Barcelona Travel Guide

SummaryBarcelona | from Spanish Tourism Office

Fiercely proud of its Catalan heritage, yet still exuding a free-spirited exuberance thanks to its quirky architecture and vibrant nightlife, it’s easy to see why Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular city-breaks.

With an abundance of bustling markets, shops, eateries and bars, a myriad of museums, and the eccentric constructs of world-famous Modernist Antoni Gaudi dominating the skyline, there are no shortage of quality sights. And even if you do tire of the city, you can easily decamp to the nearby coast or mountains.

Getting there/getting around Barcelona

There are numerous flights into Barcelona International Airport while the low-cost carriers fly into Reus – a 90-minute bus journey from the Catalan capital’s centre.

To take in all its delights, it’s preferable to explore the city on foot or by bus. For longer excursions, though, the city’s comprehensive metro and train services are often under-used by tourists, and offer a cheaper alternative to taxis.

Beaches in Barcelona

Barcelona has several beaches and while they may not be the best in the Mediterranean, they’re decent enough. Nova Icaria is the closest to the Olympic marina, so it’s also the busiest.

Barceloneta is wide and long with a stretch of wooden decking dotted with pizzerias and bars. Mar Bella is great for watersports and you can hire sail boards, hobie cats and kayaks. Bogatell is very long and backed with a long concrete walkway for joggers, rollerbladers and cyclists.

Sightseeing in Barcelona

Get your bearings on the city’s most famous parade, La Rambla. Take in the market stalls, street artists and tapas bars there before making your way to the scenic Barri Gotic, home to the city’s main cathedral as well as many other beautiful churches.

Gaudi’s most famous work, and a must-see in Barcelona, is the Sagrada Familia Catholic basilica – still under construction. There are several other examples of his artistry on display as you stroll around – his lavish garden complex, Park Guell, in the suburbs, is particularly worth a visit. There’s plenty for art lovers, too, with museums dedicated to the works of Picasso and Miro.

Shopping in Barcelona

For pure indulgence, head to one of the city’s many chocolaterias for a huge cup of hot chocolate and a chocolate-filled pastry. The best shopping is in the designer boutiques of Eixample and Passeig de Gracia.

El Corte Ingles is a mammoth department store in the Plaza Catalunya with a wide selection of goods and there are also some great markets – foodies shouldn’t miss the wonderful La Boqueria.

Eating out in Barcelona

The best way to sample a wide variety of the local cuisine is to experiment with some tapas – small portions of usually savoury local nibbles that can vary from simple delights like meat balls to more adventurous concoctions such as baked onion stuffed with goat’s cheese and ham.

If you’re snacking during a busy day of sightseeing, try fast-food Barcelona-style and buy a spicy sausage or Spanish omelette from one of the many hole-in-the-wall eateries. Barcelona is close to the sea and the seafood is also excellent. Remember, though, that the locals rarely eat before 9pm.

Nightlife in Barcelona

First, get a copy of Barcelona’s entertainment guide Guia del Ocio, which comes out every Thursday. Second, bear in mind that bars only begin to fill up after 11pm, while the clubs usually don’t start hopping until 2am.

For continental-style outdoor lounging, you’ll be spoilt for choice in the quaint Plaza del Sol in Gracia area. When you’re ready for a bop, City Hall nightclub off Placa Catalunya is huge, with two music areas and a large outside chill-out area. If you fancy trying some salsa (the dance, not the dip) try Agua de Luna or Buenavista.

Family attractions in Barcelona

The Barcelona Aquarium, on Moll d’Espanya del Port Vell, is worth a visit, especially for the huge shark tank, and Barcelona Zoo has a fantastic dolphinarium and a penguin enclosure.

The Mirador Torre de Collserola telecommunications tower at Tibidabo has amazing views from its viewing gallery 288 metres up, reached by an external glass lift. All the family will love the bustling Rambla, but keep a close eye on your little ones, as it gets awfully crowded.

Day trips in Barcelona

The lively but pretty coastal town of Sitges on the Costa Daurada, south of Barcelona, is a hugely popular haven from the city. Surrounded by Barcelona’s green belt, the Parc del Garraf, and boasting 17 sandy beaches, it’s sometimes referred to as the St Tropez of Paris, France

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