Adorned with brilliant architectural feats surrounded by friendly cultural credentials, Barcelona has always been a well-sought after, or at least ‘a once in a lifetime’, destination on everyone’s bucket list.
This vibrant cosmopolitan city is often famed as the world’s most ‘romantic city’. And the definition of ‘romantic’ in this city comes with an ambience of different tones. It can be the combination of its old and new in one city, the colours of its vibrant and alluring skyline, the golden-baked sandy beaches by the Mediterranean, or, even one of Gaudí’s masterpiece creations. The only interpretation left is really up to the individual’s personal connection with the city. In here, you are in a city that speaks directly to you. A city that may inspire you and set you forward with something in life. A city of wonders!
With so many adventures and mysteries hidden in and around Barcelona, time is hardly enough to spend on each and every single activity. So based on my time in Barcelona, here’s my ultimate guide to have a fun-filled Barca experience!
◊ Travel Period
Anytime of the year is a great time to travel, depending on each individual’s preference of the Mediterranean climate. Summer is from June to August and is the hottest season with tourism at its peak. You can expect up to ten hours of sunshine daily. Winter falls from December to February and the average temperature can fall to around 6 degrees Celsius. To travel comfortably without much summer heat and heavy winter wear, Spring (March to May) and Autumn (September to November) are the best.
The main languages spoken here is Catalan and Spanish. But not to worry, English is also widely spoken every here and there. If you do know a few Spanish words, that will be a friendly ice breaker for a conversation.
◊ Local Currency
Euro is the official currency. Banks and ATM withdrawal machines can be easily found throughout the city. Chipped based Visa and Mastercards are widely accepted in most restaurants and hotels, even the smaller retail boutiques.
◊ Daily Expenses
Excluding accommodation and transport, an estimated budget of €70 is good for a day’s expenses on food and attraction entrance tickets.
Separated into different neighbourhoods and districts, Barcelona boasts a reputation for its highly skilled and flawlessly executed urban planning system. Well connected by trains, it is very easy and safe to get around the city without any hassle. Each neighbourhood and district are slightly different from the other carrying its own distinct ambience. The best way to experience everything in Barcelona is no other than ‘on foot’.
If you prefer to travel around by train, then I would suggest that you purchase a T-10 travel ticket, available at all train stations. A T-10 travel ticket costs €9.95 and it entitles you to a 10 journey ride on the Renfe trains and TMB buses across Zone 1 of Barcelona, which, conveniently, covers most of the city centre and most places of interests.
The most popular neighbourhood and districts are:
L’Eixample: The L’Eixample is a very bloggable and dynamic location just outside the city walls where many modernist and avant-garde architectures like the Casa Batlló and Casa Lleó Morera are situated. It also houses a fine selection of elegant restaurants, eccentric bars and chic retail shops.
Gràcia: Once an outskirt. Now a lively suburb. This quaint enchanting neighbourhood with narrow streets features the magical Park Güell and Casa Vicens. Dotted with hip vibrant cafes and exquisite parks, Gràcia is today, a favourite haven for young entrepreneurs and creative artists.
Ciutat Valle (Barri Gotic): Also known as the Gothic Quarter, this town encompasses the wide pedestrian-shopping boulevard of Las Ramblas, and forms the oldest part of the city. The Roman aqueduct ruins, prominent museums, the magnificent Cathedral of Barcelona, and, the main city hall are all located here. Surrounding the Gothic Quarter to the left is El Born and to the right, El Raval. Both are a neighbourhood with their own unique flavours. Straight ahead is the stunning Port Vell with its relaxing seafront broad walk.
Sants-Montjuïc: Besides being a popular Olympic locale, Sants-Montjuïc is also a multi-lifestyle location with beautiful open parks. From Montjuïc castle to Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, this whole compound is installed with immense cultural and ethereal beauty, offering captivating views of the city below. The colours of the magic fountain of Montjuïc coming alive in the evening gives an added touch to the surrounding ambience, setting the place in magical wonder.
Poble Sec: Situated away from the city, Poble Sec is well known for its affordable foods and drinks. Home to many of Barcelona’s leading restaurants and tapas bars, this is the favourite hang out location for all ages. Seated at the foot of Montjuïc, Poble Sec is a great place to enjoy a summer picnic at one of its parks without getting cooked yourself as the temperature here is a few degrees cooler than the city.
Barcelona is dotted with a wide selection of accommodation experiences from the city to suburbs that is suitable for all budgets ranging from grandeur hotels to local home-stays. Depending on your travel style and comfort needs, you can also easily pair your accommodation location conveniently with your activities. There are a ton of choices available.
◊ Luxury Stay in Barcelona
W Barcelona – Sitting right on Barceloneta beach with direct beach access, W Barcelona offers the best pampering stay in its luxurious furnished rooms facing the spectacular blueish-green Mediterranean sea. Evenings in Barcelona is best spent by sipping a glass of cocktail by the beach or at the rooftop bar under a beautiful sunset.
Barceló Raval – Besides its strategic location and sophisticated design, Barceló Ravel is well-known for its rooftop swimming pool and bar that offers an unblocked 360º panoramic view of Barcelona. It’s location is just a few minutes walk away from the Gothic Quarter and Las Ramblas. Say hello to the famous El Cat (Gato) of Raval, as he is around the corner too.
Majestic Hotel & Spa – Classic and elegant, Majestic Hotel & Spa is seated along the shopping belt district of Passeig de Gràcia, together with several famous touristic attractions. Its rooftop pool and terrace is a great spot to catch a beautiful view of the city. Conveniently located, Placa de Catalunya and Las Ramblas is just a ten minutes walk away.
◊ Comfort Stay in Barcelona
Catalonia Sagrada Familia – A value for money hotel. Located in a quiet neighbourhood away from the bustling city centre, Catalonia Sagrada Familia is situated next to Clot train station and is in close proximity to the famous Sagrada Família and the Torre Agbar Tower. Getting in and out of the area is easy and no fuss at all.
Hotel Gótico – Affordable hotel in an excellent location and well connected to train stations. At Hotel Gótico, time is never enough. Seated right in the heart of Gothic Quarter, you get easy access on foot to everything in the Ciutat Valle, be it shopping, dining or touristy exploration.
◊ Budget Stay in Barcelona
Hostal Girona – Strategically located in the city centre and surrounded by historical monuments of Barcelona, Hostal Girona is best for travellers who want to save on transportation cost and who love the flexibility of exploring the city at a casual pace.
Kabul Backpacker – Friendly dorm-style experience for the adventurers. Staying in the lively Gothic Quarter with lots of exciting exploration, great food and night long partying sessions. The day is always young.
◊ Airbnb in Barcelona
For a longer stay, Airbnb is a good choice to find a perfect ‘temporary’ home away home, and to experience the local culture at your own pace. Be it an apartment or shared room, Airbnb has you covered. There are tons of options for you to choose from that will suit your budget and travel itineraries.
Get S$50 OFF your FIRST S$100 Airbnb Stay! Sign up HERE for free Airbnb Credit.
When it comes to food in Barcelona, you’ll be confused with ‘no’ choice as there are too many choices coming alive in your head. With a fair scene of international cuisines around, just the local favourites will have your tastebuds busy. Everywhere you go, you are sure to find fresh seafood and tapas. And of course, not to miss, paella is definitely a must try.
La Lola – Serving a wide menu of Mediterranean and local Spanish cuisines in a stylish ambience, La lola is a pocket friendly place for an elegant dinner. Their freshly carved Iberian Ham Platter is still one of the best I’ve had in Barcelona.
Tapeo – Fresh tapas and efficient service is the forte of Tapeo. Nestled in a quiet alley in El Born, Tapeo hailed its name as being the best tapas bar in town. Due to its popularity, be prepared to queue when it comes to peak dining hours or you can always reserve in advance.
Txapela – Huge selection of delicious tapas in an energetic atmosphere that never fails to impress! With a pictured menu, ordering is easier but at the same time…makes each and every item so ever more tempting. Before you know it, you may have ticked everything off on the menu and into your growling stomach.
Can Majo – My all time favourite seafood Paella spot. I have been patronizing them for years. All the elements of a paella were always perfectly executed. Seafood are fresh and rightly cooked, rice is flavourful and above all, it is not salty or overly tang.
Ramen-ya Hiro – Japanese ramen bar selling cheap and tasty authentic Japanese ramen. Definitely a great comfort food during cold winter. But sadly, Ramen-ya Hiro does not take reservations in advance. Expect to queue up to an hour before your hungry belly get it’s warmth.
La Boqueria – From cured meats and local staples to fresh oysters and seafood, La Boqueria is the best place to hunt down everything under one roof after a day of touristy visiting. The freshly squeezed mango juice is my favourite and of course, chocolates. Too many flavours available. So sample one of each before you buy.
Boredom is never a word in the dictionary of Barcelona. Same goes to time is never enough for this city. A traveller’s dream haven brimed up with historic architectures, lovely parks and vibrant cultures, there is just too much to see, to wow and to digest all of its intricate details.
Sunset at Turó de la Rovira – Once a military base, now a favourite evening gathering locale. This stunning hill, overlooking the city, offers some of the best spots for a beautiful sunset postcard shot under the orange sky. A naturally relaxed atmosphere, it is best to head up the hill with a couple of beers and enjoy the passing of the evening with the wind.
Explore Gaudí’s Architectural Monuments – A trip to Barcelona is never complete without bringing a piece of Gaudí home with you. Besides the awe-inspiring Sagrada Família, there are many more ingenious architectural wonders which Gaudí had signed off. Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Park Güell and the Palau Güell are some of his other signatures worth visiting.
Explore Hospital de Sant Pau – The shining star of modernism. From it’s entrance, I doubt you can tell that this place used to be a public hospital. Hospital de Sant Pau is a brilliant art nouveau building and a hidden treasure located in close walking distance from the Sagrada Família. A quiet place of attraction with minimal crowd and a big garden, it is best to combine this visit together with your Sagrada Família tour.
Half Day Trip to Montserrat – About an hour train ride away from Placa Espanya, the Montserrat Monastery, seated at the top of the Montserrat mountain offers a spectacular view of Catalonia, showcasing the complete natural geographic wonders of Mother Nature. Check out the Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey, an intricate gothic style basilica. Observe the unusual rock formations and breathe in the beauty of narrow valley flowing below between the tall mountains. Spoiler alert for Dan Brown followers…this is where it all begins in his latest novel ‘Origins’.
Ciutat Valle Tour – Connected to the Las Ramblas, the old town is best experienced on foot. This gives you full access to every corner to explore every historic detail behind the gothic style architectures and beautiful squares. Walk along Carrer del Brisbe and pose for a picture under Bishop’s Bridge. Situated within the area are also many popular attractions like the Museu Picasso, Placa del Rei and the Palau de la Música Catalana.
Shop at La Roca Village – Located on the outskirt of Barcelona about an hour bus ride away from Placa de Catalunya, this luxury shopping outlet is where most of the prestigious brands are gathered. Designers’ items on sale here are cheaper than those at the boutique. Take your time to shop around as you can get really good stuff at a good price.
Stroll Along Port Vell – Take a slow walk along the broad walk of the picture perfect Port Vell. If you fancy a little shopping, Maremagnum is located right across. If not, continue straight towards Museu d’Història de Catalunya where you will be greeted by a huge smiling Crayfish. Stop and snap an Instagram worthy picture for your photo story.
Recharge at the Beach – There is no other better way than spending an afternoon soaking under the sun, absorbing all the vitamin sea on the world’s best beach. The pristine golden sand beach, overlooking the Mediterranean is the most sought after spot in Barcelona. In summer, the beach tends to get crowded. Nevertheless, it’s still fun.
Day Trip to Girona – Take a step back into time. Have a truly medieval experience in Girona. Everything from the past are still alive in this history rich town. The old Roman ruins, cobblestoned streets, Jewish quarters, old towering city walls and the Arab bath are all well conserved in its original look, emitting an atmosphere of old. The colours along Onyar river and it’s bridges are the best spot for a beautiful backdrop for your gram.
Day Trip to Dalí Theatre-Museum In Figueres – Visit Europe’s most popular fine art museum in the Figueres. Housing the inventive collections and bizarre artworks by Salvador Dalí, the Dalí Theatre-Museum has attracted the attention of tourists from all over the world. Even the museum outlook is dumbstruck gorgeous.
Attend A Casteller Festival – Casteller, known as the Human Tower is a famous Catalan tradition. A tower is formed by building level after level with humans until a certain height is reached, which can be as tall as ten storeys. A very interesting and entertaining festival. You get to watch the cultural performances and witness the meticulous planning, effort and teamwork involved to build this human tower with success. A valuable lifetime experience that you will never forget.
Continue Exploring …