to have a the beach to yourself. The Mediterranean makes up for any crowd and the pleasantly cold water provides some relief from the Spanish sun at midday. (€0)

Sagrada Familia -- Spirituality is not a prerequisite of appreciating religious monuments and Sagrada Familia is a stunning example of that fact. Gaudi's crowning achievement, the cathedral is one of the most popular sights in all of Spain... and construction isn't due to finish until about 2030. The interior, recently completed, dwarfs any who step through the threshold and features a beautiful altar. The exterior is just as interesting, with hundreds of faces and Biblical events carved into the walls. Be sure to take a lift to the towers for a breathtaking view of the city. (€13)

Parc Guell -- Parc Guelli provides further insight into one of the most interesting architectural minds in history. The park explodes with life and many structures -- as with Sagrada Familia -- appear to grow out of the ground. The view from the 'Mirador' and Gaudi's steps at the entrance of the park are certainly worth the modestly hilly climb to arrive. (€0)

Have the Time? I neither have the time nor desire to write about every sight, sound and taste in the cities that I travel to. If you have the time, though, consider checking out:
  • Parc de Montjuic
  • Picasso Museum
  • Montserrat

Want to see more Barcelona? Check out Mike Yarbrough's (travel) blog.