A Christmas World Cup in Barcelona
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Travel destination: Spain

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The disappointment of the football is a distant memory as we’re sipping cocktails, watching the sun set, with one of the most breath-taking views I’ve ever seen from a rooftop bar…

Barcelona may not be the first city which comes to mind when looking for somewhere to go for Christmas Markets. But with the football World Cup at an unusual time this year, and eyeing some winter sun, myself and some friends headed there for a weekend of football and festive joy!

Where to watch football in Barcelona?

We got an early morning flight to make it to Barcelona in time for the first game of the day, Wales vs. Iran. After dropping our bags off, we go into the first bar we see… The George Payne Irish Bar.

Given it’s only just after 10am we’re the only people here (we have been up since 2am so a beer is perfectly acceptable though), but as the game kicks-off, a few more early starters join us for the match.

We get chatting to some Wales fans during the game and canvass some opinions of other friends for where is good to watch the England game later, and all of the recommendations point to an Irish Bar… this Irish Bar! Seems like we’ve stumbled straight into the best place to watch football in Barcelona!

As the England game nears later in the day, we decide to try somewhere else though given we’ve already been in there once today. But with a huge queue at the other bar we try, we head back to the George Payne, and it’s like walking back into an old friendly local!

The pub itself is quite interesting… from the outside it’s just a little doorway in an otherwise ordinary looking building. But as we enter down a short corridor the place opens up to a huge, cavernous room which looks like the inside of an old church! With lots of tables and TVs, and a mezzanine level overlooking the main bar and a huge screen at the far end, despite it being absolutely packed, we’re guaranteed a good view of the match wherever we can find some space!

We get lucky and get a table left by some Ecuador fans once their game finishes, so we get the drinks in as the excitement for the England vs USA game builds. There’s a great atmosphere with lots of English and American fans in, plus people from all over the World! Unfortunately the game doesn’t quite live up to the location or atmosphere and is a bit of a disappointment… a dull 0-0… the less said about it the better!

Camp Nou & FC Barcelona

If live football is more your thing, then the Camp Nou is an obvious place to go to… home to FC Barcelona, one of the best clubs in the World. With the World Cup being on though there aren’t any games to go to, so we instead go to visit the museum and do the stadium tour.

After a very disappointing lunch at the onsite café, the disappointment of the football weekend continues… despite it being the middle of the afternoon and lots of people around, the stadium and museum are closed!! So we make do with a walk around the shop and head back to the apartment for a siesta.

CE Europa

When we were talking with the Wales fans in the George Payne, as well as recommending where to watch the World Cup, they also told us about some lower league football being played at the weekend.

Down in the Spanish 5th Division is a big local derby between CE Europa and UE Sant Andreu. It’s the first time in many years that they’ve played each other, and at the moment they sit 1st and 2nd in the league, so there’s even more riding on the game than local pride!

We’ve bought tickets from an online reseller advertising in the pub, but as we reach the Nou Sardenya Stadium in the Gracia district of the city to exchange our e-tickets for real tickets, we start to think we’ve been scammed.

We try one ticket office where they say they’ve never heard of the seller before and send us to the other side of the stadium. There we get turned away from what looks more like a leisure centre reception. And finally, with the help of Google translate to speak to a lady at a hole in the wall type ticket office, we’re told there aren’t any tickets left so just go to the turnstile! Another confusing conversation ensues, but our very broken Spanish obviously does the trick (or they just take pity on us) and we finally get into the stadium! So just a word of warning, be careful using 24x7tickets.com!

Once inside it’s the worth the effort though, the stadium is bouncing with both sets of fans creating an amazing atmosphere with their flags, flares and chants. As seems to the be the theme of the weekend though, the football itself doesn’t quite live up to the build-up and atmosphere, but it’s still a great experience all the same!

Christmas Markets in Barcelona

Leaving the football behind, the other reason we came to Barcelona was to see the Christmas Markets. However, we weren’t very successful in this aspect either!

Fira de Nadal de la Sagrada Família is the first market we go to. Located next to La Sagrada Familia basilica, it is a more local style market than the other more touristy ones in the city. The stalls we see are selling Christmas trees, plants, and even grass and moss… not quite the cute trinkets you usually find at a Christmas market! It’s a different experience though, and the Christmas music being played as we walk past the stalls adds to the atmosphere well (although one of our group does comment that the children singing does sound a little like something from a horror movie!)

La Fira de Santa Llucia is the largest and more traditional styled market you would be used to if you’ve visited Christmas markets in other countries before. But we don’t actually visit this one… running late to make it to watch Spain vs. Germany, the main event for why we chose to come to Spain in the first place, we make do with walking past on a hunt for a bar to watch the game in! It looks good though!

La Sagrada Familia and Antoni Gaudi

Barcelona as a city obviously has a lot more to offer than football and Christmas. La Sagrada Familia is one of the most iconic sights to see and is the most famous of the landmarks from the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi.

With construction of the basilica having started in 1882, it’s not expected to be finished until sometime after 2026! Which may sound ridiculous… until you see it up close!

It is one of the most unique buildings in the World, and nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s more like a work of art than a building! Everywhere you look the attention to detail is unbelievable.

We didn’t go inside and have a tour, but I have been during a previous visit to the city so I’ll include some photos from then (I think it’s fair to say my photography skills have improved since that visit though).

The tour was interesting to do with a self-guided audio-tour meaning we could explore at our own pace as we stopped and took a million photos of every inch of the interior!

Some of the other famous Gaudi sights to see around the city are Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, and Park Güell…

Best Bars & Nightlife in Barcelona

Rather than take the tour of La Sagrada Familia on this visit, we decided to get a more unique view of the basilica instead… from a rooftop bar opposite.

Before that though, we start our day with a walk around Port Vell and the Platja de la Barceloneta beach, attracting quite a lot of attention in our Christmas jumpers on the beach!

Enjoying paella and a few drinks while we relax in the sun, the decision to come somewhere warm and sunny for our Christmas trip is looking like an inspired decision! So much so it’s too nice of a day to waste sat inside another Irish bar watching the football, so instead we decide to find the rooftop bar and do some sight-seeing while having our next drink…

Terraza Ayre at Ayre Rosellón Hotel

Terraza Ayre at Ayre Rosellón Hotel is where we’re going, a tip from one of our friends who visited a few weeks ago. It’s a 20-minute taxi ride from the beach, and when we enter the reception and ask if we can go up to the bar, we fear disappointment is going to strike again!

“Do you have a reservation?” No, no we don’t. We’re going to a rooftop bar, on a Saturday evening, in one of the busiest cities in Europe. Why didn’t think to make a reservation??

The guy on reception takes my phone and goes online, checks the bookings, and next thing we have a table booked for 10-minutes’ time! What a guy! And the wait in reception goes quickly as we’re asked to pose for some photos in our Christmas jumpers…

This is the site where you can make a reservation… https://www.sercotelhotels.co.uk/hotel-sercotel-rosellon/services/

We take the lift and as we enter the bar, there’s no other way to describe the view… WOW!

It’s breath-taking… La Sagrada Familia seems to rise out of the surrounding apartment blocks like a painting, it doesn’t look real! And coming to the bar at this time of the day, the sun is just starting to set, so the colours of the sky only add to the artistic look.

We order some cocktails and sangria and sit to relax, and as we enjoy our drinks the view only gets better as the sun sets and the sky changes colour, the lights on the basilica come on and the crescent moon appears in the distance.

When we move on we go on a bar crawl (with the help of the subway) through Eixample towards the Vila Olímpica area where some of the best clubs of the city are.

We stop at BrewDog where again we’re treated like celebrities having our photos taken by the staff for their Instagram page, and go to a few bars we stumble across, before getting a taxi to Vila Olímpica and ending our night at Pacha.

Pacha Barcelona

Having visited the original Pacha nightclub in Ibiza earlier in the year, I wanted to see if this one in Barcelona would live up to it’s elder sibling’s reputation. And while it was good, I don’t think comparing is a fair thing to do.

Highlight of the trip? The few hours sat in the Terraza Ayre rooftop bar. It may have been the main reason we didn’t see as much football or visit the Christmas markets as planned, but it was the best part of the weekend… great view, great drinks, and great friends.

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