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.