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72 Hours in Barcelona: Bachelor Party Edition

Last month I had the fortune of making a trip out to Barcelona for my friend’s bachelor party. This is the email I sent upon my return to a buddy who was planning a trip out there with his wife in June.

Majestic Hotel Barcelona Suite View

A view from our balcony at the Majestic Hotel Barcelona

Barcelona was amazing. I’m jealous that you guys are going in June when you can really appreciate the Beach city that it is. Anyway, here’s some recommendations for you grouped by neighborhoods:

Paseo de Gracia

Hotel Majestic Rooftop – The Hotel Majestic is where we stayed. The view from the rooftop bar/lounge is breathtaking. You can literally see the whole city from the ocean to the mountain range. Look for the Sagrada Familia – perhaps Barcelona‘s most iconic piece of architecture by famed architect Antoni Gaudi. The rooftop is a hidden local gem, but it’s open to the public. Just walk to the elevators and hit the 10th floor, and walk out to the right.  It closed at 9PM while we were there but may be open later in the summer. I’d get there in the day anyway to enjoy the sun.


The Rooftop of the Majestic Hotel in Barcelona has a bar, pool, and a expansive view of the city

You can see all the way from the Beach to the mountain ranges from the Majestic

You can see all the way from the Beach to the mountain ranges from the Majestic


You even get a good view of the Sagrada Familia – one of Spains most iconic architecture

Botafumeiro (restaurant) – This is where I had my best meal of the trip. They’re known for their seafood and paella (I’m still thinking about the paella I had there). This place seemed the equivalent of a 5-star restaurant (it’s apparently where Bill Clinton eats his Paella when in Spain), but you’ll see that your dollar goes far (relative to a 5-star American restaurant. This is still a pricey experience by Barcelona standards). A single paella dish can easily feed two of me (I’m a big boy) and costs 34 Euro – about $50. Everything there is made fresh to order as opposed to a lot of other paella places. It’s also the only place that all the other patrons were locals. So basically you’ll be with locals and Bill Clinton. Man, I want more of that paella!


The Paella and Seafood at Botafumeiro are fresh and made to order

Palacio del Flamenco – The equivalent of a local Jazz bar, but with a live flamenco performance. We went with low expectations mostly to say that we had an authentic flamenco experience. But I was blown away. The whole time I kept thinking that these people need to be on a larger stage. With some polish and money, the show could be the equivalent of Lord of the Dance, Spanish style.  The cost was $35 per person with a drink included and the perfect length of time, about 45 minutes.

Sagrada Familia – We ran out of time before we could visit, but it’s in the area I believe. Supposedly among the most impressive architecture in Europe. Construction began in 1882 and it’s still not complete! There’s a lot of other Gaudi architecture in the area too.

If I were to go back, I’d explore the Sagrada Familia, move to the Majestic rooftop for drinks and a break in the lounge chairs, walk to Botafumeiro (about 7 minute walk) for a late lunch/early dinner, followed by a show at Palacio de Flamenco (also within walking distance).

Then I’d rest before heading to the beach.

La Playa Nightlife – Don’t Skip it

This is the trendy/touristy party center of Barcelona (think South Beach Miami). We went there all three nights starting with dinner around 10PM (which is considered early). This may not be your scene, but don’t skip it . You’re on vacation and Barcelona is a European party mecca, so you need to experience the nightlife to truly get the full experience. Plus, you’ll already have taken a siesta, and you’ll be sipping high octane European coffee all day. Anyway, start there with dinner.

CDLC (AKA Carpe Diem) – Along the beach you’ll find a strip of swanky restaurants that turn into trendy lounges/clubs later in the night, and Carpe Diem is at the center of them all. Make a dinner reservation for 10 or 11 PM and enjoy a surprisingly tasty dinner with an ocean view in one of the trendiest environments that Europe has to offer. There will be a live DJ all night. You’ll start seeing groups of really ridiculously good looking, young, and tan French, German, Albanian, Dutch, American, Croatian, Italian, Irish, Spanish, etc people seemingly come out of nowhere. Some of them will forget to wear most of their clothes. These are the socialites who come to Barcelona almost exclusively to party. They lay on the beach some, but mostly just sleep all day and come out at night. Anyway, the meal there is surprisingly really good, and people watching will be on another level. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that the steak there is the best I’ve had in recent memory. Make sure you reserve a seat in the back patio area and stay there long enough to watch the place transform into a club around 1AM, but really close to 2AM.

Popular beachfront restaraunt Carpe Diem (CDLC) turns into a popular nightclub around 2AM which includes a live performance of dancers and musicians before the DJ takes over

Popular beachfront restaurant Carpe Diem (CDLC) turns into a nightclub around 2AM which includes a live performance of dancers and musicians before the DJ takes over

Opium, The after Club – What, you thought you were going home? So did I. Surely paying a $50 entry fee at 3AM we’re either getting swindled or being taken to a brothel I thought. Thankfully I was wrong. The place is an underground part indoor, part outdoor shoulder-to-shoulder packed, fist pumping, full-out nightclub the size of a football field. Perfect venue for a bachelor party, not so much for a married couple on vacation. Tread at your own risk. I’ll forgive you if you skip this part.


Barcelona has a thriving nightlife which includes popular beachfront club Opium pictured here

Top Floor at W Hotel – On the other end of the beach, another option for post dinner nightlife. It’s a little isolated from the other venues, but the club is on the top level with great views of the beach.

If you’re coming from a major American city, you’ll be pleased to find that the VIP tables for bottle service are considerably cheaper in Barcelona.

El Born/La Rabina/Princesa 

I really don’t know where this is (we ended up in this neighborhood a few hours into day-drinking), but it was a really cool part of town and memorable enough that I wish we had spent more time there. It was sort of a Soho meets Little Italy type place. We went out in this area during the day after the FC Barcelona game to go “tapas hopping.”

Llamer it Llamar (tapas bar) – We went here on the recommendation of another friend and it was very good. So were many of the other tapas places we went to throughout the weekend though. Start here for some tapas and wine, then get lost in the many alleyways and side streets until you find a nice gelato shop or cafe you like. Sit there, drink coffee, puff cigarettes, and turn your nose up at any Americans that walk by. But seriously, I wished I spent more time in this area exploring the maze of streets and outdoor markets and sitting at outdoor cafes. This is the type of place I expect when I think of Europe. The Picasso Museum is also nearby.

That’s a big chunk of what we did during the three days there. We were actually really productive, but it took two near all-nighters to pull it all off. One of the highlights was definitely the FC Barcelona game, but the season will be over by the time you get there. Other than that, the only things you should know is that English is MUCH more prevalent than in South America and tipping is not required. They’ll still expect you to tip because you’re american, but 10% is considered generous.

Have fun.

Intro to Travel Hacking via Credit Cards

Disclaimer: There are no credit card signup affiliate links in this post. All the links go to the original places I found the offers. Also, you should start by joining the respective frequent flyer programs and make sure you have good credit before taking advantage of credit card travel hacking.

I decided to make this site after a conversation I had with my friend who asked me the best ways to accumulate frequent flyer miles and credit card points for travel. I wrote him the following email below and then compiled a list of sites, blogs, and forums I regularly visit so that he could get more in depth knowledge on his own. Then another friend asked me for the same advice, and then another. I forwarded the same email and list to all my friends that asked. Eventually I just decided to publish the list online in aggregated RSS format so that I could just refer everyone that asks to a single link. And hence, this site was born. Here is the original email below (some of the methods/offers may no longer be available, but the gist of the travel hacking I explain is still the same).


I know you’re asking mostly about the best cards for travel (ie no foreign transaction fees, etc), which I’ll get to, but I’m going to bring you up to speed on how “travel hackers” travel as often as they want, often via first class on international flights and in 5-star hotels, very very cheaply.

There’s two aspects to credit card points (including frequent flyer miles) which you should consider. First is the actual bonus points you get for signing up for a specific card, and second is the type/quality of points you can earn with the cards once you have it.

Sign up bonuses

Credit card companies often give anywhere from 10K to 100K (very rarely) bonus points for signing up for a credit card. Take any major American airline flight, and they’ll force you to listen to their current bonus miles offer for their branded credit card as you approach your destination. For the standard program, any offer above 50K points/miles is worth considering. Something to keep in mind, there’s often much better signup bonuses than the ones offered. For example, the mass consumer offer for the American Airlines Citi Executive Mastercard right now is 30K Miles: You should do a google search yourself too, just to see what you come up with. The average offer for the card is usually 30K points. That’s usually what the average consumer signs up for. BUT if you know where to look, you can find special offers for 50K miles, or the rare, 100K bonus miles! and everything in between.

FYI, that 100K bonus mile card is probably the most generous offer out there right now across the major airlines and credit card companies. So how much are 100K American Airlines miles worth? Well if you look at the awards chart, it can be 5 economy tickets from the US to Europe or 6 tickets from the US to parts of South America. That’s pretty good for just signing up for a credit card.

So what’s the caveat? Well first, the credit card companies have minimum spend requirements to earn the bonus miles, and second, some cards have annual fees. In the case of the American Airlines Citi Mastercard, to get the full 100K bonus, you need to spend $10K dollars within the first three months, and there’s also a $450 annual fee. This is where the concept of “manufactured spending” comes in, which I believe I talked to you a little about the other day.

Manufactured spending is, as is sounds, the concept of finding ways to spend money on your credit cards where you break even on your money (or pretty close) but come out way ahead when you calculate the value of points or miles earned by doing so.  One of the more famous examples of manufactured spending was the exploitation of the US governments attempt to add dollar coins into circulation: Travel hackers found a way to use the US government’s incentive to use dollar coins as a sort of loophole to generate free points/miles on their credit cards. Another recent one was the use of Vanilla Reload cards, a hack that was used in many variations: You can imagine the possibilities with this. Unfortunately, CVS ended the purchase of Vanilla Reload cards just this month after people had exploited it to the tune of many millions of dollars in manufactured spending.

Fortunately, if you’re just a little creative, there’s still plenty of ways to manufacture spend. The concern in this blog post hints at a pretty common method ongoing right now:

This is going on way longer than I thought. Chew on it for a little bit and we can talk later today on other travel hacking tips, like how to fly first class to Europe for only 25K points, and I’ll actually make a recommendation for you for a good foreign travel card.

In the meantime, if you want to read up more on this stuff, here’s a list of the most popular travel hacking sites: