Where to stay and what to do in Barcelona and Venice?
July 31, 2013 11:17 AM   Subscribe

Mrs. Arbac and I are going to be taking a cruise from Barcelona to Venice at the end of August. We're getting to Barcelona a few days early and staying an extra day in Venice. Where should we stay and what should we see? Budget and likes/dislikes inside.

We're going on the Prairie Home Companion cruise and are really excited! If any other MeFi's are going, let us know!

We're looking for nicer hotels close to the sights. Being within walking distance to interesting things is a big plus! We're not interested in hostels. We'd like to spend $150 or less a night, but can increase that amount if its totally unreasonable for those cities. We're big on Museums, cafes, food, site seeing, interesting tours, etc. We're not big on clubbing or the late night party scene. Ease of access to the cruise ship terminals would be a big plus, either by public transit or a reasonable cab fair.

Where should we stay in each city and what should we do? We've never been to either place before. Thanks!
posted by Arbac to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I can speak to Barcelona.

First of all, does your cruise offer pre-cruise rates on hotels? That's something to consider, they'll have the transfers from the airport to the hotel and from the hotel to the dock. Another option is to go through your airline for hotels. American Airlines has AMAZING hotel deals. I got a Courtyard for $50 per night in Dallas.

The cruiseship port in Barcelona is an easy walk on-walk-off affair.

Now stuff to do: Check this entry out on Trip Advisor.

I was there on a cruise for a day and a half and I saw:

Park Guell
Sagrada Famillia (duh, you HAVE to see this.)
Barcelona Cathedral

I would have seen the Picasso museum and the Miro Foundation, I just didn't have time.

Here's a map of the Port.

We had a hell of a time explaining to a cab driver that we wanted to get from La Rambla back to the port. Spanish and English were worthless. Knowing how to say "Cruiseship Port" in Catalan would have been helpful.

Here's the Trip Advisor list of hotels. Click the Piggy Bank for the Value Hotels.

Barcelona is magical, just walk around Las Ramblas. It's breathtaking.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:37 AM on July 31, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I stayed here in Barca a couple years ago. Depending on what you're looking for in a hotel, $150/night is pretty borderline, but close to what I paid for our room in not-quite-high season. It's a couple miles from La Rambla, but is built directly on top of a train/subway station, and the subway in Barcelona is excellent. Barcelona's big tourist sites are spread out a bit, so even staying right in the old part of town or on La Rambla will still put you a ways away from something like Sagrada Familia, Montjuic, or Parc Guell, so you'll probably be taking the subway at some point anyway. While there's not much in the way of sights around the hotel we stayed at, the surrounding neighborhood was pretty vibrant with a lot of shops and restaurants, and the train station complex on the ground floor has a bunch of restaurants, stores, and tourist services inside it.
posted by LionIndex at 11:38 AM on July 31, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did the Barcelona Taste tour a couple of months ago after seeing it recommended around mefi. It's a food tour and really great fun. Go as early in your trip as possible as they'll give you recommendations for other places to eat based on what you're interested in. We also had really good paella at L'Arros.

The underground system in Barcelona is really good and easy to use and will take you near the Cruise terminal. If you're happy using that then any hotel near a stop will be good. We stayed in an apartment on the Avenue de Mistral and getting around was never a problem (plus the local suburb was lovely). Otherwise there will be hotels down near the water with very easy access to the terminal, it's quite a touristy area in general.
posted by shelleycat at 12:01 PM on July 31, 2013

Venice is basically mostly walkable, though you should pick an end. Public transportation is slow and expensive (it's boats that run down the main waterways, and is like 7 euro one way), and taxi boats are insanely expensive (~50 euro for a medium-length trip with 2 people + luggage). The cruise port is a little obnoxious to actually walk to from the nearest public transportation stop (you have to take a people mover thing and walk a bit), but it's fine.

But basically, Venice is really small, so you can more or less get anywhere from anywhere else. Just find a place that looks nice and then get yourself lost in the streets somewhere.
posted by brainmouse at 12:15 PM on July 31, 2013

Seconding brainmouse and ruthless bunny.

Barcelona: find a covered market to visit. Sant Antoni is near La Ramblas and it's fascinating.

Venice: same as Barcelona...once you walk 20 minutes away from the main tourist drags you'll be exploring areas that 90% of the day visitors won't ever see. Just walk and soak it in.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:37 PM on July 31, 2013

Both cities are great. I am not very familiar with Barcelona, and the other advice is probably better than mine. You should be aware of robbers in the old part of the city. Not scared, just aware. I think I'd prioritize the Picasso museum over the Parc Guëll, because of the atmosphere and surroundings. The covered market near the main cathedral, designed by Miralles/Tagliabue, is beautiful.

Venice is a place I love dearly, and I've stayed there often, in different places - up to 3 weeks. I have two favorites. First: more expensive, closer to the cruise terminal, and John Ruskin stayed there: La Calcina in Dorsoduro. They have a cheaper annex building, but are reluctant to admit it. Views are amazing, and the site is a great combination of somewhat private and close to everything.
With time, I've come to appreciate the more local and domestic areas, and found a new favorite lodging: Residenza Giardini, close to the Biennale area, very good breakfast and overall standard compared to price, nice local restaurants and friendlier people than in the more touristic areas.

In Venice, first of all get lost. Then take the main vaporetto around the canals, and just sit and look out, or hop off when something attracts you. The fish market in the morning, with an early lunch nearby. San Marco, naturally. The Accademmia and the Grande Scuole (art collections spread all over Venice), the Biennale. Eat well near or at the Piazza san Margerita, or near the Accademmia/hotel La Calcina. There are many tourist traps in Venice, too expensive and bad food, take care. Special attraction, not well known: the Fortuny Museum.

Excuse me for spelling horribly, I'm tired.
posted by mumimor at 1:51 PM on July 31, 2013

Response by poster: Per LionIndex's suggestion we ended up staying at Barcelo Sants and it worked out perfectly. Being on top of the train station was amazing for getting around the city. Plus, the hotel is SPACE THEMED!!!! I didn't mention that to my wife, who loves hilariously themed hotels, so that was a fun surprise for her. She loved it!

Thanks for all the other suggestions. We saw all sorts of great things in Barcelona, Venice, and the other ports along our cruise.
posted by Arbac at 4:49 PM on September 9, 2013

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