During our drive back to the Wirral after the Christmas break, Tyrone and I got talking about how we really wanted to attend a Formula 1 event in 2019.
Tyrone has been a massive Formula 1 fan his whole life, and a few years ago he went over to Spa Francorchamps to watch the Belgium Grand Prix with his dad. We’ve also visited Monaco together, although it wasn’t to watch the race!
Anyway, he proposed the idea of going to watch the pre-season testing instead of going to a race. The pre-season testing is when all the teams come together before the season begins to test their new cars to see how they perform. It’s normally held in Barcelona in February each year.
It would be a great way to see all the cars and drivers, and it best of all it would be really inexpensive. So, after a bit of research, we booked some flights and a hotel, and last month we jetted off to Barcelona for 5 days!
This was the first time we’d been abroad and not booked a package holiday, and I was super anxious about the idea of not having a holiday company to rely on if anything went wrong.
But nothing did go wrong! Everything went so smoothly and it’s given me a massive confidence boost. I’m ready to do it all again!
Getting to Barcelona
We flew from Liverpool airport to Barcelona with Ryanair and we flew hand luggage only. I’m a complete convert to flying hand luggage only even though packing so lightly does stress me out a bit! It just saves so much time and makes getting through the airport a lot quicker. The flight to Barcelona all went really smoothly.
My friend Julia told me about the shuttle bus that runs from the airport to the centre of Barcelona, so we decided to give it ago.
The shuttle bus is called Aerobús and picks up just outside of Terminal 1 and 2. For a return ticket to the centre of Barcelona, it’s just over €10 per person. The bus stops at a number of different places within the city, including Plaça de Catalunya and Plaça d’Espanya.
I really do recommend this bus. We didn’t have to wait around for the bus at all, and it only took about 15/20 minutes to get into the city. It’s also much cheaper than getting a taxi.
Where we stayed
We stayed at a hotel in the heart of Barcelona called Room Mate Carla. I found the hotel on Booking.com and picked it because of its great location and jazzy rooms!
Room Mate Carla is just off Passeig de Gràcia, which is one of the main shopping streets in Barcelona. It’s lined with designer shops and some of the cities most famous buildings including Casa Batlló, Casa Milà and Casa Amatller.
The hotel was also about a 15 minute walk from Plaça de Catalunya which is considered to be the centre of the city, and this is where we got off the airport shuttle bus.
Our room wasn’t overly big but it was perfect for our needs. It was very clean and the bathroom was full of toiletries for us to use. The bed was perhaps one of the most comfortable beds I’ve ever slept in!
The staff were lovely and made us feel very welcome. I would highly recommend this hotel if you’re looking for a little city break, or if you are heading over to the track like we were!
What we did
On our first full day in Barcelona we decided to have a full-on sightseeing day.
Prior to this trip, I’d been to Barcelona twice, but for Tyrone, it was his first time in the city.
I wanted to show him all of the famous sites and personally, I think the best way to see everything is to hop on one of the tour buses. There’s a couple of tour bus operators in Barcelona that run very similar routes, and I think I’ve used both of them before, but this time we used Barcelona City Tour.
Barcelona City Tour has two bus routes; the orange one and the green one. It costs €30 per person for a ticket that allows you to travel on both routes and you can hop on and off as many times as you like during the day. It’s a big city and everything is so spread out so I do think it is worth the money.
The first stop we got off at was the famous unfinished Gaudí cathedral, Sagrada Familia.
I first visited Barcelona 20 years ago and it’s always interesting to see how the cathedral has progressed. Honestly, though, I still can’t decide whether I like it or not! I think some bits of it are better than others.
The next stop we got off at was Park Güell. This was the one place in Barcelona I really wanted to visit as I’d not been there before. Sadly, much of the park was under renovation but it was still well worth a visit. The views from the park are incredible.
In the afternoon which switched over to the orange route and visited the Olympic stadium on top of Montjuïc. The stadium is open and free to go in.
We decided not to get back on the bus where we got off and instead we walked down the hill (well, we used the escalators!) behind the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya down to Plaça d’Espanya.
I have a weird fascination with World’s fairs and expos so I was excited to learn that this building, Palau Nacional, was the main site of the 1929 International Exhibition.
We got back on the bus at Plaça d’Espanya ready for the final part of the route. Along the way we passed by the home of Barcelona FC, Camp Nou.
The very first time I went to Barcelona, when I was about 5 years old, we did the stadium tour.
On our second day we spend the whole day over at the tracking watching the F1 pre-season testing (see section below for more details) and on our final day we took things a lot slower because my legs were killing me.
We walked from our hotel to Plaça de Catalunya where we sat and ate doughnuts for breakfast. Then we walked all the way down La Rambla, sat by the waterfront for a while and then walked all the way back up La Rambla. I mean, I say we took things slower but my god, that’s a lot of walking!
Formula 1 pre-season testing
As I previously mentioned, the main purpose of our trip to Barcelona was to watch the Formula 1 pre-season testing.
The testing and Spanish Grand Prix are held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya which is actually located outside of Barcelona near a town called Montmeló.
So to get to the track we took the R2 train from the Passeig de Gràcia station to Montmeló, and then it was about a 30-minute walk to the track (although you could take a taxi). Apparently, a shuttle bus runs on the day of the Grand Prix but not on test days.
We actually got talking to some other F1 fans at the station who were heading over to the track. They were from Poland but the one guy used to live in Liverpool! It’s a small world!
Once we got to track we purchased our tickets. Standard tickets cost just €20 each! That’s such a bargain when you consider how much it costs to go to a Grand Prix and when you consider who you are going to see.
If you do want to go to the F1 testing and there’s a particular driver you want to see, make sure you check online for the driver timetables before you decide which day to go on. We picked the Wednesday as some of the best drivers were driving on this day including Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.
Getting photos of F1 cars is bloody hard! But here’s Sebastian Vettel.
A standard ticket gets you to access to the whole track and most of the grandstands that are open. We started off sitting in the main grandstand opposite the pit but we slowly walked around the whole track and sat in all the different grandstands.
It was my first time seeing Formula 1 cars in real life and I couldn’t believe how loud they were. They aren’t even as loud as they use to be a few years ago but they’re still loud! They’re also so much faster than I was expecting them to be. It’s difficult to take pictures of them.
One of the highlights of the day for me was when Romain Grosjean broke down in front of us. I’m sure it wasn’t a highlight for him but when he broke down we were sitting on a hill and nobody else was around apart from the marshalls.
We immediately walked down and got as close to the track as possible. Grosjean then got out of the car and gave me and Tyrone a wave! So cool!
I honestly had such a fun day at the track and I’m already begging Tyrone to take me to a proper race.
And here’s Tyrone taking a picture of Lewis Hamilton.
Where we ate
Apart from sangria, we aren’t big fans of Spanish cuisine, and we found most traditional tapas restaurants to have limited options for vegetarians.
I also really struggled with my mobility on this trip so we wanted to eat at places close to the hotel rather than venturing to specific restaurants we had been recommended. But despite this, we ate very well indeed.
On our first full day we ate at the Hard Rock Cafe. Neither of us had eaten at a Hard Rock Cafe before which is mad considering how much we love rock music. We both ordered burgers, which we really enjoyed, and had a massive ice cream sundae with brownies in to share for dessert.
The next day, once we got back from the track, we had dinner at an Italian called Don Kilo. We both ordered pizzas and these giant glasses of sangria. The sangria was so good (and strong!) that we decided to order more and stay for dessert. We had a pizza covered in melted Nutella and I’m not even exaggerating when I say there must have been an entire jar of Nutella on that pizza!
On our final night things were a bit crazy because there was a massive protest in the centre of the city (I believe it was political) and so many of the roads were closed. It was really difficult to get around the city, but in the end we found an amazing burger joint called Bacoa. It’s a build-your-own burger restaurant and it reminded us of one of our favourite restaurants in New York, The Counter.
Have you been Barcelona before? If not, would you like to visit?
Oh, and what are your thoughts on the Sagrada Familia? Love it or loath it?!