Want to travel to Portugal and Spain? What about Finland, Norway, and Sweden? Sign us up! What about Austria and the countries on its borders, like Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Italy, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein? If you said yes to any of these countries, then you should apply for a Schengen Visa.
A Schengen Visa is a short-stay visa allowing its holder to circulate in the Schengen area, which covers 26 countries without border controls between them. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. When you get a Schengen visa, you get a short-stay visa to 26 European countries.
A Schengen visa lets its holder stay in any of the “Schengen States” for 90 days. You can travel freely between the 26 Schengen countries while your visa is valid. When I went to Spain, I didn’t know about the Schengen visa. If I had, I would have made plans to extend my stay and enjoy another country. Getting to Barcelona took a 13-hour flight and two layovers (Seattle and Amsterdam) so if you are going to that much effort, why not stay longer and see as much as you can? When you can travel freely between countries, there is so much more that you can do.
Barcelona is a very hip, modern, and cosmopolitan, especially if you stay in downtown Barcelona where the fancy hotels and convention centers are. On my trip, we stayed in the town of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, which is about 25 minutes southwest of Barcelona. I ended up liking this because it was more of a “real” neighborhood, where working families actually live. So we could shop at markets and visit bars and restaurants that weren’t immediately geared towards tourists. The AirBnb apartment we stayed at was above a cafe, so it was easy to get espresso each day. A bar was across the street where I got a legit tapas plate (pork belly with bread and tomato) when I ordered an Estrella beer, and could shop at all the corner markets selling fruit, bread, candy, seafood, meat, and cheese. Each item has its own specialty shop, where you can get just that.
Once you are in Europe, getting from one country to another is usually affordable and easy. Whether you take short flights from one country to another, rent a car, or travel by train, the destinations are not that far apart. Even getting from one country to another, not to mention from one city to another city within the same country, is pretty easy to figure out. If you are able to find a home base, such as Barcelona, then you can easily criss cross destinations and have somewhere to go back to. Barcelona is in the northern part of the country, which puts it closer to France (one of the Schengen States) and all of Europe basically just outside your door.