I don’t even know where to begin with this place…I’ve been here 3 times now and I can truly say it is one of the most amazing/beautiful/culture-rich cities I’ve ever been to!! From the tapas, the beautiful beaches, the never-ending sights, incredible nightlife, and the variety of unique and stunning “barrios” (neighborhoods in english) that compose the city, this city is absolutely incredible and has everything you’ve ever wanted in a travel destination and more. It’s almost difficult to put my love for this place into words but I will try my best with this travel guide 🙂
*Note: Most of these photos were taken with a disposable camera or a fish-eye lens, hence the vintage, artsy quality of the pictures. I apologize for not delivering the clarity that I usually do, but hope you still enjoy my guide!
Culture: Spanish culture is SO present everywhere you go in Barcelona. You’ll see this especially in its artistic expression throughout the city: art displays everywhere, gothic and modern architecture unlike anything you’ve ever seen (especially thanks to Spanish architect Gaudí), out-of-this-world (Miró, Picasso, etc.). As for the people, they were all very friendly and welcomed and encouraged my attempts to speak the Spanish language- I was sometimes blown away with their patience! They were also always willing to give me advice on where to eat and what to see, which I was also very thankful for. After a few days you’ll start to recognize how the people, the culture, and simply the city as a whole reflect a sense of passion, warmth, and hospitality-you’ll feel right at home!
Bullet Holes on the Walls- Imprints of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)
Economy: As you explore the city, you’ll notice that a lot of money has gone into building it because it’s GORGEOUS!!. The shops, restaurants, and sights tend to have a high-end appeal to them, but you can definitely find the more affordable attractions of the city if you do your research. Just be prepared to spend more than you’re used to if you plan on having an action-packed visit that includes all the best culinary experiences (although I’ll later be pointing out a lot of Barcelona bargains- keep reading!!)
Transportation: Two pieces of advice- USE THE METRO AND YOUR FEET! The metro is clean, cheap, and easy to use. I made the mistake of taking cabs everywhere on one of my visits and ended up draining my bank account this way. Also, the city is very walkable. Maybe not the ENTIRE city, but you can cover a great distance in a day simply because everywhere you walk is SO beautiful, you won’t even notice the time or the effort. One day my boyfriend and I walked 11 miles and it was my favorite day I’ve ever spent in Barcelona to-date. It was the best way to see and explore the city!
Hotel/Hostel: I stayed at a boutique hotel the second time I came to Barcelona (the first time I was in dorms at a university), which I can’t remember the name of but I definitely recommend staying in one of these for a more high-class, yet affordable stay. However, if you’re looking for just a place to sleep at night without the luxury that’s super affordable, I recommend Hostalet Barcelona located in the Eixample. This neighborhood has beautiful gothic architecture and is super close to Passieg de Gracia (I believe one metro stop away), which is home to all the most beautiful shops and restaurants, La Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi’s other incredible masterpieces, such as La Pedrera an Casa Batlló. Plus, it is very accessible, only 2 blocks (under a 5 minute walk) from the nearest metro stop. The room, although some don’t have windows, come with their own bathrooms and wifi. We were in the room only to sleep and nap, so this place was perfect for us at only $75 a night (so $37.50 split between my boyfriend and I). Also, if you’re new to the city, the staff is SO helpful and willing to help you with anything from directions, to reservations, and recommendations.
Food: Even though you can pretty much find any type of cuisine you want in Barcelona, you MUST try these 4 things: their tapas, pan con tomate, sangria, and paella. For those of you that don’t already know, tapas are small shareable plates, basically appetizer size. Some of the best tapas to get are their cured meats (usually ham and prosciutto) and cheeses, patatas bravas (fried potatoes with creamy and spicy sauce on top), croquets, and grilled shrimp. Pan con tomate is the next must-try, which will be easy to do because it’s usually brought out for free before any authentic Spanish meal. It’s basically just toasted bread drizzled with olive oil, rubbed with tomato juices, then seasoned with salt. Even though it sounds simple it’s SO delicious and fresh-tasting (check out my pan con tomato recipe here!). Next on the list is Sangria- Spanish wine, and sometimes orange liqueur mixed with fruit juice and fresh fruit. Sooo yummy, and so easy to drink, meaning it’s very easy to achieve a buzz 😛 I miss it!! Ok lastly, you have to try paella, especially seafood paella if that’s your style, because there is nothing better than slow-cooked Spanish rice and seafood freshly caught off the Barcelona coast. YUM. Here’s a list of my favorite Barcelona restaurants:
- Bo De B– THE BEST sandwiches you may ever have in your life, located right by the beach. They basically combine all the flavors of Africa, India, Spain, and Greece, into one big fresh sandwich for very cheap. Beware of the line though, I recommend going on off hours!
- Milk Bar & Bistro– AMAZING brunch in the Gothic District (near Las Ramblas).
- El Bosc de Las Fades– Little bar that looks like it’s straight out of a fantasy movie, right off Las Ramblas. We didn’t eat or drink here, just came to check out the fairy-filled forest decorations, but definitely think it’s worth it to come here for a coffee or a drink!
- Da Greco– The most incredible italian food, you would think you were in Italy. Right near Passieg De Gracia and all Gaudí’s work + The lasagna there is the best I’ve ever had.
- CDLC, Opium, or Shoko– Although all are overpriced, these are some of the greatest places to come for a drink during the day, situated right on the boardwalk next to the beach! Sit outside in the sunlight under the palm trees on one of their many cabanas. You’re pretty much paying for the ambience in addition to your meal, but you won’t regret it!
- Tapas- I completely forgot the name of the tapas place I went to and loved, so here is a list of the best tapas from Lonely Planet.
- Paella- I also forgot the name of this place 🙁 I went with my abroad program somewhere in Barceloneta close to the beach if that helps, but do your research and it will be easy to find! Here’s what I researched.
- Like I said before: WALK THE CITY! Especially along Passieg de Gracia for shopping and Gaudí’s architectural works of art, the Parc de la Ciutadella (gorgeous park with fountains and huge lawns near the beach + the “Spanish Arc de Triumf”), and along Las Ramblas for street performer entertainment and touristy fun.
- Visit Museums- Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, and Casa Batlló are some of the best
- Take the funicular up to Montjuic Castle for amazing views of the city!
- Go to the beach and drink some cocktails at the beach bars that line the boardwalk
- Go to Park Güell, Gaudí’s amazing mosaic park!
- Visit La Sagrada Família, Gaudí’s infamous church. I’ve never actually been inside but I’ve heard the stained glass and arched ceilings inside are absolutely beautiful!
- Razzmatazz– Huge techno club with multiple floors
- Opium– The best club for music, dancing, and ambience, right on the beach!
- Shoko- Yet another great club right on the boardwalk
- Catwalk– Another cool club, up the street from the beach (which usually means less $)
- CHUPITOS!!– This place is a little dive bar that has over 100 kinds of shots (i.e. The Harry Potter, the Willy Wonka, S’mores shot where you toast a marshmallow over a flaming shot of vodka, and the Monica Lewinksy 😉 I won’t ruin the surprise but be careful with that one!! Tehe)
- Old Fashioned– Cool, swanky little bar that will make you feel like you’re in another era. They have the best cocktails in the city and a huge variety to choose from!
- Rooftop bar at The W hotel: Overpriced but has an amazing view of the city with equally amazing cocktails
Day Trips: My first time in Barcelona was an abroad teen study program, in which I stayed for a month and took classes. Being there for so long, I had the chance to explore all of Barcelona’s surrounding cities and attractions. If you’re in Barcelona for a long period of time I definitely recommend checking out these day trips!
- Costa Brava– Beautiful little beach town with a quaint Spanish charm. Come here to sunbathe and swim (it’s much less crowded than Barcelona beaches, with a much more European feel).
- The Ruins of Empúries– On the Costa Brava (with views of the ocean from the ruins), in the city of Girona, these ruins date back to 6th century BC when it was a prosperous territory founded by the Greeks, then occupied by the Romans. After being abandoned, the site wasn’t found again until 1908 so the preservation of the ruins is really something to see!
- Salvador Dalí Museum in Figueres– This was and still is my favorite museum I’ve ever been to!! I LOVE Dalí’s work, so to see it up close and personal and in his home country was indescribable. Just look at the pictures below- the entire experience, even the architecture and layout of the museum itself, are like nothing you’ve ever seen in your life, I guarantee you (Probably exactly what Dali was hoping for!).
- Girona– One of the cutest, most charming cities in Spain and only an hour train ride away from Barcelona. Decorated with gorgeous Gothic castles and cathedrals and located right on a river. The homes lining the river reminded me of Ponte de Vecchio (Florence, Italy) in a way- you’ll know what I mean when you see the pictures.
- Montserrat– Breath-taking mountain top monastery in Catalonia. The surrounding mountains and valley look like wet sand formations that you make at the beach as a kid. That’s the only way I know how to describe it and lost all my pictures so view some here!
- Beware of pick-pocketers! Unfortunately, there are many in Barcelona, especially on Las Ramblas, in the metros, and any other places with lots of people/tourists. Just keep your bag close to your body in these areas with the openings/zippers in eye sight.
- Buy tickets for museums/attractions beforehand online if you can. When I did this for the Picasso museum, I got my ticket for cheaper AND got to skip the line!
- If you’re looking to party and experience the nightlife, I recommend buying alcohol at a market and drinking beforehand rather than just at the bars/clubs. If you don’t, you’ll waste a lot of your money on pricey drinks (plus, at many places you already have to pay cover, even for girls, so it adds up).
- Be careful of cab drivers ripping you off by taking long, unnecessary routes. Some will take advantage of tourists and their lack of knowledge getting around the city.