Fun in Barcelona

Very first time visiting Barcelona? We want you to make the most of your experience. For this reason, we have enrolled the support of a local travel expert to help get you on the road. Follow these helpful travel tips and appreciate the very best that Barcelona is offering.

See: From contemporary artwork to historical Baroque architecture; bustling food markets to magical fountains, the list of Barcelona’s attractions is endless. An emblematic symbol of the city is the Sagrada Familia Cathedral, a profoundly eccentric creation of the talented Gaudi. Catch the lift up to the top of the building for a panorama of the city. Another funky masterpiece from Gaudi is the magical Parc Güell: a mishmash of colourful, mosaic-tiled spirals and green spaces.

Dig up the city’s past in its historical quarters, Barri Gòtic, and get lost amidst the medieval buildings – Catedral de la Santa Creu, Els Quatre Gats and Basilica de la Mercè. Nearby is the Jewish Quarter, an original ghetto converted into a charming labyrinth of cobblestoned pathways.

Bustling with much energy and vigour, La Rambla is a mile-long pedestrian boulevard that cuts through the heart of the city. Packed with restaurants, acrobats, statues, fortune-tellers, florists and newspaper stands, this wide walkway has gained quite a name for itself. Veer off the road into an alleyway and you’ll find the colourful La Boqueria market where rows upon dizzying rows of fresh seafood, dried fruits, tapas and liquor promise to seduce you.

To see Barcelona from above, weave your way up to the hilltop of Montjüic, where several attractions stand – the Barcelona Football Stadium Camp Nou, Botanic Gardens and Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. It’s easy to spend days exploring this area, and you’ll often have the place to yourself as less tourists head this way.

Shop: Shopaholics are in luck.Barcelona’s main shopping street stretches over 5 kilometres – from the start of the La Rambla, cutting through Plaça Catalunya all the way up to Avenue Diagonal. A jumble of boutiques, high-street fashion stores and massive departmental stalls concentrate in Barcelona’s commercial district.

Designer stalls like Cartier, Vogue and Bally appeal to the high-end shoppers, while alternative local brands like Custo Barcelona, MTX and Camper draw in those with unconventional tastes. Those with a budget will be happy to see high street brands like Blanco, Mango and Zara scattered throughout the city.

Those looking for a bargain can head out of town to La Roca Outlet Shopping Village where over eight brands are on sale, at reduced prices. Just a 50-minute train ride away, this shopping village is seriously a dream come true for many.

Eat: You seriously can’t leave Barcelona without trying all of its local fare. Catalan cuisine has kicked up quite a storm worldwide, all thanks to the Michelin-starred restaurants and the creation of nouveau cuisine. At the frontier of this new wave of avant garde restaurants are Alkimia, the brainchild of Jordi Vilá, as well as Comerç 24, that serves up luxury tapas inspird by Ferran Adria. Other upscale restaurants worth checking out are Vinya Roel, Moo Restaurants, Els Pescadors and Escriba.

For a taste of something more traditional, head to the seafood restaurants along the beachfront boulevard of Barceloneta. Ranging from trendy chic bastrobars to traditional taverns, the key ingredient that strings them together is seafood. Those with a refined taste might like to check out the stylish Mar 24, Xup Xup or Torre d’Alta Mar – all offering Catalan cuisine with a contemporary twist. Traditional fare is at its finest in Suquet de l’Almirall and Can Ramonet.

But good food in Barcelona is not just for the well-heeled traveller: for affordable and fresh, organic cuisine, sample the tapas on offer in the Boqueria Market. One stall in particularly has made a name for itself: El Quim Restaurant in the market dishes up crispy boquerones and savoury arroz negro for those who have the patience to wait in line. For economical eats, other areas worth checking out are Plaça Gracia and Barri Gotìc.

Drink: Like a chameleon, Barcelona sheds its bright and funky skin and puts on a coat of elegance by night. From groovy jazz lounge to feisty flamenco tablaos and raucous dance clubs, the selection of nightlife venues in Barcelona impresses even the most hard-core party-goers.

For a taste of tradition, clap along to the infectious beats at the Tablao de Carmen in Poble Espanyol. Don’t let the Disneyland-like atmosphere here fool you, the flamenco performances here often feature veteran dancers and well-known guitarists. Alternatively, closer to town is Los Tarantos in Plaça Reial which stages nightly performances.

Pre-clubbing drinks are best enjoyed in atmospheric bars like el Quatre Gats, a vintage teak-wood tavern that’s popular among artists and poets. Add a little sophistication to the night at el Xampanyet, the coolest champagne bar in town, serving up sparkling Catalan cava.

Stay: As one of the most visited cities in Europe, hotels in Barcelona are often packed to the brim and booked up way in advance. If you’re visiting in summer (the peak season), be sure to make your reservations early. But as you would expect from any major European city, the variety of accommodation options in Barcelona is staggering. One of the top hotels in Barcelona is the Hotel Arts Barcelona, an iconic landmark that stands by the beach and famed for its world-class facilities. Other stylish, world-renown hotels include the W Barcelona, Eurostars Grand Marine Hotel by the port and the Gran Hotel la Florida located near Mount Tibidabo. For slightly more affordable prices, check out the design hotels B Hotel and Hotel 1898.

Mid-range accommodation is aplenty – try out the NH Diagonal Center and Hotel Alexandra Barcelona. Young and budget-friendly hostels like Hostal Express, Pension Picasso and Hostal Alogar will surely keep your pockets happy.

Walk: Barcelona is a relatively big city, and the best way to explore different parts of the city is by underground metro. Beware of pickpockets though – they’re often at work especially during peak hours when metros are packed to the brim. In the gothic quarters, however, it’s compact and easy to navigate on foot. The Barcelona Tourism Office organizes several themed walking tours in the city – including the Gothic Quarter by Night, Picasso Walking Tour and Marina Walking Tour.

For food-lovers, you’re in the right place. Barcelona has an impressive array of tapas bars that can be visited on tapas walks. Barcelona Urban Adventures arranges Barcelona Cycle and Tapas tours which makes tapas-sampling even more exciting. It also brings tourists on a ‘Hidden Barcelona’ walk where you meander through back streets, alleys and local markets to see the city from local perspectives.

Get out: Nature-lovers will be surprised to know that Barcelona pockmarked with nature – even within the city itself, you’re enveloped in greenery and surrounded by sloping mountains. Head up to Parc del Collserola on Mount Tibidabo for a breathe of fresh air and an impressive panorama of the city from above. This is an excellent spot for hiking, biking and just wandering.

A popular half-day trip is a visit to the Montserrat Mountains and the Royal Basilica. Enroute, you’ll see the Black Virgin carving (from the 12th century) and perhaps hear some choir singing. Beach bummers can head out to Sitges, just a stone’s throw away from Barcelona – and also one of the best party beaches in Spain.

Listen: Barcelona’s summer music festivals are some of the best in the country and they attract thousands of revellers here each summer. Sónar is an international festival of progressive music and multimedia art, held in various spots all over the city each June. Primavera Sound, on the other hand, feature more mainstream music and world-recognised artists.

Next Up: I am off to meet some friends in the Canaries for a long overdue catchup. We have arranged car hire Lanzarote Airport deals for all of us so we have quite a few road trips in mind. Can’t wait!

Avoid: Tourist traps along the beach – some seafood restaurants in Barcelona have ridiculous prices especially in summer; be sure to compare prices when choosing a restaurant.

Malaga and all it has to Offer

See: Malaga’s iconic landmark, La Alcazaba, stands on a hilltop overlooking the city. The Moorish fortress offers the best views of the city and is best visited at sunset. Other monuments worth checking out are the nearby Castillo de Gibralfaro, a 14th-century castle, and the Malaga Cathedral. For culture vultures, get under the skin of world-famous artist Pablo Picasso at the impressive Museo Picasso Málaga or check out the Municipal Museum of Malaga for temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.

Golden stretches of beach run for miles in Malaga: head to the city beach of la Malagueta, just 10 minutes from the city centre or Playa Palo next to the marine for some aquatic action.

Be sure to arrange a car hire Malaga Airport deal with I have always found them to be very reasonable and reliable.

Shop: For high-street fashion digs, wander through the swanky shopping street of Marqués de Larios, home to many famous Spanish brands like Mango, Zara and Massimo Dutti. The most popular Spanish department store, El Corte Inglés offers a myriad of products from electronics to accessories and food. Alternatively, check out the historic commercial centre of Félix Sáenz that plays host to a selection of fashion shops, hairdressers, electronic stores and supermarkets. The architectural gem of Atarazanas Central Market gives a crash course in Spanish culinary with its plethora of fresh seafood, dried fruits and cured meat on display. Featuring 14th century Moorish architecture, the building was once a shipyard before being transformed into a modern-day market.

Eat: With its seafront location, Malaga rightfully claims fame to having some of the best seafood restaurants in Spain. A fixture of Malaga’s culinary scene, Marisquería Sal Gorda dishes up seafood platters as how you imagine them: colourful, savoury and in generous portions. Those with a refined taste for gastronomy will be delighted by La Moraga Antonio Martin, a contemporary gastrobar that serves up funky tapas created by world-famous chef Dani García.

For something more wallet-friendly, head on the popular el Refectorium for traditional Spanish fare. Not a fan of seafood? Meson Los Robles de León is famed for its roasted meat – carne a la brasa – and other meat dishes like ox entrecote and sirloin steak.

Quiet bites and cheap snacks are available at the humble tapas bar, Rincón de Mata where tapas are priced at €1.20. From gambas al pil-pil (spicy prawns) to stewed snails, this bar certainly gives you a bang for your buck.

Drink: As night falls, Malaga transforms into a vibrant, palpitating hub. With bars and discos stretching all the way from the Marqués de Larios to the port, the choice is endless. Most clubs are concentrated around the districts of Malagueta and Pedregalejo, while beach bars and lounges are scattered around the port.

Start the night at E!vissa Biocafe, a chillout lounge serving some of the best cocktails in town. With its cosy sofas, café del mar music and Ibiza-inspired décor, it’s a great place to meet locals and relax before a night of partying. Continue the night crawl at Weekend in Plaza de la Merced, the most popular hangout spot for young revellers. The music at Weekend is an eclectic mixture of blues and funk, a magnet for a stylish and alternative crowd. One of the trendiest hangouts in town is D’angels in Teatrino. Featuring swanky black-tiled interior and plush suede sofas, this joint is the place to be seen. For one last drink before dawn, Café Boulevar Copas in the University district promises to end your night with a bang.

Stay: Whether you’re a backpacker or a luxury traveller, you’ll be spoilt for choice by the list of accommodation options available in Malaga. The best hotels in the city centre of Malaga include the Vincci Posada del Patio Hotel, Barcelo Malaga Hotel and Sallés Hotel Málaga Centro. Stylish boutique hotels like Hotel Molino Lario and Ataranzanas Boutique Hotel provide a rather unique and artistically-designed experience. For mid-range accommodation, try out the cushy three-star Campanile Hotel,Eurostars Astoria Hotel and Suite Novotel Malaga Centro. Lastly, backpackers can easily find affordable and atmospheric accommodation at all-time favourites like Oasis Backpackers, the Melting Pot Backpackers Hostel and Hostal Domus.

Walk: Boasting a compact city centre, the narrow streets of Malaga are best explored by foot. You can easily see the main districts and port in one day, although that would probably leave you wanting for more. Most walking tours cover the main attractions like the Alcazaba, Cathedral, castle, Roman amphitheatre and Picasso Museum. Foodies alert! The tapas tour with Malaga Walks educates you on local tapas culture and and includes sampling of sherries and several tapas.

To explore the greenery of the city, wander through the tropical gardens surrounding the Town Hall and Bank of Spain. A seaside stroll by the Malagueta beach and lighthouse along with a visit to the nearby bullring also gives great insights to the typical Malagueño lifestyle and their history.

Get out: Beach lovers can head out to the nearby beach towns of Torremolinos and Fuengirola for a change of scenery. Particularly popular with tourists, these towns may be crowded but they are lined with golden beaches and seafood restaurants. Nerja, an hour away by bus, is home to one of the most impressive caves in Spain, featuring massive auditoriums and gigantic stalagmites and stalactites. For a cultural fix, drive out to the picturesque city of Ronda that sits on a dramatic gorge and the world-famous Moorish Alhambra palace in Granada.

Listen: While Malaga is not the birthplace of flamenco music, there’s no shortage of live flamenco shows in the city. One of the most famous spots in Malaga is Flamenco Diquela, where veteran dancers perform to passionate beats and feisty rhythms every night.

Avoid: Tourist traps along the beach – some restaurants jack up their prices especially in summer; be sure to compare prices when choosing a restaurant.