Here is your Barcelona ultimate travel guide, a city that is always an awesome visit indeed! This Barcelona visit was surprisingly great. I have to admit l am still a bit ambivalent about the city. The reason being that we are Real Madrid football fans, and we loved our Madrid trip. Barcelona, on the other hand, l do like, but my dislike for the team taints my overall vision.
Barcelona Ultimate Travel Guide:
I, like every person in this world, knows about the Sagrada Familia, a church l was curious to see. Much to my delight, the city had not only this beautiful masterpiece of Antoni Gaudi, it had really interesting architecture throughout . This time, we spent a total of 4 days wandering and soaking in the beautiful Catalan culture.
Where to stay in Barcelona: Hotel in Barcelona:
Our hotel (Ayre Rosellon Hotel) was located a stone’s throw away from the Sagrada Familia. Our first day was spent within the walls of the Sagrada. I had purchased our tickets online thankfully, as this saved us hours of standing in a very very long line that wrapped around the building. Upon getting there, we were quickly directed to the other side, our tickets scanned on the phone, and bam… we were in like Flint. Make sure you reserve your tickets on line to save yourself the needless wait.
For luxury travellers, I highly recommend the W hotel Barcelona that is right on the beach and has the most wonderful amenities like a full gym, an amazing Spa, roof top bar and a DJ spinning tunes in the lounge. Curious as to what it looks like, check out the W hotel tour post here.
Getting around Barcelona:
Public transport is the way to go when on a Barcelona holidays. There is a lot of traffic and the center is crammed and full of pedestrian only zones so it is difficult to find parking. Always a good idea to check to see if your hotel offers free parking as that will save you a lot of money. You also have the choice of leaving the car at the hotel and taking public transport which is very efficient. On one of our visits, we stayed at the absolutely fabulous Barcelo Sants hotel which is right on top of the AVE station and metro stop making it really easy to get around.
Barcelona Travel Card:
This travel card allows you unlimited travel on the bus, metro, and tram public transport in addition to the RENFE train from the El Prat airport to the city center. The Barcelona card also includes reduced prices or free entry to some of best Barcelona museums and even restaurants. You can purchase tickets at the tourist booth at the airport.
Barcelona Tourist Travel Pass:
Also known as the HolaBCN card, this is a multi day travel card for tourists only. You can buy it for 2-5 days of all public transport including buses, metro, trams and the train that gets you into the city. There are no other discounts given, it is strictly for travel. The card is valid for travel between 5am and 11pm.
*Tip: If your flight arrives late, you might want to save the card for activation the next day so you don’t waste a full day’s worth of travel.
Language in Barcelona:
While Spanish is spoken in Barcelona, the Catalan language is the dominant one. This is a sore point for some of the locals. There are residents who don’t want to speak Spanish and actually prefer to separate from Spain as a whole and are cold towards other Spanish people who speak the Castilian Spanish. As a tourist, you shouldn’t have any problems. However, you should realise that while English is widely spoken in the centre, you would hear it less often away from there.
Barcelona Attractions: What to do in Barcelona
La Sagrada Familia: a must visit in Barcelona
Sagrada Familia interior:
Words alone can not describe the beauty of the interior. It was beyond anything l could have imagined. The stained glass works, the altar, the stairs, the details that went into it all. We spent a few hours walking through the bottom floor, seeing how they put the wood pieces together. We learned what inspired him, – nature (honeycomb, tree of life, etc ). We watched the movie about his life, both in Spanish and English. I didn’t even mind waiting till most of the crowds had left (closing time) so we could have people free pictures because it was crowded!
It was great looking at old photos of him. They even had some old designs that he had made while at the University of Barcelona that were discovered after his death. He lived a humble life from what l could see. A single bed! when one would have imagined that a man in his position would have all the trappings of wealth.
Thoughts on the Sagrada Familia:
My first thought had been that this was a Walt Disney gone mad kind of tribute to God. I felt differently after seeing it. I am so glad we toured inside. It is well worth the €15 per entrance fee and l recommend it highly. He died an old man, after getting hit by a train and had a grand funeral. It is hopefully destined for completion by 2026, exactly 100 years after his death. Purchase your tickets here.
The city of Barcelona as a whole:
It was fun to wander down Las Ramblas and Plaza Catalunya, as well as the Gothic Quarter. It was also fun to now recognize Gaudi’s other works as we went about the city. A change from my love for Impressionism. I know the locals are getting very tired of the number of tourists that intrude on their space and understandably so, which numbers roughly 20 million and not showing signs of slowing, thanks to the increased number of cruise ships in addition to all the flights
Avenue Diagonal Barcelona:
This big avenue essentially divides the city of Barcelona in tow, west side and east side. I loved the wide streets and loved the Avenue Diagonal Barcelona where there are plenty of designer stores and lots of rich people shopping. Names like Louis Vuitton and Glories. Needless to say, locals don’t really shop there. It’s been taken over by tourists and rich ones that have money to spare.
We tried to visit the Picasso museum, but once again, the wait was just too long. It was hot and the line stretched way down that little narrow street. I left the husband in line while l went to see just how long the line was. It took me almost 5 minutes to get to the front. Oh..hell..to the NO! Granted, it was free admission at that time (Sunday after 3), but we tried again the next day, willing to pay, but it was still long.
I have an aversion to long lines. I’m the person who used to pay $49 to get into Magic Mountain or $60 for Disneyland, then refused to stand in ridiculously long lines to ride for 20 seconds. I’ve become even fussier with age.. :o)
Las Ramblas Barcelona:
- A wide pedestrian street with mature trees
- Three quarter mile long
- Between the Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) and El Raval barrios
- Visit the Boqueria
- Ideal melting pot. Spot visitors from all over the world visiting the most famous street in Barcelona
- Watch the side walk artists – Still statue performance artists and famous movie stars abound
- *Caution* – watch your pocketbook and wallet. Even with the police presence, there is an awful lot of opportunistic theft.
Camp Nou Barcelona:
Of course we had to go by Camp Nou, the Barcelona football club Stadium. I was quite impressed by their official store, l must say. It was so beautiful, we were almost tempted to buy a jersey or 2! We happily wandered about with the fans and took pictures. It is a mecca for fans and impossible to get lost. Just follow the crowd once you get off the metro stop. There are two lines that take you to Camp Nou.
Line 3: Metro stop Palau Reial or Les Corts
Line 5: Metro stop Collblanc or Badal
Barcelona Travel Guide to the El Born district:
Hip and getting trendier by the minute neighbourhood with unique designer stores and narrow streets. Home to the Picasso museum and El Born cultural center.
El Poblenou Barcelona Guide:
Huge neighbourhood that has been revitalized and is now bustling with hip cafes, tapas bars and restaurants on it’s Rambla de Poblenou boulevard. Don’t miss the Encants flea market, a true one of a kind.
Read our post on the Poblenou neighbourhood here.
National Museum of Art Catalunya:
Amazing museum filled with Catalan , Gothic, and Romanesque collections to name a few. Located on Montjuic hill close to Plaza Espanya, it is a definitely must see.
Read all about our fascinating behind the scenes MNAC visit here.
To plan your own awesome visit to Barcelona, start by reserving your hotel here. My best tip for a Barcelona vacation is to have comfortable shoes on, especially on the cobble stones. You do a lot of walking :-).
Best places to visit in Barcelona include:
- Sagrada Familia
- Camp Nou
- Plaza Catalunya
- El Born
- Gothic Quarter
- Barceloneta and check out the W hotel
- Park Güell for Gaudi’s work
- La Rambla
- Ciutadela Park
- MNAC Barcelona
Barcelona travel guide:
Tips for visiting Barcelona:
- If booking private accommodation, make sure the unit is approved for rental and has a license. The city is cracking down on unlicensed private AirBnB places. Check before paying. You don’t want to get put out. Don’t mention that you’re staying in one to the locals either. They hate AirBnB.
- Compare prices between AirBnB and hotels. Sometimes the price difference is so little, or you might be surprised if the hotel comes out cheaper because they are priced competitively, like we discovered on our visit.
- Watch out for pickpockets. It is a growing problem with the huge influx of visitors to Barcelona. Make sure your purse has a zip across it, hold it firmly and always make sure to have your hand on it, even at restaurants. They are professionals.
- Make sure you have Xerox copies of your passport and any pertinent ID and credit cards so if they happen to be stolen, you can call the companies to cancel and you will have your passport number to report to the embassy.
- Make sure to wear comfortable shoes. There is lots of walking in the city. This is not the time for high heels.
- Take one of the free Barcelona walking tours to familiarise yourself with the city.
- Get lost on the side streets. Best way to discover the vibrant city
- Don’t discuss politics with the locals. A definite no no!
- If you intend on renting a car, remember that you need an international driver license along with your regular one. To find a rental care, use Auto Europe site that will compare prices to get you the cheapest rate.
- Behave yourself. This should go without saying. I’m not sure what makes people behave so rudely when they travel. No fights, no drunken behaviour and no littering. Simple!
- While you are not obligated to tip, if you really like the service, you can leave a small tip to show your appreciation, maybe 5-10% of your bill, but it is not compulsory.
- To look like a local, order a Cava instead of Sangria
Foods to try in Barcelona:
The Catalan region is famous for their take on paella. Called Fideua and made with spaghetti like noodles. It’s fantastic and a seafood one is a must try in my opinion.
Calamari a la plancha:
Grilled calamari – a must for seafood lovers
A very filling Spanish omelette, filled with potatoes and egg. Delicious
Cured ham, it is a staple of Spanish cuisine. Try the Iberico which is made from pigs that are free range and fed only acorns. Insanely good and worth trying. Try it at any one of the Andreu charcuterias in the city.
Is Barcelona worth visiting?
Yes it is. It is a humongous city that has lots to offer everyone. Wonderful sights and history and great beaches, not to mention some of the best day trips from Barcelona to places like Montserrat and Girona. I look forward to visiting the city again. There is always something new to see.
Have you been to Barcelona? Is it a place that you would like to visit or is it a must miss for you?