Explore Barcelona, Spain
Is the capital and largest city of Catalonia and Spain’s second largest city, with a population of over one and half million people (over five million in the whole province).
Explore Barcelona, located directly on the northeastern Mediterranean coast of Spain, has a rich history, having been under Roman, then Frank law before declaring its independence.
This beautiful city is full of what European cities are known for (outdoor markets, restaurants, shops, museums and churches) and is fantastic for walking with an extensive and reliable Metro system for more far-flung destinations. The core centre of town, focused around the Ciutat Vella (“Old City”) provides days of enjoyment for those looking to experience the life of Barcelona while the beaches the city was built upon provide sun and relaxation during the long periods of agreeably warm weather.
- (the Old City), is indeed the oldest part of the city and is numbered as District Number One. It is located in a central position on the Mediterranean coast and is the top tourist magnet of the city. Top attractions in Ciutat Vella include the Medieval architecture of the Barri Gotic neighbourhood, the Contemporary Art Museum of Barcelona in Raval and the Naval Museum at the end of the entertainment-filled walking path known as Las Rambles.
- is known as the “Modernist Quarter” for its imposing Modernistic buildings such as the Casa Mila, the Temple Expiatori and the local district hall. The district’s street-grid is extremely strict, being divided into square blocks with widened streets at every intersection to allow for greater visibility.
- is located in north-central Barcelona just north of Eixample. It was originally a separate city, which was founded in 1626 as the Our Lady of Grace Convent. It joined Barcelona only in the 20th Century and maintains an ambience of its own
- is located along the Mediterranean on the southern edge of Barcelona. It was formerly a separate municipality centred in Sants, but also includes the port and industrial complex called the Zona Franca and a wealth of museums and monuments. There are also frequent fairs and festivals in this part of Barcelona.
- on the east edge of town, is named after the first church built in the area- St. Martin’s.
- Areas such as Sarrià, Pedralbes, Horta and Sant Andreu invite you to get off the beaten path and get away from the tourist crowds.
The exact circumstances of the founding of the city of Barcelona are uncertain, but the remains of a settlement many thousands of years old have been found in the neighborhood of Raval. While legend has Hannibal’s father founding Barcelona in the 3rd Century B.C., there is no substantiating evidence.
The city of Barcelona has a classic “Mediterranean climate” with mild, humid winters and hot, dry summers.
Barcelona-El Prat International Airport, is a major transport hub and flights land from all over Europe and beyond.
Best top attractions in Barcelona Spain.
What to do in Barcelona, Spain
Take a walking tour
For those visitors who wish to get a real taste of Barcelona, you can join a group of English-speaking local guides for free sightseeing tours. In addition to exploring major landmarks and famous streets, you will also get stories, recommendations and tips that only a local could provide. These professional guides are passionate about their city and offer tours which are both educational and fun. These walking tours are based on a tip supported service.
There are also tours run by the City Council starting from the Tourist Information Point in Plaça Catalunya.
Another option to discover the local Barcelona side is to contact a local person, who is willing to show you the city around. You can select a travel guide according to your travel activity preferences. The local travel guide can pick you up from your location, take great travel pictures, go shopping or show the non-touristy places if you wish to see them.
What to buy
Barcelona has an astounding 35,000 shops for tourists to explore, but since no one could hope to exhaustively shop Barcelona, a “buyers guide” is in order. First of all, you will want to walk the five-kilometer “shopping line” that stretches along the Las Ramblas pedestrian pathway. There is very little vehicle traffic along this run, though there will be plenty of other tourists to navigate around. Along the route, you will find plenty of shops selling “big-name” items along with many specialty designer shops selling Spanish-made apparel, shoes, jewelry and more.
Most shops and malls in Barcelona will be closed for business on Sundays, but there are exceptions- especially in the Ciutat Vella. There, you will find fashionable clothing outlets; small souvenir shops and local supermarkets open all week long.
Some of the best specific shopping opportunities that await the visitor to Barcelona include the following:
- Excellent antiques can be picked up in Barcelona if you know where to look. On the street called Passeig de Gràcia in Eixample district is lined with antique shops. There are also many to be found along Carrer del Consell de Cent (also in Eixample) and along Carrer de la Palla nearby the Cathedral.
- Two flea markets are worth checking out: the one held every Saturday morning next to the Colum (Christopher Columbus) monument at the end of Las Ramblas and another one in the square outside of Barcelona Cathedral, which is open on Thursday mornings.
- The El Corte Inglés department store has a number of locations all over the city, including in Eixample, Ciutat Vella’ and the Inland Suburbs. In the city center, two El Corte Ingles locations are within easy walking distance of each other, and the Fnac department store is also in the vicinity. These stores are very large and have virtually everything you are likely to shop for, all under one roof.
- La Boqueria is a gigantic public market located in Ciutat Vella. It is worth exploring for its wide range of both produce and goods, and you can stop off for some fresh-squeezed fruit juice or other refreshments as you shop. Be aware that the market closes down on Sundays. Also, be careful while touching chocolate produce here or you they will force you to pay for it.
- Jamon Iberico, a Spanish-style cured ham with a rich, nutty flavor is a very popular buy among tourists and locals alike. This ham is made from the Pata Negra, an ancient breed of pig exclusively native to the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal).
- La Gauche Divine is a unique, multifaceted store in the Ciutat Vella district that combines high-fashion, designer, musical and artistic fare.
What to eat
Barcelona is a city with more than 20 Michelin stars in all its restaurants. The Catalans pride themselves in great food, which is anchored in centuries of history and of fresh products. However, Barcelona’s cuisine is inconsistent in quality, as with all highly touristic cities, but good food does exist at reasonable prices. The golden rule of thumb applies well in Barcelona; to save money and get better food, look for places off the beaten track by fellow travellers and seek out cafes and restaurants where the locals frequent. A good idea is to avoid restaurants with touts outside.
Majority of restaurants and cafes are closed between 4PM and 8PM for migdiada. If you failed to plan for that, here are some places you can eat during this period:
- tapas in bars (not too healthy nor cheap to substitute a full meal)
- international chains
- selected restaurants who are flexible enough to cater for tourists all day long.
Set menus (menú del dia) Most restaurants (and some bars) offer a menú del dia (menu of the day), which usually means a simple and unpretentious two course meal (one salad, main dish and a drink; plus a dessert sometimes), 3 or 4 options each, with a drink and a dessert, depending on a restaurant. Keep in mind these are not going to be huge portions. Typically you will get all of the items listed, but they will be one or two mouthfuls at most (i.e., all of the food will fit on one standard sized plate). During the week, some smart restaurants offer lunch specials from 2PM to 4PM. The savvy traveler will try the hip places for a fraction of the price during the day.
Smoking: Is not permitted in restaurants.
- A selection of butiffara, beans, and another meat from a typical Catalan country meal
- You can get food from any part of the world in Barcelona, but make sure you try some Catalan food.
- The selection of seafood is consistently great, although not a lot of it is local (this part of the Mediterranean is pretty well fished-out).
- A treat to try that no travel guide mentions is waffles sold at street stands. They will tempt you with their mouthwatering smell and taste.
If you are looking for a quick introduction to Barcelona’s cuisine, you could consider going on a food tour – wine tour, tapas tour, cooking classes, market tour… options are plentiful and the hard part is to choose one.
What to drink
Barcelona’s nightlife options are endless. There are clubs and bars lining every single street, and you can even find people enjoying a drink outside either on the street, in a plaza, or on the beach. The notable club scene is what brings many partiers to the city. The best neighborhoods to find a bar are El Born, El Gotico, and El Raval.
Try a “cafè amb gel” an espresso with a drop of milk served with a glass of ice cubes on the side at any local ‘cafeteria’
Barcelona is a city with a longstanding heritage of locally produced beers and wines. In fact, it has some unique drinks of other kinds as well, such as orxata which is a drink made from chufa (papyrus) juice, sugar and water as well as granizados, which consist of sweetened orange juice, lemon juice or coffee poured over crushed ice. As to alcoholic beverages, however, those most commonly consumed in Barcelona include:
- Cerveza (beer), Spanish style. Be aware that, if you ask for “una cerveza,” you will be handed a bottled beer. For a draught beer, you must request “una caña.”
- Vermuth al grifo, an herbal wine that is stored in small-sized barrels and mixed with aerated water before drinking.
- Cava, a semi-sparkling variety of champagne that is somewhat fruitier and “greener” than French champagne. Major brands include: Codroniu, Freixenet and Raimat.
- Moscatel, a naturally sweet wine with a floral aroma that is at least 85% from the Moscatel de Alejandria type of grape. It is best served slightly chilled and drizzled over various Catalonian/Spanish desserts along with fruit and ice cream.
Barcelona has a large number of both beer bars and wine bars, and there are some establishments that cross the line and double as both. The fact that the wine vineyards of Penedes lie within only a couple miles of Barcelona explains, in part, why wine bars are such a common sight in this city.
Choose an ATM in a busy area and merge quickly into the crowd to avoid being targeted. Barcelona is particularly well-equipped with ATMs. Many offer a wide range of services (withdrawals, transfers, mobile credit recharges, ticketing, etc.) and accept credit cards of various banks.
Most ATMs will not charge you a fee to withdraw funds (though your bank still may, of course). Catalunya Caixa is an exception: they will charge a several euro fee, so avoid their ATMs.
Day trips from Barcelona
- Figueres – Home of the most impressive Salvador Dalí museum.
- Montserrat – Visit the monastery nestled high in the mountains to see the Black Madonna or hike to the peak to earn a fantastic view of the surroundings. 30 miles from Barcelona.
- Sitges – A traditional beach side destination for the locals. Full of fashion shops open on Sundays. Is a popular gay destination too.
- Girona – A quiet town with an ancient Jewish section, narrow streets, imposing walls and plenty of cafes.
- Tarragona – The first large seaside town south of Barcelona. The town offers a large number of historical sites – UNESCO World Heritage – including a well preserved Roman colosseum, and Tarragona Cathedral.
- Pyrenees – A mountain range around 150 km north from the city.
- Sant Cugat del Valles – Has one of the most interesting Romanesque cloisters in Catalunya, with many interesting carvings. The town itself is full of expensive vilas.
- Montseny – UNESCO Biosphere Reserve 40 km northeast of Barcelona. Go there by car or bus/train.
Official tourism websites of Barcelona, Spain
For more information please visit the official government website: