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I took an 8-day (partial) solo trip to Barcelona, Lisbon and Albufeira the first week of July and had an incredible time exploring these wonderful cities. Many friends have asked how I got around by myself and what I did on my trip, so here is a detailed itinerary of things to do and where to go if you are considering a similar trip.
DAY 1 - Arrive in Barcelona, Spain
If you’re wondering how to get from the airport to the city center, Aerobus is the way to go. It only costs €5.90 for a single ticket or €10.20 for a roundtrip ticket. That’s a big save compared to €30 for a taxi. I bought my tickets at the tourism desk in the airport but you can also buy your tickets at the vending machines right by the buses.
Aerobus has a very efficient system, so even though the line may be long, you’ll be on the bus in no time as there are a line of buses ready to take their passengers to the city. The bus ride takes about 40 minutes and it’s a very comfortable ride. There are some seats that have USB plugs and they also provide free wifi. They make a few stops before arriving to Placa Catalunya, which is a central location to most spots. My Airbnb was only a 5-minute walk from Placa Catalunya, so it was a breeze getting to my place.
Depending on what time you arrive, you’ll probably have a few hours of energy to explore before you get tired from jet lag and/or traveling. I arrived around noon, so after I checked in to my Airbnb, I walked to Placa Catalunya to see what there was to do. I noticed the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus, so I decided to take that since I was a little tired from jet lag and didn’t feel like walking much. The bus was a great way to see what was around Barcelona and narrow down what I wanted to explore while I was in the city.
After I rode around the bus for a couple of hours, I was getting hungry, so I headed back to my Airbnb and saw a cute little restaurant called El Rincon Restaurant that had some tapas, which was exactly what I wanted.
DAY 2 - 3-Country Tour to Baga, Ax-Les-Thermes and Andorra
I love taking tours in new countries and I found a fantastic tour called Three Countries in One Day Tour. At first, I was confused at what the third country was. I knew Barcelona was close to the French border but had no idea Andorra was even a country until I started looking into this tour. I was intrigued and decided that I needed to take this tour to find out what Andorra was all about.
The tour started at 7 AM and our wonderful (and handsome) tour guide, Xavi, and about 15 of us hopped onto a minibus to make our way towards our first stop, Baga. Baga is a little medieval town that has a population of only 2000. We had a light breakfast and walked around the little city as Xavi told us the history behind Baga.
The next stop was Ax-Les-Thermes, France. We arrived at 11am and had about an hour and a half to spend here. Ax-les-Thermes is a beautiful town surrounded by the Pyrenees mountains and it is a popular spa and ski town.
The main thing I did in this town was soak my feet in one of the natural hot springs. The waters here historically claimed to treat rheumatism and skin diseases and from there, a spa tourism industry was born. It was a very charming town decorated with colorful flowers everywhere and cute little artisan shops and restaurants.
Our last stop was the much anticipated Andorra. I learned so many things about this country I just found out about only a few months prior to the trip. Some fun facts about Andorra: Catalan is the official language of Andorra (and it is the only country that speaks this language officially), it’s the sixth smallest country in Europe with a population of 77,000 and it’s one of the most difficult countries to obtain a citizenship.
We stopped by a mountainous area with beautiful views and then finished it off with some shopping, which Andorra is famous for.
On our way back to Barcelona, Xavi sat down with each one of us to see if we had any questions about the trip or if we wanted any recommendations for Barcelona. I wanted to get some suggestions on places to eat and he recommended Bar del Pla which ended up being one of my favorite restaurants in Barcelona. It’s a small establishment, so if you are traveling with a group, I’d suggest making reservations. Since I was traveling solo, I was able to find a seat at the bar right away. Make sure you get the Mushroom Salad there. I still dream about it.
DAY 3 - Fly to Lisbon, Portugal
Since I wanted to get to Lisbon quickly, I decided to catch a flight with TAP Air Portugal first thing in the morning. My flight was at 6:30 AM and I needed to leave the city by 4 AM. The Aerobus does not start until 5 AM so I had to catch a taxi.
I was a little nervous not being able to hail down a taxi since I was staying at an Airbnb, so I downloaded the MyTaxi app and booked a taxi. The taxi showed up right on time and found me just fine. Interesting thing is before my reserved taxi arrived, I had THREE taxis pass by me asking if I needed a ride. Who knew that there would be so many taxis so early in the morning! Apparently, people party in Barcelona until 6 or 7 in the morning, so it’s totally normal to see so many taxis at that hour. Something to note if you’re nervous about not being able to find taxis like me!
The flight from Barcelona to Lisbon was a short 1.5 hours and everything went smoothly with TAP Air Portugal. When I arrived at the Lisbon airport, I took an Uber to the city center and it cost me about €11. Since I arrived so early to my hotel at Chiado Arty Flats, I stored my luggage there and started walking around the neighborhood. I walked downhill to a little square called Praça Luís de Camões and was approached by Lisbon Chill-Out Free Tour. They asked if I would like to join their tour at 10 AM and I thought it would be a great way to start out my day in Lisbon.
It was a 3-hour tour and we walked up and down the hills to the popular spots of Lisbon while learning the history and culture from our tour guide. While on the tour, I met another solo traveler, Helen, and we decided to take the tram to Belem after the tour to try the famous pastel de nata, a Portuguese egg tart pastry, at Pasteis de Belem.
We ended up spending the whole day together and I didn’t get back to the hotel until close to 9 PM. It was such an adventurous (and exhausting) day.
DAY 4 - Train to Albufeira, Portugal
The next morning, I grabbed some pastries at a bakery nearby and walked around Chiado for a bit admiring the neighborhood. They have the coolest tiles and each building has so much character. After a couple of hours roaming around, I checked out of the hotel and headed to the train station to take the train down to Albufeira, the Algarve region of Portugal. I have always seen pictures of stunning beaches in southern Portugal and I could not leave this country without stopping by one of these dreamy beaches.
I found a gorgeous resort called Sao Rafael Atlantico Resort right on the beach and it was the perfect place to relax for a couple of days. My friend, Stephanie from Ginger on the Go, was also on a solo trip throughout Europe and we happened to be in Portugal around the same time, so she joined me for the next few days in Portugal.
The beaches here were exactly how I pictured it but, of course, even better in person. The magnificent cliffs against the bright, blue waters were just incredibly picturesque. The sunset on the beach was magical as well.
DAY 5 - Relax in Albufeira, Portugal
This was probably the only day I set aside for myself to relax a bit. We spent most of the day sunbathing at the beach and the pool.
Later in the afternoon, we took an Uber to town which was a quick 10-minute ride. We walked around Old Town and New Town. Both towns were very similar with shops, restaurants and beaches but the difference comes at night. New Town becomes a party town and it starts getting crazy around 10 PM.
DAY 6 - Head back to Lisbon
The next morning, we took the train back to Lisbon and checked into our Airbnb in the Chiado neighborhood. We headed out for lunch first to Fabulas and it was a cute restaurant with a great outdoor seating area. We both loved our dishes, the grilled octopus and mushroom risotto, but we were disappointed with the service here. I won’t go into details but we were very unhappy with the way the manager treated us.
After lunch, we walked towards Castelo de Sao Jorge and enjoyed watching all the historic trams screeching and rattling by us on the narrow streets. If you have time, ride the historic Tram 28, the oldest tram in the city.
We made it to Castelo de Sao Jorge after a tiring walk uphill (the hills in Lisbon are killer for people like me who come from the flat lands of Florida). Castelo de Sao Jorge is a Moorish castle dating back to the 11th century. You’ll get gorgeous panoramic views of the city and learn about the medieval period of Portuguese history. It might be helpful to take one of the many guided tours they offer as there were minimal signs.
After exploring the castle, we walked around Alfama and enjoyed some Ginja at a local bar. Ginja is a Portuguese liquor made with sour cherries and was surprisingly good.
DAY 7 - Fly back to Barcelona
I woke up early to catch the sunrise over Alfama. I just loved this part of Lisbon, which is the oldest district in the city. After my last sunrise in Lisbon, I headed to the airport and flew back to Barcelona. Stephanie stayed in Lisbon and continued the rest of her European solo trip.
I checked into my hotel, Ayre Caspe Hotel, which was about a 15-minute walk from Placa Catalunya. The walk isn’t bad but with a suitcase, it can be a little tiresome.
I was a little tired from walking up and down those hills in Lisbon, so this time I used Barcelona’s metro system to get around the city. I bought the 2-Day Hola Barcelona Travel Card online which gave me unlimited use of Barcelona's transportation system including the metro and buses for 2 days. Barcelona’s metro system was surprisingly easy to use and very convenient.
I had an early dinner at a popular tapas restaurant called Ciudad Condal and had the most excellent beef tenderloin tapas. I loved it so much that I ordered two dishes.
I wanted to check out as many Antoni Gaudi sites as I could and my first stop was Casa Milà, often referred to as La Pedrera which means "the stone quarry". I arrived at the museum pretty late at 6:30pm but it turned out to be the perfect time because it wasn’t too busy and I was able to quickly get in. The museum closes at 8:30pm (with last entrance at 8pm), so I had just enough time to explore.
After Casa Mila, I took the metro to the Magic Fountain site. This event is free and the show usually begins around 9pm from Thursday to Saturday. I arrived 20 minutes before the show started and the site was already packed with everyone in their positions to watch the fountain show. The show started promptly at 9pm and everyone started cheering when the colors started changing and the fountain started dancing with the music. Being in the front was fun but you will most likely get a little wet from all the mist the water creates as it does its dancing moves. I started making my way back more to get views of the entire fountain and it’s a beautiful site from every angle.
DAY 8 - Last day in Barcelona
On my final day in Barcelona, I had an ambitious schedule and tried to fit in as much as I could before I left this beautiful city. I started the day early at sunrise and walked around the historic neighborhoods of Gothic Quarter and Born. The architecture around this area is amazing and one of my favorite parts of Barcelona.
Next, I went to Casa Battlo, another UNESCO building by Antoni Gaudi. I purchased the “Be the First!” ticket, which gave me access to the museum 30 minutes before it opened to the public, so this gave me the freedom to take the pictures and videos I wanted without being overwhelmed by fellow tourists.
After the museum, I made my way to meet my tour guide, Valentina, for the Photoshoot in Barcelona Secret Corners tour. I found this tour on Airbnb Experiences and it was a fantastic tour with only me and one other traveler. Valentina took us around the “secret corners” of Barcelona and took pictures of us while telling us some interesting facts about Barcelona. I really enjoyed my time with her and discovered some great places around the city. I received the pictures she took of me within a week and loved all of them.
The last thing on my list for the day was to visit the most famous Antoni Gaudi sites, La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. I wanted to visit these sites myself without a tour but unfortunately I was too late purchasing tickets. All the tickets were sold out and there was only two ways to get in: 1) wait in a long line that did not guarantee entry or 2) book a tour. I chose the latter and booked a tour that took us around both sites.
Both sites were very unique and stunning but the only thing that bothered me were the amount of people. I have read that Barcelona has become one of the most tourist heavy cities and I experienced the crazy amount of tourists at these two sites. I appreciated the beauty of these places but I was overwhelmed with all the people there. Out of all the Gaudi sites, I enjoyed Casa Battlo the most.
Finally, I had dinner at a little cozy restaurant in the alley called Melic Del Gotic. It was the most enjoyable dinner experience to me because the service was exceptional. I had two staff members attending to me and they both took such good care of me and made sure everything was to my liking. The Panko Chicken with Guacamole was excellent!
This was such a fantastic solo trip and I enjoyed every minute of it. Some tips I learned from this trip:
Use Aerobus for transportation from the airport to Barcelona’s city center
Keep your belongings safe and be aware of professional pickpocketers in Barcelona
Stay in an area near Gothic Quarter or Placa Catalunya in Barcelona
Stay in an area near Chiado, Bairro Alto, or Alfama in Lisbon
Make sure you go to Belem to get the most delicious pastel del nata of Lisbon and instead of waiting in the long line, grab a table indoors for faster service
Use the easy and convenient metro system in Barcelona
Book tickets to La Sagrada Familia and Park Guell weeks in advance
Visit the popular Antoni Gaudi sites first thing in the morning if possible
Give yourself plenty of time at Barcelona’s airport when going back home - it took me nearly 3 hours to get to my gate after all the security check points