Tag Archives: food

Rodrigo Paredes

Barcelona on a Budget

For most globetrotters, Spain is synonymous with low prices and its carefully cultivated reputation as a budget destination has made it a long-time magnet for bargain hunters searching for sun on a shoestring. However, away from the budget enclaves of the costa resorts and country retreats, Spain’s most prosperous and visited city can come as an unwelcome surprise to the wallets of the uninitiated. Whilst certainly better value for money than Paris, London or Rome, travellers looking to soak up some Catalan culture can expect to pay around €20 for most of the big museums. Dinner for two at a paella or tapas-style restaurant in the tourist-heavy neighbourhoods of Eixample, Raval, Sants or the Gothic Quarter will rarely cost under €50, and if you don’t know where to look you can expect similarly eye-watering prices for a round of drinks. However, you don’t need to head to the outer barrios to experience the best of Barcelona on a student budget, and this brief guide should demonstrate that there’s no need to exchange quality for affordability in the ‘City of Counts’.

Ken Hawkins

If your trip to Barcelona has an open-ended budget, you’re fine. If not, you’ll need to be a little more savvy about where you go if you want to make your cash last. (Photographer: Ken Hawkins; Flickr)

Sightseeing

If you’re coming to Barcelona to worship at the temple of Gaudi, then be prepared to pay a hefty tribute. Entrance to the world-famous Sagrada Familia church will set you back €26, whilst the Casa Mila on the city’s posh Passeig de Gracia avenue costs €22. Even the charming Park Güell, nestled in the hills to the north, will cost you €7 (N.B: you can save a couple of euros for some of these attractions by booking online in advance). Luckily there are still plenty of ways to experience the richest aspects of Barcelona’s unique and fiercely independent way of life for the price of a cup of coffee. First off, it’s worth noting that on the first Sunday of every month, many of Barcelona’s biggest museums waive their entrance fee, so if you’ve timed your visit well then you can easily cram in a week’s worth of attractions on the day and pay nothing.

Tokyographer

El Passeig de Gracia might be aesthetically very nice indeed, but it certainly isn’t cheap. Watch out for certain pockets of the city that will set you back more than you can afford. (Photographer: Tokyographer; Flickr)

If you’re more interested in learning about the history of the city and the role it has played in shaping regional and national culture, then check out the MUHBA (Museum of the History of Barcelona) Group, which operates at a range of sites across the city. If you go to one of these museums, entrance should cost you less than €5 if you’re under 29 years old and, once you’ve paid for one, your ticket will grant you free or greatly-reduced entry to any of the two dozen other museums currently managed by this organisation (they also offer reduced admission to Park Güell).

I’d recommend the City History Museum as your first port of call; housed in a medieval palace in the heart of the Gothic Quarter, it’s the best place to get a crash course in Barcelona’s turbulent history — and if you venture into the basement you can explore the original foundations of the Roman settlement, built in 15 B.C! Another honourable mention for a cheap and unforgettable museum would be the Museu Frederic Marès just around the corner. I first discovered this spot whilst taking shelter from a thunderstorm in its medieval courtyard, and was lured inside when the alcoves failed to keep me dry. This villa contains what is essentially a mad aristocrat’s collection of high art and bric-a-brac, built-up over eighty years and filling four floors of space, ranging from ancient Greek marbles to a room full of Cuban cigars — a great way to wait out a monsoon and a steal at €2.

Eating

Barcelona is one of the world’s great food cities, and while I’m often prone to just getting a sandwich from the local supermarket chain to save money when travelling, it just doesn’t feel right to miss out on the food scene in exchange for a soggy egg sandwich from Aldi. Before getting to the more local fare, it’s worth mentioning just how much Barcelonans love a good burger; burger bars have sprung up in waves across the city in recent years, and connoisseurs have taken advantage of this craze to bring exciting, high-quality and affordable food to the masses.

Ihourahane

Try this place if meat isn’t your thing. (Photographer: Ihourahane; Flickr)

My personal favourite without a doubt is Cat Bar, a somewhat dirty dive in the back streets of El Born which serves up the best vegan burger I’ve ever had in a city that is notoriously carnivorous. An eclectic and friendly place run by a Mancunian expat, it’s also one of the only places in Barcelona you can get craft beer, if you’re into that. Expect no-frills service from the sassy staff, and the satisfaction of coming out with change from a €10 note. Another good option if you want a guaranteed table at any time of night is one of the several branches of local superstar Bocoa Burger, which serves up juicy burgers with a Catalunyan twist and mountains of patatas bravas for similarly budget prices.

If you’ve come to Barcelona for the empanadas and paella, then your best bet for an authentic, budget version which hasn’t just come out of a microwave is probably La Boqueria indoor market, just off La Rambla. A year-round tourist trap, this place might not seem the ideal spot for a budget lunch upon first entering, where overpriced smoothies and suspiciously colourful dishes abound. However, if you penetrate a little further into the darker, more deserted corners of this gargantuan place, then you’ll find some very high quality local cuisine, at local prices. Looking for lunch here is an experience in itself, where you can watch fired-up grandmothers haggling over the price of blood sausage, next to a regiment of fisherman hauling in the latest catch of swordfish and octopus. While there are plenty of cheap markets to grab lunch, this one stands out in terms of atmosphere and variety.

Drinking

In the summer, drinking in Barcelona needn’t be an issue for the cash-strapped traveller, when a solid night out doesn’t require more than a few cervezas and a place to sit on the beach or pavement. However, this is a less attractive option in these brisk winter months, and you will be forced to go indoors and pay for your drinks at a bar. Luckily, as it is with most cities, all the best watering holes are the ones that get you loaded for peanuts, and there’s really no need to pay €14 for a watered-down cocktail at a swanky seafront bar.

Jorge Franganillo

When night falls, don’t panic that you can’t afford the bigger clubs. There’s always a way around things! (Photographer: Jorge Franganillo; Flickr)

Honourable mention goes to Betty Ford’s, a legendary queer bar in El Raval which was once the haunt of Barcelona’s BoHo arts scene, but now welcomes a mix of tourists, skaters and students as well as the old crowd. The beer is very cheap, and whilst the cocktails veer a little toward the pricey side, they don’t mess about and will happily empty half a bottle of rum into your mojito whilst jamming to the endlessly funky playlist. Another winner, and a venue that can’t be beaten on price, can be found on the corner facing Barcelona’s infamous superclub Razzmatazz. While I couldn’t figure out the name of this bar (it doesn’t seem to have one), it seems to exist entirely for the purpose of letting would-be revellers get sufficiently buzzed on cheap sangria before facing the extortionate drinks prices in the venue across the street. A litre of beer is around €5, whilst a litre(!) of sangria topped with a dangerously generous dose of vodka should cost you about €6, making this place much more reminiscent of the cheap bars of the Magaluf strip in terms of price.

I hope this guide will give prospective travellers enough info to enjoy this wonderful city on a genuine student budget, and if you’re looking for things which cost nothing, then http://forfree.barcelona will keep you updated on all free activities and events in Barcelona.

 Featured image © Rodrigo Paredes

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Philipp

Leipzig: the Next Berlin?

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Poor But Sexy: A Student Guide to Germany

Compared to other Western capitals such as London, New York and Paris, which are pretty much as synonymous with astronomical rents, social cleansing and insta-hipster blandness as they are with their respective iconic landmarks, Berlin still manages to retain its essence as a city where normal people can actually live. This is largely due to the unusual and genuinely cutting-edge lifestyle it offers, which deserves to be preserved at all costs.

However, change is in the air. With Berlin rapidly becoming Continue reading

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My Road Trip Along the West Coast of Denmark: ‘Cold Hawaii’

I wasn’t sure what to expect in the Nordic country of Denmark, and truthfully, didn’t know much about it. But after a wholehearted invitation from a good friend I met while studying in America, I knew it was a country I needed to explore.

Most travellers visit the capital of Copenhagen and continue their travels on to Sweden or Norway, however I started my adventures flying from Geneva to Billund, the second largest airport in Denmark, which was tiny. Throughout my week’s stay, I didn’t even venture to the capital, but I can definitely say I was not disappointed.

jenniferjoan

Aarhus is very cheap to fly to from the UK with airlines such as Ryanair, so if you fancy a slice of Denmark, get on Skyscanner and start booking! (Photographer: jenniferjoan; Flickr)

Henrik, my good friend, was on holiday from his university in Aarhus and was relaxing on his parents’ farm near a small town called Tønder in Jutland. The area was far from unattractive but Denmark is definitely one of the flattest countries I’ve been to so far. We drove through little towns and down towards the German border, where Henrik pointed out his old high school and filled me in on his life since we last saw each other way back in May.

His parents’ farm was lovely; they grow a lot of berries and grain and live in an old country house with about four or five outbuildings for housing their pickers in the harvesting season. It’s a really unique, green and quiet area and one of the things I didn’t realise is that although Denmark is a small country, they have two very different dialects; sometimes people from the North and the South (only a few hours’ drive apart) are unable to communicate with each other. Henrik explained that his parents, both born and raised in Jutland (the South) have a hard time communicating with his girlfriend who is from Aarhus further north, and he needs to switch between proper Danish and his family’s dialect to keep up. Adding in the English he needed to speak for me and the German to communicate over the border, I can understand how confusing it must be.

Eric Gross

Head to Jutland to hear different dialects, see different countryside and enjoy more of the Danish coast. (Photographer: Eric Gross; Flickr)

In Denmark things are done differently to in Australia; Henrik’s younger sister, who is 16, had just left home for school, which is quite common, whereas in Australia most students stay at home for as long as possible and either travel to university or study by distance, such as myself. It was so interesting to be able to be a part of a different lifestyle rather than just an observer. English is quite a commonly used language in Denmark and, according to Henrik, this is ‘because we realised Danish is a pretty useless language for anywhere outside our country.’

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Emmanuel DYAN

The Tombs and Castles of Buda

This entry is part 3 of 4 in the series Exploring Budapest: history, architecture and lifestyles

Our third morning in Budapest started with sandwiches from a nearby SPAR. This was the day we had planned to cross the Danube River to the Buda side. On our agenda was the Tomb of Gül Baba and the Buda Castle. Due to the availability of various modes of transport, I didn’t think it would be difficult to cross over to the other side of the city however, due to everything being labelled in Hungarian, it proved to be more challenging than I had anticipated. From Prince Apartments, we headed to the nearest underground metro station, Corvin-negyed, and after explaining our destination to the man at the information counter, made our way by metro to Deák Ferenc tér. From there, we caught a bus which went over the Margaret Bridge to the Buda side. The bus journey was about 30 minutes long; luckily the view of the Danube River was enough to keep us entertained during the journey.

kirandulo

Margaret Bridge connects Pest with Buda, and is right next to Margaret Island which has several pretty gardens and walks. (Photographer: kirandulo; Flickr)

Upon arrival to the Buda side, we got off at the stop nearest to the bridge. That wasn’t our best idea — with no proper inkling of the way to Gül Baba’s Tomb, we ended up walking in the wrong direction. On our expedition to find the tomb, we noticed that the Buda side of Budapest was quieter and less populated. To me, it looked more like a foreign country than the Pest side did. After a good 15 minutes of staring at the map and checking road signs, we realised we were lost in this more alien Budapest. That was when we stopped at a local shop to ask for directions.

The directions definitely helped; we finally made it to the road leading up to Gül Baba’s Tomb, which is a place of pilgrimage for Muslims from all around the world. The tomb is located on Mecset Street, in the district of Rózsadomb, and was built by Mehmed Paşa between 1543 and 1548. Oddly, the road leading up to the tomb wasn’t labelled and it was only due to the presence of two other tourists that we figured out it led to the tomb. We began the climb up the road, which was uneven and very steep. A mark of my unfitness was that I had to stop a couple of times during the climb, and I also almost slipped on some loose bricks which were no longer embedded in the road.

Top Budapest

The view of Budapest from the hills of Buda is something that needs to be savoured. (Photographer: Top Budapest; Flickr)

On arriving at the top of the road, we found out there were more steps to climb. I wasn’t too overjoyed about that, but when we got to the top it was worth it. Budapest was stretched out before our eyes; a peaceful city with colourful buildings, dotted boats floating along in the river and tiny specks of cars zooming on the roads. After spending a few minutes staring at the view and getting some pictures, we made our way to the doors of the tomb, which had a shallow dome covered with lead plates and wooden tiles.

That was when we received a surprise; there was a sign in front of the tomb, stating that it was closed for remodelling until March 2017. Needless to say, we were disappointed and felt quite stupid for not checking the tomb’s opening times beforehand. However, we found the whole situation quite funny and were glad to have made the journey to the tomb, because the view was definitely worth it.

helen

Nothing like a quick stop at a bakery to replenish lost energy! (Photographer: helen; Flickr)

Laughing about our silly oversight, we made our way down the hill. It was lunchtime and the climb had made us hungry, so we stopped at a nearby bakery café on Frankel Leó utca called Dolcissima. A cute and sunny bakery with light, pastel-coloured walls and white furniture, it was the ideal place for a light snack. I had chocolate éclairs, which were deliciously soft and creamy, with thick chocolate coatings. The cheerful ambiance of the café combined with the pleasant service of the owner made Dolcissima a great rest stop, and after a hearty meal, we left to make our way to Buda Castle.

Buda Castle was built on the southern tip of Castle Hill and is the historical castle and palace complex of the Hungarian kings. It was first completed in 1265 and is linked to Clark Ádám Square and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge by the Castle Hill Funicular. Over the years, the castle has been extended and each king has added to its architecture, but it hasn’t had an easy life. When Ottoman Turks conquered Hungary, the palace suffered; it was left to decay and was mainly used as barracks, stables and storage.  Continue reading

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zinger

Different types of tourists: 4, 5 and 6 

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Unravelling 'the tourist'

The term ‘tourist’ is far more complex than many of us are willing to admit. Characters in literature and film attempt to negotiate the difference between ‘tourist’ and ‘traveller’ in everything from Paul Bowles’ 1949 novel ‘The Sheltering Sky’, to 2014 film ‘The Inbetweener’s 2′ (albeit in very, very different ways). I realised recently that ‘tourist’ is increasingly becoming a derogatory term, and isn’t only used in this way by people with a misguided superiority complex. So, in this series I’m going to attempt to unravel ‘the tourist’, looking at who and what it means and why we might not be happy to identify as one.

In the first part of my series on tourism I looked at three different types of tourist and all their amusing and irritating habits. I promised to deliver three more, so keep reading for numbers 4, 5 and 6. Remember, these are written from my own personal observations and are intended to amuse, not offend!

4. The tourist who refuses to be labelled as one and is partial to weeks or months of aimless wandering seeking the meaning of life (usually unemployed with a privileged upbringing)

It’s true, travel educates you better than almost anything else. To this tourist though, part of this education means getting ‘meaningful’ tattoos or dreadlocks, snubbing major attractions in favour of tiny cafés that only serve gluten-free muffins and kale smoothies and pretending to be one of the locals (without knowing a word of the local language). Expect phrases such as these to be haughtily spouted at you: ‘I prefer to call myself a traveller’, or ‘Well, I may only be visiting right now but I’m actually thinking of moving here one day.’

Robert Gourley

The kale smoothie needs to be served in a mason jar and come with a straw. This ensures it is ‘unique’ in some way (drinking out of a glass has been done to death really, hasn’t it?) (PhotographerL Robert Gourley; Flickr)

These tourists are often respected by their peers back home for being considered ‘individual’ or ‘wild’, usually due to their supposedly unique preferences. However, when faced with people they believe are similar to themselves (hipsters) during a trip abroad, they are rejected on the grounds that their knowledge about ‘non-mainstream culture’ fails to extend beyond a certain set of topics. These frequently include heavy debates about: Florence and the Machine’s contribution to music, the importance of including okra in your diet, why falafel has become clichéd, and why a revolution is necessary (to improve animal welfare, eradicate poverty and overthrow the government… except it’s just easier to drink herbal tea all day). Tourist Number 4 has usually been raised very well indeed and has no idea what it’s like to work for anything, but expresses disdain at their upper/middle-class privileged upbringing and seeks out opportunities to ‘rough it up a bit’ and ‘live on the edge’ in a bid to broaden their horizons.

Lars K Jensen

Sometimes it’s better to just stay quiet. (Photographer: Lars K Jensen; Flickr)

This species of tourist can be found sneering at ‘the privileged rich’ and failing to understand irony, overusing words like ‘rad’, ‘man’ and ‘dude’, preaching faux-intellectual theories to anyone who’ll listen and basking on hostel bunk beds in partially-torn clothing playing a battered acoustic guitar. Tourist Number 4 will also probably refuse to call their trip a ‘holiday’ but rather a ‘journey’ (of self-discovery, often funded by parents). These are usually the ‘gap-yah’ kids: avoid at all costs if you have to work for a living, you’ll get angry.

 5. The tourist with so much money they’re blind to everything else

This one is envied by most due the obviously affluent lifestyle that seems to be second nature to them. Generally, this envy is often covered up and expressed as ‘pity’ for those poor souls who’ll never know what it’s like to doss down in a filthy hostel and wake up covered in sweat and suspicious-looking hairs, before cramming yourself into a packed coach reserved only for those who can’t afford a train but are too scared to hitchhike.

Chris Page

Sure, Swarovski is very pretty, but is it really necessary to visit it every time you go abroad? (Photographer: Chris Page; Flickr)

This tourist never shops around for the best deals because it just isn’t necessary to do so. The ‘best hotel’ in ‘the best part of town’ will be booked, just ‘because’. Does that restaurant have any Michelin stars and require a reservation? No? It can’t be that good then. ‘Filthy markets’ will be avoided because Swarovski, Louis Vuitton and Lacoste are down the next street (for some reason, this tourist gets excited about this, despite the fact that one can find these stores all over the world).    Continue reading

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