When I think of Spain, Barcelona is no. 1 city that pops into my mind, and I am pretty sure it is yours too. Barcelona is city of arts, culture and architecture, it is capital of Catalonia, constantly among top 10 most visited cities in Europe and probably on everyone’s travel bucket list. It definitely deserves to be so popular, but it hasn’t always been so. Barcelona started gaining popularity after summer Olympic games of 1992, when they also build the beach. Can you imagine Barcelona without a beach? A bit hard, right? Well, Barcelona has lots to offer and here I put together a mini guide that will make your planning and travelling there easier.
HOW TO GET THERE?
I guess most of you will fly to Barcelona Airport with one of the numerous airlines that fly there. If you are in Europe you will probably go with one of the low-cost airlines that fly there, such as Ryanair, EasyJet, Volotea, Vueling, etc. Barcelona is really well connected so it shouldn’t be much trouble getting a flight there. From Barcelona airport you have few options on how to actually get to the city itself.
Aero Bus: very convenient, not to expensive and you can easily book your tickets online way in advance or just buy them at the airport. One way ticket si 5,9 EUR and return is 10,2 EUR. It stops on Plaza Espanya, Gran Via-Urgell, Plaza Universitat and Plaza Catalunya. For us it was very convenient, as we were staying close to La Rambla and we just walked from Plaza Catalunya to our Airbnb. Aero Bus is blue, very hard to miss and stops at both terminals.
Metro: you will probably need to use metro in the city anyway, so why not just start at the airport? You will take L9 South line ( which will take you all the way to Zona Universitària, and you will have to change to other lines to get to the city center (Torrassa (L1), Collblanc (L5) and Zona Universitària (L3)). The fare for L9 is 4,5 EUR and it runs every 7 minutes. You can’t use your T10 Barcelona metro card for L9 line.
You can also take a taxi or train, but I would definitely recommend to take either Aero Bus or metro, since these are the most convenient. You will find all these information here.
You can also reach Barcelona with train from other Spanish cities, which means that you will be arriving to one of the train stations in and around the city such as Barcelona Sants (we took a train from here to Valencia), Estacion de Francia quite near to La Barceloneta beach, or some other. Spanish train network is called Renfe and it connects cities with normal and high speed trains.
HOW TO GET AROUND?
Walking, metro and bus are your best and easiest options. Get yourself T10 Barcelona metro card at ticket machines in metro stations for 10,20 EUR and you will be good to go. It is also a lot cheaper than buying single tickets and whole lot more convenient. Find metro map here. Metro in Barcelona is really great, modern and so easy to use.
It is also possible to rent bikes and I’ve seen lots of people using electric scooters.
OTHER PRACTICAL INFO
Spain is in EU, its currency is Euro and the official language is Spanish or Castilian, although in Barcelona and wider Catalonia region you will notice that their Spanish is a bit different. That is because it is. Catalan is a regional language of Catalonia, it is similar to Spanish but has some French influence, so if you do know some Spanish you should be quite good. English is widely spoken and you will be able to get menus in restaurants in English as well.
Be very careful with your stuff, especially in touristy spots, like La Rambla and always check the receipt before you pay. It happened a few times we were charged for something we didn’t order. If you are persistent they will correct it.
WHERE TO STAY?
When deciding where I want to stay during my time somewhere I always take in consideration what I want to do there. You might wanna spend most of your time chilling at the beach, so you will probably choose La Barceloneta but for everything else I suggest you choose Gothic Quarter, El Raval or Eixample which are all central and close to sights and metro stations.
Expect accommodations to be quite high in Barcelona, especially if you are visiting in summer or around some big events or festivals. I always check booking.com and Airbnb for accommodation and decide which offer me more for less money and in Barcelona it was cheaper to stay in Airbnb.
You can use my links to get some discount for your first stay with Airbnb (https://www.airbnb.com/c/janjah1?currency=EUR)
WHAT TO DO?
Barcelona is city of many wonders and I am sure you won’t run out of things to do no matter how long you stay there. Here is my list of things you can see and do there, some really popular and touristy and some that are more off the beaten path.
Check out my latest Gaudi’s Barcelona post if you are interested in art and architecture by famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi. I share few of his works that we saw along with some tips and recommendations.
Barcelona Cathedral is just stunning and when I learned you can go on the roof and see the whole city I was sold. Go before noon to get a free entrance to the Cathedral and then pay just 3 EUR to access the roof and enjoy the view. It is a lot less crowded in the morning and the views are gorgeous!
Gaudi wasn’t the only famous artist living and working in Barcelona. This city attracted and produced many known artists, such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali and Joan Miró to name just a few most popular ones. In Barcelona you will certainly feel the importance of art and culture, and if you are very much into that you should definitely visit Passatge del Crèdit street. Joan Miró was born at number 4 in 1893, which is now the site of the Hotel Rialto. You will also find an art gallery there, lots of art work, street art and it is just a lovely, charming street.
Very popular sight in Barcelona is Magic Fountain, which is one of the many buildings and structures that were build for Barcelona International Exposition in 1929. The design for Magic Fountain was thought to be too ambitious to be completed on time, but they managed. Magic Fountain is far from normal fountain, it is a spectacle of colours, light, motion, music and water. The performance is not everyday so you should check here if you want to see it.
If you find yourself by the fountain during daytime you will still have quite a few thing to do around. One of these things is Barcelona Pavillion, a place you shouldn’t miss if you are into architecture. It was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich as the German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition in 1929 and it certainly doesn’t feel like it is almost century old building. It is really fascinating building and a strong point of reference not only in Mies van der Rohe’s own career but also in twentieth-century architecture as a whole, so be sure to check it out.
The next is CaixaForum Barcelona, a cultural center and art gallery located in the old textile factory from 1911 when it also won the City Council’s award for best industrial building. It is a really charming building, you can go on a roof and a have a little view (it is not really high), there is also a restaurant. We wandered around the building for free, but if you want to see the exhibitions you will probably have to pay. Little hidden gem that is certainly not on everyone’s Barcelona must see list.
When you are finished at CaixaForum you can head to Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya which is located on Montjuïc hill offering some stunning views! What is also amazing about this place is that you don’t really need to walk uphill that much, because there are escalators that will just take you up there. All around museums is lush green park you can wander around and observe parrots. Did you know that there are 7 species of parrots living in Barcelona? How amazing is that!
Olympic complex another amazing sight in Barcelona, even if you are not the biggest sports fan. Summer Olympics put Barcelona in the world map of tourist destinations and you can wander around most of the complex for free.
Check out also my guide to 5 best views in Barcelona.
If you just want to get the vibe of the city, I suggest you wander off La Rambla and head to Plaza Reial. It is a meeting point with lots of restaurants and bars around, there are also some really famous night clubs, if you are up for the party.
Another place I suggest you to visit is actually where we were staying. It is filled with bars, young people, restaurants,… Start your way at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art where young people meet, sit around, skate, sit down at some café for a drink or two and head to Agora Juan Andres Benitez. This colourful, artsy garden is dedicated to businessman Juan Andrés Benítez, who died after violent arrest by the police in 2013. The art in this garden shows this story and its also a community space.
And then there is also La Barceloneta with a beach if you crave some vitamin sea.
WHERE TO EAT?
We didn’t have much luck with food in Barcelona. It was mostly quite bad and so overpriced, but we did find few gems we can recommend to you.
We had the best churros at Xurreria Laietana. It is a cozy little place we stumbled upon our first day in Barcelona. Churros and porras are freshly fried, hot chocolate is silky and not too thick. For a portion of 6 churros and hot chocolate you will pay 3,6 EUR and then order another one because it is really yummy.
Location:Via Laietana, 46, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
La Bodega d’en Rafel is a charming little bar with great selection of tapas at reasonable prices. We ordered meat plate, fried calamari, slices of baquette with tomatoes, and our favourite bombas. Bombas are fried balls of mashed potatoes stuffed with meat. These thingies are without a doubt the best thing I ate in Spain, beside the churros I mentioned before.
Location: Carrer de Manso, 52, 08015 Barcelona, Spain
If you find yourself hungry at the beach you can check out Lokillo Bar Taverna. It is a tapas bar with very local vibes. We ordered dollar chips with anchovies marinated in vinegar and two sandwiches, one with jamon (you gotta try that) and one with anchovies. Both were super delicious, served with cheese and a bit of a tomato sauce in a crunchy baguette.
Location: Carrer de Sant Elm, Carrer del Mar, 75, 08003 Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona has quite a few markets where you can just shop for food but also get something to eat. Most known and popular is La Boqueria market, which is located by La Rambla, so it is impossible to miss.
Santa Caterina Market is located close to Barcelona Cathedral and has really fascinating roof, designed by Catalan architect Enric Miralles. We also visited Sant Antoni Market.
If you are travelling on a budget, visit the markets before they close to get discounts on fruit, juices, smoothies, cut meats… Also check out my post: 8 tips to exploring Spain on a budget for more tips on how to make the most of your travelling in Spain on a budget.
What are your favourite places in Barcelona? Where did you have the best food or drinks in the city? Share in the comments and help out a fellow traveler who is planning a trip to Barcelona.
Another question, is there something you would like for me to write about our time in Barcelona and Spain? Which topics are you most interested in (food, sights, insta locations, itineraries…)? Let me know in the comments as well.
Hope this was helpful and you will enjoy your time in Barcelona!
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