For many travelers, Barcelona is like walking into a dream. It’s a city that has everything one could desire and around every quirky bend lies another entrancing surprise. From the fantastical architectural work of artist Antoni Gaudí speckled throughout the city to the maze-like Gothic quarter of Barcelona’s medieval roots, the bustling, and vibrant capital will capture the imagination of even the most hardened globetrotter. Its sunny skies imbue a lighthearted fun that can be felt throughout, whether it be a tongue-in-cheek street performance, a romantic flamenco demonstration or even just the smiling and good-natured locals who are always up for a laugh. Equally as impressive is the world renowned food culture that can be found lining the market stalls of La Boqueria, in a lively tapas bar or in one of the many acclaimed fine-dining establishments that are scattered around the city. There is no shortage of fun to be had in Barcelona and there’s more than a little to suit everyone’s tastes; whether you’re into world class jazz, traditional flamenco, indie-rock, pop or deep-house clubbing, the city’s late-night party scene has something for all ages and walks of life.
It’s easy to understand why Barcelona is so high on people’s bucket lists, as the legendary capital almost seems too-good-to-be-true; but rest assured, once visited, Barcelona will infect you with its off-beat, flamboyant charm. Check out our top recommendations that will have you searching for long-term rentals near Las Ramblas on just day two of your trip.
Things to do
Sagrada Familia Gaudi’s celebrated Roman Catholic church is situated in the heart of Barcelona and has an interesting and chequered history, which has resulted in a mismatched collection of Spanish Gothic architecture, noucentisme, art nouveau and modernisme. It’s breathtaking to look at and the level of detail is Sistine Chapel-grade awe-inspiring. Once inside (book in advance to ensure a ticket and skip the queue!), make sure you don’t miss anything by taking a guided tour or grabbing an audio guide.
Park Guell Staying on the Gaudi theme, Park Guell is another fine example of the artist’s playfulness and child-like eccentricities. What was once destined to be a suburb for the rich and famous was then dubbed “Too ugly to live in”, so as a result was turned into the public park and national treasure that it is today. Come here with a picnic and marvel at Gaudi’s fairytale “Gingerbread houses” whilst listening to the soothing sounds of Spanish guitar.
Las Ramblas Possibly the most famous street in Spain, Las Ramblas is usually the first port of call for tourists visiting the city. The park lined boulevard cuts straight through the heart of the city, stretching an impressive .75 miles and connecting the Plaça de Catalunya in the city centre with the Christopher Columbus Monument out at Port Vell. Its bustling and lively atmosphere is brimming with Barcelonian action at its best; just keep an eye out for pesky pickpockets!
La Boqueria One of Europe’s largest and arguably most famous food markets is located about two thirds of the way up Las Ramblas. If you go early enough in the morning you’ll see the city’s finest chefs plundering the best of the produce to use in their restaurants that day. It’s loud, crowded and messy but this all adds to the charm; try to go before lunchtime (14:00) as this is when the market is in full swing.
Barceloneta Beach The first and most popular of Barcelona’s four beaches, Barceloneta can, unsurprisingly, get quite crowded during the peak summer months. A sandy hub of sun-kissed fun, here you’ll find activities ranging from swimming, wind and kitesurfing to volleyball. Lie down in the warmth of the Spanish sun and get settled in with a good book or hit up one of the local beach bars for a refreshing cocktail or cerveza!
Bike Tour This is a fantastic way to see the main sights of the city, as well as a few that are off the beaten track. There are literally hundreds of different companies to choose from that offer anything from art and culture to history and even partying bar crawls.
Cooking Class Just like with the bike tours, you really can pick any topic that you’d like to focus on during a cooking class, whether it be learning a little Spanish along the way, a focus on traditional Catalan cuisine or testing your skills with one of the more avant-garde chefs of the area. Generally, you can expect to be taken to one of the local food markets and then shown a variety of different dishes that you’ll cook and eat throughout the day.
Picasso Museum One of the most extensive collections of the renowned and treasured 20th century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. Over 4,251 pieces make up the permanent collection, with a particular focus on the artist’s formative years. The space is airy and light and it’s a lovely way to spend the afternoon, escaping the sweltering midday sun.
Flamenco Show Barcelona is home to many Andalusian immigrants who have brought with them some of the best flamenco shows in the country. The shows are absolutely mesmerizing and an absolute must when visiting the city.
Where To Stay
Self-catered Renting an apartment with DestinationBCN is like walking into a design magazine. These fully functional, city center hideaways will give you the privacy and space that you need, making you feel as if you’re experiencing Barcelona like a local (albeit quite a well-off one). Prices start from around $145 USD.
Luxury In the beautiful sea-view rooms of The Serras, you can enjoy the convenience of being located in a hip neighborhood in the city center with a Michelin-starred chef heading up the kitchen below. Rooms start from $320 USD.
Budget Casa Gracia Hostel is a relative newcomer to the design hostel scene. Located just a little bit further out of the main touristy areas of the city center, you’ll find an impeccably decorated, Mediterranean and homelike environment to relax in after a full day of exploration. Shared dorms start from $30 USD.
Where To Eat
Fine Dining Boasting two Michelin stars, ABaC’s technically faultless and innovative menu is a delight to the senses and imagination. If you’re looking for a truly inspiring Michelin experience then ABaC will certainly not disappoint.
For Tapas Tickets Bar is hugely popular and many claim that it serves the ‘best tapas in Barcelona’. Its fun and quirky décor is reminiscent of an old circus tent, with red and white awnings, theater lights and a maître d’ adorned in a top hat and tails. Given its ongoing success, booking can turn into somewhat of a nightmare; if you plan to visit, book yourself in as early as 90 days in advance.
For Paella Elche is revered as a ‘temple for paella lovers’, located in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Poble-Sec, the family-run restaurant is the result of 50 years of hard, dedicated work.
Where To Drink
For Hipster Betty Ford’s has gained a lot of notoriety amongst the locals of Barcelona in recent years and it’s easy to see why. The small dark bar is always overflowing with late-night drinkers who are up for a rowdy night. Retro film projections and erotic cartoons often play, whilst a mixture of hip hop and soul music color the soundscape.
For Cocktails Slow is said to be the ‘mixologists choice’ for an evening of premium cocktails and innovative tipples. The ground floor is dimly lit and intimate, whilst upstairs there is a small nightclub. Open till 6 a.m.
For Live Music Jamboree is one of the city’s most iconic jazz landmarks and is largely responsible for enticing some of the more famous jazz musicians to Barcelona. Upstairs, there’s a slicker sister venue that hosts flamenco performances earlier on before joining forces with Jamboree later in the evening to become a lively club where you can dance the night away.
For Club La Terrazza is located in Casa Son Berga, a mountaintop castle that has been converted into one of the city’s hottest dance venues. The roofless club allows patrons to party beneath the stars and palm trees, whilst dancing to traditional house music.
Local Customs/Insider Tips
Pickpockets are rife throughout the city, so make sure that you carry your belongings in securely zipped bags or pockets. Never leave your belongings unattended (especially at the beach!).
Free WiFi is accessible from a variety of different hotspots throughout the city. Barcelona WiFi is the biggest public network in Spain and one of the biggest in Europe.
Buy a Barcelona Card before you arrive. This will cover all of your transportation needs whilst in the city so that you won’t have to mess around with tickets or the local currency, making you far less of a target.
Always book your tickets online and ahead of time. You’re on holiday, so why queue? Barcelona is a favorite tourist destination for a huge amount of people, which means a lot of waiting around if you haven’t come prepared.
Create your own Cava at Artcava, a family-run vineyard in the idyllic Penedes wine region. Put your name on a 2016 vintage of the Spanish equivalent of Champagne whilst learning how the effervescent spirit is made. During the day you’ll get to taste three different varieties before plastering a custom-made label across your very own bottle that will commemorate your magical trip.
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