I’ve lived in Barcelona for a little over two years now, and everyone wants to know what to do in the Catalan capital? Here’s your complete girl’s guide to having an awesome stay in Barcelona, whether you’re here for just a few days or hanging out longer term.
Seeing the City:
First on your itinerary should be something Gaudí, as his style is truly unique, which doesn’t mean you have to like it. His unfinished Sagrada Familia is a well-deserved symbol of the city. If you’re short on time, either skip the inside buy your tickets online ahead of time. Other notable buildings include La Pedrera and Casa Batllò (both are worth seeing from the outside, even if you don’t have time to go in), as well as the Parc Güell.
Exploring the City Center:
Next, the city center is a great place for a walk to discover the sights. Stroll down Las Ramblas, have a drink in Plaça Reial, get lost in the streets in the Gothic quarter, check out the trendy Born neighborhood…the possibilities are next to endless. You’ll find everything from Roman ruins to fake Gothic buildings designed to lure in tourists.
Immersing Yourselves into the Outdoors:
Third, I recommend including one of Barcelona’s outdoor spaces. Whether you choose the beach, the surrounding mountains like Montserrat, or one of the many parks (Montjuïc, Parc Güell and Parc de la Ciutadella are nice options), all are accessible from the city center and a welcome break from pounding the pavement.
Barcelona also has quite a few good museums around that are worth a visit. The Picasso Museum has an extensive collection of the artist’s work dating back to his early days. The MNAC at Montjuïc hosts a huge array of art from all around Catalunya, from medieval paintings to modern photography. The MACBA and CCCB are great stops for contemporary art fans. Museums in Barcelona are often closed on Mondays and free on Sundays, particularly the first Sunday of the month.
For nightlife, there’s no shortage of places in the city center for bar hopping and clubbing. Check the streets around Plaça Reial or the Born neighborhood, which are chock-full of interesting bars. Whether you like retro themed bars (like Polaroid), laid-back joints (say Mariachi), or glamourous cocktails (check out the fancy hotel terrace bars), you’ll be able to find a bar to suit your fancy. A word of warning – the party doesn’t get started until midnight here!
As far as clubs go, popular options include the beach clubs, posh Sutton, 5-story Razzmatazz, and indie rock club Apolo. The discotecas usually close around 6 a.m., so take a disco nap before you go out!
Food Places to Check Out:
La Boqueria Market. You may have to fight for elbow space at the bars, but the food is well worth it. Fresh, delicious, and innovative, these little bars are a foodie’s dream. You can also pick up small snacks and tasty groceries at the market.
If you like seafood, La Parradeta serves the freshest catches of the day. It’s all laid out on ice, so you just point to what you’re like to eat that day, then let them know how you’d like it cooked.
For tapas, although not a local specialty in Barcelona, there are plenty of tasty restaurants. Catalana , La Flauta, Morrysom, and Caramba all have great options and fit a range of budgets. The first two are on the higher end, and the second two are better for budget options.
A few other of my favorites include La Xampanyeria for cheap, amazing cava and tapas, sandwich chain 100 Montaditos for rock-bottom prices on Wednesdays and Sundays, and Juicy Jones for vegans and vegetarians.
For travelers on a budget, pick somewhere in the most central neighborhoods in the city so you can walk more and cut down on transportation costs. The Gothic quarter and Born are both extremely central and there are tons of hostels and hotels around. The Eixample is a more modern neighborhood and is definitely a comfortable place to stay as it’s well lit and safe. The Gràcia district is a little further away from the biggest tourist sites, but it’s packed full of local bars and restaurants.
There are also some incredible places to live in Spain, for example Alhambra del Mar Marbella is a luxury residential development that has to be seen to be believed so easily one of the best places to live in Spain. Most neighborhoods are fairly safe, although the Raval is one I’d avoid staying in (I say that having lived there). If you stay in the Gothic or Born districts, I’d aim for a hostel on a bigger street to avoid getting lost in the tiny old streets late at night.
Even if you stay in a neighborhood that’s a little further out from the city center, there’s good public transportation so it shouldn’t be too hard to get where you want to.
In general, Barcelona is a pretty safe city, but there is a ton of pickpocketing. At night (especially if you’ve been out enjoying the nightlife), just use common sense, and avoid poorly lit streets and know how you’re getting back. Again, the Raval neighborhood is notorious for having a higher level of street crime, and La Rambla and the metro are also pickpocket hotspots.
Use a cross-body bag and keep it in front of your body. If you sit down to eat at a restaurant, keep it on your lap, not on the floor or the table. Basically, don’t let your bag out of your sight. It’s even better if you’re physically touching it at all times. It sounds exaggerated, but the pickpockets are really crafty here.
If you’re going out, take the bare minimum of stuff out with you, so that just in case your wallet goes walkabout you’re not totally stuck. It sounds a little paranoid, but it’s better to be safe than sorry! Losing a passport, wallet, or expensive phone is a major downer on a trip, and it definitely happens in Barcelona.
Also, in Spain it’s not uncommon for men to shout things at women when they walk by (they’re called “piropos” and range from cheekily clever to flat-out gross). That doesn’t mean it’s exactly accepted behavior, but it’s usually nothing more than a harmless annoyance.
Any other tips for us ladies?
Get a T-10 ticket, which gives you 10 trips on the bus, metro, and trains within the city limits. It’ll save you money, and you can use it to get to and from the airport.
The Corte Ingles department store in Plaça Catalunya has free maps in the gift section. Just head for the Barça jerseys on the ground floor and ask for one.
In Barcelona, both Spanish and Catalan are spoken and you may see graffiti that says “Catalonia is not Spain.” It’s a complicated issue, but acknowledging that you’re not in “typical Spain” goes a long way.
Have fun! NYC may be the city that never sleeps, but it has some stiff competition from Barna. Enjoy all that the Catalan capital has to offer round-the-clock.
Have you visited Barcelona? What tips can you share on your experience?