Barcelona: Travel Guide

barcelona travel guide


Barcelona covers it all, from the historic alleyways of the gothic Quarter to the bizarre and colorful architecture of Antoni Gaudí. With its cosmopolitan feel, relaxed pace of life, unbeatable climate, breathtaking architecture, and fantastic food, it is a city that has everything. Barcelona really might be the most perfect city in the world. It is no wonder it is one of the most visited cities on the planet and gains a spot on almost everyone’s itineraries.


What to Do


Gothic Quarter



Bishop’s Bridge in the Gothic Quarter barcelona spain
Bishop’s Bridge in the Gothic Quarter.


The Gothis Quarter, known as Barri Gòtic, is the oldest part of Barcelona. Built above the old Roman settlement of Barcino, you can still see remnants of that ancient civilization in Roman walls, cemeteries, and foundations. Today’s buildings still date back to Medieval times and are stunning to look at. A fully pedestrian area, you can easily spend hours wandering the historic winding streets of the Gothic Quarter.


Museums



museu picasso barcelona spain
Museu Picasso

There are so many amazing museums in Barcelona that you could spend your entire trip just visiting them. From incredible history to world famous art museums, there is something for everyone. In the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat (City History Museum) you will be able to learn about the history of Barcelona since the Roman era, as well as see the largest Roman excavations outside of Rome. Or if you are into art (or architectural history), you can visit Museu Picasso. This museum houses the most complete collection of paintings and engravings from Picasso and is housed in 5 adjoining 13th and 14th century palaces. For art aficionados, there is the Articket that will grant access to 6 art museums (Museu Nacional, Fundació Joan Miró, Museu Picasso, MACBA, CCCB , and Fundació Antoni Tàpies) and allow you to skip the line for €35/$41.71. If you just like museums in general I suggest you get the Barcelona Card (mentioned below) for free - discounted rates on most museums.


Montjuïc Castle



montjuic castle barcelona spain
Montjuic Castle Gate

The Montjuïc Castle is a formidable 17th century fortress high above the city of Barcelona. The castle itself is well worth a tour to see the grounds, the military museum, and to get the 360º views from 173 meters above the city. While you’re at the Montjuïc Castle, you should also take the chance to walk around the many beautiful gardens that surround the area (they are free).


Cost: €5/$5.96
Hours: November - February: 10 am – 6 pm; March - October: 10 am - 8 pm


La Sagrada Familia



la sagrada familia barcelona spain
La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia is easily the most famous, and possibly the most breathtaking, building in all of Barcelona. The construction of this church was begun almost a century ago by Antoni Gaudí and is still under construction today. The astonishing intricacy of design on the outside is only rivaled by the sheer neck-bending beauty of the design and color of the inner church. Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is an absolute must see.


Cost: €26/$30.95 (must be bought online)
Hours: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9 am – 6 pm


Gaudí Architecture



casa vicens barcelona spain
Casa Vicens

Antoni Gaudí is Barcelona’s most famous architect and his architectural style has made him legendary around the world. You will see his work all over the city; from extravagantly designed houses to beautiful parks, and even one of the most famous churches in the world. You have undoubtedly heard of La Sagrada Familia (mentioned above), but there is also Parc Güell, Casa Milà, Casa Batlló, Palau Güell, Torre Bellesguard, Casa Vicens, Cascada del Parc de la Ciutadella. Six of which are designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most of these places are within easy walking distance and are free to see from the outside. Each one has its own price to tour the inside (Parc de la Ciutadella is free), but you can buy a House Pass that will grant you entrance and to skip the line for 3 houses (Casa Milà, La Casa Batlló, Casa Vicens) for €81/$96.40 from any of the houses.


Beaches



beach barcelona spain

Known for having some of the best urban beaches in the world, Barcelona has many beaches along its boardwalk that is within easy walking distance from the city center. Bask in the sun on the sandy beach, sooth your soul in the warm water, or listen to live music while you grab a bite in one of the many beach front restaurants. No matter what you do, you can never go wrong with a beach day.


La Rambla



la rambla barcelona spain

La Rambla is the central boulevard that runs through the heart of Barcelona. This pedestrian only street is filled with the energetic action of a living city at both its best and worst. Usually, one of the first places visited, La Rambla is usually filled with tourist, but also with street performers, artist, and consumer stalls. At the very least, it is a great place to people watch.


Parks



bunkers del carmel barcellona spain
View from the bunkers.

Barcelona places enormous importance on public space and you can easily notice it in its parks. Parks are placed all over the city and are a great place to enjoy a little down or mingle with the locals. There are a lot of great parks in the city, but two of my personal favorites are Ciutadella Park to the east and Mirador de les Bateries in the north. Mirador de les Bateries (the site of old Spanish Civil War era bunkers) may not be in the city center, but it is well worth the trek. This site gives you an amazing 360º view of the area, but also an incredible ariel view of all of Barcelona.


Archeological Sites



museu d'història ciutat barcelona spain
Roman ruins at the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat.

It can be argued that all of the Gothic Quarter is an archeological site with its medieval buildings and sporadic above ground Roman architecture, but laying just underground all over the city are more vestiges of the old Roman empire. As mentioned above, the Museu d'Història de la Ciutat has a large Roman excavation within the museum, but it cost to get in. El Born Centre de Cultura i Memòria, on the east side of town, is another large Roman excavation site that is free to the public. As you walk around town you will likely see other small, glass covered, sites around marketplaces or other buildings as well. 


Craft Breweries



garage beer co barcelona spain
Garage Beer Co. draft list.

If you are into craft beer like I am, then you will have the chance to try a lot of new beers on your tip to Barcelona. There are a number of craft beer companies in the city center, so you will have a selection to choose from. My personal favorite place to go was Garage Beer Co. The atmosphere was nice, and it had very good tapas, but most importantly it had a great selection of craft beers to choose from. No matter what style you lie, you will find a good beer there.


Churches



santa maria de mar barcelona spain
Santa Maria de Mar

Churches have been important landmarks in Barcelona throughout its history and there is no shortage of amazing churches and cathedrals there. La Sagrada Familia might be its most famous church, but it is far from the oldest. Two other churches that you should definitely also visit are Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar and Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia. Both of these churches have a small fee to enter, but they are well worth the price to be able to venture inside.


Catch a Performance



palau música catalana barcelona spain
Palau de la Musica Catalana

Music and dance are the lifeblood of Barcelona and you should definitely consider seeing a performance of any kind while you are in the city. There are a number of free venues or street performers that provide shows for you to enjoy. If you are wanting something more formal, I highly recommend catching a show at the Palau de la Musica Catalana, if only to see the inside of the building. Another UNESCO Heritage Site, this building can also be toured for €10/$11.90, but why only tour it when you can see it in action. Although Flamenco dancing is not from this region, it is also quite popular to see.


What to Eat


Santo Domingo is a large city and as such there is a lot of food to be found there. Whether you are looking for fine dining or finger foods, international cuisine or local favorites, there is a little of everything to be found here. It should be noted that in Barcelona, lunch is usually served from 2 pm to 4 pm and dinner from 9 pm to midnight and many places will close in-between for siesta. Restaurants in Barcelona also often close on Sunday evenings and Mondays.



Paella barcelona spain
Paella

When looking for local food in Barcelona, expect to find a mix of traditional Spanish dishes along with Mediterranean-infused Catalonian classics. Like the rest of Spain, tapas are popular here and although they are meant to be snacked on, many people will simply make a meal out of them. Seafood paella, or just seafood in general, is famous in Barcelona so make sure that you eat it at least once during your trip.



seafood market barcelona spain
Seafood platter at a restaurant inside a market.

To save money, I recommend eating your fancier meals at lunch. Although they may be smaller portions, they will be far cheaper. Ordering the ‘meal of the day’ for lunch is a good way to save money also. There are many small restaurants inside the markets that are usually slightly cheaper as well. As usual, getting out of the tourist areas is always your best bet for finding cheaper food.


Where to Stay


Like all large cities, Barcelona has a lot to offer when it comes to accommodations. From backpacker’s hostels to grand hotels, you can find housing at any price point. Finding a place anywhere in the city center is great because it will allow you to easily walk from your hotel to the many attractions around town. I stayed in a small hotel inside the Gothic Quarter and it was amazing. When reserving my hotels, I always use Agoda to find the best rates.


How to Get Around


Walking



arco de triunfo de barcelona spain
Arco de Triunfo

Getting around on foot is a great choice for see all of the sights in the city center. Walking is not only free and good exercise, but it allows you to take in all of the sights and life of Barcelona. There is so much to see in-between the major sights and all of them are within walking distance of each other.


Bike


If you want a bit quicker way to get around the city than renting a bike might be for you. If you are staying in a hostel, there is a good chance they some available for you. Either way, daily rentals usually start around €12/$14.55.


Public Transportation


The public transportation system will take you just about anywhere you want to go in Barcelona. Within the city center there are bus routes, metro lines, and the train system. A single ticket will cost you €2.40/$2.88, but you are able to transfer as many times as you need within 75 minutes for free.


For cheaper public transportation you can also buy one of the many travel cards that are available. The three most popular cards for tourists are the T-Casual Card, Hola Transports Card, and Barcelona Card. All of the cards allow for the 75 minutes of free transfers.


T-Casual Card – Costs €11.35/$13.62 and is good for 30 days. It is valid for 10 trips on all public transportation within Zone 1 (city center), but does not include the metro to/from the airport. If you think that you need more zones you can increase them when you buy the card. This will increase the cost of the card, but also give you 15 minutes added to you transfer time per zone added.


Hola Card – Costs €16.30/$19.56 (48 hours), €23.70/$28.44 (72 hours), €30.80/$36.97 (96 hours), €38.00/$45.61 (120 hours). It is valid for unlimited trips on all public transportation, in all zones, for the duration of the pass.


Barcelona Card – Costs €46.00/$55.21 (72 hours), €56.00/$67.21 (96 hours), €61.00/$73.22 (120 hours). It is valid for unlimited trips on all public transportation, in all zones, for the duration of the pass. This card also grants you free entrance to many museums and discounts of up to 50% on your tickets to many more attractions, events, and venues. As well as the ability to skip the lines at many of the most popular attractions.


How to Get There



pin poin map location barcelona spain


From the Airport


Barcelona’s major international airport, Barcelona-El Prat International Airport (BCN), is located about 16km west of the city. Once you arrive at the airport you can find your way to your hotel in Barcelona a number of ways.


Airport Transfer


Using an airport transfer service is the easiest way to get to your hotel from the airport. They run 24 hours a day, will pick you up from outside your terminal, and you can book them online while you are still planning your trip.


Bus


Aerobús (A1 & A2) is an airport shuttle bus that runs every 5 minutes (Terminal 1) and every 10 minutes (Terminal 2), every day from 5:30 am - 1 am and takes about 30 min depending on your stop and traffic. It will make 4 stops: Plaça Espanya, Gran Via - Urgell, Plaça Universitat, and Plaça de Catalunya. A one-way ticket to/from either Terminal costs €5.90/$7.16 or roundtrip for €10.20/$12.37.


A cheaper, but possibly longer, option is to take bus 46 from either terminal. It only travels from 6:00 am – 11 pm and its last stop in Barcelona is Plaça Espanya. A one-way ticket costs €2.40/$2.88 and can be purchased from the driver, though if you plan to use more public transportation during your trip it could be cheaper to buy one of the travel cards listed above. If you are arriving after 1 am, Nitbús (N16 & N17) runs every 20 minutes from 10 pm – 5 am.


Metro



metro map barcelona spain

Both terminals are linked to Barcelona by Line 9 of the Metro. Although Line 9 does not go to the city center, it does connect with several other lines that do (and all transfers within 75 minutes are free). The Metro arrives every 30 minutes and it will take you about the same amount of time to get to the city center. The cost of a one-way ticket is €4.50/$5.46 or you could buy the Hola Transports Card or Barcelona Card (mentioned above) if you plan to use more public transportation during your trip (T series cards do not include Metro to the airport).


Train



train map barcelona spain

The tram (Renfe) is an easy way to get to the city center of Barcelona and it is also the cheapest. The tram only has one stop at the airport, Terminal 2, so if you arrive at Terminal 1 you will need to take the free green shuttle bus to Terminal 2. The line serving the city center is R2 at it takes about 30 minutes and runs from 5:42 am – 11:07 pm. It will cost €2/$2.43 one-way, but it could be even cheaper to buy one of the travel cards listed above.


Taxi


The taxi is always an option when leaving the airport, but it is also usually the most expensive. The taxis are located outside the terminals and are yellow and black in color. They will cost about €30+/$36.40+ one-way to the city center and go up at night (from 8 pm – 8 am).


From Other Cities


Train


There are several trains per day from various parts of Europe that go to Barcelona. Within Barcelona there are three main train stations for these international trains: Sants, Passeig de Gràcia, and Estació de França.


Boat


If you are arriving by ferry from one of the nearby ports, you will land near the end of La Rambla.


Bus


The connection for all bus arrivals is at Barcelona Nord, which is located within the city center.


What is your favorite thing in Barcelona?



barcelona travel guide


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