Barcelona is the perfect city if you want to just get away from it all for a few days, or to spend time before or after a cruise. It’s a wonderful city full of history, sites, shopping and plenty of food and drink. What more could you want in life?
Here are some of my top tips for staying in Barcelona.
There’s loads of ways to find your way around Barcelona. I like walking and I find Barcelona to be a very walkable city. It can feel deceptively big at times, so be prepared to walk for a fair amount if you want to see everything on foot. I’ve found that by wandering the city you get to experience the variety and scale of its architecture. You can’t help but stop and gaze up at it all. On my last visit I somehow racked up 10 miles in one day!
On top of that, the Barcelona Metro is very good, very cheap and will get you quickly to most of the key parts of the city. There are also a number of bus routes and cycle hire if that tickles your fancy.
Barcelona is a big tourist hot spot, and as you would expect there’s a huge choice of hotels across the city. The benefit to this is that you can find great hotels at very reasonable prices. I definitely recommend using price comparison websites to shop about; there are plenty of deals to be had.
If you’re new to the city I recommend staying in the districts around Las Ramblas, including the Gothic Quarter or Eixample. I stayed in Eixample on my last trip and it was a great area to base yourself out of (most recently I stayed at the Soho Hotel). If you fancy being closer to the beach then Barceloneta or Vila Olimpica could be your best bet.
What to do
There’s plenty to see and do in Barcelona. The various Gaudi masterpieces are a must when you visit. At the top of the list is the unique Basilica of the Sagrada Familia. There is nothing quite like it anywhere in the world. This monumental church started to be built in 1882 and today is just over half- finished, with aim for it to be complete by 2026 – the centenary of Gaudi’s death. If you want to go inside I recommend booking tickets online beforehand as queues can be very long outside.
Another famous example of Gaudi’s work can be found north of Las Ramblas. Casa Battló was originally built in 1877 but was totally redesigned in 1904 by Gaudi. The house is now a museum and lets you immerse yourself in the architecture and design of Gaudi, the history of the house and how the bourgeouisie of the early 20th Century lived.
The Gothic Quarter is another must when visiting. You can easily find yourself mooching down the many quirky and interesting alleys with all sorts of shops, bars and restaurants. Since you’re there you must see the Barcelona Cathedral and other sites up close and personal.
Given its mild climate Barcelona is the perfect city to be outdoors. There are lots of parks, but perhaps the most stunning and green is Ciutadella Park. The park was design and built by one of Gaudi’s protégés, Josep Fontsère and you can find all sorts of attractions in and around it. This includes Barcelona Zoo, the Catalan Parliament, the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Modern Science.
Speaking of outdoors, why not visit the beaches and marinas on your visit? There are a number of beaches in Barcelona that sprawl along the Mediterranean coast. You’ll also find plenty of watering holes and restaurants when you get hungry and thirsty.
As I tend to recommend for most city breaks, perhaps one of the most time efficient ways of seeing the city is via one of the many a sightseeing buses.
Food and drink
If you’re a fan of food and drink, then Barcelona is the right city for you. I’ve found a multitude of great restaurants and cuisines, all of which are quite reasonable. Here are some particular highlights I recommend from my recent visits.
I literally stumbled upon Trópico while wandering the city. This unassuming restaurant can be found in the El Raval district, a few minutes from Las Ramblas. As the name suggests this restaurant likes to mix flavours up with a variety of cuisine fusions from across the world. This may scare some but it was a genuine triumph of flavour. I particularly recommend going here for brunch. Easily one of the best brunches I’ve ever had, you must try the eggs benedict.
Talking about brunch, one of the more interesting and quirky restaurants to be found within the Eixample District is Brunch & Cake. This is a great little restaurant that prides itself on fresh ingredients and putting a twist on everyday food. I’d go back in a heartbeat. It is quite small so expect a small wait for a table.
A theme for most of my food blogs is the inevitable Mexican quest. Again, Barcelona didn’t disappoint. Found within the Gothic Quarter, visit Rosa Negra. Highlighted as one of the best Mexicans in the city, this is a fab restaurant. Serving a wide variety of Mexican street food, and some amazingvv hot sauces, you cannot go wrong by visiting here. They also have a wide variety of drinks and special cocktails.
If Pintxos Tapas is your thing, then visit Carrer de Blai. Here you’ll find restaurant after restaurant with mouth-watering Pintxos. Take a seat, order some sangria and feast on the finger-food tapas.
You can find many amazing tapas places across Barcelona. Stoke Bar, situated in the Gothic Quarter, has a great reputation for serving some lovely Mediterranean food and drink, all within a cozy atmosphere.
I could write a whole article on bars in Barcelona. There are quite simply loads of amazing places to visit. If you are also fond of Gin, then Barcelona is your city. Spain and in particular Barcelona is one of the largest gin markets in the world. So naturally you will find plenty of fun cocktail bars that specialise in serving it. A few I enjoyed and have been recommended include La Martinera, Dry Martini, Bitter Cocktail Bar, l’antic teatre bar and Mariatchi Bar.
One particular drink I was introduced to on my most recent visit was Leche de Pantera. Literally translated as ‘Panther’s Milk’, this is a boozy milk concoction that comes from Barcelona and dates back to 1975. The cocktail includes milk (as you would expect), gin, brandy and cinnamon (oh and sometimes grenadine too). Don’t be fooled, it’s much stronger than you first may think and is really easy to drink. I experienced this in a bar called La Socarrena, in the southern part of the Gothic Quarter.
Barcelona is easy to get to from the UK, with some of the cheapest flights around. In the past it has cost me as little as £40 for a return flight from London Gatwick airport.
Once at Barcelona airport it is easy to get into town. Just jump on the metro from the airport, which roughly takes half an hour to get into town (for €4.60) or try one of the many taxis out the front of the airport (for around €30-40).