Barcelona, the 2nd largest city in Spain, is located on the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain and is home to over 1.5 million people. Barcelona has been a tourist hub ever since the 1992 Olympic Games that brought it worldwide recognition and a lot of renovation to the city and it’s infrastructure.
Barcelona is the quintessential European city that travelers anticipate to get lost in. It’s full of culture, incredible food, markets, museums, rich history, and of course, great night life.
If you are wondering why anyone would want to visit Barcelona, check out this roundup of Top 10 Reasons to Visit Barcelona by Barcelona Apartments Blog. Hint: They make good arguments about weather, beach, cultural life, festivals, and more. Matador Network goes even further with their list of 22 Reasons that Proves that we should not only VISIT Barcelona but MOVE THERE!
But before you rush off and start packing your bags, here are 23 Things You Should Know Before You Go to Barcelona, including not calling in Barça and keeping an eye out for Barcelona’s petty theft incidents.
Best Time to Visit Barcelona
The best time to visit the city is during the shoulder season between April – June and between late September – November. The weather is a warm 23-25 degrees, the crowds are manageable, and the prices are reasonable. December-February is winter, but still a great time to visit, but be prepared for colder weather and no beach. July/August are the busiest, the city is filled with tourists and the prices reflect that.
Top Things to Do in Barcelona
Barcelona is a city made for walking, so start exploring the city on foot as soon as you get in. Walk up and down its windy streets, popping into cafes and shops along the way. Las Ramblas is the most popular pedestrian walking street and is filled with street performers, artists, shops, and cafes. La Plaça de Catalunya is another town square popular with the locals. El Portal de l’Àngel is a street for shopaholics with big wallets or those that just want to admire from afar.
If you feel the itch to buy, then Barcelona is the right place for you. Whether you are after fashion, gourmet or interior design pieces, this guide to Barcelona’s Best Shopping contains info on dozens of shops around the city. If you are after something a bit more unique and more local, than consider visiting Barcelona’s Best Markets, like the Mercat dels Encants, Barcelona’s largest and best known flea market or Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria, famous not only for its goods, but also its history
If you are a sucker for art, these 10 Top Places for Art in Barcelona will blow you away. The list is filled with quirky lesser known museums and galleries.
Barcelona is famous for Gaudi’s Art Nouveau architecture, with buildings like La Sagrada Familia, Casa Vicens, La Pedrera, Palau Güell, and a number of others boasting unprecedented creativity and design. But there are plenty more architectural wonders within the city outside of Gaudi’s work. Here is Lonely Planet’s list of Top 10 Architectural Gems of Barcelona.
Of course no visit to Barcelona is complete without a trip to the beach. Weather you are looking for something right in the city, like Barceloneta Beach, or something more secluded like Ocata Beach, or even something really enchanting like St Pol de Mar Beach, this list of Top 10 Beaches in Barcelona has you covered. (Or not, if that’s what you wish)
When the sun sets, a visit to one of Barcelona’s barrio bars is a great way to kick off the night. Bar Pastís, Raïm, and Muy Buenas sit atop Guardian’s list of 10 best barrio bars in Barcelona. In Barcelona the party never really stops with many of the biggest clubs not picking up until 2-3am, so grab an afternoon siesta to prepare for the festivities then check out Barcelona’s Best Clubs.
Want more activities to add to your itinerary? Here is the full list from Time Out of 20 great things to do in Barcelona and if you are traveling on a budget, discover these Top 10 Free Things to do in Barcelona.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
In a city as vast as Barcelona, choosing the right accommodation can be tough. First and foremost, decide what area of the city you want to stay in.
There is the Ciutat Vella (the Old City), home to monuments, sights, and attractions, which is divided into four quarters: Barceloneta, Barri Gòtic, La Ribera, El Raval. Eixample is an area that contains more modern buildings around La Sagrada Família, while Gràcia has more of a local feel to it. This guide to Top 5 Neighbourhoods in Barcelona can help you make the choice that’s right for you.
Once you’ve narrowed in on the area, here are a few lists worth reading to find the best hotels in Barcelona.
- 10 of the Best Boutique Hotels in Barcelona by Guardian
- Best Budget Hotels in Barcelona by Travel + Leisure
- 9 of the Best Airbnbs in Barcelona by Matador Network (you could stay in a castle!)
- 10 of the best hostels in Barcelona (I stayed in Kabul during my visit and really loved it!)
Where to Eat in Barcelona
Food is just as important on your visit to Barcelona as the sights and attractions. Catalan food is really what you are after, although in a cosmopolitan city like Barcelona, you can find just about any type of cuisine. Barceloneta, Eixample, Esquerra, Barri Gòtic and El Born are the best areas for foodies.
For the best of the best, head to Moments, Arola, or Tickets, which combined rank as the top 3 restaurants by Barcelona.com. The Telegraph suggests Can Solé, for some delicious paella, Cinc Sentits for a good fixed menu deal, and Set Portes for seafood. (Read more here)
Make sure you try the traditional tapas at least once during your visit. To avoid tourist faux pas read this Local’s Guide To The Etiquette For Tapas Dining, that will help you learn the difference between Tapas, Raciones, Pinchos and Platos Combinados. Try the famous local Pan con Tomate, Patatas Bravas, Chipirones, Anchoas and Croquetas.
How Much Time Do You Need in Barcelona
It is tempting to visit Barcelona for just 2-3 days and many Europeans do exactly that. Barcelona is a perfect weekend destination for those living in the UK and elsewhere in Europe. If you only have 3 days, here are some suggestions on how to fill them: 3 Days in Barcelona by Frommer’s or 3 Days in Barcelona by Viator. A 4-day itinerary may look like this suggested itinerary from Barcelona Tourism, while those lucky enough to visit for 5 days or longer can read up on these suggestions from Nomadic Matt.
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Have you ever been to Barcelona? What are some of your favourite things to do in the city?