Jackie DesForges is a lifelong dedicated travel lover and a Rail Europe Travel Consultant from our Chicago office. On her off time, Jackie goes on exciting travel adventures. We were lucky to have Jackie approach us to write about using our products in exchange for passes and city cards. We are thrilled to contribute to Jackie’s love of travel and to read about her experiences. In this blog series, Jackie used the Global Pass, 15 days in 2 months flexi, Barcelona Card, Lisbon Card, Malaga Hop On, Hop Off Sightseeing Tour and Sevilla Card. If you happen to call our contact center and get Jackie, make sure to mention that you read her blog series!
Do you ever get tired of seeing art museums, famous statues, or Gothic church altars when you’re traveling? Me either. However, on my recent trip to Barcelona, Spain, I decided to branch out anyway and try a few different types of sightseeing activities, just to see what would happen.
Enter my new best friend: The Barcelona Card. This card is great if you don’t really know what you want to do in the city, if you don’t have that much money to spend on sightseeing, and if you want to make getting around as easy as possible.
The card comes with a little information booklet and a map, both of which are lifesavers. The booklet describes each attraction available with the card– how to get there, when it’s open, what the highlights are, you name it. After a few tapas and several readings of this booklet, I bid the museums a reluctant farewell and set off to explore Barcelona off the beaten path offerings with this city pass.
I had never been to a bar made entirely of ice, so I decided that this needed a top spot on my list. After about 20 minutes inside the bar, I decided that my experience could be summed up in two words: awesome and freezing. I went to the bar at about seven in the evening, so I was one of the only patrons – I hear it can get quite busy later at night. When you arrive, you pay the cover charge to enter the bar (the Barcelona Card got me 15% off this price), which includes one drink, a massive coat, and a pair of gloves. The ice bar is, obviously, entirely constructed of ice – your drink will be served in a glass made of ice, you can sit and enjoy your drink on a bench made of ice (and covered in what appeared to be faux animal hides), and then once your fingers lose all feeling, you can set your drink down on a table made of ice. The bar’s décor includes ice sculptures designed by various Spanish artists as well as a movie screen that plays clips of penguins doing adorable things over and over again. Definitely an unusual experience, and definitely one I would repeat – but next time I will probably wear actual pants instead of tights and a dress.
Aqua Urban Spa
The card offers discounts for various recreational or leisure activities; one of these applies to a session at the Aqua Urban Spa. I had never been to a spa before, and Barcelona was the last stop on my month-long journey, so my travel-weary limbs were in the mood for some pampering. Show the card when you make an appointment and you will be eligible for a special sampler of the different services offered at the spa. The woman helping me was probably the nicest person I have ever met – I explained that I was traveling and had never been to a spa before, and she very patiently helped me through each step of the process. There were two saunas, and after a brief session in each I was taken to a shower complete with orange-scented water. After the shower it was on to a Roman style bath, decorated with pretty frescoes along the walls that I admired while I was experiencing several different forms of jets and water pressures. My session was finished with a few moments of relaxation on a tiled bench that heated up (a lot), accompanied by a glass of fresh juice to get me ready for the real world again.
Museu del Modernisme Catala
Ok, fine, so I went to one museum. I couldn’t help myself. I was granted free entry to this museum with the Barcelona Card, so how could I resist? The museum features furniture and accessories from the Catalan Art Nouveau period (including works by Barcelona’s most famous artist, Antoni Gaudi). If you are unfamiliar with the style, I’ll just say that it basically consists of the most ornate, elaborate, gorgeous pieces of furniture you could ever imagine. Everything is almost unfairly pretty. And this period of art history is the most significant to come from this region of Spain, so a trip to this museum will guarantee an experience unique to the region. There are also several stained glass works and oil paintings on display, ensuring a little something for everyone no matter your artistic tastes.
Mirador de Colom (Columbus Monument)
Most of the popular cities in Europe have a giant structure that visitors can climb to get wonderful views of the whole city – the Mirador de Colom is Barcelona’s contribution to this tradition. The card will grant you free access to the top of this column, so you’ll only need to pay for the extra SIM card to hold all the pictures you’ll inevitably take, or all of the therapy sessions you’ll need after your trip if you are scared of heights like I am. I would recommend starting out with this site or saving it for the end – there’s nothing like seeing everything laid out in front of you, waiting to be discovered, but there’s also no feeling like looking out on a city after days of exploring and feeling like you can already point everything out as well as a local could.
It seems almost impossible to take advantage of every single discount the Barcelona Card offers – there are so many, and they cover absolutely every aspect of a complete trip: museums, parks, leisure activities (there is even a discount for zip-lining, and I am kicking myself for not doing that), restaurants, shops, walking tours, bicycle rentals, the zoo, flamenco shows – basically, if you can think of it, it’s probably listed in that information booklet.
And don’t forget the public transportation! You can travel on any bus, any metro, any tram completely free of charge with the Barcelona Card. One of the best and cheapest ways to see a new city is to pick a bus, hop on it, and ride around until you see somewhere you’d like to stop.
It was difficult to say goodbye to the Barcelona Card after our two days of frolicking together, and even more difficult to say goodbye to Barcelona itself. Now that I know how to take full advantage of these city cards when I’m traveling, I want to keep the momentum going. On to the next city and the next city card!
For further reading about city cards, check out this great guest post from Nomadic Matt: Top 7 Tips for Cheap European Travel