Barcelona. My first European city and it most certainly stole my heart. I’m not even sure where to start with this wondrous city! We spent about three days in Barcelona and the surrounding area and conquered a lot. For those of you who won’t have much time in Barcelona and want to make the best of the time you do have, I will be listing attractions in order of importance. But first, general travel tips about spain!
The Barcelona Airport: Great airport. There’s a couple different terminals, but we didn’t have too many problems getting between one and another. We flew out of here a few times and became quite acquainted. One important fact to note: There is ONE drinking fountain in this airport. If you are American like us and quite used to being able to fill up your water bottle before your flight, just beware that there is ONE. You have to go down some stairs to be able to get to it, and it’s a smidge hidden but definitely worth the few extra euros you’d be spending otherwise to buy a new water bottle.
We used a wide range of transportation in Barcelona. We used everything from the train, to the bus, and we even grabbed an Uber at one point. You’ve got plenty of options. Depending on how often you plan on taking public transportation versus walking you have a few options.
There’s a few kiosks located at the metro station if you want to by a T-10 pass. It covers one zone in Barcelona and gives you up to so many rides. You’d need to calculate how many you’ll use to make sure you’re covered. It’s important to note that rides to and from the airport are not covered under this pass. Although there is another option that we used that I will mention a couple paragraphs down.
Your other option for Barcelona is to get an “Hola Barcelona Travel Card”. This will give you unlimited public transport for up to 5 days. This is where having a plan and doing your math can save you money. If you really will only use public transportation ten or less times, the T-10 pass if probably your cheapest bet. Otherwise, the Hola Barcelona Travel Card is probably the most worth your money. One of the other nice things about this card is the fact that it IS valid for metro rides to and from the airport.
If you decide on the T-10 pass, your other option is the AeroBus. It’s a little on the pricier side but it does have wifi and is quite comfortable. It’s easier to haul whatever luggage you may have because it is designed specifically for it. At the airport, you simply go to the aerobus terminal down in the parking garage and you buy a ticket before boarding the bus. They leave fairly often. You can also buy a return ticket in order to get back to the airport at the end of your stay. It’s quite convenient!
When it comes to money in Barcelona, we paid with our credit card most of the time. I can only recall a few places that wanted cash. The best way to get cash is through a bank kiosk.
Your biggest concern in Barcelona should be pickpockets. There’s a lot of them. Just make sure to keep money and phones in a place where no one can reach in and grab them, and if you are backpacking, make sure to keep an eye on each others’ packs. Particularly on public transit and busy streets.
The food in Spain is ridiculous. It is definitely different, but oh so good. Being that I am not a huge fan of seafood, we avoided a lot of the traditional dishes like paella, but still had the chance to taste some pretty great things.
Iberian ham is one of the first things I think of when my mind wanders to Spain. They hang huge pig legs on the walls and allow it to dry out. They serve it in salads and even on toast with tomatoes. I think that my expectations of Iberian ham were a little too high unfortunately. It’s dry and kind of reminds me of cat food. But a lot of people love it. It IS a necessity to try though!
We ate our Thanksgiving dinner in a little bar restaurant where they served tapas. Upon first hearing the word tapas, a lot of people think that it is one particular dish that you just walk in and order. Rather, tapas is essentially a bunch of appetizers that you can order and you eat them as one big meal. We got patatas bravas, a Spanish omelette, and croquettes. It was definitely enough to feed both of us and we left very full. I think out of the three, Orion enjoyed the croquettes the most. They were full of ham and cheese. I loved the patatas bravas. They are essentially diced potatoes with a bit of a spicy sauce with a smidge of cream to cool down your palette. Tapas is definitely a great Spanish experience to have.
The other crowning Spanish experience is churros and chocolate. If you go to Spain without eating churros and chocolate, I will be quite disappointed in you. Whoever you are, lol. The chocolate isn’t overly rich and has more of a deep taste. It’s thick, and a fresh churro is its perfect match. I’m literally salivating thinking about it. A variety of shops serve chocolate and churros (particularly on Las Ramblas), so you’re not going to need to make a huge trip out of it.
Places to Go/Things to See
#9: Parc de la Ciutadella and the Arc de Triomf
These two beautiful sites are literally across the street from each other and can be completed in the same go. The Parc de la Ciutadella is luscious with various walking paths. Our favorite thing to stumble upon was this magnificent fountain. You can walk up the stairs to get a closer look at the statue and to look down on the park. Then, walk across the street to the Arc de Triomf and take a few great pics! There are drinking fountains and benches as you walk over there. We took a quick seat to rest from the jetlag that was kicking our butts. It was still so beautiful!
#8: Barceloneta Beach
Barceloneta beach was beautiful, just as a beach should be. It was full of people playing volleyball and building sandcastles (some were even full of fire ?!) Being that we were there in November it was a bit too cold to swim. But we still enjoyed walking through the sand.
#7: Castell de Montjuic
This was where we needed to take an Uber. The Castle of Montjuic is up a few hills and can be a bit far to go on foot. On the way home, we didn’t have Wi-Fi and we thankfully found a bus to get us back to where we were staying on Las Ramblas.
In order to get up to the castle, you get to take a little cable car up. Depending on the time of day and how many people are there, you might have to ride with a few other strangers, but Orion and I got our own car on the way up. (Perfect for snuggles while gandering at the gorgeous views!) There are two stops on the cable cars. The first stop is for people who want to walk back down. We got there at the end of the night and were still a bit tired and jet lagged so we skipped out on that.
The second and final stop drops you off at the castle. You can merely look at the castle outside, or you can grab a ticket and then the fun really starts. (The tickets are quite cheap and after 3pm on Sundays it’s free!) You can explore the gardens, a few other rooms, and even catch a great view of Barcelona!
#6: Flamenco Show
If you want a real taste of the culture in Barcelona, a flamenco show is a great way to do it! There are a variety of places to see shows and depending on the place you can purchase your tickets beforehand. The music is beautiful and the dancers are so much fun. Here is a clip from the show that we had the chance to visit!
#5: Park Guell
Park Guell was designed by Antoni Gaudi, a very famous Spanish architect. You will also be able to see his work at La Sagrada Familia. There are a few different infrastructures that seem quite whimsical in color and design. There isn’t much to do here besides walk around the park and admire the architecture. You are able to enter a couple of the buildings which is nice. It is definitely a hot spot for pictures and can get packed quite fast. We went at the end of the day and it still worked out beautifully!
#4: Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas is a huge street full of restaurants and vendors and almost everything you can think of. We were lucky enough to stay at an Airbnb right on this street! It made for easy access to everything and was such a blessing! It was so fun to find places to eat at night because there were so many on the street! It’s also just fun to walk and take a look at what the vendors are selling. So fun!
#3: Picasso Museum
Since marrying Orion, I’ve become a bit obsessed with museums. I think my humanities class also helped with that. And my MTC companion who had to stop about every 5 minutes to deeply analyze a piece of art. I think all of those things contributed to my museum love.
The Picasso museum is quaint and holds a lot of Picasso’s pieces! It’s beautiful and so pristine inside. It’s a little bit hidden. If you get there before opening you’ll probably be a bit confused as to where you’re are and how there’s a museum inside the large stone wall in front of you, but I assure you it is there and it is worth it!
Montserrat is a monastery set about a 1 hour train ride away from Barcelona. I literally get emotional thinking about it and I essentially want to grab people by their shoulders and shake them until they agree to go. It is breathtaking on so many levels.
We bought the tickets that included a cable car ride up the mountain, the funicular to go on a couple hikes, as well as lunch. If you ask me, it was well worth it because it saved us a lot of time!
The cable car took us straight up the mountains. We went through the clouds and the view was spectacular. I think it’s a smidge more adventurous than the regular funicular people take to get up to the monastery, and I’m glad we did it!
Lunch that was included with our tickets was a pretty huge buffet! We had a lot of choices and barely were able to eat it all. It was a perfect little Thanksgiving meal!
At the Monastery there is a museum, a souvenir shop, and as mentioned previously a few hikes you can go on. One of the funiculars were down, so we only went on one quick hike. We were a smidge worried about time due to trying to cram so many things in in such a short period of time, but we made it work. Otherwise I think we both would have liked to have stayed a bit longer to hike and explore a bit more!
#1: La Sagrada Familia
We were talking to some friends that went to Barcelona recently and didn’t purchase tickets to La Sagrada Familia. When they told us, we tried so hard to keep our cool but inside our hearts were breaking for them. It is a bit steep to be able to go inside, but I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen something as beautiful as this!
The outside is incredibly detailed. Each side of the cathedral tells a story. (It is still in construction, and will be for awhile. I can’t even imagine what they will keep adding!) The inside is full of stained glass covering all the colors of a rainbow. Although there are tourists swarming everywhere inside, it is somehow so peaceful and just straight up beautiful. No matter what you do in Barcelona, please make time for La Sagrada Familia!
I hope that this travel guide has been helpful in some way when it comes to planning your Barcelona trip! I’d love to hear about your experiences in Barcelona and any tips you might add!