After spending six months of my life wandering around the streets of Barcelona I have a pretty good understanding and an undying love for the city I can’t seem to stay away from. Filled with restaurants, bars, and must-see places that I believe truly capture the Catalan culture, I recently developed this Barcelona travel guide to help people love Barcelona the way I do.
Follow this Barcelona Travel Guide to get the perfect taste of Catalonia!
GETTING IN TO BARCELONA
There are various ways to get to Barcelona: Either by bus, train or airplane. I prefer taking an airplane even if I’m coming from somewhere close like Madrid, as the price for the train is usually around the same as a flight. The buses can be much cheaper but take three times as long as the trains.
The most convenient way of getting into Barcelona is to fly into El Prat Airport. Once you land in El Prat you have several options for getting to where you want to be.
Option 1: The AeroBus
For 5.90 Euros this bus drops off at three main locations in the Barcelona area. There are signs all over the airport for where to get on it, it’s very hard to miss. Once you get on the bus it’s a straight shot to downtown Barcelona. The last stop is Plaza Catalonia. This is where most people get dropped off. It’s in the center of everything. I always take the AeroBus to Plaza Catalonia and then either walk, metro or taxi where I need to go next. It is definitely the best deal and a very convenient and hassle-free way to get to the heart of Barcelona.
Option 2: The Train/Metro
For a little bit less (not much) you can take a Renfe train from the Airport to one of the main metro stations in Barcelona. Most likely you would take the Renfe to “Passeig de Gracia” and from there, catch another metro to your exact location.
Option 3: Taxi
Arguably the most convenient way to get to where you want to be going, but definitely the most costly.
WHERE TO STAY IN BARCELONA
Option 1: The Gothic Quarter
For anyone traveling to Barcelona wanting to have a good time and be close to most of the memorable sites and in walking distance to the beach, I would suggest staying in or around the Gothic Quarter. The Gothic quarter is where sites such as the Boqueria, the Barcelona Cathedral, and the Ramblas are located. The streets in the gothic are the tiny narrow winding streets that Barcelona is most famed for. In the heart of the Gothic it can get very noisy, that ‘s why I don’t suggest it to everyone. It could also be described as “grungy” in some parts. So for those who don’t know the area that well they could be close to all the sites and end up on a street where all the bars are located and it’s noisy all day, everyday.
If you don’t mind and want to be in the heart of all the action then somewhere around Plaza Real might be a good fit. If you want to be in the middle of it all but not anywhere too loud try a little bit further away from the water, closer to the Barcelona Cathedral or Plaza Catalonia, somewhere like Hotel Colon. I would avoid staying anywhere ON La Rambla. It’s a tourist trap and it’s so crowded at all times of the day.
Option 2: El Born
For those wanting to be close to the sites but a little bit away (5-15 minute walk to most sites in the Gothic) I suggest the neighborhood of El Born. Situated just north of the Gothic this upcoming neighborhood is filled with boutique shopping and cute cafes. It’s also right next to Parc de Ciutadella and the Royal Arch, two points of interests not to miss while in Barcelona. El Born is a very trendy and boutique neighborhood that I would suggest for people of all ages.
Option 3: Gracia
Gracia is the classiest and “nicest” area in the Barcelona area. I’m pretty sure this is where Shakira lives. It’s more posh than other parts, the only issue one might have is that it’s a little bit out of the way. If you don’t mind taking a metro (5-10 minutes) to see all the sites or get to the beach (a little bit further) then Gracia is your spot. I suggest Gracia for travelers of all ages, but especially when my parents come to visit.
Option 4: El Raval & PobleSec
I might get in trouble for saying this because my boyfriend thinks Raval is nice but I would avoid staying here unless you’re seriously trying to save money. A lot of people stay in Raval or PobleSec because they’re really not far (distance wise) from the sites and all the action so it looks like a deal. Staying somewhere close to the Ramblas that’s cheaper than everywhere else. If you’re in Barcelona and want to enjoy the beautiful city, then stay somewhere else. It’s just a little bit dirtier than the rest of the city.
Option 5: Barceloneta
Barceloneta neighborhood is located as close to Barceloneta beach as you can get. The neighborhood is very local but has several Air B & Bs in the area. You’ll be surrounded by many tourists visiting the beach but will be surrounded by locals in the neighborhood. The only drawback to Barceloneta is that it’s a bit of a walk (10-15 minutes at least) to the city since Barceloneta could be considered a mini-peninsula.
***Accommodation: Air B & B, CouchSurfing, Hostels and Hotels are all good options.
- Be carefule with Air B & B’s and stay somewhere with several good reviews.
- Hostels go up significantly in the summer so staying in a budget hotel may even be a cheaper and better option for groups of 2-3 people.
WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN BARCELONA
1. Sagrada Familia
2. The Gothic Quarter
3. Barcelona Cathedral
4. La Boqueria
5. La Rambla
6. Plaza Real
7. Flamenco Show
8. Parc de Ciutadella
10. El Born
Sagrada Familia is arguably the most popular site to see in Barcelona. After months of putting it off I decided to go one day. I am SO happy I did. I’m not one to boast about churches but trust me Sagrada is worth it. It’s a metro ride away from most places in the city and although it does cost a pretty penny (16 Euros) it’s a must see in Barcelona. Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece blew me away. It looks like he tripped on acid for about twenty years while designing this place. It’s unlike any church in the world. *Make sure to purchase tickets ahead of time online. If you decide to pay to go up in one of the spirals, I usually suggest the Passion Facade as it’s higher up and you can see more of the city.
IN THE GOTHIC QUARTER
Spend at least a day just walking around the Gothic, it’s a site to see in itself. This whole area is where you can see remnants of old Roman walls still standing in their original condition surrounded by stunning Gothic Roman architecture. The Gothic is where I lived the entire time I was in Barcelona. It’s a loud, always happening neighborhood with vintage shopping, great places to eat and drink, and it’s just an overall great place to spend time and enjoy yourself.
The area is visually gothic and has a sort of creepy-feeling at night with all of the detailed embellishments on the buildings but the loud and always-packed streets are what the Gothic is best known for. It’s right in the middle of the city with close walking distance to everything like the beach and all the surrounding neighborhoods and tourist sites.
I could sit and stare at this beauty all day. With free entrance before 1pm and after 5pm this is a must-see. I especially enjoy the garden at the back of the church which has a pond and swans wandering throughout.
This famous covered-outdoor market has been around since it’s first mention in 1217. Numerous butchers and fishmongers set up shop here back in the day. The market not only has extremely fresh produce and poultry, but there are several ready-to-eat food stands, serving everything from tapas to smoothies. They also serve small bites, like meats, cheeses, breads, fruits, and seafood. You can get food and walk around or sit down at one of the many bar-like, countertops and sit down for a meal. I occassionally like to enjoy a bowl of mussels and chorizo with dipping bread! Note the market closed on Sundays. Enjoy the food and watch your bags!
The famous La Rambla of Barcelona. This blocked off street is filled with street performers, overpriced restaurants and quirky tourists shops. It’s fun because there are so many people out but it’s not my favorite. I’d say walking it once is enough. Avoid eating on La Rambla as it’s truly a rip-off.
The most beautiful plaza in all of Barcelona hands down. There are several places to eat (pricey) and many clubs and bars throughout. I love the clubs here, some are free and some cost 10 Euros to get in but they’re all pretty worth it. The restaurant/bar “Ocana” (you can’t miss it) has a great atmosphere and is nice for a cocktail but don’t eat food here, it’s expensive and you can find a lot better food at many other places.
I went to a 10 Euro Flamenco show in Plaza Real and it was awesome. This was a little bit touristy but the cheapest one we could find. It lasted about an hour and it was entertaining the entire time. If you want something a little bit more upscale look up Flamenco shows in El Born. There’s one near the Picasso Museum that looks fabulous, just about three times the price as this one.
IN EL BORN
Parc de la Ciutadella
This park is one of my favorite places to relax and bask in the sun in Barcelona’ beautiful sunshine. There’s this massive water fountain with a gold horse chariot on top. Across from the fountain there’s a pond where you can rent rowboats. You could spend hours in the park walking around or having a picnic on one of the many grassy areas. Also look out for the green parrots! They have wild green parrots roaming around the whole park.
Arch de Triumph
Right by Parc de la Ciutadella you will find the arch.
Always crowded. If you’re into art and Picasso I’ve heard it’s great, but unfortunately I’ve never been.
This beach will be jam-packed during the summer months. Prepare for the heat and crowds. Bring some towels and a bunch of beer and you’ll be set. Like everywhere in Barcelona, watch your stuff at all times. The beach to the far right, closest to the W Hotel, pictured below is the “gay beach.” It doesn’t mean much other than there are far more naked men (and women) than the other parts of the beach. I didn’t learn this until after my first visit to Barcelona. I just thought Barcelona was a very “free” place. There are several topless women scattered throughout Barceloneta but the men tend to stay to the right.
The Beach Night Clubs
Shoko, Opium, Pacha and the ever so famous Razzmatazz-All clubs usually have facebook groups/lists you can join for free entrance before a certain hour. The beach clubs also also re-entry after midnight so you can go out onto the beach and buy beers from the vendors for a fraction of the price as in the club. Razzmatazz is probably the most visited and the biggest. It can be a little seedy but definitely a good time if you’re into that sort of thing.
WHERE TO HIKE AND GET VIEWS OF BARCELONA
Mont Juic is an amazing mountain to hike up for sunset or an afternoon stroll. There are clear views of the Barcelona Harbor as well as the city of Barcelona itself. The Castle of MontJuic remains today at the top. There is also a botanical garden and fountains as well as the famous and ornate Palau National.
Whether you’re looking for a hike or a fun-filled day at the amusement park at the top Tibidabo has you covered. The Tibidabo Amusement Park was built in 1899 and is one of the oldest in the world. The views are great and the churros dipped in chocolate along with other various amusement park food isn’t too bad either. Great for a day or afternoon/sunset trip. Hiking from the bottom to the top takes about 1.5 hours.
View from the Bunker:
WHERE TO EAT
1. Bar El Tropezon*
3. Bo de B
6. Bar del Pi
7. La Malandrina*
9. Mama’s Cafe
IN THE GOTHIC QUARTER
Bar El Tropezon
Authentic Catalan tapas bar in the Gothic. I always get the tomato toast, the garlic prawns, the bombas, the papas fritas, and the grilled mushrooms. That’s definitely enough for two people. They’ll hand you a piece of paper and you just write down the number next to each item you want, simple as that.
For a quick (very inexpensive) lunch or dinner grab a Greek gyro here! My friends go nuts over this place.
Bo de B
This is a famous Indian/African/Greek fusion restaurant serves quality sandwiches and platters. If you get there mid-day or on a weekend expect a long-ass line. The food is delicious and reasonably priced but the atmosphere isn’t much to write home about. I would recommend it for anyone traveling to Barcelona, just try to go on off hours.
This restaurant is a famous brunch spot in the Gothic. I’ve actually never been but have heard great things.
Best places to grab some desserts and pastries. Every dessert in the charming and quant cafe is made by nuns! The dessert platter will make your jaw drop.
Bar Del Pi
Cozy tapas cafe in the Gothic. This place is the perfect pit stop for some light snacks (olives and artichokes hearts) or some famous Catalan churros dipped in chocolate!
GO HERE FOR DINNER. This place cannot be missed. I go to Malandrina 2-3 times a week when I’m in town.
When you sit down they give you an enormous basket of fresh bread with two of the best dipping sauces on this planet. One is a garlic and olive oil and the other is a tangy pico de gallo.
Sometimes I dream about these sauces. For dinner, order the “Sirloin with Creamy Potatoes.” Trust me get the sirloin. You can also order a bottle of the vino de casa (house wine) for 5 euros or a jug of Sangria for 11 euros. My entire bill has never exceeded 10-12 Euros/person. Don’t miss out on the best secret of Barcelona.
IN EL BORN
Great breakfast and lunch spot. A little on the pricey side but it has delicious food and impeccable service. Make a reservation on the weekend.
Another charming brunch/lunch spot that serves quality food at a reasonable price.
WHERE TO DRINK IN BARCELONA
IN THE GOTHIC
Tiny little bar that serves milk with absinthe. Ask for milk and they’ll hand you a menu with about 15 different milk flavors that are mixed with absinthe. Be careful! For 10 euros a bottle, this is a delicious and economically perfect drink for groups. I went here at least twice a week. *Avesta has weird hours, sometimes it’s closed but keep trying to go, it’s a really fun place.
Best Mojitos in the Gothic, and also the best priced. Their happy hour is kind of all over the place but usually they run 2-4 euros.
In the summer months, especially on the weekends it will be overcrowded with young people and foreign exchange students. Still try to get in here for at least one of their famous shots. All of their 1-2 Euro shots are very memorable and wacky. The most popular are the Monica Lewinsky, the Harry Potter and the Boy Scout.
*The Gothic has great bars; just have fun bar hopping and stumbling into new places.
WHERE TO DANCE
IN THE GOTHIC
For a ten Euro entrance fee Jamboree is the beezneez of clubs in Barcelona. The entrance fee also includes a free drink, plus! I personally prefer Jamboree over any other club in Barcelona. It’s small but big enough that you have different areas to roam and dance. The main dance floor in the basement gets sweaty and wild.
All of the beach clubs are half in the club, half on the beach. They’re so much fun but can sometimes be a complete shit show. Most clubs offer free entrance before ten pm or you can check out their facebook pages where you can add your name to the list for most nights. Make sure to dress nicely, especially for guys. The bouncers won’t let you in if you’re wearing shorts of flip flops so dress it up!
Please let me know if you have any other questions regarding Barcelona! Enjoy