Why Barcelona is a Metropolitan Paradise for Digital Nomads
Many travel destinations like Barcelona, Venice and Dubrovnik are being badly hit by mass tourism, so much so that local residents are torn between moving away or staging a violent protest, and some are saying that governments should intervene. Worldwide tourism as a whole is booming thanks to the rise of Instagram influencers (among other contributing factors, of course), even in regions such as France and the United Kingdom (despite a string of terror attacks), although it's mostly eye-candy destinations such as Venice, Barcelona and cruise-ship stops like Dubrovnik.
Disclaimer: Barcelona was my first ever digital nomad destination over 5 years ago, so most of my photos have been lost. The images here are from Creative Market.
I've never been to Dubrovnik (as much as I'd love to, as a Game of Thrones fan 🐺), but I've been to Venice, Italy three times now and it's f****** beautiful. Downsides? f****** tourists…everywhere. I can understand why locals have simply had enough. I've never really enjoyed the stunning view of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge, because after 15 minutes of awkward shuffling around and waiting for huge tour groups to f*** right off, the moment loses its authenticity. Okay, rant over.
Barcelona in Spain is another one of those destinations, for so many reasons: it has the best beach in Europe, the beach zoo in Europe, WILD PARAKEETS, excellent shopping opportunities, super-tasty food (hmmm…paella… 🥘), and awesome/quirky world-famous architecture. It's a bustling city combined with an excellent beach and even hiking opportunities when you need to escape into the wild. It's a digital nomad dream, a metropolitan paradise. But…have the bloody tourists ruined it for us?
Not necessarily, no. You can visit off-season, you can "lay-low", and you can eat at less-touristy restaurants that are probably much better anyway, and could really benefit from your custom. Not sold yet? Okay, here's what I loved about Barcelona!
Beach, City, Nature
Living in Barcelona offers a lovely balance of city life, beach life, and the option to escape to semi-wilderness when you need it. Transport is fantastic, so you can hop on the metro from an early morning walk along Barceloneta beach (or through the Parc de la Ciutadella), to an afternoon hike up Mount Tibidabo, and be back in Las Ramblas at night to shop at world's most sought-after clothing brands.
Okay, shopping isn't really for me, but antipasti? Yas, pls!
Barceloneta Beach (+ Zoo/Aquarium!)
Barcelona has the best beach in Europe, I think I read that somewhere? I'm not sure what qualifies it as the best beach (and I've certainly not been to them all), but with its range of strange sculptures, tasty restaurants, glistening sands and the fact that it has both a zoo and an aquarium, certainly doesn't make me question this claim.
Now say what you want about zoos, but there are some that do a tonne of conservation work outside of the zoo itself, and lets be fair, a lot of animals wouldn't stand a chance out there in the wild. Compared to other zoos that I've been too, this one is of high-standard. It's huge, there's a vast range of beautiful animals that appear to be extremely happy, a number of baby animals, and of course Barcelona Zoo was the home of Snowflake the albino Gorilla before his death (years ago now).
Would definitely recommend (and the aquarium!).
Parc de la Ciutadella
Barcelona Zoo is inside the Parc de la Ciutadella, which is actually rather magnificent. If stunning fountain-waterfalls are not your thing (I'm being silly, of course they're your thing), then a quiet stroll around the lake will definitely take your fancy. Watch out for the dangerously cute Turtles though!
Barcelona Park is also the easiest spot to the Parakeets!
Shopping and Nightlife
Like I said, I'm not much of a shopper, but if that's your thing then there are endless amounts of luxury brands, and one thing that really stood out for me is that the interiors of these stores are very high-end. I knew Barcelona is known for its quirky architecture, but this was a nice surprise. If you're not into labels like me, then you might enjoy some fruit or chocolate from the famous La Boqueria Market. Nothing beats a quick break from blogging or designing (or whatever you do as a digital nomad) than a delicious snack and a sunny afternoon adventure with your backpack.
Las Ramblas is busy day and night—there's an abundance of culture, shops and delicious Catalan cuisine to keep you satisfied. Quick tip: stay away from tourist traps, where they'll serve you microwaved paella and incredibly overpriced drinks.
Always do your research. Check out TripAdvisor for restaurant recommendations first, and here's one called Bacoa Burger that I can personally recommend.
I actually have a photo for this one!
Hiking Mount Tibidabo
When you really need to escape the city, immersing yourself in endless nature by hiking Mount Tibidabo is something you simply must, must do. It's not an especially hard climb, but it can take around 4 hours on average, and when you finally do reach the top (assuming you didn't meet any Wild Boars), there's a fairground at the top and some relatively inexpensive café stands to eat at while you stand at the highest altitude in Barcelona, overlooking this magnificent metropolitan heaven.
But…what cultured tourists really come for, is the Sagrat Cor Church. In the Holy Bible, the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Mount Tibidabo (which sits on top of the church) is described as where Jesus was first tempted by the devil. I'm not a religious man but I found this incredibly interesting. Plus, the church is free, however you must be quiet and respectful because locals pray there. If it looks busy, have a coffee first.
Majority of the sculpture and architectural work was undertaken by Gaudi, but that's all I can tell you. I'm not going to lie, I'm usually too lazy to do historical research!
You'll want to see the Sagrada Familia, which is in the western-center of the city (and there's a surprisingly affordable hotel near there called the Sagrada Familia Hotel). Construction began in 1882 with the architect Francisco Paula de Villar, but after he resigned, Gaudi took over and the bascilica is still not complete. Because of this, the architecture is a strange mix of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles.
Parc Guell is another Gaudi masterpiece you'll not want to miss. It's stunning, and that's all my ignorant mind can tell you. He designed the "Gingerbread House" there.
Co-Working and Rent Prices
I'm really not into co-working spaces (I'm way too introverted for that), but I hear there are many fantastic ones. My Airbnb apartment was £500 for the month, although this was on the edge of Barcelona in a region called L'Hospitalet de Llobregat. Despite this, it's a very short metro ride into the city (10 minutes on the red line I believe), should you want to cut costs but still be near everything.
Should I Visit Barcelona?
Yes! But respect the locals, because it's their home.
It's true, mass tourism can be very damaging to the city infrastructure (and horrendous for the local residents), but if we travel off-season as many digital nomads already do, tourism can help bring in a lot of money. Definitely do it!
I stayed in Daniel's apartment in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, here's an Airbnb voucher.