The ultimate guide to everything Barcelona…this city is my first love and I want everyone to experience its gloriousness.
THE NITTY GRITTY
Barcelona is the capital city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, and therefore most natives speak Catalan as their first language. While they know Spanish as well, native Catalonians are very proud of their Catalonian roots.
You should definitely take the metro or walk the majority of the time. I would suggest taking a taxi to and from the airport if you are not on a super tight budget and possibly to Parc Guell if you aren’t up for a bit of a walk. Otherwise, everything is extremely accessible via public transport. I recommend buying a T-10 pass as that will give you 10 rides and then you can always purchase another if need be.
I would suggest staying in the Eixample or Barri Gotic areas and not directly on Las Ramblas. These areas are just a few blocks away from the popular street, and you don’t have the crowds right at your doorstep.
Read my post on how to avoid pickpockets here.
I have all of the details on the best gifts for friends and family here.
I am putting the Gaudi sights in order of importance (my personal opinion), so you can decide what to see depending on the length of your visit.
1. Sagrada Familia:
There are actually two cathedrals in Barcelona, but if you have limited time, this is the one you want to see. An architectural masterpiece designed by Gaudi, construction began in 1882 and is due to be completed in 2030. Needless to say, the ornate detail on this basilica is not to be missed. While you see so much from the outside, you can also visit the Sagrada Familia for 15 Euros or 29 Euros with an audioguide and tower visit. Hours vary depending on the time of year, but on average open at 9:00 AM and close around 7:00PM.
2. Parc Guell:
Barcelona’s other famous landmark is a public park with incredible architecture, sweeping views, gardens, and more. You have probably seen a picture of the beautiful mosaic tiles Gaudi uses to create so many elements of the park. It is not the most convenient to get to, but is very much worth it. If you decide to do a bus tour of the sights, you will be dropped off close by. You can also take the metro or a taxi, just know that it is a bit of a walk (but still quite doable!) for those that take the metro. You have to purchase tickets ahead of time for about seven euros per person. It should be fine booking that same day as long as you do so early in the morning.
3. Casa Battlo:
A house in the beautiful Eixample area and probably my favorite Gaudi masterpiece. Every room is so unique, each completely different than the next one. It is a bit pricey at 22.50 euro; however, they do have discounts for seniors, students, and children under 18. Just like at Parc Guell, you can buy tickets on the same day and still should have options available.
4. La Pedrera/Casa Mila:
A modernist building in the heart of the Eixample as well, it’s unique because it is still a functioning office building. The main highlight of Casa Mila is the roof! For 20.50 euro, you can check it out during day. They also have a light show at night and concerts up on the roof throughout the summer that you can purchase tickets for as well.
1. Barri Gotic:
This area is my absolute favorite part of Barcelona! You will be entranced by its charm as you walk around and get lost in the many narrow streets. There are a multitude of cute shops, tapas bars, and my favorite part…guitarists playing on secluded streets at night. If you are not staying in Barri Gotic, make sure that you do spend a good portion of your trip in this area. Also check out El Born district as that is right next to the gothic quarter and another fantastic and very trendy area filled with shops and tapas bars.
2. La Rambla:
One of the most famous streets in the world, you can stroll all the way from the main plaza, Plaza Catalunya, down to the marina and the Mediterranean Sea. You might be wondering what exactly is so exciting about a street? Well, there is plenty happening on said street. There are people dressed as characters doing all sorts of crazy tactics to get tourists to take pictures with them and give them money as well as lots of shops, restaurants, etc. There is also a super helpful tourist office on this street should you want to book any guided tours or have any general questions about the city. Be especially careful of pickpockets on this street!
3. La Boqueria:
About halfway down La Rambla on the right-hand side (if you are walking from Plaza Catalunya toward the sea), is a huge open-air market with incredible food. Try the one euro juices and gawk at the marzipan desserts. There is truly something for everyone at La Boqueria. Personally, I always go for the manchego as I could never pass up an opportunity for fresh cheese!
1. Picasso Museum:
A fantastic museum located in the Barri Gotic, I highly recommend taking a guided tour as you will learn so much about Picasso’s life and have a clear understanding of the different “periods” he went through with his painting. You will need to book a tour far in advance. The museum is free after 3:00 PM on Sundays; however, the lines will undoubtedly be extremely long. The hours of operation are Tuesday to Sunday 9:00 AM-7:00 PM and the museum is open later on Thursdays.
A massive hill overlooking the city, you can either take a funicular up to the top or walk. There are tons of things to do like the Fundacio Miro museum, Museo Nacional D’Art de Catalonya, castle of Montjuic, Poble Espanyol, and Olympic Stadium. My personal favorite attraction is the fountain show in Plaza Espanya during the summertime.
3. Barceloneta beach:
A relaxing, beautiful beach on the Mediterranean. I am totally kidding!! If you want that, you need to go a bit outside the city. Barceloneta beach is filled with tourists, locals, people desperately trying to sell you massages as well as watered-down cocktails and sodas, and promoters trying to get you to come to their nightclub for 10 euros plus a free bebida. It is definitely a sight to behold and well-worth it, just know what you are getting into ahead of time so you aren’t expecting peaceful, quiet relaxation.
4. Parc Cuitadella:
This park seems like it is a smaller version of Retiro park in Madrid or Central Park in New York. If you ever need a breather from the city or just want to have a brie and baguette picnic (why wouldn’t you?), this park is a great spot to do just that. There is also the Barcelona zoo, paddleboats, and a few museums in this park as well. I guess it’s not so small after all.
5. Camp Nou:
Hopefully you have heard of Camp Nou, Messi, and the FC Barcelona team as Barcelona is the ultimate futbol city. If you are in Barcelona during the season, I highly recommend going to a game if you can get reasonably priced tickets. If you are there during the summer, you can still take a tour of the stadium so that you can at least see where the magic happens. Check out the website for ticket details.
Other notable attractions: Arc de Triumph, Tibidabo, Palau de la Musica Catalana
Here’s the thing with choosing where to eat in Barcelona. One of the best parts about the culinary experience in Barcelona is walking along the narrow, cobblestone streets and deciding on a restaurant at random. I greatly encourage you do that many times during your trip. That being said, here are some of my favorites.
So I have a really good friend from college who lives in Barcelona and she decided to open up a restaurant. Now, I am not just putting this on my list because she is super cool and my friend. The meal that I had at her restaurant was definitely one of the top meals I have ever had in my life. And if that doesn’t convince you, check out TripAdvisor where napa is number 29 out of over 7,000 restaurants. It is a California-infused style tapas restaurant. Career Aribau 151
2. The Champagneria (Can Paixano):
Ok…this is probably my favorite place in the entire world. I wish it was my second home. The Champagneria is a dive bar that is packed with tourists and locals alike cramming into every nook and cranny for some delicious, yet ridiculously cheap champagne. How cheap you might ask? Well, if you get there before 5:00 PM bottles of champagne are around 5 euros and glasses start at around 1 euro all day and night. If you order a bottle, you have to order two food items as well, but trust me, you’ll need it. I always go with the “pollo con pimientos” sandwich which is chicken with red bell peppers. Carrer de la Reina Christina 7
3. Els Quatre Gats:
A restaurant that was Picasso’s old stomping grounds during the early 1900’s, this is a great spot to just come and get a coffee. It is expensive and the food reviews are not the best, but you come for the experience of being transported back in time to a place with so much history. Carrer Montsio 3 bis
4. Sensi Bistro Barcelona:
I discovered this place on my most recent trip to Barcelona, this restaurant has an incredibly personable staff and fantastic quality tapas at reasonable prices. Carrer Regomir 4
5. Ciudad Condal:
If you are looking for some traditional Spanish tapas in the Example neighborhood, then this is your spot! Carrer Rambla de Catalunya, 18
6. Bilbao Berria:
It’s funny because this restaurant looks like one of the most commercial places in Barcelona; however, the food is great and the location cannot be beat. This spot is perfect if you had a large breakfast and are just looking for a light afternoon snack to tide you over until dinner. It is located in Barri Gotic with an outside patio that has the best view of the Barcelona cathedral. It is tapas style, so you grab a couple of small bites from the platters and sit down. The quality of food is surprisingly good! Carrer Placa Nova, 3
7. 7 Portes:
If you come to Barcelona specifically for paella, well don’t! Go up the coast to Valencia. However, if you want to try some paella during your time in Barcelona, you should check out 7 Portes as they are well-known for their paella. I went many years ago and the paella was very good. Carrer Passeig Isabel II 14
Barcelona has some of the best nightlife in the entire world, so I can’t possibly tell you everywhere to go. Here are some of my most favorite bars and clubs in Barcelona, but also don’t be afraid to walk into a random bar that you stumble upon while sightseeing. You never know what you will find!
1. Espit Chupitos:
A bar with 500 shots. There are two locations and both are great. While it is fun to just randomly choose a shot on the menu, I suggest getting the Harry Potter shot and Boy Scout shot for a unique experience. Please note that this is not a bar that you go to get drunk as the drinks are mostly sugar and liquer.
2. Oveja Negra:
This bar has two locations as well. The smaller one is on La Rambla and the bigger one is on off the metro stop Bogatell. It is similar to a beer hall so grab a pitcher of beer, sangria, or a clara which is a mix of beer and lemonade.
3. Dow Jones Bar:
The epicenter for most study abroad students, this bar is filled with tourists so just know that ahead of time. I love the concept though; you buy drinks based on the stock market as the prices fluctuate based on supply and demand.
4. Other popular options: Old Fashioned, Absenta, and El Bosc de los Fades
While you are on the beach, see if you can find a promoter that can get you a deal at one of the beach clubs. Here are a list of some of my personal favorites.
Beach Bars: Opium Mar, Shoko
Other fun nightclubs throughout the city: Razzmatazz (5 floors), Otto Zutz, Apollo, Sutton
HALF-DAY AND DAY TRIPS
1. Monsterrat (half-day):
Take the train from metro stop Plaza Espanya about an hour and a half to this gorgeous monastery on top of a mountain. That time frame includes a funicular ride up the mountain where you will hopefully see the world famous boy’s choir perform daily at 1:00 PM as well as the Virgin Mary in the Basilica Monsterrat. There are also people selling the most delicious goat cheese…a must have!
2. Girona and Figueres (full-day):
I would suggest taking a guided tour to the beautiful city of Girona and the incredible Dali museum in Figueres. There are tons of tour operators to choose from. I highly recommend this day trip as the Dali museum is definitely the most unique museum I have ever been to.
A gorgeous Mediterranean coastal town, if you are looking to get away from the big city but still want a beach vibe, Sitges is the perfect place. You can take either a train or a bus from multiple metro stops in Barcelona and arrive in Sitges within 30 minutes to an hour respectively.
What advice do you have when visiting Barcelona? Please share in the comments below!
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