Barcelona… a city that we can now call one of our all-time favorites! This past year we have taken a couple of trips (Emma with her boyfriend, Zach and Jeff & I) to Barcelona and we fell in love! Emma really got the feel of true Barcelona because she and her boyfriend stayed for 7 days. Emma surprised Zach for his birthday with VIP tickets to see the popular Barcelona soccer team play and the trip was planned from there! Jeff & I visited for two nights before our Mediterranean cruise and loved every minute. Between the two of us we share our recommendations: from accommodations, restaurants, nightlife, and things to do! Emma & I are both writing this Barcelona Travel Guide together so let’s dive right in.
Know Before You Go
- Location: Barcelona is located on eastern coast of Spain bordering France. It’s a popular port city for cruises but it’s also known as a tourist destination featuring interesting architecture, art, culture, young atmosphere, fun nightlife, and great food. It has a cosmopolitan feel and is known as one of the most attractive cities in Europe.
- Language: Many people speak Spanish & English, however many people who live in Barcelona refuse to speak Spanish and speak Catalan instead. Catalan is a language spoken in this region of Spain and is influenced by the French language.
- Politics: I usually don’t include politics in my guides however I feel it’s important to note that Barcelona is a city divided. Many who live in Barcelona consider themselves Catalans vs Spaniards and would like this region, considered Catalonia to become independent from Spain and become it’s own country. Click here to read more about the Catalonia independence movement.
- Currency: The Euro is used in Spain which makes it easy if you’re traveling throughout European countries for an extended trip.
- Credit Cards: Many credit cards are accepted at hotels, restaurants, museums and smaller retailers. Mastercard and Visa tend to be accepted more often than American Express. There are many ATMs throughout the city.
- Weather: Barcelona has a warm temperate subtropical climate which means that it never gets too cold and it never gets too hot! Zach and Emma visited in early March and the weather was around 65 degrees every day. When Jeff & I visited in May it was sunny and 75-80 degrees.
Getting Around in Barcelona
There are lots of different modes of transportation in Barcelona with many different neighborhoods to explore.
- Metro: Emma used the metro once to get to Camp Nou. (The Soccer stadium) While it’s a great mode of transportation, be wary of pickpockets and thieves. Emma learned this firsthand when guys surrounded her when she was with Zach. Luckily Emma was aware of her surroundings, and immediately sensed a couple of guys trying to hone in on her and her bag. They faked a scuffle to divide she and Zach but luckily she was on top of the situation. She had wound her strap of her crossbody around herself twice and held on to it. They moved on once they noticed that she was on them. It was enough to get her to not go on the metro again however. If you’re on a budget.. the metro is still a great option to get around inexpensively – snag a T-10 card which is 10 rides for 10 euros! More than likely you won’t be accosted.
- Taxis: Jeff & I took taxis everywhere because we were short on time and wanted to see as much as we could quickly. Taxis in Barcelona are among the most highly regulated and safe in Europe. They are also more honest and follow the rules of charging by the meter. Great option!
- Biking: There are hundreds of bike shops located throughout the city where you can rent bikes for a few hours/for the day. Barcelona is a great biking city because it’s really flat and biker friendly. The electric bikes are off limits to non-locals however. Important to keep in mind. Those are saved for locals and those commuting to work.
- Walking: This city was made for walking! Emma and Zach walked miles and miles everyday and found it to be a great way to see the city. They felt safe walking around at night.. So did we!
There are TONS of different neighborhoods in Barcelona – many of which have their own personality and vibe. Emma & Zach were able to visit many of them.. and we’re sharing our favorites below.
- Gothic Quarter – Jeff & I stayed here and loved the convenience of it’s location. This neighborhood is central to everything! It’s situated in the oldest part of the city and features roman ruins, famous bridges, and the Barcelona Cathedral. Great shopping, restaurants, and more! Definitely #1 district to see.
- Ciutat Vella – This neighborhood is directly left of the gothic quarter and features the famous Las Ramblas and Boqueria Market (love!). Besides these two famous spots, don’t spend much time here. Don’t eat over here either (unless at the Market) because the food is overpriced and average. (Very touristy)
- El Born – Emma and Zach stayed in this neighborhood for a few days and absolutely LOVED it. It’s one of the trendiest areas of the city featuring great shopping, cafes, restaurants, and bars along narrow medieval streets. This neighborhood has many things to do including the Picasso Museum (our favorite).
- Gracia – With it’s gorgeous squares and village-like feel, this district is a little north of the Gothic Quarter. Lots of places to walk and explore, little shops and cafes, and less tourists than other parts of the city – Zach and Emma loved it. Many of the streets are pedestrian only too. Gaudi’s Parc Guell is also located in this neighborhood.
- Eixample – Barcelona’s most easily recognizable neighborhood due to it’s geometric “grid” pattern. Home to the world-famous Sagrada Familia (amazing!) and many gorgeous hotels, restaurants, and upscale shopping.
- El Poblenou – The 1992 olympics injected new life into an older & run-down factory building section of town. Now it’s become revitalized with a fabulous walking area, great restaurants, and a less-touristy area of the city. Zach and Emma walked to this neighborhood from their hotel in El Born and enjoyed spending a few hours there.
Where to Stay
Places we stayed at and loved!
- H10 Madison – Jeff & I stayed at this charming boutique hotel for 2 nights and absolutely loved it. My girlfriend Nikki found it and we were so excited. It had great reviews and it’s perfectly located. We were lucky to snag a Junior suite for an incredible rate using Emma’s tips. Click here to learn how to shop for the best hotel prices. The hotel itself is reasonably priced for the gorgeous location.. it’s just steps away from the Barcelona Cathedral and other famous Gothic Quarter sites. Adorable & the rooftop terrace with pool and bar is not to be missed. The views themselves are to die for. Price Range: $$
- Hotel Claris – Emma and Zach stayed at this luxurious hotel for a few nights and also really enjoyed it. The hotel is located in the Eixample district (walking distance to everything you would want to see in Barcelona!) and it’s near great shopping and restaurants. The hotel has beautiful rooms featuring art from all over the world. The service was above & beyond and they even brought them champagne to the room when they found out it was their anniversary. The rooftop bar and restaurant is absolutely gorgeous – and the drinks are delicious. Beautiful pool and lounge area on the roof! Price Range: $$$
- Hotel REC Barcelona – Emma & Zach stayed here the last few nights of their trip and they LOVED the location. They were also into the price. They paid just $115 per night for the room – great considering the price and cleanliness. The location was awesome – walking distance to great bars, restaurants, and shopping. The hotel offers live music and drink classes throughout the week on their rooftop terrace – Zach and Emma took part in one and met lots of fun people this way! There is also a pool and breakfast is included for the price. Highly recommended! Please note: Adults only! No children allowed. Price Range: $
- Hotel Colon – across the street from the Barcelona Cathedral. Known for the rooftop bar and it has tons of high reviews. Price Range: $$
- Majestic Hotel & Spa – Highly reviewed, 5 stars and absolutely gorgeous. Splurge! Price Range: $$$
- Hotel Praktik Bakery – This hotel is the first of it’s kind. It’s a combination bakery/hotel. The lobby has an AMAZING bakery so you know breakfast is delicious every morning. The room design looks beautiful on tripadviser. Super cute. Price Range: $$
Where to Eat
We fell in LOVE with all the restaurants, bars, bakeries and cafes located throughout the city. We’ll break it down by category..
This city has SO many amazing bakeries & brunch spots! We were blown away by how delicious and amazing all the food was in Barcelona.
- Praktik Bakery – Located at the bottom of the boutique hotel Mentioned above, this bakery was absolutely delicious and provided yummy breakfast options for us when we stayed in the Eixample neighborhood.
- Onna Coffee – A café located in the Gracia, Emma and Zach stopped in for a quick bite in the morning. Adorable atmosphere, great coffee, delicious pastries and cakes!
- EatMyTrip Brunch – Another adorable brunch spot located in the Eixample. Emma and Zach went for Sunday brunch and the food was absolutely delicious. Variety of dishes from sweet to savory.
- Nomad Coffee – With numerous locations throughout Barcelona, this coffee chain is amazing! They roast and sell their own beans – really delicious. Emma and Zach visited multiple locations throughout their trip.
- Brunch & Cake By The Sea – By far the most instagrammable brunch spot in Barcelona! Vegetarian & Vegan options, yummy food and a great location. Gets very busy so make sure to go early. Multiple locations in Barcelona!
- Pastelería Hofmann Bakery – The croissants are AMAZING. More dessert-like than breakfast, but you can’t miss them. Glazed croissants with fruit or cream filling! Located in the El Born district.
- Black Remedy Coffee – Located in the Gothic District near the Barcelona Cathedral, great place to grab a coffee & snack midday while exploring.
We skipped having formal lunch in Barcelona for the most part and instead grabbed a quick bite at one of the market stalls or cafés. None of us really sat down for big lunches anytime during our trips here. Rather, we enjoyed brunch or big breakfasts, then snagged a quick afternoon bite at a café or market to save room for a big dinner
Dinner & Tapas
Note: Dinner starts late in Spain compared to the U.S. Most restaurants don’t open until at least 8, and stay open until 1-2 am. Make reservations for around 8:30 pm and be prepared to be up late!
Many of you are familiar with tapas restaurants as we have them everywhere in the states.. however, for those of you who aren’t as familiar – going out for tapas usually entails ordering 3-4 ‘mini plates’ of food rather than 1 large entree per person. It’s a fun way to try different foods and we’ll be recommending a few places to try below.
- Arcano – Beautiful historic restaurant located in a 17th century barn in the El Born district. Delicious mediterranean food with traditional recipes and tapas. Cozy atmosphere and just overall must-do while visiting. We loved it! Great reviews. Make reservations beforehand and don’t be turned off by the busy staff. These guys have been working there forever. ;)
- La Pepita – Small and intimate restaurant located in the Eixample district. Seriously yummy tapas and drinks, and the service was amazing. One of our favorite restaurants while visiting. You can’t make reservations so expect to wait a bit – the best news? They have a bar next door where you can order great Cava and wait for the 10-15 mins. Very popular with great reviews. Definitely eat here!
- Paco Meralgo – Tapas with a seafood emphasis. Fresh fresh fresh! If you love seafood you must come here. Highly reviewed by Conde Naste Traveler and other publications. We loved eating here.
- El Xampanyet – Located in the El Born district.. this Tapas place is very classic. One of the most popular family-owned restaurants in the city and always full to the brim. It’s a standing space with classic tapas and homemade Cava (bubbly). Delicious food and a must while in Barcelona. Emma and Zach went here and ended up making friends with adorable Canadians that they are still friends with to this day! That should show you the vibe of this restaurant.
- La Fabrica – Delicious empanadas that are featured in a grab & go style. If you are sick of sit-down all night dinners then this is the place to snag something delicious! Many different types and vegetarian options as well.
- ElDiset – Wine bar with delicious food options as well! Emma and Zach loved the atmosphere and the food is great.
- Bacao Burgers – Sounds weird ordering burgers in Barcelona but if you’re sick of Tapas.. this is a great option! After 7 days of Tapas, Emma and Zach needed something different and they loved this place! Very quick style of eating but the food is very delicious.
Bars & Nightlife
Barcelona has some of the best nightlife and bar scenes in all of Europe. We all had so much fun while visiting and had the opportunity to check out some of the local favorites.
Note: Bars won’t get busy until around 11pm-12am.
- Paradiso – Technically a “speakeasy”, Paradiso makes some of the most fun concoction of cocktails that we’ve seen in a long time. The drinks are beautifully presented and look like works of art. The waiters are so fun too.. Don’t be thrown off by the exterior.. ;) There is a secret entrance through a sandwich shop freezer door from which you enter. A must-stop if in Barcelona!
- Rooftop Terrace at the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya – There is a secret rooftop terrace overlooking the Barcelona Harbor at the top of the Museum of Catalonia History. There is a restaurant but we just sat at the bar overlooking the water and it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.
- Hemingway Cocktails – Hole in the wall located in the Eixample district. Really knowledgable bartenders, delicious drinks, fun vibe! We loved it.
- Pura Vida Cocktails – DELICIOUS cocktails.. Z&E loved spending a few hours people watching & relaxing here. The drinks were incredible and even the food was good too. Adorable atmosphere.
- Solange – Luxury spirits and elegant James Bond Cocktail vibes. Great and knowledgable bartenders.
- Pax 49 – Trendy little cocktail bar located in the El Born neighborhood. Great place for a first cocktail before a night out – the bartender was so friendly and fun. Lots of young people here!
- Antic Teatre – Cool bohemian outdoor beer garden for snacks and drinks. Really unassuming and chill. Great hidden gem!
We didn’t visit any clubs while we were there but here is a great article on the best nightclubs in Barcelona.
What To Do
There is SO much to do in this city – from exploring famous sites, taking a local tour, walking around the neighborhoods, shop, and more. We rounded up some of our favorite things we did below.
- Take a guided tour of the Sagrada Familia – We all did this on our separate trips and loved the experience. We purchased our guided tour tickets through the Sagrada Familia website a few weeks before visiting.. make sure to do this because the tickets sell out! It’s also the quickest way in. When you see all the crowds you will be so thankful you took care of this beforehand. The beautiful basilica has been under construction for over 137 years and is scheduled to be finished by 2026, the centenary of Gaudi’s death.
- Explore more of Gaudi’s works and Moderism – Barcelona and Gaudi go hand and hand.. there are many beautiful examples of his work to visit and explore. Casa Milo, Casa Batilo and Parc Guell are more that are not to be missed. Purchase Parc Guell tickets on their website ahead of time, click here.
- Stroll Las Ramblas – Barcelona’s most famous street in the city! Beautifully tree-lined boulevard with restaurants, shops, and market stalls.
- Visit the Mercat De La Boqueria – A large and very famous public market with an entrance near Las Ramblas. WE LOVED this place! Very diverse selection of fruits, veggies, desserts, meats, and more. There are also restaurants and bars to sit down at and people watch! Not to be missed while visiting. If you don’t love crowds but want to see a market, another market to visit in the city is the Mercat de Santa Caterina located in the El Born district. Authentic & less touristy/crowded!
- Discover the Gothic Quarter – Visit this amazing district to see all it has to offer. The Barcelona Cathedral, Picasso Museum, and the Placa Reial (a big square where everyone gathers to eat, catch up and people watch).
- Picasso Museum – If you like art.. it’s a must. Picasso actually grew up in Barcelona and many of his works of art are in this museum. Snag an audio guide and listen to the background of his time here! It’s a smaller museum with an intimate vibe. WE loved it. Just buy your tickets at the actual museum, located in the El Born district.
- See a soccer (football) game at Camp Nou! Emma bought Zach VIP tickets for his birthday which included incredible seats & all you can eat & drink in the VIP lounge before + after the game! This is a fun option.. Important to note – Camp Nou does not serve alcohol at all on game days! So if you want to get a drink.. getting those VIP tickets is a must. They had so much fun at the game that they actually purchased nosebleed tickets for another game later in the week. Definitely a highlight!
- Go on a walking tour/food tour! Barcelona is known for it’s incredible tours. Some are free (click here for a free walking tour of Barcelona!) while others cost a little more but are well worth the price. Click here for a food tour in Barcelona!
- Take a cooking class – Something Jeff would have loved to try had we more time.. These classes teach you how to make paella, sangria, and other delicious foods. Many of them take you down to the market to shop for your own ingredients as well. Definitely a fun activity and well worth it! Click here for a solid cooking class, highly-rated.
- Get outside the city & explore – There are TONS of things to do outside of the city.. visit the wine country, visit and hike the famous monastery called Montserrat, rent a car/take a train and visit some of the coastal cities to the east of Barcelona, and more!
- Enjoy El Palau de la Musica Catalana – The Palace of Catalan Music was built in the early 1900s and is absolutely gorgeous. A designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the auditorium’s interior bursts with color, pattern, and texture. See a classic Flamenco show here.
- Visit the Arc de Triompf & enjoy the Parc de la Ciutadella – Built in 1888 for the Universal Exhibition.. it’s incredible to see the huge monument in a regular park. It’s also a nice spot to relax & people watch at especially around sunset.
- Drink & relax at one of the cities many rooftop bars – Barcelona is known for it’s rooftop terrace bars.. We all participated in this and visited quite a few different terraces where we enjoyed people watching, just being outside, and taking a mid-day break from all the hustle and bustle. Click here for a guide to the best rooftop terraces.
- Visit the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya – Emma is a history nerd and visited the Catalonian History Museum while in Barcelona. It’s an AMAZING museum that recently opened a few years ago with interactive and interesting exhibits. Definitely worth it for those visiting. They also have another great rooftop terrace so after you’ve gone through the museum, you can have a drink!
- Hit the beach – If you visit Barcelona during the warmer months, it’s a MUST to hang out at the beach. Barcelona has a definite beach culture and relaxing there would be a trip highlight.
We hope this post helps you navigate Barcelona – if you’ve been to Barcelona before and have other tips.. please leave them in the comments below so we can all learn from your experience!
Kristy & Emma
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