A Short Travel Guide To Barcelona | Spain’s Most Popular City

Cover image for A Short Travel Guide To Barcelona - Jeff is looking at the city of Barclona from Park Guell

Barcelona is an incredible city that has it all. There’s beautiful architecture, delicious food, vibrant nightlife and even a beach! I’m sure you guys are itching to experience the Catalonian capital for yourself so I’ve written this short Barcelona travel guide to help you plan your visit!

I’ve been to Barcelona three times and it has to be one of my favourite places in Europe. It’s the perfect destination for a long weekend or mini city break. If you’ve never visited before then I guarantee you’ll be checking the flights after reading this.

Barcelona Travel Guide Map

Trip map courtesy of Wanderlog, a journey planner

Best Time to Visit Barcelona

One of the reason’s why Barcelona attracts so many tourists is because the city can be visited all year-round. You might not be able to sunbathe in the winter months but this is the quieter and cheaper time to visit.

Barcelona is hot and humid during the summers months so I would avoid July and August. That is unless you want to enjoy the beaches!

If you’re visiting Barcelona for some sightseeing then either side of the summer months may be for you. The weather is warm enough for the beach but too uncomfortably hot.

How To Get To Barcelona

Officially known as Josep Tarradellas Barcelona–El Prat Airport, (I know!) Barcelona’s airport is the second largest in Spain. El Prat handles around 50 million passengers annually making it one of the busiest airports in Europe.

It’s quite easy to get cheap flights to Barcelona from Europe and there are even a few direct flights from the United States. Just use Skyscanner to check for availability and prices.

Where To Stay In Barcelona

People walking through the street of Las Ramblas in Barcelona
Las Ramblas

One of the best places to search is Booking.com or Airbnb where you’ll find anything from cheap nights to luxury stays and experiences.

Barcelona isn’t the cheapest place when it comes to accommodation but there are a few budget options if you search hard enough.

The popular areas to stay in if you want to be close to the action are Las Ramblas, Gràcia and the Gothic Quarter. If the beach is what you’re after then a little out the way is Barceloneta.

There are also plenty of hostels for young backpackers and some of the best party hostels are the Sant Jordi hostels.

Language & Culture

Most of us would think that a Spanish city in Spain would speak… well, Spanish! And most of us would be correct! However, without going too much into history, Barcelona is actually the capital of Catalonia and became part of a united Spain in the 16th century.

Catalonians have their own language, culture, food and traditions. So you might be spending the weekend in a popular Spanish city but you’ll definitely notice the differences as you walk around Barcelona! For example, you’ll see more Senyeras (the flag of Catalonia) hanging from the balconies than the flag of Spain!

Food & Drink In Barcelona

Garlic fried prawns with sauce

Barcelona has some great restaurant and some of the best food in Spain. You’ll find plenty of sangria, tapas and paella but these are not your typical local dishes.

As well as all the traditional Spanish dishes you should also try to eat some of the delicious Catalan. If you see someone on the street barbecuing spring onions then they’re cooking up some calçots, which originate from Catalonia!

Other Catalan dishes to try are esqueixada – a raw cod salad, la bomba – a potato croquette ball filled with rice and spices, crema Catalana – tasty dessert very similar to creme brûlée, and pa amb tomàquet – which is simply bread and tomato!

If you want to drink something other than beer and sangria you can enjoy a glass of vermouth. Although not originally from Barcelona, vermouth is very popular with the locals and is now also produced in Catalonia. For something different, head to Cera 23 for their famous blackberry mojitos… delicious!

Tip | If you’re planning to eat at a restaurant before 9pm you may find that you’ll be dining alone. The Spanish tend to eat a little later and this is especially true if you’re from the UK!

Things To See & Do In Barcelona

Walk Along Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas is probably the most famous street in Barcelona, and maybe in all of Spain. The street is often on the list of ‘must-sees’ whilst in Barcelona and is visited by both tourists and locals.

The street is approximately 1.2km long and is where you’ll find all things touristy including overpriced souvenir shops and cafes. You’ll also find human statues, caricaturists and a Nike store!

One place not to miss on Las Ramblas is La Boqueria Food Market. This atmospheric hall offers a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a number of small eateries where you can sample some of the local delicacies.

See The Sagrada Familia

A view of the inside of the Sagrada Famalia with many columns and colourful windows

The awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia is undoubtedly the most famous landmark in Barcelona. The unfinished masterpiece by Antoni Gaudí is the city’s most visited sight and with good reason! You could spend hours studying all the intricate details of this basilica and never be satisfied.

Construction of the church started in 1882 but Antoni Gaudí wasn’t involved until a year later. Gaudí died in 1926 with the building around 80% unfinished! Gaudí’s disciples would carry on his work but the plans and models for the Sagardal Famalia were destroyed during the 1939 Spanish Civil War.

The best way to see the Sagrada Familia without the large queues is by purchasing your tickets in advance on the official website. Tickets cost €20 or €26 with an audioguide. I also recommend paying extra for tower access.

Have A Camp Nou Experience

Image of Barcelona's football stadium, the Camp Nou

One for the football (soccer) fans! Even if you’re not a fan of Barcelona, it’s hard not to find a football fan who doesn’t want to set foot in one of the most famous stadiums in the world!

The Camp Nou’s official seating capacity is 99,354 making it the largest stadium in Europe and fourth-largest in the world. The record, however, was the 1986 European Cup match with Juventus when the attendance was an incredible 120,000! Can you imagine that?

Stadium and museum tours can be found on the club’s official website. The tours are priced from €26 with an audioguide and from €45 with a guide with VIP options also available. Tickets to matches are a little more difficult to come by but you can sign up for updates on the website.

Stroll Through Park Guell

Jeff is kissing the dragon located at Park Guell
Making friends in Barcelona!

Walking through Antoni Gaudí’s stunning Park Guell is like walking through the mind of the creative genius himself. This enormous garden took 14 years to build and was opened to the public in 1926. UNESCO declared Park Guell a World Heritage Site in 1984.

The 19-hectare park is free to enter but tickets need to be purchased for the Monumental Zone, which is the part with the towers and the colourful dragon! Timed tickets cost €10 and can be bought in advance. This is a great way to beat the queues to the highly popular park.

Museu de l’Erotica

Two mannequins at the Erotic Museum

The Erotic Museum of Barcelona was one of those places that I hadn’t visited intentional, but I’m glad I did!

As you look above the streets of Las Ramblas you may see a Marilyn Monroe lookalike enticing people into the museum below. Visit with an open mind and you’ll soon learn about erotic culture from all over the world including India’s Kama Sutra!

The entrance fee is €10 and it includes a glass of champagne too. Or you can just have the erotic stickers or audioguide instead.

Visit Casa Batlló

Image of the front of Casa Batllo in Barcelona

Another of Antoni Gaudí’s famous works (there are many) the Casa Batlló. The beautiful exterior of the building makes it stand out along the Passeig de Gràcia! Taking an old house, Gaudí redesigned and remodelled it several times turning it into an Art Nouveau masterpiece.

Tickets for Casa Batlló cost start at €25 (going up for VIP access and extras) and includes a cool augmented reality video guide tour. It may seem a lot but you can easily spend over an hour going through every room right to the rooftop.

You can also visit another Gaudí house, Casa Milà, just up the road. That’s if you haven’t had enough Gaudí by now.

Spend Some Time In The Gothic Quarter

Image of windows in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona

The Gothic Quarter is the historic centre of old Barcelona. You could spend hours getting lost in the narrow streets. You might also stumble on a cute little cafe or bar and definitely some beautiful old buildings.

The Barcelona Cathedral is also located in the Gothic Quarter. Interestingly, the cathedral’s status means that the Sagrada Familia will never officially be home to the Catholic bishop or archbishop.

Relax At Barceloneta Beach

View of Barceloneta Beach from a restaurant during sunset

Barcelona isn’t just about amazing architecture and culture! There are also 9 beaches within reach of the city centre for those who just want to soak up the sun.

Barceloneta Beach, or Playa de La Barceloneta, is the most popular beach and probably has the liveliest atmosphere. It’s also a great place to eat fresh seafood at one of the many beachside bars known as chiringuitos.

Other beaches close by include the peaceful Nova Icaria Beach, the pristine Ocata Beach and the LGBT-friendly Mar Bella Beach

Revel In Barcelona’s Famous Nightlife

Barcelona is known for its awesome nightlife! The city is full of bars and clubs, big and small. This makes the city a popular destination for stag and hen parties. Or bachelor and bachelorette parties to those across the pond.

There is guaranteed to be some theme night every day of the week so don’t worry if you’re not on a weekend trip to Barcelona. It’s not all about partying and clubbing of course. There’s a wide variety of events happening including live music, Flamenco and Tapas crawls.

Tip | Be prepared for a very late but amazing night out in Barcelona – I visited with a friend a while back and our hostel didn’t meet up for our bar crawl till after midnight! We didn’t get to our first bar until 12:30am!

Watch The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

Image of the Magic Fountain at night with lit up water

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is Barcelona’s biggest and most famous fountain. Constructed for the 1929 International Expo, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was non-magical if you stumbled across it during the day.

Turn up in the evening during one of the daily shows and you’ll see why it’s called The Magic Fountain. Each day in the evening, the fountain is lit up as the water dances around to music. It’s a stunning sight but you’ll have to get there early as you’ll be sharing it with pretty much everyone in town.

Enjoy Some Family Fun At Tibidabo

Tibidabo cathedral on top of Mount Tibidabo in Barcelona

Any Friends fans out there thinking about Joey’s story from when he was backpacking in Western Europe? Well, now you too can go hiking in the foothills of Mount Tibidabo! A worthy 4-hour hike to the top of Barcelona’s highest peak.

But if hiking isn’t for you then you can enjoy a fun day out at the amusement park that’s been built at the top. As well as a great day out, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the city and a chance to see Tibidabo Cathedral.

Take A Day Trip To Montserrat

The monastery at the top of Monserrat peak

One of the most popular day trips from Barcelona is to Montserrat, around 1.5 hours away. Although people go to visit the monastery, it’s the spectacular mountain scenery that really makes this a worthy trip.

Once you’ve taken the cable car up to the top, you can walk in and around the monastery as well as taking once of the many short hiking paths.

Make sure you take the short walk to Sant Miquel’s Cross. You can take in the views of the surrounding countryside as well as a great view of the monastery!

Staying Safe In Barcelona

Barcelona is a safe city to visit but does suffer from pickpocketing (as do most major tourist destinations.) It’s likely that you’ll have a trouble-free visit but just look after your possessions in crowded places and such as Las Ramblas and the metro.

If you’re wearing a backpack and are worried about the valuables inside, simply wear it on your front when walking through crowded spaces. Don’t carry large sums of cash with you – you can pay for most things with a travel credit/debit card with no fees.

I always travel with insurance as I want to know I’m fully protected if anything goes wrong. World Nomads have one of the best policies for young travellers and covers against illness, theft and cancellations. It’s also very easy to find cheap travel insurance on comparison sights for those shorter trips!

Have You Visited Barcelona Yet?

Jeff and Zuzi sit by a pond with the Sagrada Familia in front of them. The last image for Barcelona travel guide post

Whether it’s your first or tenth time in Barcelona, there’ll always be something to take you back!

Or, at least, that’s how I feel about this amazing city! Whether you go for the culture, the architecture, the nightlife or for a family weekend, Barcelona has something to offer.

Like I said before, I’ve visited 3 times and each visit got better and better. It seems that the more I visit Barcelona, the more I discover something new. I’m sure you’ll feel the same way too.

So that’s my short Barcelona travel guide! If you have any questions about something that I may not have covered then feel free to get in contact. Or just let me know in the comments below.

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