Travel Guide | Barcelona

Splurge vs. Save: Barcelona

Barcelona is one of Europe’s trendiest hot spots.

Barcelona is one of Europe’s trendiest hot spots. From decadent nightclubs to modern art-deco architecture, Barcelona is sure to impress. The big city can be overwhelming, especially for a student on a budget, so here is a list of what to splurge on vs. what to save on in this beautiful city.

Casa Batlló vs. Casa Mila

Splurge: Casa Mila

Save: Casa Batlló

While Casa Batlló is just as stunning as Casa Mila, Casa Mila is more bang for your buck. Not only is there a great student discount and free audio guide, Casa Mila also includes a sort of museum on Gaudí himself. The arched attic of Casa Mila holds the history of almost all of Gaudí’s famous works. It shows everything from his natural influences to his smallest details such as doorknobs and details on the furniture he designed. Casa Mila is not to be discredited for its beauty, either. Gaudí’s whimsical designs such as undulating walls and mystical windows are just as prominent in the residential building, as well. Casa Mila also has a stunning rooftop with views of all of Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia. Plus you can always walk by Casa Batlló’s iconic façade and take a picture (for free!).

Sagrada Familila: Tower tour vs. no tower tour

Splurge: tower tour

I hate that this is even up for debate because there is absolutely no way you can go to the Sagrada Familia and NOT do the tower tour. This little-known option does make the price of your ticket more expensive, even with the student discount, but it is also incredibly worth it. Make sure to buy your ticket online in advance as there is constantly a mass of people surrounding the Sagrada, and make sure you are on time. Your ticket will have a specific time that allows you to detour into a passage off of the nave and enter into a tiny elevator that you probably didn’t know was there. Allow time to navigate the masses and also to have security check your bag. You will also need to allow the obligatory ten minutes when you first walk into the building to stare opened mouthed at the beauty and splendor that is La Sagrada Familia. No matter how many pictures you’ve seen, you will still be left stunned by Gaudí’s masterpiece. After that, go up to the towers and take in the stunning views of Barcelona (not for those scared of heights), the intricate and up-close details of the Sagrada’s façade and decorations, and marvel at the tiny winding staircases and niches that litter the upper half of this stunning church.

Picasso Museum vs. Chocolate Museum/Catalan History Museum

Splurge: Picasso Museum

Save: Chocolate Museum/Catalan History Museum

This is a bit misleading as the Picasso museum is free if you are a student but if you are budgeting time then definitely splurge for Picasso over the others. The Picasso Museum is a bit tricky to find, literally a hole in the wall on some nondescript street, but it is a true gem of Barcelona. It’s full to the brim with works from all of Picasso’s phases, with traditional pieces from his early years all the way to the most abstract of his cubist pieces. It also includes some treasures like a room dedicated to Picasso’s foray into ceramics, as well as my personal favorite, Picasso’s sketches and the final product of his work for Quatre Gats! Quatre Gats is a famous restaurant/lounge in Barcelona, which was historically a gathering place for famous artists such as Picasso and his contemporaries. The owner asked Picasso to design a new menu for the restaurant and Picasso’s sketches and ideas are all there. Truly do not waste your five euros on the Chocolate museum as tempting as it might sound, it is not worth it. If you are determined to get to the Catalan History Museum, I recommend going to their lovely terrace bar for a drink, it has a great view overlooking the harbor, and poking your head into a few rooms on the way out.


Splurge Meal: Modern vs. Traditional

Splurge: Traditional

Save: Modern

In Barcelona, my “modern” meal came in the form of brunch by millennial favorite Brunch and Cake. Think health food meets whimsical art with embellished avocado toast, over the top smoothies, and squid-ink waffles (actually pretty good). While the food was all good and the picture was very aesthetically pleasing (see below), if I had had to make a choice between that and the traditional Spanish paella I ate that night, I would most definitely go for the traditional. You have copious amounts of time at home to try the most picture-pleasing brunch spots you like but only a limited amount of meals and time to try traditional Spanish food when you’re actually in Spain. Signs hawking paella are on almost every street you turn on, but I say forgo the cheap places and splurge on an actually good, authentic dish. I highly recommend restaurant 7 Portes. My friend and I split one traditional paella and it was big enough for us to share. The options for the meat included in the paella were mostly seafood, but never fear there was one with pork, chicken, and sausage as well. That paella is probably one of favorite memories from all of Barcelona, and was as real as it gets. 7 Portes also has a killer and budget-friendly house red wine, which paired perfectly with our traditional treat!

Beach vs. Bars/Clubs

Splurge: Bars and Clubs

Save: Beach

This is once again mainly a matter of time as the beach is, of course, free. Assuming you have a limited amount of time in Barcelona, I would not waste that time lying on the beach. That is not to say that you shouldn’t at least see the beach, it’s beautiful and surrounded by cool restaurants and, leading to my next point, bars! Barcelona is known as a party center in Spain and it does not fail to impress. Take one night and go to dinner by the beach so that you can take in the views and also get a taste of Barcelona nightlife. Some of the bars on the beach are, admittedly, tourist traps. Icebarcelona is one of them, though if you’ve never been to an ice bar this is a good one to get sucked into. Opium is the most popular club for Europeans and Americans, they often have famous DJ’s and artists playing so check their website in advance to purchase a discounted ticket for those special nights. Opium doesn’t open until 11 so kill some time in some of the other great bars by the water and fully enjoy the Barcelona lifestyle. With all the time you’re going to save by not sitting in the sand, you can see one of Barcelona’s other historical sight or kill some time in its famous shopping district, Las Ramblas!



Splurge Vs Save: Barcelona




Ryan Haar

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I'm a Sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill studying/traveling/playing around Europe all summer! I'm a journalism major with a passion for all things British, art, and edible.

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