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Get the best travel tips for a trip to Barcelona

Oct 08, 2020 by Chloe Goldstein

Whether you prefer to travel solo, explore a new city with friends, or bring your whole family on vacation, Barcelona is certain to win over many hearts. Appealing to artists, foodies, sports fans, history buffs, beach-lovers, and even mountain-goers, it is no surprise that this capital city of Catalonia is one of Europe’s most dynamic destinations.

Currency: The Euro

Languages: Catalan and Spanish, although it is acceptable to speak Spanish to everyone, especially as a tourist. You will also find that most people speak some English.

UNESCO-listed sites: Barcelona is home to nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites and seven of the sites include architecture designed by the brilliant Antoni Gaudí.

Best way to get around: Walking (many well-known squares and sites can be accessed by foot). Some attractions will require a short taxi ride or a few stops on the metro (taxis are relatively inexpensive and the public transportation system is wonderful). Navigating Barcelona is a piece of cake, causing many to believe the city is smaller than it actually is!

Etiquette tip: Don’t rush your meals! It’s customary to enjoy food, drinks, and company without worrying about overstaying your welcome at a restaurant. Your server won’t bother you. In fact, you’ll likely need to flag them down when you need something.

Fun fact: The Eiffel Tower was first proposed to be built in Barcelona.


street performers on trumpet and piano

WHEN TO GO TO BARCELONA

February to March for Carnival. Barcelona can be enjoyed year-round, as temperatures in the winter are still in the 50s during the day. Traveling during the off-season will also result in great travel deals, although it will be too cold for the beach. While it may seem warm during the day, it does become chilly once the sun sets. Come during this time of the year to partake in the Carnival festivities, the Spanish equivalent to Mardi Gras.

May to June for beautiful weather. This is one of the best travel seasons due to gorgeous springtime temperatures falling in the 60s and 70s. This is the perfect weather for exploring the city on foot and dining outdoors. Plus, you’ll avoid the busy summer tourist rush!

July to August for constant entertainment. This is the liveliest time to pay the city a visit. Street festivals are common and beaches become a primary hangout spot. However, this is also the most expensive season in Barcelona. You can expect crowds of tourists, long lines, and the weather is very hot and humid. If you are considering traveling in the summer, be sure to weigh the pros and cons!

September to October for off-season thrills. Traveling in the fall and the spring share many of the same benefits. The weather is warm, yet comfortable and you can still take a dip in the Mediterranean in September. There will also be less tourists, meaning fewer crowds, and travel costs will also begin to go down. We love off-season travel for these reasons!


group of people walking

WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO BARCELONA

Comfortable walking shoes. This is crucial in order to truly get a taste of the city! There is so much to be experienced by exploring Barcelona on foot.

Crossbody bag/money belt. Pickpockets are common in crowded tourist areas, but they will only target you if they have the chance to. Be sure to keep your belongings on you and visible always. It’s best to leave valuables at home and only bring out however much spending money you will need that day.

A warm jacket (if traveling in the winter). It doesn’t need to be heavy, but it should have some insulation. It can become quite nippy at night and during the day if the sun isn’t out.

A scarf (if traveling during cooler seasons). This is a great way to quickly warm up, while still on-the-go enjoying your day. You can easily carry it around with you while the sun is out, then toss it on once evening hits.


high ceiling and pillars inside la sagrada familia

WHAT TO SEE IN BARCELONA

La Sagrada Família. Pictures of Gaudí’s world-famous church can’t even begin to do it justice. The intricacy and symbolism behind every inch of this architectural masterpiece may leave you speechless. If you’re debating if it’s worth it to go inside, we promise you it 100% is. Once inside, you won’t be able to stop gazing at its memorizing kaleidoscopic ceiling. Fun fact: the church has taken over 100 years to build and is expected to be completed in 2026.

Palau de la Música Catalana. This fully functioning concert hall was built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner in the early 1900s. It’s known for perfectly capturing Catalan modernist architecture, boasting gorgeous stained-glass details. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers guided tours, but if you’re lucky enough you can even attend a live performance!


man-sitting-and-smiling-in-park-guell

Park Güell. This colorful mosaic-themed park has become one of Gaudí’s most iconic works. Most of the park is free to the public, making it the perfect spot to explore at your own leisure and even find a place to relax and take in the magical scenery.

Montjuïc is a prominent hill located right in the city with amazing views. It’s become a popular tourist attraction because there’s so much to do in this area. At the bottom sits the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc, where many people crowd around at night to observe an impressive light show. At the top is the Palau Nacional (National Palace), which is also home to the National Art Museum of Catalonia.

Casa Batlló, Casa Milà (La Pedrera) & Casa Vicens. These famous houses designed by Gaudí offer a unique perspective into his whimsical mind. If you enjoy open houses and interior design shows, you will surely be in heaven. Pro tip: you can buy a pass that allows you entry into all three houses!

Camp Nou. Sports fans, this one’s for you! This stadium is home to the FC Barcelona football (soccer) team and is the highest capacity sports arena in Europe, seating nearly 100,000 fans. Attending a game is a chance to experience some outstanding talent, but it also offers a glimpse into Spain’s football culture. Unlike most sporting events in the US, alcohol is not permitted or sold on the premises and food options are quite minimal. Fans aren’t here to party; they’re purely focused on technique.


floral-painted-building-called-casa-batllo-in-barcelona

HOW TO SPEND FREE TIME IN BARCELONA

Bunkers del Carmel offers the most breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city and more. The best part? It’s completely free! The site consists of several underground military bunkers used during the Spanish Civil War. Locals and tourists gather here to watch the sunset while enjoying a bottle of wine.

Pro tip: be sure to wear comfortable shoes, because you will need to walk on uneven terrain to access the bunkers.

Explore Gràcia, a trendy neighborhood with strong bohemian vibes. This is the perfect solution if you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center and want to discover some cafés and tapas bars that are off the beaten path. Gràcia is also known for its international food scene.

Walk around the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic) and marvel over its picturesque and narrow medieval streets. Located right off the famous La Rambla street, this highly visited neighborhood offers a taste of the “old city.” Here you can find endless restaurants, bars, and small local shops.

Visit the Picasso Museum & the Joan Miró Foundation. These renowned art museums are the perfect choice on a gloomy day (or even a sunny one). Both museums are centrally located in the city, so you can easily squeeze in a visit or dedicate a whole day for admiring these famous artists’ work.

Grab a snack at La Boqueria or Mercat Santa Caterina. La Boqueria is the city’s most popular fresh food market, meaning it’s also the busiest. For fewer crowds head over to Mercat Santa Caterina, known for its colorful mosaic roof. Markets are the best way to fit in with the locals and try all the foods. It’s also a prime spot for people-watching, just be sure to make a few purchases in order to support the local vendors.

Stroll through Ciutadella Park, loosely comparable to New York’s Central Park. Bring along a picnic or even rent rowboats on the small lake. There’s a gorgeous fountain that you can climb to the top of (the perfect spot for a photo opp)! Pro tip: check out Barcelona’s version of the Arc de Triomf, which is located near the beginning of the park.

Relax around Port Olímpic, a marina that was built for the 1992 Summer Olympics and has since become a popular hang out spot. The district is known for its beaches, restaurants, and nightlife.


plates of tapas

WHAT (& WHERE) TO EAT IN BARCELONA

Fideuà is similar to seafood paella, but it’s prepared with short spaghetti-like pasta instead of rice. This traditional dish originates from Valencia and has become a popular staple in Catalan culture. And what better way to enjoy fresh seafood than by the ocean? To try this tasty dish, head over to Cheriff, a restaurant that was recommended to us by a Barcelona local.

Bombas are deep-fried balls filled with spicy meat and mashed potatoes, served with a tomato-paprika sauce and garlic aioli. If there’s one place to try this comfort food, it has to be at La Cova Fumada, which is where this famous tapa was invented in the 1950s. This local gem is also known for its delicious seafood.

Jamón Ibérico is a dry-cured ham produced from the acorn-fed black Iberian pig. This thinly sliced meat is considered by many to be the finest ham in the world. It’s often found on charcuterie boards, but is also enjoyed in sandwiches (bocadillos) and as a main ingredient in tapas. Jamón Ibérico is widely available in restaurants, bars, food markets, and butcher shops all over the city.

Manchego cheese is made from sheep’s milk (making it neither hard nor soft) and is produced in the La Mancha region of Spain (where Don Quixote is from). Fun fact: Manchego is his favorite snack! Recognized by its distinctive zigzag pattern rind, this world-famous cheese can be found at specialty cheese shops, local markets, and restaurants in Barcelona.

Pan con tomate is the simplest tapa around, but it’s also one of the most classic. It’s made with crusty homemade bread smeared with a layer of fresh tomato and garlic, finished off with a drizzle of olive oil. You’ll want to snack on this all day long!

Huevos cabreados is soon to become your new favorite tapa! It’s prepared with crispy thinly sliced potato sticks, topped with runny sunny-side-up eggs and seasoned with spices. Once the dish arrives at your table, your waiter will break up the eggs in front of you, coating the potato sticks with egg yolk. Some restaurants serve this tapa with meat, adding yet another layer of flavor and texture. You’ll want to try huevos cabreados at La Flauta.

Pimientos de Padrón consist of small green peppers that are fried with oil and seasoned with flaky sea salt. They’re not known to be spicy, but every so often your taste buds could be met with a burst of spice. You won’t regret giving these little guys a try!

Crema catalana (Catalan cream) is one of Spain’s most famous desserts originating in Catalonia. It’s commonly compared to crème brûlée, with its delicately torched top and irresistible creamy vanilla custard. This is a must-try while visiting Barcelona!

Check out our complete food & wine guide to Spain

Destinations
The ultimate food and wine guide to Spain


glass-of-sangria-on-a-table-of-drinks

WHAT TO DRINK IN BARCELONA

Cava. This Spanish sparkling wine closely resembles champagne in terms of production, but a key difference is that it comes at a very reasonable price. Recognized by its zesty citrus notes, Cava can be found all around the city and enjoyed at any hour of the day. Unlike champagne, it’s sipped casually rather than being reserved for special occasions.

Sangria. Nothing compares to enjoying a cold glass of this iconic Spanish drink on a beautiful day in Barcelona. This refreshing beverage is typically made by infusing fresh fruit with red or white wine, but in Barcelona, it’s also common to find sangria made with Cava. Whether you’re in the mood for a single glass or a pitcher to share, you won’t have any trouble finding a spot that makes their unique version of this delicious drink.

Vermouth. Sipping this fortified wine (served with soda or on the rocks) while snacking on tapas has become a Catalan tradition, especially in Barcelona. The city is home to numerous bars dedicated to this classic beverage. For an authentic experience, we recommend checking out Bar Bodega Quimet located in the neighborhood Gràcia.


window-of-a-food-market-in-barcelona

SOUVENIERS TO BUY IN BARCELONA

Cava is the perfect gift to bring home to friends and family, or even for yourself! You can find bottles of this sparkling wine anywhere, from wine shops to food markets and even at convenient corner stores.

Romesco sauce. This tomato-based sauce comes from Catalonia and pairs deliciously with fish, meat, and vegetables. It’s made with roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, and almonds. The sauce can be purchased in sealed glass jars for easy transport.

Mosaic ceramics. Barcelona is known for its bright colored Gaudí-inspired mosaic art. You can also find beautiful ceramic goods like coasters, plates, and mugs in this style. These can be found at most gift shops, including those located at Gaudí's tourist sites.

A book highlighting Spanish culture. The city has a vibrant literature scene with many independent bookshops that have sections with books in English. Whether you’re on the hunt for a novel or prefer a coffee table book, there are plenty of genres to choose from based on your interests.


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About the author | Chloe Goldstein
Chloe first caught the travel bug during a high school exchange program in Quito, Ecuador. She then went on to combine her love for travel and journalism by studying in Barcelona, Spain and Sydney, Australia. When Chloe’s not helping others to experience the world, she can be found searching for Boston’s best sandwiches, listening to podcasts, and going on outdoor adventures with her dog, Cooper.

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