The other half and I have just touched down from an unbelievable time in the lively city of Barcelona. After a few days of eating and exploring our way up and down the city, I’ve created the ultimate city guide to fully experience this captivating city. Whether you’re a hotel snob, a foodie or a history geek, this is your ultimate guide.
GETTING TO BARCELONA
We flew from Stansted airport, bright and early. We wanted to arrive in Barcelona early enough so that we were able to enjoy a full day there. This meant that the flights were slightly more expensive but it’s worth it for a longer day. We purchased our flights from Skyscanner and we flew with RyanAir.
GETTING FROM THE AIRPORT
Once you arrive at the airport in Barcelona, you obviously need to get to your hotel somehow. Personally, I would have done the typical British-girl-lost-abroad thing and jumped in the nearest taxi. However, to get into the centre of Barcelona, it’s €30+ in a taxi from the airport so a cheaper alternative is the bus. Luckily, my other half had done his research and as soon as you walk out of the airport, you can’t miss these huge buses. You can buy your ticket on the bus and it’s only €2.15 to go pretty much anywhere. Luckily we had a friendly bus driver who told us when to get off and the hotel was only a two minute walk from the bus stop. We arrived a few hours early to check in but luckily our room was ready, so we settled in, freshened up and began exploring beautiful Barcelona.
We stayed at the Renaissance Fira Hotel, which completely blew me away. It’s a completely different area of Barcelona to stay in, located in Barcelona’s Plaza Europa Square. In less than 20 minutes you’re at the beautiful Magic Fountain of Montjuic and National Art Museum of Catalonia. The hotel itself is divine in every way. From the view, to the rooftop pool and the restaurant. They definitely have one of the best views in Barcelona.
It’s very hard to show you how lovely our room was on photographs. The room was large, with THE comfiest bed and our own lounge area. We had a lot of wardrobe space which is good for me as I am not, I repeat not a light traveller.
When in Barcelona, you have to make a trip to the Renaissance Fira, even if it’s just for lunch or a cocktail in their stunning Palmer Restaurant.
If you’re staying in the centre of Barcelona, you may find you have no need for public transport at all. Being such a picturesque city, it’ll always be a pleasant stroll, no matter which part of the city you’re in. Plus, in the warmer months, being in a sweltering underground metro station may be an unpleasant experience. So, unless you’re travelling a considerable distance, think twice before investing in a travel card and walk where possible. We also found many times when walking that Spanish drivers are often blind to pedestrians and red lights so be careful when crossing roads.
Although walking is good, if you’ve got minimal time and want to see as much as possible, I recommend using the metro. The metro is undeniably one of the quickest, easiest and most convenient ways of getting around the city. You’ll probably find that one of he diamond-shaped signs marked with an ‘M’, signalling the location of a metro station, is only a stones throw away from wherever you may be. The metro system consist of 11 colour-coded lines, making stops near many of the city’s most popular attractions. There are a variety of ticket options available, however it would be advisable to purchase the T-10 ticket. This offers access to all five of the city’s main transport systems and is valid for a total of 10 trips. It can also be shared by two or more people. At just €9.95, it’s extremely reasonable compared to the price of a single journey ticket for €2.15.
It would be foolish not to take advantage of Barcelona’s easy-to-use and affordable buses. Wherever you are in the city, buses tend to be frequent and relatively quick way of getting you from A to B without the train hopping that can sometimes be involved with using the metro. However, the main problem with using the bus system is that it’s more prone to delays due to the intense city traffic. You can also use your T-10 journey cad on Barcelona’s buses.
Useful routes are:
7 runs up Passeig de Gracia and along Avda Diagonal
22 runs from the centre up to the convent at Pedralbes
24 runs up Passeig de Gracia to Park Guell
39 runs along the beach, through the centre and up to Gracia
45 runs from the beach to Place Urquinaona
50 runs from Montjuic to the Sagrada Familia, via Gran Via.
Taxis are also great if you’re in a rush or as a method of transport after a night out. Unfortunately, being in the middle of a city, they can get pricey, however they do accept card payments so don’t worry about having to carry large amounts of cash around with you. Download the app MyTaxi which is exactly like Uber. With the app you’re able to book taxis to and from any location while tracking how close the driver is at the same time.
THINGS TO SEE
There is an endless list of things to do in Barcelona. People (including us) tend to book Barcelona as a short city break but after visiting, I can safely say that it’s so much more than that. The reason I love Barcelona is because it can be a city break if you so wish, you can fly out for a couple of days and try and visit as much as possible, but I think Barcelona deserves more than that. I think that even in 7 days, you wouldn’t see the whole of Barcelona.
Passeig de Gràcia
Passeig de Gràcia is Barcelona’s most famous shopping street. It is Barcelona’s flagship shopping avenue where you can find many global fashion designer brands like Dior, Chanel, Gucci and more. The best shopping in Barcelona!
At one end of Passeig de Gràcia you’ve got the main square and La Rambla, and at the other end you’ve got two of Gaudi’s most important creations – La Pedrera and Casa Battló.
Las Ramblas is one of the world’s most famous streets. This is normally the first port-of-call for Barcelona tourists and when you see the sheer amount of activity crammed in, you can see why. On this street you will find almost you could wish for, if not on Las Ramblas itself, you certainly will on one of the many back streets which lead from it. Placa Reial located about half way down the street, offers some of the most famous restaurants and nightclubs in Barcelona. La Boqueria is a world renowned indoor market situated right next to the Licue metro stop. At the top of Las Ramblas is the grand Placa de Catalunya, which is widely considered to mark the city’s central point. At the lower end of Las Ramblas, towards the water front, you’ll find the Columbus monument. This 60 metre tall, iron column is a local meeting point with Christopher Columbus standing proudly at the top, pointing out to sea. Not many people know that there is a lift inside the column, taking you to a panoramic view of the city, ideal for photography.
With the world’s most photographed street performers, living art, flower stalls, craft stalls, fashion shops, museums and theatres, there is plenty of things to do on Las Ramblas.
La Rambla Del Raval
Besides the well-known Rambla of Barcelona, there are a few smaller Ramblas. One of them is the Rambla del Raval, which is located beside the big one, but much more relaxed to walk. Bordered by palm trees and cafes, it is comfortable sitting here for a couple of hours watching the business of Raval.
Slightly ahead of the eastern end of Rambla, you’ll be able to see a piece of art by the Colombian sculptor Fernando Boterol El Gato del Raval (the cat of Raval). Also, around the corner in Carrer de Sant Pau, you’ll find the beautiful old Monasterio de San Pablo del Campo – a church and former monastery that you can visit for a fee.
About two thirds of the way up Las Ramblas, on the left, you will see one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets. I spent about an hour or so feasting the senses.
La Boqueria’s grand iron entrance leads to a fully functioning world of food that throngs with both tourists and locals. The floors are slippy with melted ice and fruit skins and the stall holders are loud, but everything adds to the charm of this experience. You’ll find foods of all varieties and nationalities under one roof.
Dotted around the market there are bars selling both food and drink, whether you’re looking for a full lunch or a lighter snack. The fruit stalls throughout the market sell freshly squeezed juices of many different varieties, which is a healthy and refreshing treat in the middle of all the mayhem.
The Boqueria food market is a must-see during your trip to Barcelona. Specialist stalls selling many varied options of fruit, meats, cheeses, olives and seafood and much more are all on offer. Whether you buy some picnic ingredients, feast at one of the tapas bars or simply take a look, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable experience.
Tip: If you’re in search of a quick, cheap and quality snack during your visit to La Boqueria, head down to the centre of the market to just behind the fish sections. You’ll find a small, easy to miss stall manned by an Italian man with a wood fired oven selling pizzas by the slice – this was our favourite.
This was quite far out from our hotel, but my other half has always been a huge football lover and with Barcelona being one of the best football clubs in the world, football lover or not, you’ve got to go and visit this stadium.
Camp Nou is somewhere that you could easily spend a whole day if you’re a football fanatic. Take your boyfriend here and you’ll for sure have the girlfriend of the year award in the bag. My favourite part of the tour is that you get to go into the players’ dressing room, unfortunately there were no topless football players, but I did take note of the fact that they have a Jacuzzi in their changing rooms. Living the life of luxury or what?
La Sagrada Familia
It’s impossible to talk about Barcelona without mentioning the Sagrada Familia. In construction since 1882, this church designed by Gaudi is an architectural marvel. When planning my trip and places to see, I knew I had to see this famous building.
The Sagrada Familia metro station is easily reached and it was impossible to miss. As I walked up the metro steps, I was immediately engulfed in the shadow of the grand structure looming over me.
The building started in 1882 and to this day, 135 years later, construction is still ongoing. It’s said to be completed in the year 2026 to commemorate Gaudi’s 100th death anniversary. Sagrada Familia should be at the top of the list of places you absolutely must visit in Barcelona. Experience Gaudi’s masterpiece; you won’t be disappointed.
The Port Vell is Barcelona’s most notable harbour front. Everyday hundreds of people flock there to stroll along the boardwalk, grab an ice cream and soak up the sea air and sounds. This place is great for a spot of retail therapy, nightlife, family entertainment or even museums.
You will find the Palau de Mar, most famously the Museu d’Història de Catalunya. This fascinating museum is a must for anyone with a keen interest in history or just simply wanting to delve deeper into the history of Catalonia. You can even complete your trip to the Palau de Mar by heading to the café on the roof where you can enjoy a drink whilst overlooking spectacular views of Port Vell.
Within Port Vell you will also find a shopping lover’s heaven, Maremagnum. This retail and leisure complex is one of the best shopping centres in Barcelona, making it popular amongst both visitors and locals. All of you shopaholics will be pleased to know that it has a wide range of brands available from Mango to Victoria’s Secret, so go ahead and shop ‘til you drop! You can also chill out and grab a bite to eat on the open-air terrace at one of the many tapas restaurants whilst overlooking stunning sea views.
As the largest in Europe, a visit to the Barcelona Aquarium will be an unforgettable experience. This aquarium is extremely popular among tourists so beat the queues by buying your tickets online in advance.
Obviously while visiting Port Vell you will also come across the beautiful yachts. We saw one of the world’s largest superyachts and it was mesmerising. If you love harbours, you’ll love this.
One of the main attractions in Barcelona is obviously the food and Jay and I basically went to Barcelona purely to eat. We were hoping for a short, relaxing break where we could eat our way around and that’s exactly what we did.
This was my favourite restaurant we ate at the whole time we were in Barcelona. I would honestly fly out just to eat here. When we visited the place was brimming and absolutely rammed. We arrived around 7, put our names down and went down the street for a sangria and came back in a couple of hours. We were starving but trust me, this place is worth queuing for. We ordered most of what was on the menu, patatas bravas, chicken and Iberian ham croquettes, calamari, shrimps and it came to around 60 euros for the two of us. It’s super affordable for quality food and the best tapas around.
This wasn’t recommended but it was between breakfast and lunch time and we were starving, so we got the Trip Advisor app out. This place was ranked 4 stars and I can see why. Just the service alone makes this place rank highly, that’s how good it is. You normally have to book and the place was full but they managed to slot us in after a short wait. From the fruit and greek yougurt to the full on fry up, this place was amazing. The food was insane quality but didn’t come with the price tags. This is a must visit if you’re looking for somewhere to stop for a late breakfast.
10’s of people recommended this place to us and I’m so glad they did. El Nacional is full of amazing restaurants all under one roof. We headed to the most beautiful restaurant called La Paradeta where we got complimentary olives on arrival, followed by the loveliest meal.
Whether you plan on eating or not, it’s worth heading here to just have a wonder around as the building is so stunning. There’s also so much choice here.
The Palmer Restaurant is an elegant and chic Mediterranean restaurant within our hotel. I am the biggest lover of breakfast so I was thrilled when I saw that our hotel served poached eggs, cereals, meats, fruit and everything else you could possibly wish for. Our hotel was a breakfast lovers paradise, particularly because of its gorgeous setting within a vertical garden. Being at a hotel with such good breakfast made me excited to get up in the morning. We always made sure that we filled ourselves up because most days we were sightseeing until 6pm and not eating until at least 9pm (we found that Barcelona isn’t lively until at least this time).
MORE TOP TIPS
Don’t just stay on the beach – Despite what people think, there is so much more to Barcelona than the beaches.
Ask the locals for recommendations – Ask the taxi drivers and hotel staff where the locals eat, this way you’ll get a feel of the real Barcelona and you won’t just walk into the touristy places.
Be very observant – Luckily we had no issues with pick pocketing while we were there but keep your eyes on your belongings at all times as Barcelona is known for this.
Two words: Tapas and Sangria – Barcelona is known for its amazing food and the best way to sample it is by ordering plenty of tapas and washing them all down with a cool, refreshing glass of sangria.
Eat later – It’s normal for the locals to eat dinner up until 1am so if you want to be out when the city is at it’s liveliest, I would recommend eating between 9pm-1am.
Allow yourself time to just ‘get lost’ – You never know what you may come across in Barcelona so it’s nice to factor in time to be able to get lost and wander around.
When to go – Visiting Barcelona is good any time of year. Most people say it’s hot from May until October, however we went early April and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.
Carry change – This will make your life much easier, particularly if you’re catching the bus that you have the correct change or as close to it as possible. Often drivers will not accept notes larger than a €20.
Always book your tickets online ahead of time – If you’re planning to see the big Gaudí sights – La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell or La Pedrera at Casa Mila – make sure you book your tickets online ahead of time to avoid being locked out of something you came all the way to Barcelona to see. As an extra perk, you’ll get to skip the long lines by planning ahead.
Practice your Spanish – Learning some basic words and phrases will help you immensely. You can get by without it, but I always think attempting to speak the language will inspire people to want to help you out.
Do your research – This is only going to make things easier for you. Reading blogs is the best way to do this as you’re reading from the experiences of other travellers. You can find out what’s happening in town and perhaps some places to visit that you hadn’t considered.
So there you go! Lots of tips and recommendations for your trip to Barcelona. I would definitely recommend going if you haven’t already and we’re already planning our next trip back.
Have you visited Barcelona? Did you enjoy it? Do you have any recommendations?