Barcelona is a city you have to visit, simple as that. It is world renowned for its beautiful sites, its delicious bites and its lively nightlife tucked convenintely on the Mediterranean coast. The weather is great year round, the beer is always cold and it is a much cheaper option than many other European cities of the same caliber. My
time in Barcelona was quick but I packed my days and nights full of awesome activities that you too can replicate.
How to get around
Barcelona is full of beautiful sites, magnificent archicture and sprawling beaches. The city itself is quite large and a bit hard to walk. Luckily for you, the city has an excellent metro system that whips you around the city faster than you can believe it. The metro is always a good option but it can get extremely hot and crowded so make sure to prepare for the worst and of course protect your belongings.
If you have arrived at the airport to the south west of the city you are goin to want to hop on the above ground train headed in the Eastern direction and transfer to the metro from the hub at the city center.
If trains aren’t your thing take a bus! They are cheap and reliable and run all night on the weekends. I would not recommend taking a taxi as the traffic can get extremely busy and they are quite expensive.
What to see
On any travel guide for Barcelona, Gaudi seems to be the main attraction. He designed much of the Sagrada La Familia, a gigantic basically in the northern part of the city boasting a unique and modern architectural style, the plan for Parque Guell, as well as many other buildings around the city. He also has a museum and a palace which are very close to La Ramblas which are worth a visit.
My take on Barcelona and its sites is that they have catered to the tourists and a lot of the love for the craft has gone by the wayside. Everything that people recommend you to do in Barcelona as far as sites goes costs money, and was a bit ridiculous in some cases. The Sagrada Familia is nearly 20 Euros just to enter and you have to buy tickets in advance for a certain time slot. It is certainly worth the visit but the mystic is a bit ruined in my opinion. THe same goes for the main view point at Park Guell, the Gaudi designed park that sits high on a hill overlooking the city. You can pay to access certain areas but honestly the best view is free, just walk to the Miradora at the top!
To get around high prices and ridiculous wait times here is what I recommend.
- Go to musuems on Sunday and after three. Many of them are free including the Picasso Museum which holds some of the best works by Spain’s favorite artist.
- Get the local feel at Encantas flea market.
- Take a walking tour. There are many walking tour companies that have posts around La Ramblas and Barceloneta that offer free walking tour of the city.
- Check out the Gothic Quarter. Tight, narrow streets adorned with rod iron Spanish architecture. It feels like walking right back into the middle ages.
- Go to the Bunkers. Sitting in the north of the city are a series of bunkers that were used during the Spanish Civil War. Standing the test of time high on a hill they offer a vat age of the city you simply can’t get anywhere else.
- Check out La Ramblas, but don’t eat there. La Ramblas is quintessentially touristy in every way. It is a beautiful walking street with lots of action but for the love of god don’t sit at one of the restaurants that heats up frozen paella and gives you watered down margaritas. Barcelona is an awesome food town. Don’t be that guy.
- Take in the views at the arc de Triomph
Where to Stay
Being a large tourist city catering to younger travelers, Barcelona offers plenty of trendy and interesting hostels all around the city. I stayed in Kabul Party Hostel directly on La Ramblas. Kabul is part of a group of Hostels called Europes Famous Hostels, which stand as the continents most notorious places to spend a night. Besides the location and the free beer from 6 to 630 I though the hostel was terrible. My friends stayed at Hostel 360 near the city center and it was much nicer. They had tons of free events, free club nights and even tapas in the evenings. An average night will cost you anywhere from 18 to 25 Euros.
What to Eat
While many people think that Barcelona exemplifies Spanish cuisine, it is very far from the case. Catalonia is known for a bevy of dishes that are different both regionally and culturally from your average Spanish fare.
Go to La Boqueria
Any proper foodie loves a good market and La Boqueria is the de facto king of all European markets. Not only being open for centuries and being the largest market in Europe it actually has really awesome food for a really great price. Wind the incredibly crowded halls and you will find dried fruits, fresh juices, the catch of the day, more jamon than you can imagine, delictable empanadas and Catalonian tapas. It’s hard not to love and boy do I love that place.
Small bites of delicious food served along side cold, tasty drinks. You have to try it, but try and find a local place that has more options than jamon, tortilla de patata and octopus. Catalonia is known for their fish, fresh vegetables and roasted peppers.
Pastellerias and Panaderias are a staple of an good Spanish city and offer some of my favorite things to eat. Like any good European bakery they have the staple items that one would expect, yet the Spanish a bit more flair including many fruit and custard tarts. Make sure to try a Palmiera, a crisp, flaky heart shaped cookie covered in chocolate or even a taraleta de coco for those who love coconut. Whatever you get, you really can’t go wrong.
Classic Spanish beer that any trip to Barcelona would be a failure without.
Mosquito- Asian fusion tapas in a trendy setting. To die for but always crowded.
Bo De B- The ultimate cheap sandwich place offering packed bocadillos for under 5 Euros.
Forn Artest Santo Jordi- Excellent small bakery in the city center
The nightlife in Barcelona and Spain for that matter is just different than anywhere else. The progression of the night, the timing, the activists all fall strangely out of order for many Americans. Remember you are in the land of people who eat dinner at 11 pm. While you may be eager to get to the club and dance your heart out, wait.
Barceloneta is the king of the Barcelona nightlife with four huge clubs with beach access along with a sprawl of bars populating the surrounding areas. The most notorious club may be Opium but Shoko and Pacha are both excellent as well. While each have a different interior and layout, the general vibe is about the same, a mixture of young party goers and those wishing to be young. A mishmash of pop with Spainish influence, a one size fits all kind of experience. The music is bumping until at least six or seven in the morning.
Expect a cover charge unless you are going with a hostel, although there are ways around it. There will be people all over La Ramblas offering deals for clubs and much of the time they are telling the truth about what you’ll be getting.
Don’t take a taxi home. Its a huge rip off and they charge unbelievable fees. Many claim La Ramblas is too crowded and will not drive you there. Go to the bus stop or order and Uber.
Don’t buy drinks at club. Once again, a huge rip off. Right on the beach are tons of friendly gentlemen selling one euro beers and samosas. I would avoid the samosas but the beer is too good to pass up! Every club gives you a stamp so once you finish your cold beach beer you can head back in for more head pounding action.
Barcelona is strikingly beautiful but also one of the most touristy places I have been. Stay off the beaten path and you will succeed. The magic fountain is actually magic, especially after a few drinks. Stay out late, avoid bad deals and have a great time, I know I did.