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Getting the Scoop on Barcelona Spain

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia Spain, is known as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Its international and cosmopolitan feel has made the city a favourite for travellers from around the world. Art lovers and learners flock to explore the city's amazing art and architecture, which is heavily influenced by the modernist artist, Gaudi. You will also find museums, nature parks, beautiful beaches, and so much more. Here are some ideas to help you plan your visit to Barcelona.

A view of Barcelona from the hills behind the city, with the water in the background. Sagrada Familia is in the middle
A view of Sagrada Familia

It should be noted that although Barcelona is a fabulous city, you will need to use some common sense and street smarts. Snatch & Grab and pickpocket petty crimes are common. Secure your valuables, do not carry your phone in your hand, and blend in as much as possible. Review some of the hints to avoid being a target in my previous post about Generic Bad Guys.

 

 

Communicating

As you travel around Spain, the regional differences can be heard and seen in language as well as in food. Each region has their distinct dialect, although everyone speaks Spanish. Locals are delighted when tourists make an effort to greet them in Catalan. Tourist areas will provide service in English and it is spoken widely amongst the younger population. Unilingual English speakers should not encounter difficulties.

Climate

The Mediterranean climate stays mild throughout the year. Winter temperatures rarely drop below freezing and an average of 30C/86F degrees. After travelling in the south of Spain for several weeks in July, the cooler temperatures of Barcelona were truly welcome.


Getting Around

Metro: Barcelona currently has eight metro lines that can get you pretty much everywhere in the city. If you're travelling on a budget, it's a great option—a single ticket will cost you 2,20€ and a T-10 Card, good for 10 rides, costs 10,20€.

Taxi: Barcelona's licensed taxis are easily identified by their yellow and black exterior. They have to charge you the amount displayed on the meter. Taxis here are said to be the cheapest in Europe so if it's more convenient, I'd recommend a taxi over the metro.

Walking: Barcelona is very walkable. Save your money and get some fresh air!

Things to Do in Barcelona Spain


Plaça de Catalunya

In Barcelona, Plaça de Catalunya is considered the heart of the city and is the happening place. with its large shopping centres and department stores, it is constantly teeming with people. It is Barcelona's most central area and a favourite meeting place for locals and visitors. It also connects the Eixample and the old town.

City park with large round fountain on the left and city buildings with fountains in the background

Las Ramblas

The most famous street in Barcelona is called Las Ramblas, It's a pedestrian-only, tree-shaded boulevard lined with restaurants, bars, market stalls, street vendors, and green areas with seating perfect for people-watching. It's also a prime location for pickpockets and snatch & grab crimes. Keep your valuables guarded.

A city street with people walking or sitting at sidewalk cafes

The popular street market, La Boqueria, is located along Las Ramblas. It has many food stalls with a vast selection of fresh produce, tasty seafood, cheese, cured meats, fresh-baked bread and an endless choice of olive varieties. This is a great stop to pick up everything needed for an authentic Catalan picnic.

looking into a market with food vendors

The Beaches

The Barcelona beaches are very popular and have been voted as the best city beaches in the world. They are incredibly busy and good weather draws significant crowds but for those enjoying that atmosphere, it is a lovely stretch of golden sand facing the warm Mediterranean with easy access through public transportation.

A crowded golden sand beach

Getting to know Gaudi

No one can visit Barcelona and remain unaware of the architecture and influence of Antoni Gaudí. The spectacular Sagrada Familia is his most well-known building but other sites around the city include Casa Batlló, Parc Guell, and Casa Mila. Each is incredibly unique and thoroughly enjoyable.


Casa Battló

Casa Battló, designed by Gaudi, is a remarkable piece of architecture built for the Battlo family. It's a pleasant 10-minute walk from Plaça de Catalunya straight along Passeig de Gràcia. The entry cost is a bit spendy for the budget traveller but we felt it was worth the price. Check out my post dedicated to Casa Battlo here.

Part of the exterior of Casa Battlo, showing the bone-like structure surrounding the windows. The walls are mosaic, resembling scales.

La Sagrada Família

The stunning basilica, La Sagrada Família, began construction over 100 years ago based upon the designs of Antoni Gaudí. It is heavily adorned with symbolism and magnificent details but the light reflected through the stained glass windows is simply breathtaking.

Light streaming through stained glass, showing beams of green and blue light

The steeples and most of the structure are expected to be completed for Gaudí's centennial in 2026. At that point, it will be the world's tallest church. The finishing decorative elements are expected to be completed by 2032. However, the project has been marked with delays throughout its construction so I wouldn't place bets on those dates. Entrance must be pre-booked. Check out my Flashback post about Sagrada Familia here

showing the partially constructed walls with cranes operatiing overhead

Parc Güell

Parc Guell is a bit outside the city centre but is only a 20-minute bus ride from Plaça Catalunya with several bus lines heading to the site. Most of the park is free to enter but payment is needed to enter the monument area where most of the artworks are located. Entry is limited to 400 people per hour, so it would be wise to plan to book ahead, arrive early or be prepared to wait. Check out my post dedicated to the park here

a view of the gatehouses of Parc Guell with the city in the background. Building has large spindle type chimneys on the roof,

Parc Güell wasn’t planned as a public park but instead, Güell's plan was to build a housing estate for the wealthy. This project wasn't successful as only two families (including Gaudï) built in the area. Gaudi lived in the park until he died in 1926, giving him time to design and build one of the most spectacular parks in Europe. That same year the site was officially opened as a public park,

close up of the head of a mosaic gecko

Magic Fountain of Montjuïc

The spectacular Magic Fountain is very popular and is best known for its sound-and-light shows. The fountain was built for the 1929 Barcelona World Fair. The dancing water formations are set to music and light choreography. Around 2,600 litres of water a second flow through the fountain's three concentric pools, driven by a water-recycling system. The show lasts approximately 20 minutes and is free. If you want a broad view of the show, head to the top of the Las Armas shopping center, but we chose to get as close as possible. It was thrilling to see the details and power of the performance. It was also very, very crowded.

A lighted fountain with a  ring of tall fountains surrounded by lower fountains

The Plaza de Toros Monumental de Barcelona

The Plaza de Toros Monumental de Barcelona, usually known as La Monumental, is the last bullfighting ring operating in Catalonia. I will never go and see an actual bullfight but I did want to learn about the traditions, which are very ritualistic and quite fascinating.

Inside of an empty bull ring. The two tiered bench seating surrounds the ring.

The stadium is huge, with three levels of seating. The nose-bleed section could rival any NHL arena.

A taxidermy bull head mounted n the wall -- missing his ears

In the museum, there were many descriptions of brave and valiant Bulls. This fellow is earless because he was so brave(?) both ears and tail were awarded to the matador.


Final Thoughts

Barcelona has something for every traveller whether you only have a few days to squeeze everything in or can extend your visit longer. Take time to enjoy the amazing paella, tapas, Iberian ham and, of course, the sangria. Sit and people-watch. This city moves at a slower pace, so sleep later and enjoy multiple refreshment breaks. Mady and I call this place "The Mediterranean Meander."

Restaurant table showing two pans of paella (one is shellfish, the other is squid ink)

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