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.
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.
As you travel around Spain, the regional differences can be heard and seen in language as well as in food. Each region has their own 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.
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.
Metro: Barcelona currently has eight metro lines that can get you pretty much everywhere in the city. If you're traveling 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!
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.
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.
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.
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 onto the warm Mediterranean with easy access through public transportation.
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, 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.
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.
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
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 ahead to book ahead, arrive early or be prepared to wait. Check out my post dedicated to the park here
Parc Güell wasn’t planned as a public park but instead Güell's plan was to build an 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,
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