Hello hello! After the success of my New York Travel Guide recently, I thought I’d do the same, but this time, for Barcelona. I’ve visited Barcelona a fair few times now and it almost feels like home. I started by reading this Barcelona guide and now, find myself always researching the best places in Barcelona so thought I'd write my own guide. I find myself wandering around the streets and remembering places, recognising the best routes to take and asking locals for the best food recommendations. Barcelona is somewhere I’d happily live. When I was at University, I wish I did my year abroad there but sadly the location wasn’t offered to my course. Barcelona is hands down one of my favourite places in the whole entire world, I’ve travelled far and wide and always come back to Barcelona. Let’s talk about where to eat in Barcelona, what to do in Barcelona and the best of Barcelona…
Arriving in Barcelona: Flights to Barcelona at certain times are incredibly cheap. I always recommend Google flights for the cheapest flights, you get a full months calendar and if you’re flexible, you can save so much money by seeing which days are the cheapest. Barcelona is great because you can get direct, super quick flights from Leeds, Manchester, London and pretty much everywhere in the UK.
Getting from the airport: I usually get the blue airport bus directly into Barcelona. If you’ve not got many bags it’s easy enough and it’s well signposted from the airport. If not, you can grab a taxi. Sadly no Uber’s in Barcelona! Use promo code EMTALKS15 for a £15 free Uber taxi too! Just input the code into your app and redeem it whenever. You can pre-book airport transfers, we got one with a company called Blacklane, it was really efficient but sadly very expensive so you’re probably best just booking a standard taxi to keep costs down. Equally, if you stay at a good hotel they’ll organise it for you so it’s always worth asking them. The airport is only 30 minutes from the main city so it’s ridiculously easy and usually affordable to get there. I think we paid around 25-30 euros in a taxi.
Hotels: I’ve stayed in different areas of Barcelona every time I’ve visited. On my first visit, I stayed just on La Rambla which is the Main Street of Barcelona. It’s buzzing, exciting and you’re right in the middle of the action. The little boutique hotels near here are absolutely incredible. You’re also just minutes walk from the Gothic Quarter. I’ve always stayed in a hotel on Passeig de Gracia which is the main shopping street, a little further up from La Rambla and closer to all the luxury stores and roof top bars and luxury designer areas. It’s equally nice. Last year I stayed pretty far out, in the business quarter. If I’m honest, this was a little far but it was nice to be in a cute little local area and you can easily commute and get the tube anywhere. Lastly, this year I stayed at W Hotel Barcelona. A full blog post will follow with a review as this hotel blew me away. It’s a completely different area of Barcelona to stay in, right at the end of the beach. Staying at this particular end of the beach is great if you want a beach holiday or if you like ambling, in 10 minutes you’re in the beautiful Port Vell, a harbour full of yachts and restaurants and in 20 minutes you’re bang in the old part of Barcelona. I’ve stayed at both ends of Barcelona beach and have to say, the end that the W in is the best, it’s closest to most things and everyone goes to the W, there’s a big buzz around it as it’s the hotel that sticks out of the water. The hotel itself is truly divine in every way, from the rooftop pool, to the bar, to the newly renovated rooms and the view. They definitely have the best views in Barcelona. In my opinion, when in Barcelona, you have to make a trip to the W, even if it's just for lunch or a cocktail.
There are so many things to do in Barcelona. People tend to book Barcelona as a short city break but Barcelona is so much more than that. It’s great because it can be a city break if you so wish, you can literally fly out for two days and pack as much in as possible, I’ve done that, many times, but, I think Barcelona deserves more time. I always say even in 7 days, you wouldn’t see the whole of Barcelona.
Getting Around Barcelona: Everyone says Barcelona is small, so you can walk around most of it, but the tourist attractions are obviously widely spread out and if you’ve got minimal time and want to see as much as possible, I recommend getting the hop on hop off bus, more on that below. You can also taxi around, the yellow taxis are really affordable and this time around we just got taxis everywhere if we couldn’t walk. Barcelona is the best place to just ‘get lost’, that means, amble around with no real plan and you’re sure to come across lots of beauty, however, if you do have a plan and you are in a rush, definitely jump on their underground service or use taxis. I actually found a Barcelona guide from Avis a while back and it really helped.
Hop On Hop Off: I always recommend this as the best way to see as much of Barcelona as possible. They sell tickets for this almost everywhere, usually in the main square near the famous fountains, just outside a shopping centre called El Corte Ingles (you can’t miss it). Your hotel may also sell you these. They have three buses in Barcelona, a red route, a green route and a blue route. The red route (or when I got it anyway, it may have changed now but check out the website to check) takes you all around the best tourist parts of Barcelona in a loop. They tend to stop near all hotels and run usually around every ten minutes. You can sit on the open top, drive around Barcelona and hop on and off whenever you fancy. I stay on it, use it as a taxi service and hop off where I want to. This is definitely the most cost effective way to get around and see as much as possible in minimum time. You can buy the tickets on a daily basis or I paid for two days. The green route takes you via the beaches, I wouldn’t recommend that bus as you can easily get between the beaches anyway. It’s actually such a lovely walk if you’ve got the time. This bus is a great way to get your bearings around Barcelona too.
Best Stops On The Barcelona Hop On Hop Off Bus: There are so many Barcelona highlights, but on the bus, I’d recommend going to Park Guell, the designer shops on Passieg de Gracia, jump off at the zoo area as even if you don’t go to the actual zoo, that area is beautiful, La Sagrada Familia, FC Barcelona and the beaches.
More Top Things To See In Barcelona:
The Bunkers: A local recommended I headed here and I’m so glad I did. The bunkers are stunning, head up there before sunset, take a bottle of something delicious or a picnic and sit and watch the sunset. It’s not particularly nice up there (|imagine old rubble) but the view is priceless. We wandered down and eventually flagged a taxi.
Cable Car: If you like nice views, there’s a cable car which goes all the way over Barcelona. You can catch it next to the W Hotel. It takes you up to a mountain with phenomenal views and there’s a park and funfair up there too.
Gothic Quarter: You’ll be wandering around the Gothic Quarter without even realising you’re in the Gothic Quarter! Beautiful architecture, winding streets, huge doors, just walk, get lost and explore.
Passieg Le Gracia: A long street with all the best shops. At one end you’ve got the main square and La Rambla and at the other end you’ve got Gaudi’s houses and Dior, Chanel, Gucci and more. The best shopping in Barcelona!
Zoo Area: The zoo area of Barcelona is beautiful, I remember finding the most stunning old greenhouse there. It’s a lovely little area to walk around, whether you like zoos or not, the surrounding area is stunning.
Beaches: The beaches span across the whole of Barcelona, I walked around 10 miles from one end to the other and it was stunning. I’d highly recommend a walk along the beach path into the direction of the W, it’s such a lovely walk.
Gaudi: Gaudi’s creations are everywhere, I’d recommend going into the houses and learning about them, they’re pretty cool. They are expensive to go into though and can take hours so I did the audio guide and walked around it at my own quick pace so it didn’t take too long. Make sure you take your student card if you’re a student, it makes everything cheaper.
FC Barcelona: Definitely worth seeing, the museum itself is really cool as is the stadium. Try get tickets for a game if you can, we bought ours online and had such a fun time.
Park Guell: This park is really beautiful, you get gorgeous views of Barcelona.
Port Vell: If you love harbours, you’ll love this. The yachts in Barcelona are beautiful. We saw one of the largest super yachts in the world and it’s mesmerising seeing how the other half live.
Food Markets: I highly recommend walking around the food market, La Boqueria just make sure you check opening times!
La Sagrada Familia: A must see if you’re in Barcelona. The most beautiful church built by Gaudi but half finished. Top tip: to avoid queues, book in advance, print your tickets and walk straight to the front!
Eat: One of the top attractions in Barcelona? The food. Matt and I basically went to Barcelona this month purely to eat. We wanted a relaxing break where we ate our way around and that’s exactly what we did. When I first went to Barcelona I was massively disappointed with the food, I ended up walking into anywhere and everywhere, fell into the tourist traps and cheap deals (4x tapas with sangria for 10 euro yay!) and felt disappointed. I then asked a local and they gave me a list of places where the locals eat, so now, I’m sharing my finds with you.
Where To Eat In Barcelona:
Cerveceria Catalana - This is my all time favourite place to eat in Barcelona. I would fly out, just to eat here. This place is always brimming and absolutely rammed, we’ve arrived at 7 and waited two hours, arrived at 11pm and waited an hour, and have sat down to eat at 1am here before. The best bet, go to the front, put your name down and go down the street for a sangria and some nibbles then come back in an hour, it’s a fool proof method and trust me, this place is worth queueing for. We order pretty much the whole menu, padron peppers, brie, veal, beef with drinks and it comes up to around 60 euros for the two of us. It’s affordable, for quality food and the best tapas around.
Ciudad Condal - The sister restaurant of the above. We finally found it and actually, even though it’s still rammed, it’s twice the size so it’s quicker to get a seat here. We only had a 30 minute wait. This place is pretty much the same menu as the above, but it’s worth eating at. We would happily only eat at Cerveceria Catalana on our whole trip.
Llamber - Everyone raves about this place so I have to put it down. Much more expensive and very high quality food in a beautiful square in an artsy area of Barcelona. We wandered to it and sat down outside. The food was epic but sadly the service completely let this place down, it took around 40 mins between each dish, they weren’t attentive at all (they didn't even ask us for drinks and when we eventually asked them to bring us drinks, it took about 30 mins). They weren’t busy yet the service was shocking. I’ve been told by many that this was just a bad day so you guys should try it if you like fine food.
Viana - Much better than the above (purely because of service), Viana. This wasn’t recommended but we were starving, wondering around and got the TripAdvisor app out. This place ranks 5th in the whole of Barcelona on TripAdvisor and I can see why. The service alone makes this place rank highly, it’s amazing. They take reservations and were fully booked but somehow, managed to slot us in at the bar. We must have chosen the right time because it was absolutely rammed once we sat down, they were turning so many people away. I finished early and offered my table to someone and the bar staff told me there’s no rush, I can stay as long as I like. Little things like the complimentary dish they bring you to start, the complimentary shot to end the meal, make this place amazing. The food is like Michelin starred quality without the price tags. I’d say this place is mid range and it’s very different tapas, think spring rolls, soups, meats. This is a must visit if you’re into quality food.
El Nacional - Our concierge at the W hotel recommended this place and I’m so glad he did. El Nacional is full of amazing restaurants within one building, we headed to the most wonderful tapas and had the best service. The building itself is stunning and definitely worth going to just to have a wander around. Imagine a gorgeous place full of bars, restaurants and the most beautiful bathrooms ever. There's so much choice here.
El Xampanyet - Sadly we didn’t get a seat in this place, on a Saturday afternoon it was ram packed with locals but 10’s of people have recommended this to me as a cheap and cheerful local place for the best tapas. I cannot wait to go back and retry it.
Top Barcelona Tips:
- Factor In Time To 'Get Lost' When Wandering Around, you never know what you may come across!
- Don't Just Stay On The Beach, there's so much more to Barcelona!
- Eat At As Many Places As You Can, it is such a foodie place.
- Ask For Local Recommendations, ask hotel staff, ask taxi drivers: 'where do the locals eat', don't walk into just anywhere.
- Be Vigilant, Luckily I've had no issues with bag theft and pick pocketing but keep your eyes on your bags at all time as Barcelona is notorious for this.
- Drink Sangria, There's so much good sangria in Barcelona and it's really cheap.
- Eat Late, be like the locals, it's normal to eat dinner up until 1am.
So there we have it, lots of recommendations for your next trip to Barcelona. I’d highly recommend visiting if you haven’t already and I’m already planning my next trip back in September! I did recently buy this amazing book, 500 hidden secrets of Barcelona so I can discover even more places next time around! I'd really recommend it, it's nice to see some of my favourites in there too. I read this Barcelona travel guide from Avis too.
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Do you like Barcelona? Have you visited Barcelona? Would you like to visit? Do you have any Barcelona recommendations?
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Lots of love, Em x
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