After spending three days in Madrid, we took the train to Barcelona to find a whole different world waiting for us. Barcelona was a lot busier than Madrid, with a larger ratio of tourists to locals.
In Madrid, we found very few people who were confident and comfortable with English whereas in Barcelona, most people were fluent in English. It was a change of pace but Barcelona was a charmer with its beautiful beaches and amazing architecture.
Scott and I are not party people, when we travel we are looking for culture, history, beach fun but never drinks or clubs. So I cannot comment on the party scene of Barcelona even though you can feel its presence lurking.
Barcelona is a beautiful with something to offer for all type of visitors and today I have put together all my suggestions into this guide.
Need to Know
The transport system is quite good but it is also quite pricey. A single ticket costs 2.15 euros. Luckily Barcelona is a relatively small city and most of the attractions are within walking distance. Plus, isn’t walking the best way to discover a city anyway?
Scammers and pickpockets
Like any major city, Barcelona has its share of scammers out for a quick buck. Make sure to keep an eye on your belongings, especially around popular attractions and on the metro.
Barcelona is heavily influenced by Gaudi and his legacy. His most famous work being the Sagrada di Familia. You cannot go to Barcelona without checking out some of his work such as Casa Batllo.
There is no need to leave a tip after your meal. It is not expected, most people will only leave a couple of euros at most.
Pre-book your tickets
Barcelona is busy. It is quite common for visitors to spend hours waiting in line to see some of the famous museums, especially in summer. Make sure to pre-book your tickets where possible.
Eating habits in Barcelona (much like in the rest of Spain) is quite different, in the sense that lunch does not start until 2-3 pm and dinner not until 9 pm. So make sure to adjust your eating habits accordingly or you might end up eating at tourists traps that will be open.
Like other cities in Europe, Sunday is a quiet day where locals go to church and spend it with their family. As such, many local shops and supermarkets are closed. However, attractions, restaurants and bars are still open for business. Keep that in mind when you plan your activities.
Barcelona is surprisingly small and as such it does not take long to get the main attractions. We stayed on las Ramblas and that was the perfect location to explore the main sights. We had a metro stop just a five minute walk from our hotel and our hotel walking distance to the Barceloneta beach and the Boqueria.
Las Ramblas can be quite busy and a bit rowdy at times. Some quieter areas would be the Gothic Quarter and the El Born area.
When travelling to a new city, just make sure to be in a central area and close to a metro station.
As in most cities, I would not advise that you eat near tourist attractions and the same goes for Barcelona. Paella, for example, is actually not from Catalan, you will find poor imitations in tourist traps.
Mercado de la Boqueria
The Boqueria is a large covered market filled with all sorts of delicacies. Within the market, you can buy fresh produce as well as sit at the counters of small restaurants and eat tapas and other delicacies while it is cooked in front of you.
Fresh produce at the Boqueria is more expensive considering how large a draw this place is for tourists so be mindful of that if you are purchasing any products and so on.
Be sure to try the Patatas Bravas
If you love sweets, then you must try some at this shop. The sweets are so pretty that you almost don’t want to eat them, almost.
This is One of the best tapas spots in Barcelona. The food is truly amazing. I would suggest getting there early as getting a spot at the bar can be a mission.
This is the main strip/street in Barcelona. Filled with shops and restaurants, it is very busy. While definitely worth a visit, I would not advise spending the majority of your time there. The beauty of Barcelona can only be discovered by walking down the smaller streets and discovering the hidden gems.
La Sagrada di Familia
This is the most famous of Antonio Gaudi’s masterpieces. After 135 years, it is still unfinished with a planned completion date of 2026 to 2028.
This church is definitely the biggest that I have been to and in many ways feels surreal. The history behind it makes it so much more significant. The architecture is a work of art with so many hidden nooks and crannies with all the wonderful sculptural work.
I did not have much information about the Sagrada and I was so surprised at how new the inside looks only to learn about all the history behind it. This is a must on any Barcelona trip, just make sure to pre-book your tickets otherwise you will have a long wait.
Pablo Picasso Museum
This museum is a must visit for any art lover. It contains some of the works of Picasso throughout his life. After visiting the museum, make sure to head to the courtyard. There are often long queues, so make sure to pre-book your tickets.
Barceloneta beach is the better known beach, which means, that it is crowded and very often dirty. Especially towards the end of summer. Instead opt for some of the other beaches in Barcelona such as Mar Bella.
I must say that I had no preconceived notions upon entering Casa Batllo and I am happy that I didn’t because it blew my mind. The sheer architectural genius behind this building is something to be admired. This is a must to do on your trip to Barcelona.
I am not in a rush to return to Barcelona, while I enjoyed the city and the sights. I much prefer Madrid with a lower ratio of visitor to local. If I were to return to Barcelona, I would definitely prefer to stay around the El-Born area. Staying on the Las Ramblas distorts your perception of the city and you must truly make an effort to go find the local flavour.
If you have been to Barcelona, let me know what you like about the city?