Looking for insider tips and tricks for your Barcelona trip? From where to stay to what to do, this detailed Barcelona travel guide has got you covered.
Where do I even begin when it comes to Barcelona? Do I start with its impressive architecture and art? Its sun-drenched beaches? Or perhaps its vibrant history and culture?
Fresh off the back of a month in the Catalan capital and it’s safe to say that this city has totally stolen my heart. From marvelling at Gaudi’s best works to eating my way around the city, and drinking enough sangria to sink a ship, I spent plenty of time really getting to know Barcelona.
So, let me share my knowledge with you. Here are the travel tips you need to know before you go.
How to Plan a Trip to Barcelona: Top Tips for Your Barcelona Trip
Best Time to Visit
Let me start by saying that the best time to travel to Barcelona depends on what you’d like to get from your trip. Spring (March to May) is an optimal time to visit as temperatures are pretty warm, and the city is primarily devoid of tourists.
On the other hand, summer in Europe is rather charming. So if you’re looking for an epic city break, this is the time to visit. The only problem with a Barcelonian summer is the tourist numbers and the inflated prices.
If you’re on a tight budget, visiting Barcelona in autumn or winter is your best bet. That’s if you can put up with the chillier weather and occasional attraction closure.
Handy Resources for Getting To Barcelona
- Skyscanner: This tool compares thousands of flights to help you find the best time to book your trip.
- Booking.com: Use this site to find the perfect accommodation that fits your needs and preferences. All at the best rates, too.
- Get Your Guide: I adore GYG for booking tours and activities and fast-track entries into attractions in Barcelona.
Where to Stay
Hotels and guest houses: You won’t struggle to find hotels and guest houses in Barcelona. Hotels range from budget-friendly to high-end luxury, and I recommend the ultra-modern Hotel Arts Barcelona, which overlooks Barceloneta Beach.
Vacation home rentals: If you’re after a more homey feel, you’re in luck, as there are plenty of options for your Barcelona trip. You can use a tool like Plum Guide to find carefully curated home rentals.
Packing for Your Barcelona Trip
Depending on which season you visit Barcelona, your packing list will vary. But, a few staples you can carry regardless of the time of year include comfortable walking shoes, a travel backpack or crossbody bag, a lightweight jacket for the evening and sunscreen. Always sunscreen.
Lean on the side of caution and take out travel insurance. It covers a range of events, including medical emergencies, cancellations and theft. Numerous companies offer travel insurance, but World Nomads offer some of the best plans.
As I’ve said before, exploring Barcelona can be a wonderful and daunting experience. You should invest in a good Barcelona tourist guidebook to help you get around.
Here are a few that I love:
Barcelona Spain Travel Visitor Guide: What to Do During Your Trip
Top 10 Things to Do in Barcelona
Wander Around Park Güell
This travel guide to Barcelona wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the iconic Park Güell, just one of Antonio Gaudi’s Barcelona masterpieces.
Opened in 1926, this landmark is a series of public parks with a famed mosaic wall. It was designed by Gaudi by commission of Count Guell as a residential neighbourhood to lure in well-off families. Though, it was a huge fail at the time (though I think the park has more than made up for it now).
There’s lots to explore here, including the Dragon Stairway and Casa Museu Gaudi, and I recommend arriving early to avoid the midday heat. At the park’s highest point – Turo de las Tres Cruces – you can enjoy unreal views of the city and the Balearic Sea.
Top Tip: Book your admission ticket well in advance.
Admire the Spectacular Architecture of La Sagrada Familia
If you take a short walk through the Gracia neighbourhood from Park Güell, you’ll find another iconic Spanish landmark – La Sagrada Familia.
Towering over Barcelona, La Sagrada Familia is another of Gaudi’s masterpieces. The exterior features a mishmash of Gothic Revival, Catalan Modernism and Art Nouveau architectural styles.
Its interior features incredible ceilings, pillars with ornate details and beautiful stained glass windows. It’s another popular attraction, so save time and book your admission ticket and audio tour in advance.
Top Tip: Normal tickets do not include entrance to the towers, you’ll need to book a specific entry ticket. Choose between the Nativity Facade or the Passion Facade – no ticket includes both sets of towers. There’s not much in it, to be totally honest, they’re both as beautiful as each other.
Explore Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter and La Rambla
Wandering around Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter and the famous La Rambla street go hand in hand. Heading down the historic street from the Columbus Monument to Placa de Catalunya will take you past an impressive amount of boutiques and cute cafes.
From there, head further into the Gothic Quarter, where you’ll find the incredible Barcelona Cathedral and the mosaic mural: “The World Begins with Every Kiss” .
Eat at La Boqueria Market
A pitstop at La Boqueria is a must. It’s the oldest market in the city, dating back to 1217 when it was just a huddle of meat stalls. Now it’s a buzzing hotspot with over 200 food stalls.
You can get anything here, from tapas to cava. Venture and explore here yourself, or book a walking and food-tasting tour with an expert guide if you find it too overwhelming.
By the way, eating at El Quim de la Boqueria is non-negotiable. It’s one of the best tapas joints in the city.
Visit One of Barcelona’s Incredible Museums
Barcelona is a cultural and artistic hub, with over 50 museums to check out. These include the Picasso Museum, Moco Museum, and European Museum of Modern Art, where you can marvel at some of Spain’s top artists.
But there are also some lesser known museums and galleries I urge you to visit – Artevistas Art Gallery and Base Elements being a couple of my fave examples.
Visit the Spotify Camp Nou
Whether you’re a football fan or not, you can’t help getting roped into the hype around FC Barcelona while in the city. So why not take a tour of the team’s home ground and FC Barcelona Museum?
You’ll get to learn the history of the club and all its accomplishments. If you visit anytime between August and May, you can catch a game and watch some of the giants of the footballing world.
Take a Cable Car Ride Over Montjuïc & Explore the Castle
Locals believe Montjuïc is Barcelona’s birthplace, so naturally, you should visit. Montjuïc means “Jewish Mountain” and is a hill that towers over the city. You can take the cable car up to the top of the hill and enjoy scenic views along the way.
Once you get there, you’ll find beautiful gardens, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, where you can explore European and Baroque artworks, and the Montjuïc Castle.
But one of the main reasons people visit Mountjuïc is to see the famous Magic Fountain show. It’s closed at the time of writing this article, but it’s an impressive water and light show set to music that really is worth swinging by for.
Chill Out on the Beach
Travelling to Barcelona in summer means you’ll need somewhere to cool off. Luckily, the city has some gorgeous beaches to do just that. The most popular is Barceloneta, where another Barcelona landmark stands tall – the W Hotel Barcelona.
The azure waters and golden sand make this a lovely place to hang out, but it fills up quickly. In that case, head to Playa de Bogatell, an equally impressive beach with fewer people.
Walk Around the Parc de la Ciutadella
There isn’t a more idyllic place in Barcelona than the Parc de la Ciutadella. This green lung sits in Barcelona’s centre and is an ideal place to get away from the busyness of the city.
You’ll find impressive buildings, museums, statues, a lake and a stunning fountain here. You can even take a boat ride along the lake if you have time.
Check out Gaudi’s Creations around Barcelona
Let me nerd out for a second: to say that Gaudi significantly impacted Barcelona’s architectural landscape is an understatement.
Almost everywhere you go, you’ll see a building that he created. While it’s nearly impossible to visit all of them during your trip, it’s worth trying to snap as many as possible.
Some of my top picks include:
- Casa Vicens
- Casa Batllo
- Casa Mila / La Pedrera
- Colonia Güell
Suggested Barcelona Trip Itineraries
The above activities are just the tip of the iceberg regarding things to do in Barcelona. Your itinerary can easily become jam-packed, so here are some tips.
Discovering Gaudi’s Works
I suggest dedicating a full day to discovering Gaudi’s works. Spreading them out over two days is even better. That way, you’ll have enough time to appreciate the mastermind behind the city’s most unique buildings.
Discovering the Rest of Barcelona
You’ll undoubtedly want to set time aside to discover more of what Barcelona offers. So after discovering Gaudi’s impressive creations, dedicate the rest of your time to exploring some of Barcelona’s other attractions (like the ones below).
Hidden Barcelona Gems – Barcelona Off the Beaten Path
While there are a ton of popular activities and attractions to discover, sometimes it helps to delve into the hidden gems. And there are many in Barcelona. Some include:
- Els Encants: A large flea market from the 1300s, now located in Poblenou. Great for finding souvenirs.
- Bunkers del Carmel (MUHBA Turo de la Rovira): A Spanish Civil War bunker and anti-aircraft gunpoint turned stunning viewpoint on top of the hills overlooking the city and the sea.
- Artistas Art Gallery: A true hidden gem sitting in a passage in the Gothic Quarter, selling contemporary art from lesser-known artists.
How to See the Best of Barcelona for Free
One of my top Barcelona travel tips is to check when museums offer free admission. A few museums, such as the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya and Picasso Museum, submit free entry once a week in the late afternoon or evening. Other museums have free entry on the first Sunday of each month, so watch out for this.
Barcelona is also a trendy city and hosts several free concerts and events throughout the year. This includes the Carnival in April, Festa Major de Gracia in August and Festes de la Merce in September.
Dishes to Try in Barcelona
Paella: Traveling to Spain and not enjoying a good paella is almost criminal. It’s traditionally topped with mussels or prawns, but this fragrant rice dish is sometimes served with chicken or chorizo.
Pan Tumaca: Simple yet flavoursome bread topped with tomato puree and olive oil. Sometimes cold meats are added.
Patatas bravas: A tasty fried potato dish topped with a spicy sauce.
Croquettes: A mouth-watering fried combo (usually) of bechamel sauce, ham and mashed potatoes coated in breadcrumbs.
Top Drinks in Barcelona
Vermut: A Catalan spiced sweet wine that is always a winner with locals at mealtime.
Cava: Spanish sparkling wine made using the traditional Champenoise method.
Horchata: Sweet drink made from tiger nuts.
Barcelona Travel Guide: Things to Know Before You Go to Barcelona
Tips for Travelling to Barcelona, Spain
- Note that all malls, fashion stores and large supermarkets close on Sundays.
- Use the Barcelona metro to get around, as it’s fast and cheaper than taxis or Uber. The best option is to buy a T-Casual (formerly T-10). You need one per person.
- Many people understand English, but learning a few basic phrases in Catalan is best (yes, the local language is Catalan – different to Spanish).
- Book your tickets to attractions well in advance.
Tipping In Barcelona
Tipping in Barcelona is optional; most people usually round off the bill amount or don’t tip. If you want to tip, 5-10% of the bill is suitable.
Interesting Facts About Barcelona
- FC Barcelona’s Spotify Camp Nou stadium is the largest in Europe. It can accommodate nearly 100,000 people.
- Gaudi designed seven of Barcelona’s nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites. See why I rave about him so much?
- The Casa Mila’s row of chimneys, designed by Gaudi, inspired the design of Star Wars’ Stormtroopers.
Handy Phrases for Travelling to Barcelona
Catalan is a mix of Spanish and other Latin languages like French, though Spanish is also spoken. Here are some phrases you can learn:
Bon dia: Good morning
Bon Tarde: Good Afternoon
Bon Nit: Good evening
Gracies/ Merci: Thank you
Moit de gust: Nice to meet you
Parla Angles: Do you speak English?
Ho Sento: Sorry
Barcelona follows the Central European Summer Time (GMT +2) in summer. It changes to Central European Winter Time (GMT +1) in winter.
Electricity + Adapters
The main voltage in Barcelona is 230v, and they use Type C or “Euro-plugs.”
The metro and buses are the best way to move around, and you can use them both with the T-Casual Metro Card. It’s cheaper than buying individual tickets.
Barcelona is typically a safe city, but look out for petty crimes such as pickpocketing and bag snatching. Especially at bus or metro stations.
Costs and Budgeting
The cost of a Barcelona trip varies according to numerous factors, including the duration and season. You can use handy tools like the Go City Explorer Pass, which offers entrance to multiple attractions, and the T-Casual Metrocard to help keep costs down as you travel around Barcelona.
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