Updated: Apr 1
Barcelona seems to find its way onto most people’s bucket lists... and for a good reason. It has a vibrant food scene, a plethora of unique historic architecture, great Mediterranean weather, beautiful beaches, and arguably the best (or most interesting) nightlife in Europe. This Barcelona travel guide will help you plan your trip and hopefully give you some tips for getting the most out of your time in the city!
What you’ll find in this guide:
1. How Much to Budget to Visit Barcelona
2. How Long to Visit
3. The Good and Not-So-Good Things
4. Barcelona’s Must-See Sights and Attraction
5. The Best Neighborhoods
6. Cheap Eats and Drinks …. And More
How Much to Budget:
As far as price is concerned, Barcelona isn’t the cheapest European city to visit, but it isn’t too terribly expensive either. My personal opinion? I recommend budgeting €30 – €75 per day if you’re on a backpacker’s budget — you can easily spend more and you can definitely spend less, but this is a good range for planning purposes.
How Long to Visit:
If you follow me on social media, you’ll notice I travel quickly. I like to visit a place for a short period of time and just go, go, go! This way, I have more time to visit other places as well (#WorldTravelingForTheWin). Now obviously this method of traveling isn’t for everyone, and many people would rather take their time when visiting a new place. I spent roughly two full days in Barcelona, and although that may not sound like a lot of time, I saw everything I had on my todo list (and more)!
But with all that being said, Barcelona is one of those cities where you can easily spend more than a week exploring; although, if I had to recommend an ideal length of time for the typical traveler, 4 to 5 days in the city would be perfect!
When to Visit:
The most popular time to visit Barcelona is in the summer, but this also means tons of people crowding narrow streets and 85+ degree weather. While for many that doesn’t sound too bad (perfect beach weather, am I right??), I personally wanted to visit at a less busy and hot time of year. Winters are mild and the temperatures average in the mid-50s — it’s also when you’ll find the lowest number of visitors. Late spring and early fall bring great weather and fewer crowds than the summer, so those are the best times to visit.
I can attest for the Barcelona atmosphere in late Spring, and it was perfect! Not too many tourists around, and the weather was amazing – so amazing that I ended up nearly walking a marathon over the course of two days!
The Good (& Not-So-Good) Things About Barcelona:
Barcelona offers so many wonderful things to visitors, but it also has a few negative aspects that you should know before visiting.
1. The Nightlife
This is one of the main reasons people flock to Barcelona. The night doesn’t get started until about 10 pm (dinner, too), and you’ll find people eating in restaurants until well after midnight. Then they hit the bars until the early morning and then the clubs until 6 am (#NoSleepClub). Clubbing not your thing? Don’t worry, Barcelona has options for just about anyone, myself included!
2. The Beauty of the City
Barcelona is undoubtedly a beautiful city, and it can definitely boast some of the most impressive architecture in all of Europe, all thanks to their homeboy Gaudí. I could just walk & getting lost in its charming medieval streets all day long!
3. The Beaches
Barcelona is constantly rated as the best beach city in the world, so it’s no surprise that the beach plays a huge role in the city’s identity. I didn’t have time to visit the beaches when I traveled here a few weeks ago, so if you plan on hitting all the major sights AND the beaches, plan an extra day!
4. Culture and Museums
Barcelona has something for everyone, including a number of excellent museums. More on my faves later!
5. Great Weather and Excellent Outdoor Life
Barcelona has mild winters and warm summers. In the winter, you can expect temperatures to be in the mid-50s; in the summer, temps stay around the low-80s. This means that Barcelona’s citizens spend a lot of time outdoors in the city’s many parks, squares, beaches, and outdoor cafes.
1. Loads of Tourists
Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Europe (for good cause), so the city can become overrun with visitors and looooong lines to the famous sights — especially in the summer months. That said, it’s no reason to avoid the city... but the weather is nice all year, so you can have a nice visit at any time, hence why I decided to go during a less busy season!
2. Pickpockets and Tourist Scams
Hoards of tourists always attract lots of pickpockets and other scammers no matter the city, and Barcelona is no exception. You have to remain very vigilant in Barcelona, especially in the touristy areas and on the beaches. My personal tips are to not carry around a large bag or backpack with lots of pockets, keep valuables out of your back pockets, and simply always pay attention to what is going on around you!
3. Spread Out Sights
Many of the famous sights are spread throughout the city, so you will have to do a bit of traveling to see everything. The public transportation is extremely reliable and efficient, though, so it’s not too much of a problem if you invest in a metro pass for the time you are visiting (more on this later). This is the exact reason why I ended up walking nearly a marathon in just two days!
Must-See Sights & Attractions:
If you get bored in Barcelona, you’re doing something terribly wrong. In this section, I’ll talk about some of my favorite Barça neighborhoods, the must-see museums, and other things you need to check out during your stay (whether that be a quick 2-day-turnaround or a 2-week-vacation).
1. Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic):
The most visited, and oldest, neighborhood in Barcelona is called the Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic), and within it you will find many of the top attractions, including the Cathedral of Barcelona and a handful of Roman ruins. Yes, it will be overrun with other tourists, but getting lost in its winding medieval streets and alleys was personally one of my favorite parts about visiting Barcelona. Plus, you may end up finding a hole-in-the-wall cafe or restaurant that absolutely blows you away with authenticity (what a fun experience)!
2. Las Ramblas: Technically a part of the Gothic Quarter but with its own personality, Las Ramblas is a pedestrian-only street (and surrounding area) lined with shops, chain stores, tacky tourist stalls, cafes, and restaurants. Its safe to say that this is the most visited tourist spot in Barcelona, so it’s buzzing all day and night. It’s also one of the biggest pickpocket hotspots in Europe, so be extra vigilant. The cafes and restaurants are super overpriced, so wander off Las Ramblas for better prices (like I mentioned above). Additionally, La Boqueria Market is a massive indoor market located off Las Ramblas, and it’s been rated the best market in the world. It’s a massive tourist draw, so it’s super busy, but it’s still a unique experience. Also, if the hoards of tourists start to get under your skin, head to Plaça Reial, which is a beautiful square that’s just off Las Ramblas.
3. El Born
The most trendy and artistic neighborhood in Barcelona. In addition to its tapas bars, restaurants, avant-garde galleries, cool cafes, and vintage shops, this neighborhood is the home of the impressive Church of Santa Maria del Mar and the excellent Santa Caterina Market (which has an amazing Gaudí-esque roof). It’s also where you’ll find a lot of Barcelona’s famous nightlife, so you’ll find yourself here often if you enjoy that type of thing.
The largest neighborhood in Barcelona, L’Eixample is home to many of the city’s most famous architectural highlights — including La Sagrada Familia. Eixample is popular with the locals because it’s a lively neighborhood without being as densely populated as the city center. Because of its size, you’ll also find that different parts of the neighborhood have their own personalities, which is super neat!
If you want to live like a local for the day, definitely visit Gràcia! This bohemian neighborhood is often described as a village within a city and is located on a hillside, so it offers great views of the Barcelona as a whole! You’ll find plenty of trendy shops, bars, outdoor cafes, and restaurants filled with equally trendy locals. It’s also home to Gaudí’s famous and whimsical hilltop park, Parc Güell.
1. Picasso Museum:
Barcelona has a number of excellent museums, but the most popular is the Picasso Museum. This museum houses one of the most extensive collections of Picasso works and focuses heavily on his earlier years.
2. Fundació Joan Miró:
The second-most popular museum is the Fundació Joan Miró, which is the top collection of artwork by Joan Miró and many other contemporary artists. Joan Miró also created the Barcelona Contemporary Cultural Center to feature contemporary, alternative, and innovative art.
3. Catalan Art Museum:
If you’re interested in the history of the Catalan region and its accompanying art, check out the highly-rated Catalan Art Museum.
DAY TRIP IT:
My absolute favorite thing I did while visiting Barcelona was taking a day trip to Montserrat! The iconic Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain, not to be confused with mountainous Caribbean island, is an exquisite site to visit. At 1,236 meters high, this fairytale-like spiritual retreat is the highest point of the Catalan lowlands. Surrounded by natural park and shaped by nature’s elements, the Montserrat rock formations are a must-see sight, if Binot for religious reasons then simply for the breathtaking panoramic views across Catalonia. Curious as to how you can take a day trip here, too? Check out this post!
Barcelona’s signature Catalan Modernism architecture was created by one man — Antoni Gaudí. Examples of his work are scattered throughout the city, so you’ll come across many of his most famous works without much effort. And if you’re curious as to how you can tell what work is his, don’t be. His work can stand out from across the globe, and can be detected at a single glance!
1. La Sagrada Família:
This iconic Catholic church has been under construction since 1882 and isn’t expected to be fully finished until 2030 (or later). They recently obtained a construction permit to finish building and renovating, which they had been fighting to receive for over 137 years! With it’s beautiful stained glass windows and stunning architecture, waiting in line for this site is WELL worth it.
2. La Pedrera (sometimes called Casa Mila):
If you have the chance, I highly recommend going on the night-time tour of La Pedrera. You get a full tour of the interior architecture, history behind Gaudí’s work and the building itself, a tour of the attic (super cool), a light show against his marble designs on the roof, and a complimentary glass of cava to end the evening!
3. Park Güell:
Overlooking the entire city, this is a site that should absolutely not be missed if you travel to Barcelona! This park offers you an experience to explore Gaudí’s famous and breathtaking work, all while hiking and seeing amazing views!
Cheap Eats and Drinks:
Barcelona has food options for just about any budget. In fact, they have one of the highest numbers of restaurants and bars per capita in all of Europe, fun fact! Unfortunately, many of them are nothing special, and the quality generally gets a lot worse near the tourist attractions, so do some research before you go or you’ll probably end up overpaying for low-quality food. Also, don’t forget that lunch is generally the biggest meal of the day, and people don’t eat dinner until around 10 pm, so plan ahead.
Barcelona has a really great network of public transportation, making exploring the sites a breeze! Most people use the Metro (subway) to travel long distances; however, the city is fairly compact, so many visitors end up walking everywhere or doing a combination of both.
Single one-way ticket
T10 ticket (10 one-way journeys)
Barcelona Tourist Card: (free unlimited public transit, including to/from airport, entry to some museums & other benefits)
Bus from airport to city
Train (RENFE) from airport to city
€4.10 + €2.15 (to switch to the Metro)
Taxi from airport to city
€25 – €35
With all this in mind, who’s heading to Barcelona next??