Whether you plan to enjoy the magnificent architecture, immerse yourself in history and culture, or simply enjoy the vibrant street life and tasty food, there is something for everyone. And so, to help you plan ahead, we’ve put together a handy ‘know before you go’ list.
We should start by saying, it’s always a good time to visit Barcelona! However, if you’re a keen city explorer and like to cover a lot of ground, the summer months are generally very hot (often over 30°C). You might prefer the cooler spring or autumn seasons. On the other hand, if you plan to enjoy the beach, relax in shady squares or spend time exploring museums and churches, summer is perfect for you. In winter, Barcelona is cooler but it’s usually still warm enough to sit outside and there will of course be far fewer tourists.
As you’d expect from a major city, Barcelona has a wide variety of accommodation to suit all budgets and preferences. If you prefer to be at the centre of all the action and a short walk from popular tourist attractions, then opt for a hotel or apartment near Placa Catalunya, Las Ramblas or the Gothic Quarter. Close-by are transport links to other areas of the city (and beyond). One of the many great things about Barcelona is that the city is actually not that big and public transport is fantastic. So, if you want to save a little on accommodation or get better value for money, choose accommodation further out, in neighbourhoods like Poble Sec and Montjuic/Placa Espanya. They are less than 10 minutes away from Las Ramblas by metro and have a wide range of hotels and apartments at reasonable prices. If you want to bask on the beach, try the ‘newer’ area around Barceloneta, the main town beach. Or you could go further along the coast and take some of the regular trains in and out of the city. Check out our guide to the best areas to stay in Barcelona for more comprehensive recommendations.
Food is taken very seriously in Barcelona. Typically a day starts with a café con leche (a large cup of coffee with milk), a piece of toast or pastries. At about eleven it’s time for real breakfast (a sandwich or croissant). Lunch is then at around two to three and consists of a starter, main course and dessert. Dinner time is normally between 9 and 10pm, but at times can be even later! Look out for the ‘Menú del día’ (meal of the day), because these are usually great value for money. Our top tip – make the wait between lunch and dinner easier, by grabbing a snack at around 5:30pm and then at about 7:30pm, sample some tapas or pintxos in one of the city’s bars.
Tapas and Pinxtos are a variety of small savoury dishes, often served as a snack with drinks. To ‘tapear’ (go from bar to bar for drinks and tapas) is an essential part of Spanish culture and something you should try. Because tapas are informal and the bars are often busy, they are commonly eaten standing up at the bar or at small tables or even upturned barrels. In most tapas bars you’ll see traditional cured hams hanging from the rafters, and many bars are decorated with posters for bullfights, Semana Santa (holy week) and the Feria de Abril (spring fair). Head to some of our favourite dining bars for the best pinxtos in Barcelona!
Another great place to sample Catalan food is in Barcelona’s fabulous food markets, the most famous being Boqueria Market, just off Las Ramblas. Here you’ll find stalls selling fresh, locally sourced fruit and veg, meats, cheeses and seafood. An afternoon well spent! While you’re in the area, check out the ‘Jamon Experience’, opposite Boqueria. Try six of the best local types of ham, enjoy a glass of wine or beer and learn everything there is to know about Spain’s famous ‘jamon’.
Some Barcelona must-sees include Gaudi’s range of masterpieces, including the unfinished La Sagrada Familia, his modernist sculpture park (Park Güell) and the Picasso Museum. If you prefer to wander and soak up the atmosphere, take a stroll along Las Ramblas. This is the city’s main promenade and, according to the poet Lorca “… the only street in the world which I wish would never end.” From Las Ramblas, explore the mediaeval Gothic Quarter – the oldest part of Barcelona where you’ll find the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat and remains of Roman houses and streets. If you’re looking for things to do at night, check out the Magic Fountain, a beautiful light, water and music. And, day or night, take the vintage blue tram to the top of Tibidabo hill for fantastic views, free entry to Sagrat Cor church and a small amusement park. No compilation of top Barcelona travel tips would complete without a mention of Camp Nou Stadium – home to the Barcelona football team. If there are no games, you can book a museum and stadium tour.
There’s plenty to do in Barcelona, whether you’re there for a long weekend with friends or a week or two with family. You can visit the main sights (with or without a guide) or go ‘off piste’ and see where the winding streets take you. We recommend a mix of both, with a guided tour (bicycle or on foot) to get you started. If your feet get tired, you can jump on a hop on-hop off bus and there’s always a boat cruise along Barcelona’s coast when the summer temperatures rise. Whatever your passions or interests are, we hope we’ve provided enough Barcelona travel tips for you to plan ahead and fall in love with this beautiful city!