Barcelona City Guide

Overlooking the Mediterranean, Barcelona is the rebellious sister when comparing Spain’s biggest cities. Admire Gaudí’s unique architecture at La Sagrada Familia, catch the Magic Fountain show in Plaza Espanya and soak in the rays along Barceloneta beach. 

Barcelona is somewhere that Mark and I have both visited a few times, but never actually together! It has a lot to offer a traveler: beautiful beaches, mesmerizing architecture and bustling streets. Barcelona is one of those cities where old world meets new world and the outcome is breathtaking! Here is a list of our favorite things to do and see in Barcelona:

Barceloneta Beach

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Lined with bars and tapas places, it’s the perfect spot to soak up the Mediterranean sun. Although I always believe a place has more to offer than just a beach, there’s something about Barca that requires you to sip on some sangria while dipping your toes in the water. In some cases, you can walk to the beach from certain areas of the city but I recommend taking the metro since it will bring you right there (stop Barceloneta). Even if you don’t plan on spending a beach day, it’s worth grabbing a bite to eat to soak in the views.

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 2-3 hours (or a whole beach day!)

Plaza Espanya & Las Arenas

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While standing at the heart of Plaza Espanya, in front of you lies the National Art Museum and behind you, the old Bull fighting ring (now turned shopping mall and commonly called Las Arenas). I recommend going to the top of Las Arenas for a great view of the city and Plaza below!

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 1 hour

Plaza Catalunya

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Linking old Barcelona with the newer part of the city, Plaza Catalunya is a home to public events, such as rallies, concerts and festivals.

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes

Las Ramblas & La Boquería

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I’m actually not the biggest fan of Las Ramblas but it’s home to one of my favorite markets: La Boquería. I always find that markets give you a taste of a city that you can’t find anywhere else. After you’ve walked the famous strip of shops and restaurants, make sure to pop into La Boquería and grab a fruit smoothie for a snack. (They make them fresh and you pick out the types of fruit you want added!) Be careful to watch your belongings, Las Ramblas is a notorious place for pickpockets.

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes – 1 hour

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc 

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Fireworks for Catalan Independence Day by the Magic Fountain

Located in Plaza Espanya, you can find a large fountain by day–but a magic fountain at night. This fountain dances with music and lights to put on a show every evening in Barcelona. This is a great free thing to do while exploring the city at night!

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes – 1 hour

The Gothic Quarter

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One of my favorite neighborhoods in Barcelona is actually in the older part of the city. It reminds me of other Spanish cities like Sevilla or Madrid. Once lost in the streets of the Gothic Quarter, it’s easy to forget you are in such a big city. I recommend grabbing a gelato and strolling the streets to take in all the old architecture.

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 30 minutes – 1 hour

La Sagrada Familia

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Possibly one of this city’s most famous landmarks, you can’t visit Barca without stepping foot inside architect Gaudí’s (still on-going) project. It is unlike any other basilica you will visit in Europe thanks to it’s colorful stained glass and unique exterior. I recommend purchasing your tickets to visit the inside of the Sagrada Familia about a month in advance, to guarantee entrance. Typically the line wraps around the building so it’s better to plan ahead.

Park Güell

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While staying with this Gaudí theme, you should also make your way up to Park Güell. Again, prepare to purchase your tickets ahead of time to get the day and time you wish. My first time in Barcelona I was turned away because they were already sold out. If you’re on a budget, there are some beautiful areas of Park Güell that are free to walk around and visit.

  • Cost: €10-22
  • Reserve your spots online here: Park Güell Tickets
  • Estimated time needed: 1-2 hours

La Pedrera 

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La Pedrera (also known as Casa Mila) is another one of Gaudí’s famous works you might want to check out while in Barcelona. For more information on the last three places, check out my previous post on Gaudí’s Barcelona.

  • Cost: €24
  • Reserve spots online here: La Pedrera Tickets
  • Estimated time needed: 1-2 hours

Flamenco & Dinner Show

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Although I will always argue the best place to see flamenco is in Southern Spain (Granada or Sevilla for example), if Barcelona is your only stop in this country it might be worth it to attend a flamenco show. On my work trip this past summer, we had a dinner & show at Tablao Flamenco Cordobes on Las Ramblas. The food was high quality and the show was very passionate. (If Barcelona is not your only stop in Spain, I recommend waiting until you are in Southern Spain to see Flamenco).

  • Cost: €80 (dinner & show) €45 (dinner & drink)
  • Reserve spots online here: Flameco Show
  • Estimated time needed: 2-3 hours

Eat Pinxos

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We all know Spain is famous for it’s tapas, but in Barcelona in particular, I recommend finding a pinxos bar to try some regional food! (Pinxos are open faced sandwiches on a stick that is common in Catalan). They’re normally pretty cheap (2-4 euros each) and can be a great snack or light lunch.

  • Cost: €2-10
  • Estimated time needed: 1-2 hours

Day Trip to Montserrat

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About 1 hour outside the city, high in the mountains, you can visit Montserrat Abbey. If you’re in Barca long enough and looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, this is the perfect day trip. You can visit inside the Cathedral  and hike the trails for free. There are some public busses that will get you here, but also some local tour operators that do day trips, depending on your level of comfort.  Check out our separate post about a day trip to Montserrat here.

  • Cost: €15 (round trip train)
  • Estimated time needed: All day

Bunkers del Carmel

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The last time I was in Barcelona, my friend who lives there brought me to the Bunkers del Carmel one evening to catch the sunset. What were once used as military bunkers during the Spanish civil war, is now a spot for locals and tourists alike to take in breathtaking views of Barcelona. This is a bit more off the beaten path and you need to take public transportation to get there (both metro & bus). However, the views of the city are so worth it. We watched Barcelona transform to night. (Even though it was cloudy and there wasn’t much of a sunset, it was one of my favorite things!) You can see the patterned streets of the Exiample region all the way to the sea. If you make the trek this far, I recommend bringing a bottle of wine (or two) to drink while taking in the views.

  • Cost: Free
  • Estimated time needed: 1-2 hours

Accommodation

During my work trip to Barcelona, I was lucky enough to stay in Hotel Catalonia Eixample 1864. Not only were the hotel rooms stunning but they had a rooftop bar & pool too. It was also walking distance to La Sagrada Familia and lots of tapas bars.

Barcelona Travel Tips

  • Transportation
    • Barcelona is surprisingly walkable, depending on where you’re staying
    • The metro is also very inexpensive & clean, and would be the next best way to get around
  • Tipping
    • Tipping is not necessary when traveling to Spain
    • If you have great service & feel like you want to leave a tip, no more than 5%-10% is needed
  • Weather
    • Barcelona is fairly comfortable year round, but the best time to visit would be in the shoulder seasons or summer if you’re hoping to get some beach time!
      • Winter: 40-60 F
      • Summer: 65-85 F
  • General
    • Beware of pickpockets (especially when by the beach or Las Ramblas)
    • Many restaurants, gelato stands or shops have a minimum in order to use a credit card
      • It’s good to have euros on hand if you’re buying something small like a coffee or souvenir
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Shopping & gelato in Barcelona, what more could a girl ask for?

Hope this info about Barca helped in planning your trip!

Adios, Amanda

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Last edited: April 2020


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