The cosmopolitan city of Barcelona is one of Spain’s hottest tourist destinations. When visiting it’s hard to believe that Barcelona hasn’t always drawn the crowds, the city began it’s transformation in 1992 when it won the rights for the Olympics. Its make-over included an impressive man-made beach, palm tree-lined avenues and a beautifully redeveloped port. Whether you are interested in art, culture, drinking, good food, music, shopping, sport or partying – this captivating city will not let you down!
Must-see highlights for culture vultures
For those impressed by culture architecture and art, it’s hard to know where to start. I think firstly I would have to recommend a trip to Picasso’s Museum even if you only have a slight interest in art. I would say it’s one of the best art galleries I have ever been to.
Park Guell, an impressive garden complex with architecture on display is perfect for a relaxed afternoon stroll and also don’t miss the famous La Sagrada Familia the massive catholic church still under construction from 1882!
The fabulous Batlló House (above) designed by Antoni Gaudi is an extraordinary sight, it seems like the designer wanted to avoid straight lines at all costs!
Must-see highlight for sporty types
I would recommend a trip to the Camp Nou, Barcelona’s world-famous stadium. There is an excellent tour where you get to visit the changing rooms, the area where press conferences take place and even go on the pitch (well the edge anyway!) as well as other areas of the stadium. The tour is not just for football fans, I’ve heard positive feedback from many others even those who dislike football!
Attractions for families
A lot of money was spent on Barcelona’s aquarium and I would definitely recommend a visit. Other family attractions include Tibidabo Amusement Park, the IMAX cinema and the charming Magic Fountain of Montjuic.
Must-do walks around the city
I would suggest starting at Plaça de Catalunya and walking down Las Ramblas to check out all the street performers but a good tip is to avoid grabbing a beer there (unless you are desperate) as it will cost you a small fortune. From Las Rambla head across to Gothic area, a wonderful part of the city where you can get a feel for what Barcelona used to be like pre-Olympics.
At some stage be sure to jump on the yellow line (L4) and head to the old Olympic port (Ciutadella I Vila Olimpica) where you will find a mix of bars and restaurants as well as the very impressive casino and the beach.
Tips for eating and drinking
There are lots of fantastic restaurants in Barcelona, one place that I would recommend as an excellent stop for lunch is Mesón Jesús (Carrer dels Cecs de la Boqueria 4) located just off Las Ramblas. When you look in from outside this place doesn’t look all that impressive, but it serves an excellent set lunch. What makes this place special is that even though you are in the middle of a tourist area you are unlikely to see any tourists in this restaurant. I would suggest avoiding eating on Las Ramblas itself but if you head off the main road you can stop in any bar and get Tapas for a decent price.
After all your sightseeing I am sure you will want to spend a night partying, a good place to start is L’Ovella Negra, a bar which is full of Spanish students, a great spot just off Las Ramblas serving cheap jugs of beer. Later on in the evening head to the bottom of Las Rambla and then over the bridge where you will find a new large building (Port Vell), in the day time, it’s a shopping centre and then in the evening, it becomes party central with various bars and nightclubs.
Another great spot at night is the Olympic Port, the bars that surround the area tend to get very busy at midnight onwards, there is a mix of music to suit everyone’s tastes. For something a little different, I would recommend a trip to Jazzman, a very quaint jazz bar. You will need to get a taxi there and back but on a positive note you won’t bump into any other tourists and it will be a special night out.
Tips for the best places to stay
I would recommend trying to base yourself near Plaça de Catalunya or La Ramblas. From these locations, it is easy to get everywhere. There are lots of great hotels to choose from please see our post on where to find the cool hotels in Barcelona for more ideas.
The best time to go
Summer in Barcelona is very hot, so I would suggest visiting in May. This will allow you to go to the beach if you wish and still go sightseeing as it’s not yet too hot.
Tips for getting around
Barcelona is a large city, it’s most likely that you will need to use public transport, there is a very easy to use the metro system and it’s cheap. The best option is to buy a book of tickets – each journey costs €1. Be careful when you’re travelling on the Metro, you should watch out for pickpockets. If you need to get a taxi don’t worry about the cost, I’ve always found taxis in Barcelona to be priced fairly. The bus tours are also pretty good and cover most attractions.
If you do decide to try this great city be sure to try all types of Tapas and drink plenty of Sangria, enjoy!