While Madrid was full of dining out and cultural sights, my stay in Barcelona was much more low-key, focused on the beach and keeping a bottle of cava (Spanish champagne) within reach. I’m not a very big party girl (anymore… in college I may have basically had a bar stool at my favorite dive permanently reserved but that’s another story), and don’t frequent clubs in the U.S., but when in Barcelona, do as the Cataláns do… One favorite example of going outside my comfort zone in Barcelona was buying last-minute tickets to the Sónar Music Festival – a huge EDM festival held annually in the coolest locations throughout Barcelona.
If you’ve been following along with my Europe journey from the beginning, you’ll notice I didn’t pack a white crop top or denim shorts. (See my whole packing list here!) Since the festival was a last-minute decision, I went shopping and picked up the top and shorts for under €50 at local stores (the shorts are now one of my favorite wardrobe items, from a company called Pull & Bear). Anyways, back to the festival.
Sónar is a huge 3-day festival that takes place in Barcelona every year. People come from all over Europe and the world to see EDM DJs like Skrillex, Plastikman, Duran Duran… The festival runs daytime and night sessions and in the past has been held right on Barcelonetta beach (the beach right next to the city). When I went, the daytime portion was on the grounds of Castell de Montjuïc, an old military fort located in Barcelona on a very high hill. Tickets for the day portion were €60 each, bought at the door.
We decided to go to Sónar after some serious encouragement from our American friend in Barcelona for business. (He’s my dancing partner in the photo above). The daytime festival starts at noon and runs until 11pm, but we didn’t arrive until nearly 5:30pm. We spent the day drinking homemade tinto veranos on the Barcelonetta beach, walked partway through the city drinking what I deemed “Barca Beer” (cold cans of beer bought for €1 each from a homeless man on the street) and took a cab to the Castle grounds. I haven’t been to an outdoor EDM festival in the States, so I don’t have much to compare this to, but it was such a fun experience. They sold beer and there was constant music and dancing, so I was a happy lady.
Evenings in Barcelona were spent at beach-side clubs, drinking beer and witnessing participants in the 2014 Gumball 3000 rally burn €50 bills for fun in VIP. We frequented CDLC (Carpe Diem Lounge and Club) next to another popular club, Opium. They both sit right on the beach, with open air back decks. I’m much more of a relaxed beach bar type of person in my daily life, but it was exciting to go clubbing in a country that really knows how to party. Half the fun of an international adventure is doing things outside your normal comfort zone.
Here’s a map of key locations throughout Barcelona from my trip:
As you can see, Barcelona is more spread out than Madrid was. We ended up buying subway tickets, which was a great way to get around.
A T-10 ticket buys you 10 trips on the subway, and the ticket can be used by more than one person. The two of us splitting a T-10 ticket meant we each rode 5 times. The metro is relatively easy to figure out (slightly larger than DC’s metro but not as complex as NYCs) and it was clean and safe. This method of transportation was the best bet for getting around the city when walking was just too far, and cabs (hailed like in DC or NYC) filled in when we really needed to get somewhere soon.
Oh, and as promised, great late-night food in Barcelona is only a few blocks down the beach from the bars (marked by the tiny blue circle in the map above). It’s right on the marina, behind the McDonald’s located on Moll de Mestral. Trust me on this one. This area of the marina is two-tiered, with a ramp walkway from the main street down to the docks. Take the ramp, find the McDonalds, and eat kabob burritos from Divan. I feel so strongly about this place, I’m even screen-capping the Google Street View so you’ll know it when you see it. It’s cheap and delicious, and the employees are the most friendly.
It’s safe to say Barcelona was the party part of my Euro-trip, but something about a city on the sea made it the perfect atmosphere to just let loose and enjoy. Plus, I think they’re on to something with the whole homeless-men-selling-cold-beer idea.