I’ve just come back from my weekend trip to Barcelona. What can I say? Barcelona is great (well, it’s not really a new discovery)! I must say that Sagrada Familia is over-advertised. I was there ten years ago and just have a vague image of it, however, what haven’t changed from that time is the fact that the church is constantly under construction. So if you see a postcard from Barcelona with the image of Sagrada Familia, bear in mind it’s highly photoshopped.
What impressed me the most? Definitely Gaudi’s Park Güell. When my friend suggested to go there I thought “A park is a park… what can be special about it?”. In case of Park Güell, it’s not just a park. It’s Gaudi’s masterpiece being a park, but above all it is a piece of art. I went there on Sunday and saw families wandering with their children, street artist performing and an astonishing view over the city.
All in all, Barcelona is not a ‘typical’ Spanish city. Well, it’s first of all a Catalan city. And you can see it very clearly, all the signs are in Catalan, sometimes also in Spanish and English. It’s completely different from Madrid. And because of this difference I can’t make my mind and decide which of the cities I like the most. Well… both?
After this short personal description of Barcelona, I’ll say a bit about Interrail pass, train reservations and Spanish railways (called Renfe).
The best way to travel through Spain is booking a cheap flight from Ryanair or buying an Interrail pass and travel by train. I’ve found two websites selling the pass.
I bought my first pass using railpassshop.com and had to pay £20 for delivery. Later, someone told me that when you buy it via interrailnet.com you pay nothing for delivery, which is actually true! You have to wait longer for the pass to arrive but if you’re not in hurry you save 20 quids, which is great.
The cheapest pass (for 3 days out of the month) costs 70 Euros. A train from Madrid to Barcelona costs more than 100 Euros (one way). So using the pass to travel by train makes a huge difference. In Spain, you have to buy a seat reservation FOR EVERY TRAIN. The average cost of the reservation is 4 Euros for medium distance trains and 10 Euros for AVEs (large distance, high-speed trains).
I travelled by AVE from Madrid to Barcelona. The journey took less than 3 hours whereas by car it would take at least 6 hours. On board the train, you get a pair of headphones and can watch a film or listen to music, like on long-haul planes. At the majority of the train stations you pass your luggage through luggage control. It does feel like travelling by plane!
There are two main train stations in Madrid: Atocha (with a beautiful palm house and turtles) and Chamartín. If you want to travel from Salamanca you need to firstly get to Madrid. All the trains from Salamanca go to Chamartín. And all the trains bound to Barcelona or Toledo depart from Atocha, which means you have to make sure you have enough time to change the stations. If you go by Metro, it takes 40mins; by Cercanías (something between metro and train), 20mins.
I hope the you make use of the above information 🙂