Vivid headgears worn by Minorities @ Sapa Market

Hong Kong

Hong Kong
Mango dessert sold in Hoi Lau San @ Yau Ma Tei


Rare glimpse of Proboscis Monkey @ Bako National Park


A Blue & White (青花) Vase displayed @ Forbidden City

Barcelona (Jul '10) - Overview

Went over the weekends with my colleagues to Barcelona from 23 Jul (Fri) to 26 Jul (Mon). Barcelona (巴塞罗那) is the capital of Catalonia and the second largest city, after Madrid, in Spain (西班牙). Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain, with the official status of a nationality. The Catalan government intends to hold a referendum on independence from Spain in 2014.

Barcelona has a rich cultural heritage and is today an important cultural centre and a major tourist destination. Particularly renowned is the architectural works of Antoni Gaudí, which have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Leisure trip at a glance

Country: Kingdom of Spain
Period: 23 Jul to 26 Jul 2010
Flight timings:
23 Jul: EZS 1405, GVA – BCN, ETD 1850 ETA 2015
26 Jul: EZS 1404, BCN – GVA, ETD 1705 ETA 1840

Air tickets: Return tickets at CHF 228 per person (inclusive of airport taxes)
Accommodation: Hostal Ramos
Currency exchange rate: EUR 1 = SGD 1.72 (Jul '10 period)

There is no time difference between Switzerland and Spain; both countries are in Central Europe time zone. Total damage was about SGD 450 per trip including flight tickets, accommodation, transport, and food, excluding personal expenses.

Here's the overview of the trip itinerary:

Day 1 – Evening flight EZS 1405 from Geneva to Barcelona Airport. We then took rail followed by metro to our accommodation: Hostal Ramos. After checked-in the hostal, we then had dinner at Genové 1911 restaurant along La Rambla. Had a good rest after some wash-up.

Day 2 – Bought our day tickets for Barcelona Bus Turistic at a kiosk along La Rambla. Then we had our breakfast at Pans & company. Boarded the tour bus at Catalonia Square which started our sight visits to Tibidabo, Monastery of Pedralbes, Palau Reial de Pedralbes, Barcelona Football Club, Casa Batlló, Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Casa Milà, Spanish Square, Palau Nacional, and Columbus Monument. Had dinner at Man Go restaurant along Bogatell beach. Visit the last sight: Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, then took metro to Catalonia Square for Hard Rock Café. After a tiring day, we were back to the hostel to rest.

Day 3 – Joined the Catalunya Busturistic day-tour to Montserrat and Sitges. Had dinner at El Choquito restaurant along La Rambla. Took Metro to visit Torre Agbar and then Sagrada Família. We then went back to hostel for a night's rest.

Day 4 – Bought our breakfast at Farggi, then we visited Sagrada Família. After which took metro to Gaudi Park. Rushed back to hostel to check out and boarded AeroBus at Plaça de Cataluna to Barcelona Airport. Took flight EZS 1404 back to Geneva Airport.

Geneva Airport

The Geneva International Airport is located 4-km from the Geneva City centre and has direct connections to trains, bus-lines and motorways. The most convenient advantage is a direct train from Neuchâtel can stop at the train station located below the airport. The IATA code for this airport is GVA.

Barcelona El Prat Airport

The Barcelona El Prat Airport, or Aeropuerto de Barcelona-El Prat in Spanish, is located 12-km southwest of the centre of Barcelona. Simply known as Barcelona Airport, it is the second largest in Spain behind Madrid Barajas Airport. The IATA code for this airport is BCN.

We arrived at Terminal 2 of the airport (photos below), which the terminal was designed to expand the airport before the arrival of the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992.

As we took budget airlines, thus passengers were already waiting eagerly to board the same flight back to Geneva (left photo below). A large departure / arrival hall welcomed us once we got out from the custom clearance area (right photo below). Shops such as car rental, food outlets and even souvenir shops are located inside this hall.

Several rows of check-in counters are available to EasyJet passengers (left photo below). And the boarding gate is simple yet modern for budget airlines (right photo below). Interestingly the word 'Geneva' is spelled as "Ginebra" in Spanish.


Transport Tickets

Barcelona transportation system allows visitors to buy a variety of tickets which cover all forms of transport in the city: Metro, Bus, Tram, and Train i.e. Renfe Cercanías – Local trains and Ferrocarrils – Catalan trains. The transportation system is classified into six different zones. However Zone 1 basically covers most of the city, including the airport.

  • T-10 ticket: probably this is the most commonly used transport ticket. Each of us bought a T-10 ticket at EUR 7.95 (photo below) and this ticket is sufficient for us to travel within Barcelona city for 10 trips. To maximize the ticket, the second trip will not be charged if travel again within 1 hour and 15 minutes. So the best way is to plan the amount of time spend at each sight.

  • Personal day tickets: 2, 3, 4 or 5-day tickets are valid for unlimited travel per person. Prices range about EUR 11 for 2 days to EUR 24 for 5 days unlimited travel. However these cards are only valid in the central Zone 1.

  • Barcelona cards: Complimentary free public transport depending on the 2, 3, 4 or 5-day cards purchased. This card allows free admission to many top attractions and heavy discounts on museums / city sights, leisure and entertainments. However a 2-day Barcelona card can cost EUR 33.

These tickets can be bought from the following places:
    • TMB customer service centers
    • Metro ticket offices
    • Lottery shops
    • Servicaixa
    • Metro's automatic vending machines
    • FCG railway stations
    • Newsagent's kiosks

Getting in/out of the Airport

By Rail / Metro

    The easiest way to travel out and in the airport terminal 2 is to take the Rodalies Barcelona commuter train line 2 located at the airport. The major stop of the train line is Barcelona Sants railway station, where transfer to metro can be done.

    This was where we transferred from Barcelona Sants station to Metro Green line 3 and alighted at Liceu station for our hostel. We used T-10 ticket for this transfer.

By Bus

    There is also a scheduled private bus line, known as Aerobús (left photo below) connecting Plaça Catalunya, Urgell, Plaça Universitat and Plaça d'Espanya to Airport Terminal 1 and 2. The Aerobús is differentiated into A1 and A2 lines, which departs / terminates at Airport Terminal 1 and 2 respectively. Seats were comfortable (right photo below) and best of all the air-con was cold enough to withstand the hot weather outside.

    We took Aerobús from Plaça Catalunya to Airport Teminal 2, in which the journey was about 45-mins, and this single trip cost EUR 5.05.
Barcelona Public Transport

Barcelona has an extensive network of train, metro, tram / funicular and bus operated by several companies managed by the transport authority of Barcelona.

Rodalies Barcelona

    This is the commuter rail service that serves Barcelona, and its metropolitan area and other parts of the province (photo below) since 1848. Rodalies Barcelona is made up of 15 lines which pass through major parts of the city including Barcelona El Prat Airport.

Barcelona Metro System

    Barcelona Metro, or Metro de Barcelona in Spanish, is an electrified underground railway network serving the city since 1924. Currently there are 11 lines with 166 stations making up the Metro network (photo below).

    Interestingly the access gates at the station are blocked by meter-high glass screen (left photo below). Only when the ticket is tapped at the sensor pad, the glass door would then be opened. This prevented passengers who want to jump over the gate to get a free ride.

    To maximize the underground space, most station would have the design of two independent halls, which each one leads only to one platform (right photo below).
    Metro Trains are modern and clean (left photo below), and its interior looked very much like those of Singapore MRT (right photo below).
    Sometimes access to the Metro stations is so well hidden that they cannot be easily spotted. The easiest way of identifying a Metro station is to look out for the official metro indicator, a red rhombus with a "<M>" inside. (photos below).
Barcelona Tourist Bus

    Barcelona Tourist Bus (left photo below) allows visitor to see all the sights of Barcelona from the top of a double-decker (right photo below). The Barcelona Bus Turístic is definitely a great way to discover Barcelona.
    The Bus Turistic can be got on and off as many times at any of the 44 tour stops. There are 3 different tour routes to choose from with the price of a single ticket. Also the audio-guide on the bus has 10 different languages to select with individual complimentary headphones (left photo below). We got our tickets from a Tourist Information kiosk along La Rambla at EUR 22 (right photo below).
    Do note that the first departures from any stop starts between 0900 to 0930 hours and last departures end at 1900 hours in winter or 2000 hours in summer. Frequency of the bus ranged from 5 to 25-mins depending on the season.


Hostal Ramos

We managed to book Hostal Rasmos (photos below) only few weeks before our departure. The hostel location is close to the famous shopping street, La Rambla, and Metro station Liceu in less than 100-meters.

The front desk was manned almost 24-hours. We arrived at the hostel almost 11 pm, and the front desk stuff still awake to process our check-in. The hostel seems to be a standard apartment located in an residential area; perhaps that is the reason why noises can be heard in the morning around 8 am. The neighborhood can get complicated at night with youngsters, thus guests will have to press the door bell before entering the hostel door for security reasons.

There is no facility at the hostel ground floor (left photo below). Hostel guest will have to walk up a long flight of stairs to the front desk at the 1st floor. Rooms are clean with vibrant bedspreads (right photo below), and light fixtures are well maintained. Each room is equipped with a television, safe and air conditioning.

Cost of the triple-bed room was EUR 104.34 per night without breakfast, so that was EUR 313.02 in total. This calculates to about EUR 104 per person. The hostel is located at Calle Hospital, 36, Ciutat Vella, Barcelona.

Interesting Observations

  • Besides those tourist shops, collectors can also sought the souvenirs at the Hello! kiosk along La Rambla (left photo below). These kiosks sold mainly newspapers, tobacco, lighters, and chewing gum. But only a few years ago they started selling souvenirs such as post cards, key chains and mugs, thus competing against the souvenir shops.

  • For fashion shoppers, there's Zara (right photo below) and H&M at Plaça de Cataluna. As Zara is a Spanish retailer, latest designs can be found there compared to other countries.
  • Bicycle rental seems to be profitable business in Barcelona. There was this commercial company 'bicing' (left photo below) that I saw during the Bus Turistic ride which has racks of bicycles available for rental.

  • Don't be confused with the bookstore in Singapore. Although they shared the similar brand logo, in fact this is the local bank in Catalonia (right photo below).
  • Do look out for the interesting windows of Barcelona apartments; it can be disorganized laundry lining at the balconies or neatly arranged flower pots (photos below).

Travel Tips:

Several "Tourist Information" offices are conveniently located at touristic areas of Barcelona. There's one located along La Rambla (left photo below) where we bought our Barcelona Bus Turístic tickets, while the other is located at Plaça Catalunya (right photo below). Other offices are located at Plaça Sant Jaume, Estació de Sants, Mirador de Colon, Cruise Terminals and Barcelona Airport Terminals 1 and 2.

These Tourist Information offices offer enquiries on the following:
    • Tourist Brochures
    • City Maps
    • Souvenirs
    • Tickets to Shows, Tours and other Entertainments
    • Hotel Reservations (Selected Hotels)
    • Travel Cards (Buses and Trains)
    • Timetables and Route Plans of Transport Links

Useful minicards are available at most attractions and hotels. Besides offering discounts, these information cards also provided directions and even opening hours of the place (photos below).

Useful Links:

Official Barcelona Guide

Barcelona Tourist Information

Wikitravel – Barcelona

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