A huge part of studying abroad is the access and ability to travel to many different places on the weekends…but because of the pandemic, it has been much more difficult to travel this semester. The province of Catalonia has restricted travel on and off to remain just in the district you live in, so in my case, I was often not allowed to leave the city of Barcelona.

Though it was unfortunate that I often couldn’t travel to other places, it really gave me the perfect opportunity to explore all parts of Barcelona! Some of the places I’ve visited I probably would have never decided to go to on my own. 

But as the number of COVID cases decreased, Catalonia opened travel within the province and I even managed to slip in a few weekend trips! Barcelona SAE also took us on an abundance of excursions that have truly enhanced my experience abroad.

HERE ARE SOME OF MY HIGHLIGHTS:

Montjuic

The first week we arrived, we all took a hike up to Montjuic – I even recorded our walk and it said we hiked 10.2 miles!

Montjuic is a more scenic part of Barcelona. It is filled with tons of parks, gardens, fountains, restaurants, and even the olympic stadiums!

Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992 and built huge stadiums, pools, and arenas that you can now go and visit. One of the places we visited was the old Castle of Montjuic, and from the top, you can see the entire city of Barcelona as well as the port and even the Mediterranean!

For lunch, some friends and I found this amazing restaurant that looked over the side of the hill overlooking the entire city…but we soon came to find out that we were eating at a Michelin restaurant! Let’s just say we ate some pan con tomate and called it a day.

Montjuic is one of my favorite places to hangout with friends. A lot of locals like to hangout in the parks, especially in the afternoon…and I mean, who doesn’t like to have a picnic with a view?!

Tibidabo

One of the coolest things about Barcelona is that it has all types of landscapes.

You have the city, the beach, AND the mountains!

I swear, part of the day I will be laying out on the beach and then a 25 minute Metro ride later I find myself at the top of a mountain overlooking the entire city! 

Another day trip Barcelona SAE took us on was a hike up to Tibidabo, and we hiked about 5 miles up to the very top where we got to visit the church.

It was a little rainy that day, but you can take a trip up to the top of the church which is said to have one of the best views of Barcelona and is still on my list of things to do before I leave!

Since that first trip, my friends and I have hiked up Tibidabo a few more times. I still think it’s SO cool that I live in a huge city that also has mountains where I can go hiking every now and then. 

La Pedrera

Barcelona is known for many things, but one big part of the city is its unique architecture.

This is due to the famous architect, Antoni Gaudí.

One of his most famous buildings is Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, which is still under construction.

It was anticipated that the building would be completed by 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death, but this has now been delayed due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Gaudí’s architecture is seen everywhere in Barcelona – even the tiles that line the sidewalks are designed by him! There are so many buildings and parks that have Gaudí written all over them, and his eccentric style is easily identifiable and something that sets Barcelona apart from any other city.

One of Gaudí’s most famous houses is the La Pedrera house. One day trip we took was to see a tour of the inside of his house…and the inside is just as amazing if not more intricate than the outside.

Hospital de Sant Pau

A few weeks ago, we got the opportunity to tour the old Hospital de Sant Pau.

This was by far the coolest, architecturally unique hospitals I have ever seen in my life! Not only is it 9 city blocks wide, but it is full of different wards and buildings with details and designs like no other hospital.

The hospital is no longer used as a working hospital but it was used for almost 100 years, and there are many buildings that make up the hospital specific to gender and discipline of medicine.

What’s super cool about the setup of the hospital is that all the buildings are connected via underground tunnels. The doctors and nurses could transfer patients building to building without even having to step foot outside! This was definitely one of my favorite tours I took…especially as an aspiring nurse!

Girona

Girona has been one of my most favorite places I’ve traveled in Catalonia, and it definitely is a hidden gem that I think is well worth the visit!

Girona is most commonly known for where the show Game of the Thrones was filmed…and especially in the old part of town, it truly feels like you are on set living in the show itself!

The ancient buildings, gorgeous architecture, tall trees and mountains make you feel like you live in the medieval time period.

Some friends and I stayed in an Airbnb that overlooked the Girona river that runs right through the center of the city. From our balcony, you could see the array of colored buildings lining the river.

The people in Girona are so friendly. The town for the most part is very quiet and quaint. There were times when I was walking around and not one other person was in sight. It felt like I had the entire city to myself, and I know I have COVID to thank for that. 

Palamos – Costa Brava

Costa Brava is known for having some of the most amazing beach towns in all of Spain. When the travel ban was lifted and we were allowed to travel around Catalonia, my friends and I stayed 2 days in the city of Palamos.

Palamos is definitely one of the windiest cities i’ve ever been to – yes, it even beats Chicago! The locals say it’s typically always windy because of the beach.

Palamos is known for its amazing seafood and beautiful views. Our apartment looked out to the beach and we got to watch the sunset over the mountains and Mediterranean. 

Tarragona

A few weeks ago, Barcelona SAE took all of us students on a weekend trip to a nearby city called Tarragona.

Tarragona is an ancient city known for its abundance fo Roman remains and history. It is about an hour and a half south of Barcelona and is located right on the Mediterranean.

One of the coolest things we saw in Tarragona was the old amphitheater. It’s the second largest next to the Colosseum in Rome. Tarragona is also filled with beautiful golden beaches.

Sitges

Sitges is a cute little beach town located about 30 minutes outside of Barcelona, and is right on the other side of the mountains that surround the city. Sitges is known for its amazing beaches, shops, restaurants and many LGBTQ+ bars and clubs.

When I was there, my friends and I found this hidden beach surrounded by rocks and caves. We had the whole beach to ourselves, which seriously felt like a scene from a movie!

Madelyn Schmitt

Madelyn Schmitt

Madelyn is from Illinois Wesleyan University, and studied abroad through a Customized Program in Spring 2021.

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