A local's guide on how to enjoy your stay in Barcelona
January 1, 1970
by Laura Naïma Kabelka
Whether it be for a weekend trip or a longer adventure, Barcelona is the perfect location for travelers who want to get to know a fresh and colourful city that is full of energetic people who spend most of their time outside. Barcelona is such a popular destination for adventurers from all over the world because it is full of life, history and culture!
Preparing your trip to Barcelona
Spain’s second biggest city is well-known for being the Mediterranean spot to be right now, especially when the temperatures are higher. The Catalan capital offers an incredible range of things to do, places to see and dishes to devour, but before you come for a visit, you should prepare a number of things. Since rent prices have increased ridiculously over the past few years, accommodation has been impacted, too. Whether you are thinking about staying at an AirBnB or a hotel, make sure you book in advance, as this will safe you a lot of money. Same can be said for the flights to Barcelona, which are especially pricey over the weekend or during festivals like the Primavera Sound or Sonar. Also, if you are keen on visiting some of the various sight-seeing attractions in Barcelona, you should buy the tickets for Sagrada Familia, Parc Güell or Casa Batlló before your arrival, because chances are high that you won’t be able to take hold of tickets last minute. You can easily do so over online websites and, if you are staying at a hotel, you might get a discount. Speaking from my experience, you should really take care of your belongings when strolling through the streets of Barcelona, which is why I strongly recommend bringing a small fanny pack for your most important things like your phone, credit card and keys. Lastly, don’t forget to bring your trainers, as you will be walking long distances in order to get to know the versatile city and its beautiful districts.
Areas to stay in Barcelona
If you have never been to Barcelona before, finding the perfect area that meets your taste might be a little difficult. Generally, most tourists choose their accommodation in the Old Town, which includes The Born, Gothic Quarter, Raval and Barceloneta. This area is vibrant with its hustle and bustle, and it definitely has its charm due to its narrow streets, antique buildings and cute little pop-up shops. Also, the Old Town is close to Barcelona’s beach, which is probably its biggest advantage in comparison to other big European cities as it offers a combination of a relaxed beach holiday with a city trip. But the closest beach, Playa de San Sebastian, is not exactly idyllic or paradisiac. It is very crowded all around the year and it is hard to relax when you get spoken to by vendors all the time. But it is not the only beach close to the centre, so you can easily get to nice and calm alternatives, such as Bogatell or Mar Bella. If you want to stay in the centre but prefer wider streets, bigger houses and business vibes, then you should go for the areas Gracia or Eixample, which are in the north from Plaza Catalunya. There you will find a plethora of modern bars, restaurants offering Spanish food and the biggest shopping streets in Barcelona.
Activities for your Barcelona experience
Yes, Barcelona is full of sights that you must not miss, but you could also try to gain some authentic insights. Barcelona has so much more to offer than Paella, Sangria or a visit to the Miró Museum! First of all, it is highly recommendable to rent a bike and discover the city in your individual pace and order. Moving by bike is much more fun than sitting on a bus or metro, where you easily miss the beautiful details and can’t just spontaneusly stroll through the small streets. Moreover, to see the city from the bird’s perspective, you can access different rooftop bars, for example the one from the Barceló Hotel in Raval, which offers a 360 degree view over the city and you can go up for free! If that sounds appealing, than you would also enjoy watching the sunset from the rooftop bar that is over the History Museum of Catalonia, right next to the port. Another activity you should not miss is taking the short hike up to Bunkers del Carmel, which is a platform in the north of the city, from where you can enjoy the view over all Barcelona. Just take the metro line 4 to the stop Alfonso X and walk for about 30 minutes to arrive at the destination. You really don’t get enough from amazing viewpoints? Then enjoy a romantic evening on Montjuic, where you can look over Plaza Espanya and enjoy a magical fountain show!
Other activities that will make you fall in love with Barcelona:
- afternoon at Tibidabo amusement park
- excursion to Montserrat
- concert at Palau de la Musica
- walking tour through Raval
- visit to the recently restored Sant Antoni Market
Barcelona is not only scoring high when it comes to culture, but also to cuisine. During your stay you should make use of its many options and places! Although Catalans would not really introduce themselves as Spanish, they do have uncountable tapas and pinchos places, which is a very Spanish way of eating. Tapas can be anything from Patatas Bravas to Pulpo a la Gallega and are served in small portions that are usually shared in groups. Pinchos can be literally anything on a stick, which can be Croquetas or a slice of bread with toppings. At Carrer Blai you will find one restaurant after the other so you can go on a Tapas Crawl and taste many different kinds. The one dish that is typical for the region of Catalonia is called Calcot with romesco sauce, which is some type of sweet onion that is grilled and eaten with romesco sauce. The Calcot is particularly celebrated at the end of winter and can be enjoyed at street events throughout Barcelona.
You are looking for a top place for dinner?
- Bosque de Palermo, Eixample
- O’ Toxo Tres Hermanos, Raval
- La Bodegueta, Eixample
- El Caracol, Gothic Quarter
- La Paradeta, Born
What and where to drink
Although most people are tempted to order Sangria when in Barcelona, Vermut is the alcoholic beverage that is actually popular amongst the locals. Once you are aware of this, you will realise how many Vermut Bars and Festivals there are in Barcelona! If you can imagine drinking strong and herbal wine served with an olive, you should give it a try. If you are more into Cocktails or Longdrinks, the Gothic Quarter and The Born are home to fancy bars, such as El Porteno or Guzzo, where you can get fresh Mojitos, Frozen Daiquiris or an Espresso Martini for fair prices. Keep up to date with events and live music, as the smallest bars are often hosting great musicians!
And a last piece of advice: You should not bother going to a restaurant at 6 PM, which might be considered normal in your home country. Many restaurants in Spain don’t open before 8 or even 9 PM, because this is the time Spanish people gather together for dinner. So you can imagine that going out in Barcelona will also take much longer! Dinner at 9 or 10 PM, drinks until 1 AM and if you feel very energetic you can even go to a club after! Most clubs are opened until 6 AM, which is why you will be all by yourself if you enter before 1! So be ready to change your eating and sleeping routine, if you want to experience Barcelona like a local!