On the north-east coast of Spain, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea is a spectacular city that goes by the name of Barcelona. I’m sure you have heard of it. This vibrant location brilliantly balances modern city life alongside a strong and relaxed beach vibe, making it a great place to visit.
With many interesting and unusual attractions throughout the city, which covers 101.4 km2 (39.2 sq mi) there is always something for you to discover and explore. For a relaxed holiday to Barcelona you need plenty of time to admire and enjoy all that is available, so allow at least 5 days, longer if you want to spend time on the beach.
English in Barcelona
As a major tourist hot spot English is spoken all over the city.
Within the neighbourhood of Barceloneta, which is situated next to the beach, there are numerous bars and restaurants. Here you are most likely to hear English spoken more than Spanish. After spending a jam packed long weekend in Barcelona, I recall hardly hearing any Spanish being spoken in this neighbourhood. I heard plenty of English spoken in an array of accents, particularly Indian and American.
The main city centre and tourist attractions there is a mix of Spanish and English spoken, people within the service industry can speak both languages at an advanced and fluent level.
Where to Stay
Accommodation in Barcelona is expensive no matter what time of year you visit, as the weather conditions never become unbearable and the streets are always full of tourists and locals. The best budget hotels, like Chic & Basic Born and Hotel Market, sell out quickly. If you need to pay lower prices you will need to book 5-6 months in advance. For my visit I researched hotels and apartments on Air BnB and found that hotels are priced considerably cheaper, even when airport transfers are included.
Unless you are pushed for time or want to be in a specific area I suggest staying on the outskirts of the city, situated on a direct route into the city centre via the Metro.
I stayed in the north east of the city close to the Metro stop Bogatell, which went directly into the city in 15 minutes. The hotel was located in an industrial area that had a few bars and restaurants, nothing special. But, the Metro and the TRAM were 10-minute walk away, which was ideal. The plan was to spend all day and evening in the city, so I only needed to sleep in a hotel that was reasonably priced.
Unmissable Attractions of Barcelona
As a teenager, I have always wanted to visit Barcelona and nearly 20 years later, it finally happened. Over the years I had formed quite the list of attractions and activities that I wanted to visit and try. Now I can share the best attractions with you.
The attraction I had been most been excited about was Park Guell. Surprisingly, it was quite a distance away from the city but was well worth the effort to get there. The most convenient way to get there isto take L3 on the Metro to either Lesseps or Vallcarca, andincludes a 20-minute walk to the Passatge de Sant Josep de la Muntanya entrance. Alternatively, take bus line, 24 from Plaza de Catalunya. To enter the park, you must purchase a ticket in advance, a general ticket is €7.50, and select a time slot to enter. Each admission has a limited number of tickets. I would suggest booking early afternoon or the penultimate admission to allow plenty of time to get there and to avoid the larger crowds. Within the park there are plenty of structures and pieces of art to study and capture on film for memorable photos.
La Sagrada Familia
One of the most famous attractions, La Sagrada Familia, was my least favourite, buthaving said that, it is still worth visiting as your experience may differ from mine. The exterior is magnificent and is probablyunlike anything you have seen before. It was shocking at first sight and still captivating. However, I found the novelty soon wore off as the surrounding streets were jampacked with tourists, street sellers, cheap souvenir shops and American fast food chains. The Spanish charm was nowhere to be seen, which was very disappointing. So be prepared for this, otherwise it might be as equally disappointing for you.
As a suggestion, go inside the building as soon as you can, to experience more of La Sagrada Familia. This roman catholic church is unfinished, so parts of it will be covered in scaffolding.Ticket prices start at 15€ for a self-guided tour. To understand the history of this building I would suggest paying a little extra for the audio guided tour (22€) which you can do in your own time and pace.
Arc de Triomf
In the city centre, you must visit the 1888 main gate to the Barcelona World Fair. While there is not anything in particular to do here,you can simply spend 20 minutes marvelling at its beauty. I unknowingly came upon and was happily surprised. It is magnificent and I took a photo that includes 100 shades of red. I cannot wait to get all the images printed.
Magic Fountains of Montjuic
After admiring the former bullfighting stadiumnow shopping centre and all that surrounds the enormous Plaza de Espana,walk through the twin towers to experience the breath-taking Magic Fountains of Montjuic. This was the biggest surprise and therefore thehighlight of my trip. I could sit and watch the fountains for hours and fill my phone memory with photographs. It’s a very relaxing spot that captures aquatic beauty perfectly.After sunset you can watch a musical fountain show with lights. Check out show times here.
Whilst here, you can spend a few hours in the National Museum of Catalonian Art. Opening times vary on the month and day and costs €12 to admire the exhibits and an additional €2 to access the rooftop viewpoint, which is 100% worth it. The views are amazing!
In the old town spend an evening exploring the Gothic Quarter, the architecture is very different to other parts of the city. This area starts in La Rambla to Via Laietana.
This amazing tree lined road links Plaza de Catalunya with the tall statue honouring Christopher Columbus. Walk the street and stop off at a La Boqueria for an authentic Barcelona experience. It is a large market full of the best cured meats, cheese, fruits and sea food. You absolutely must try some of the local foods, they are amazing.
In the centre of Barcelona, keep about 90 hours free and visit Casa Batlló. For €28.50 you can experience everything this Gaudí creation and UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer. The price is even cheaper when booked online and it comes with a SmartGuide, and includes a narration, images and animated videos to complete your adventure from top to bottom.
A 6-minute walk down up the road from Casa Batlló is Casa Milà. A great way to explore this quirky attraction is with a night tour. From March1st to November 4 the night tour takes place between 21:00 until 23:00. But from November 5th to February 28, it is available from 19:00 until 21:00.
The ticket costs €41.00 online and includes a day visit with audio guide, night tour with professional guide, a glass of cava and Wi-Fi.
Relax on a Barcelona Beach
As well as all these amazing attractions Barcelona has a few golden sandy beaches, the younger party people head to Barceloneta Beach, which is on the yellow Metro line and many families have fun in the sun on Icària Beach. To get here take the yellow Metro line to ‘Ciutadella Vila Olimpica’ and from there it’s a 10-minute walk. Barcelona also has a nudist beach, Marbella Beach, and is a 20-minute walk from the metro stop ‘Poblenou’ again on the yellow line.
The Mediterranean Sea is quite calm here with few waves, so is a relaxing and safe place to swim or simply float. I noticed a little bit of plastic floating around but certainly not the worst I had ever seen.
As well as all of these attractions and spending time on the beach you can visit the Barcelona zoo and the aquarium. If you do visit the zoo be sure to walk around the whole park where it is located, Parc de la Ciutadella.Here you will find many paths that navigate around lakes and museums. Plus, you will see a grand water feature designed by JosepFontserè. It looks particularly beautiful around midday when the sun is rising toward its highest point.
As a major city there are lots of ways to navigate the city and get from the airport to the city. I will discuss the most convenient and most likely routes you will need, which include the Metro, Aerobus and taxi’s.
Barcelona airport is located 12 km (7.5 mi) southwest of the city centre and there are multiple ways to get to your accommodation and return, for your departure home. Many people will jump into a taxi, takes approximately 25 minutes, and costs between €30-€40 depending on which terminal you start your journey.
Other methods of transportation include the Metro, but it closes at 11pm. If you are unable to get the reliable and affordable Metro, then get a ticket for the express AeroBus, which stops atPlaçad'España or Plaça de Catalunya. From here you can walk to your hotel or get a taxi. A single ticket is €5.90 and a return ticket is €10.20. After 11pm these buses are busy, so you may need to queue for some time, but an empty bus arrives every 15 minutes.
For more methods of transportation from the airport visit the Barcelona Airport website.
The best way to get around the city is to use the Metro, the service operates regularly and the carriages are ideal for any season, unlike London Underground. In summer, the airconditioned Metro is a godsend. The layout of the Metro is convenient and easy to understand as it is colour coordinated. A single ride on the Metro is $2.20. If you’re expecting to take more than 6 rides invest in a Hola Barcelona Travel Card, they are valid for 2 (€15), 3 (€22 ), 4 (€28.50) or 5 (€35) days with unlimited travel on consecutive days. The card can be used on the Metro, the city bus (TMB) and the TRAM, plus more. Buy in advance online for a 10% discount.
The bus service in Barcelona is good for short distances and you can use your Hola Barcelona Travel Card. Download a map to your phone to be used offline to travel to major attractions.
Taxis in Barcelona are expensive and are very difficult to flag down. This is one of the areas that the transportation in Barcelona is lacking. I regularly saw taxi ranks empty but was unable to flag down a taxi after a concert in the Olympic Stadium, as I result I had to walk over 4 miles to my hotel.
Invest in the affordable Hola Barcelona Travel Card and keep it safe and straight. I forgot mine was in my shorts pocket and it bent a little. As a result, I needed to get a replacement ticket because it stopped working.
Book in advance. Flight, hotels, attractions and transportation can have sales and be cheaper when booked online. Therefore, book as much as you can before you arrive.
Be aware of your surrounds and stay careful on the streets and beach, keep your possessions close and if possible, never out of sight. Pickpockets are rife and you are their target.
Allow for plenty of time, there is lots to see.
Eat the local dishes: Pan con Tomate and a Bikini Sandwich.
Plan your holiday so you don’t miss anything that you would love to experience.
Rely on a taxi to get home. Have a backup transportation plan like the night bus.
Arrive late for attractions that specify a time, as you won’t be let in.
Flash the cash and become a target for street thieves.
Eat in the restaurants you would visit at home. Spain has many incredible dishes.
Speak in English all the time. Learn a few phrases and impress the residents of Barcelona.
With plenty to see and try, Barcelona it is a great city to explore when you have 4 or more days available. Plan it, book it and have a great time!