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How To See Barcelona on a 20-Something Budget

We had an amazing time in Barcelona. The city has a vibrant nightlife, which suits us quite well, and no shortage of sights to see and things to do during the day.

How to See Barcelona on a 20-Something Budget

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Miles of candy in Mercat de la Boqueria.

Three Things You Must do in Barcelona:

  1. Mercat de la Boqueria: Everywhere you turn in this market your eyes will be accosted by splashes of different colours and distractions. I am all about a good market and this one did not disappoint. My taste buds were screaming with satisfaction the entire time we spent here. The market is also located along La Rambla, which is a great shopping street. You could make a day of it.
  2. Have shots at Espit Chupitos: With 700 to choose from and only costing 2 euro a piece, this can make for a spectacular night. More on this place down below.
  3. Waterfront: Barcelona has a great beach. Along the sand people make different sand sculptures. They do expect a tip if they catch you trying to take a photograph.

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There were a lot of different sand sculptures along the beach!

You may be surprised not to see La Sagrada Familia on my list. We did not actually go inside and were underwhelmed by the outside. I mean, it was nice, but it just didn’t do anything for us. The construction really took away the impact for us.

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Construction makes us sad.

We did make an appearance at Park Guell but we only scoped out some of the free portion and didn’t spend much time wandering through.

Nightlife in Barcelona

  • I just cannot say enough about Espit Chupitos. This is the best shots bar that I have ever been too, they have 700 to choose from. The first time we went, Jess and I teamed up with two other people from our hostel in an attempt to sample the most shots. We each bought rounds of different things. Harry Potter shots are lit on fire and served with an orange. Willy Wonka shots are served with whipped cream and chocolate. Pulp Fiction shots are essentially death in a tiny glass. Tutti Frutti is a sweet break from the other options. After this night of bonding, we hope to see these friends again when we visit Chicago this summer. Strategize to sample as many as you can! You’re in Europe, enjoy it! This is one of the many times in our friendship that Jess and I have noticed that we always drink harder than everyone we are with. But, we have the most fun.

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The names of all the different shots are listed on chalkboards at the back.

  • We went to Sutton twice and both nights that we went they played hip-hop. I love a good hip-hop night.  In Spain, the party starts late. If you go to the club before 1:30 am- 2:00 am (which is last call where I’m from), you may be the only people in the club. Try to get there late. I recommend napping before going. And pre-drinking because club drinks are pricey.
  • Another place we checked out was Opium. The security at this beach club is very strict, the guy in front of us was not allowed in because he was wearing pink shoes and another guy had to remove his earrings. That being said, creepy guys will always find their way in. Stand your ground. You don’t have to dance with anyone that you do not want to. I am no stranger to inviting guys to get away from my friends and myself.

Places to Eat:

Ramen-Ya Hiro: Every single time we walked by this ramen place there was a massive line. People start lining up 45 minutes before the place even opens. Naturally, we needed to know what the fuss was all about. The food was delectable. I never knew ramen could taste so good! In light of the long line, I asked the waiter if we could order a glass of wine to drink will we waited outside. He happily obliged us. Fun Fact: I tried edamame for the first time without knowing that it is essentially a green bean and you only eat the insides.

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This ramen was seriously so amazing! Worth a line.

Mercat de la Boqueria: I’m always a proponent of a good market. You can find every single type of food you could possibly want here. It is almost impossible to even make a decision. Don’t be hasty; wander the whole market before deciding. There is flavour and temptation around every corner.

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So many tantalizing options.

Pizza del Born: Located more centrally, this place makes a mouthwatering pizza. We needed this to recover after visiting Espit Chupitos.

Getting Around in Barcelona

Barcelona has a good metro system. Jess and I shared one metro card, as they don’t track who is using it. If you only need to go for a few stops through the city, this could be a wise idea for yourself and your travel mate. We were able to take the metro to a bus stop and a bus to the airport for only 6 euro.

Otherwise, we walked through the city.

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Yeah Barcelona Hostel

We stayed at Yeah Hostel, which was part of a larger chain of hostels throughout Spain and Portugal. Honestly, I loved this chain. The beds are massive with individual charging stations; there is plenty of space to lock up your things. The showers were great. The only thing that I didn’t love was the lighting. The rooms have terrible lighting. These hostels all offer a 15 euro pub-crawl which gives you open bar in the hostel for beer and sangria, followed by one bar, where you are meant to get drunk for cheap, and then head off to a larger club.

What You Must Do in Lagos, Portugal

I am officially obsessed with Lagos. From the quaint old town with a mix of bars, restaurants, and shops to the stunning beaches I fell in love. Don’t confuse this with Lagos, Nigeria. Lagos, the love of my life, is in Portugal. All of the photos here are from the cliff walk I mention later on in the post. Read on for what you must do in Lagos, Portugal.

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We stayed at an adorable hostel JJ’s Yard. This is family owned by a young couple that has two locations and lives in between them. They are readily available to help give guidance and stop by every morning to check up on their guests and chat with them about life. The place feels so homey. At night, they take you on pub-crawls throughout the old town. I’ve never felt so cared about by a hostel or hotel for that matter. They truly go above and beyond to ensure you enjoy yourself.

What You Must Do in Lagos, Portugal

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Lagos is full of beaches; it would be a shame for you to not check some out on your stay here. For 25 euro there are boat rides through the coastal grottos. The boatman can be located next to the fortress along the coast.

Another alternative is to do a cliff walk. Actually, it’s not an alternative, it’s a must do. Walk to the fortress and when standing directly in front of the fortress you would head to the fortress’s right. This will take you towards the cliffs and lighthouse. While doing the cliff walk you will get sensational views of the beaches and cliffs. Wear sunscreen though! We got sunburned on our three-hour walk. There trails aren’t always obvious but always try to keep to the left as much as possible. Eventually, you will reach a restaurant called Antonios where we stopped for ciders but they also offer delicious octopus rice.

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Nightlife in Lagos

No list of what to do in Lagos would be complete without nightlife. One of the things that surprised me about Portugal is its vibrant nightlife. I discuss the nightlife of Lisbon here. In Lagos, all the bars are tightly packed together in the old town, which means that our hostel was in close range. We visited Three Monkeys that offers battleshots and beer bongs. This bar was packed the night that we went.

On our second night, we hit up The Tavern. The shots in this bar are insane! They have something called “Walk the Plank” which costs 25 euro (at time of writing) to participate in unless you beat the record time. In order to win, you have to do the six shots (not all are very nice) in less than the record time. When we got to the bar the record was 7.2 seconds; however, this was beat that night and became 6 seconds. I don’t even think I could swallow six times in six seconds. They offer beer bongs and keep a record of the countries that have done it. Naturally, I took one for Canada.

Finally, many of the bars close at 2 am. So at 2 am head on over to Inside Out which stays open until 4 am and keep going. As it is the only place still open, it gets PACKED and quickly too. The Black Cat is where all the locals congregate if you are in for more of authentic experience. Plus, you can drink in the streets here.

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Food In Lagos

We ate breakfast at Café Odeon on both days that we were there. For 3 euro you can get an English breakfast that is quite tasty. Café Odeon is very tiny and non-descript but offers delectable breakfast.

The Green Room serves zestful Mexican food. We had dinner here that included burritos, fish tacos and jalapeno poppers. We now know that authentic jalapeno poppers are made of battered jalapenos and our mouths will beg us to be a bit gentler next time.

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Yum, fish tacos.

Another place we ate was Churrasqueira “Praca d Armas” which served excellent half chicken and fries for 6 euros.

Antonio’s Restaurant is located quite far away from the old town; however, the meal with a view is well worth it. Or in our case, ciders with a view.

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Ciders with a view at Antonios.

On the night of our bar hopping, we finished by getting donairs/kebabs from Paradise Doner Kebab. A local recommended that I get durum which is essentially a Canadian donair. Jess got a doner. Both were simply amazing and highly recommended.

In addition, Bondi Café offers Portuguese tarts that are divine.

 

I cannot recommend a trip to Lagos more. I would love to come back here just for a week of relaxation.

What to do in Lisbon, Portugal

If you’re wondering what to do in Lisbon, Portugal then something that I recommend is appreciating the architecture. Often referred to as the San Francisco of Europe, Lisbon definitely carries a similar charm with its own European flair. The yellow streetcars creak their way through winding, narrow streets. Many of the buildings are shades of white, making the distinctive yellow of the streetcars stand out against them. However, one of my favourite things about Lisbon is that in amongst the white buildings tiled with brown roofs are the random smatterings of brightly coloured buildings. This character feature adds to the thrill of turning the next corner. In comparison to San Fransisco, I find that Lisbon has a much more relaxed atmosphere.

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I love these splashes of colour.

Another lovely feature of the buildings in Lisbon is the Azulejo tiles on many buildings. These are an Iberian art form and absolutely beautiful. They come in a variety of colours and add so much character to the buildings. They help with temperature control and are easy to clean. Lisbon hosts a San Fransisco-esque bridge which leads towards the interior of Portugal and the large statue of Jesus paying homage to the one in Brazil.

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The trademark number 28 tramcar on a sunny street.

What To Do In Lisbon, Portugal

The São Jorge Castle or Castelo de São Jorge offers stunning views of the city. For students, it is 5 euros or 8.50 otherwise. As always, I brought my outdated student ID and got in at the lower price. The guidebooks tell you to check out the castle, as may gut instinct upon arriving and seeing such a distinctive piece of architecture. But the locals will tell you that there are numerous free miraduoros (viewpoints) around the city. In the end, whichever you choose is up to you. Keep in mind that aside from the view there isn’t terribly much up at the castle.

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The bridge with Big Jesus in the distance.

Another one of the main sights to see in Lisbon is the Praça do Comércio Square that can be found along the Tagus River. Locals refer to this as the Square of the Palace. However, the actual palace was destroyed during an earthquake in 1755. Currently, a variety of restaurants now border the square. From the square you will notice an arch that was created during the rebuilding of Lisbon after the earthquake. Beyond the arch are many cafes, restaurants and tourist shops. In essence, this is a great tourist area of Lisbon.

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Just beyond this arch are tons of sunny cafes and restaurants.

While traveling through Lisbon keep an eye out for the word “miraduoro.” This will be a viewpoint.

Tourist Traps

You may have heard of the Santa Justa lift also called the Carmo Lift. This is the only remaining vertical lift in the city. Skip it. No locals from Lisbon ride this elevator, as it isn’t worth it. The lift costs 5 euro and after waiting in a long, long line you’ll find that it doesn’t even go to the top!! To add insult to injury, you can reach the same level of the elevator by walking FOR FREE.

To avoid this typical tourist trap first head to the Museu Arqueológico Do Carmo. Second, when standing in front of this building, head around the corner to the right. This will bring you up some stairs, which are in line with the top of the elevator. This isn’t even the best view of the city as it is blocked by metal fencing. Fun Fact: the Museu Arqueológico Do Carmo is one of the few buildings that withstood the earthquake of 1755. It has been preserved in the same state to show future generations just how devastating the quake was.

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The view from the castle.

In the same way, a second tourist trap to avoid is the elevators or funiculars that will take you up larger hills. I only recommend making use of them if you are unable to walk a steep hill. Locals used to use these; however, once tourists noticed them the prices more than doubled. For 3.60 euro you can essentially be transported up a hill. These cars are yellow and similar in colour to the tramcars but don’t confuse them. An example of one of these elevators can be found across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe. Anything near such an iconic tourist restaurant is definitely overpriced and for unsuspecting tourists only.

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The Calcada da Gloria street, located across from the Hard Rock Cafe. If you look closely you can see the lift.

 

Authentic Drinks and Food of Portugal

An alternative viewpoint to the Santa Justa lift is located up the hill across the street from the Hard Rock Cafe. Once you reach the top of the tram elevator turn right and walk up the hill. There is an area that will give an excellent view of the city as well as the São Jorge Castle. On the day we stopped there was a market set up. This gave us an opportunity to sample the traditional Portuguese alcohol Ginjinha or Ginja, which is made from sour cherries. It is fairly strong and served in a chocolate shot glass. I liked it but Jess doesn’t like cherries.

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The viewpoint from the above mentioned location.

Another drink we tried that is unique to Portugal is vinho verde. This is a green wine; however, it doesn’t look that green. It has a bit of an acidic taste and must be served very cold. It will get you drunk and is a must try for any wine connoisseur.
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Ginja served in chocolate cups.

Before you leave visit Time Out Market. This place has all of the foods you could imagine and is packed. We each ordered two different dishes and shared them. This is an excellent way of sampling Portuguese foods. As a result of sharing, we managed to try octopus rice and peri-peri chicken. It was mouthwateringly delicious. The market is packed and provides so many food options it was a struggle to choose just two. Make sure to do a  full lap around before letting your stomach decide.

Lastly, sample some Portuguese tarts. They are divine.

Nightlife in Lisbon

Unexpectedly, Lisbon has an excellent nightlife. The Bairro Alto area contains tons of different bars perfect for bar hopping.  The whole area is a grid and some buildings contain helpful maps on the outside. The Atalia Street is busiest because it has the cheapest bars. The Portuguese music Fado can be heard in some of the bars in the area. We didn’t get a chance to hear it but I’m told it is very emotion inducing.

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Throughout the area we noticed maps painted on the sides of buildings to help guide your drunken self.

Here are some recommended bars in the area: 

http://www.welovelisbon.net/articles/lisbons-best-rooftop-bars

http://www.10best.com/destinations/portugal/lisbon/nightlife/bairro-alto-principe-reals-best-bars/

 

Finally, while in Portugal, exercise normal security precautions. This includes keeping your bag in front of you and being aware of your belongings to avoid pickpockets. Do this especially inside the tram cars where you may may find yourself pressed between strangers.

Where to Find Cheap Paella in Valencia

What is Paella?

To be honest, we mainly came to Valencia as it is the place where the traditional Spanish rice dish, paella, first scorched the bottom of its trademark round, flat-bottom pan. Paella comes in multiple varieties including seafood (mariscos), meat paella (carne or pollo if it’s chicken), or mixed (seafood and meat combination). This is to just name a few of the common ones I’ve encountered while in Spain. No matter which variety you choose, your taste buds will rejoice with delight. Read on to find some of the cheap paella in Valencia that didn’t sacrifice their flavour.

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Pan seared from Mercaders, a sign of freshly prepared paella

Although waiting can be a challenge, especially when you’re starving from waiting for Spanish dinnertime, when it comes to paella waiting is a good sign. Some places will pre-cook their paella and re-heat it upon ordering. You don’t want that. True paella is made on the spot and can take upwards of a half an hour. Be patient, the time difference is worth it.

Some of the top-notch, expensive places require you to order 24 hours in advance because the process behind fresh paella can take so long. Freshly cooked paella will cling to the bottom of the pan, scraping these bits should give a burst of burnt taste.

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Ready made paella in the windows.

If you’re okay with not having freshly made paella, you can find a variety of cheap places such as TAPAS PAELLAS Y MENUS located just behind the Mercado Central. As you can see, they have massive pans of palatable paella in their windows. To be fair, they still looked tasty and were prices at 10 euros or less making it excellent for the less picky budget traveller or for those daunted by the long waits.

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A must do in Valencia, Mercado Central

Another Must Do In Valencia

As an aside, you simply must check out Mercado Central, the building was constructed in 1928 and not only is the building surprisingly stunning, the inside is alive with energy and sights to see. Definitely give it a walk through even if you don’t buy anything. Not that we avoided buying anything. The market has a smorgasbord of everything from pastries and candy to fish and ham. We had a divine market breakfast. It was so good, that we returned to the market to purchase snacks for our train to Barcelona. The empanadas were too enticing to resist.

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No one will blame you for getting one of everything. So tempting.

Cheap Paella In Valencia Without Sacrificing Authenticity

For dinner, we stopped by La Roche, which was a very cute restaurant nearby the market. We had Valenciana paella, which contained rabbit, chicken and veggies. Coming at 12 euro each this place was both savory and affordable. The massive pan of paella took about 45 minutes to freshly cook. We were a little wary of eating rabbit and ultimately our forks dodged passed what we suspected were rabbit bits. Either way, we found La Roche to be scrumptious and eyed down every dish that passed our table. It all looked delish.

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Valenciana paella at La Roche

Lastly, we stopped by Mercaders located just off the market, where we had seafood paella (mariscos). It took about 30 minutes and the bottom of the pan was seared, leading us to believe the paella was made fresh. At 13.50 euro each, this was our most expensive paella experience. However, the sight of that large pan was mouthwatering and we happily devoured it anyway.

They also offer a menu del dia, which includes seafood paella as an appetizer plus the standard main course and dessert for ten euros. We skipped this, as we wanted to maximize our paella experience. For those who just want to maximize their lunch experience, this is another viable option. I drank their agua de Valencia that contains vodka, gin and orange juice while managing to taste just like orange juice. They claim to have the best cuban mojito in the city; Jess even goes as far to say the best mojito of her life.

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Appetizing paella mariscos. 

Final Words

Overall, there were plenty of places with delectable paella for less than 15 euro a person. I wish I could have sampled them all but alas there is never enough time. Valencia is home to paella making it hard to go wrong. Even if you don’t make it to Valencia, do not leave Spain without having paella somewhere.

 

What is your favourite kind of paella and where do you get it?