Barcelona: one of the most popular destinations in Europe. And with good reason, because this seaside city in the north of Spain is fun, vibrant and beautiful. And there is so much to do!
Barcelona in summer is hot and crowded with tourists, so consider planning your trip in the shoulder season or even winter. I took a quick trip to visit a friend in Barcelona in December and, although it wasn’t sunny, it was still really lovely. Barcelona has a bit of a reputation, especially with petty crime, so be careful. This is not a city where you should be wandering around alone at night, flashing your valuables or be careless with your belongings. Especially around the Ramblas and big tourist destinations, such as the Sagrada Familia. But as long as you’re smart about, you should be fine. So go to Barcelona and discover this amazing city for yourself, and make sure to do at least these five things:
1. Walk around the Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is the old city centre of Barcelona.
Unlike many other European cities, Barcelona never suffered areal bombings, leaving most of the historic city centre intact. However, despite the name, not all of the facades and landmarks date back to the Middle ages, but are the result of renovations in the 19th and 20th century. It was decided that the city needed a ‘facelift’ for the 1929 World Expo and the dark and run down Gothic Quarter was revamped into the beautiful neighborhood that it is today.
The Gothic Quarter lends itself perfectly to wandering around and letting yourself get lost. But if you do want a more structured exploration, there are several free walking tours that will take you past all the highlights and provide you with some historical context.
2. See all of Gaudi’s masterpieces
If there is one man who left his mark on Barcelona, it has to be Antoni Gaudi. The modernist artist and architect created some of the most beautiful and spectacular sights in Barcelona. Beauty is a matter of taste, but there is no denying the artistry and originality of Gaudi’s work. As an Art Noveau fan, I love the distinct and innovative style that Gaudi created. His work is colourful and intricate, with organic shapes and influences from nature. His masterpieces are spread out throughout the city and you can visit them yourself or join one of the tours, especially if you want to know about the life and art of Gaudi.
Here are a few buildings you’ve got to see:
- Sagrada Familia: Gaudi’s crowning glory. This magnificent Basilica is still under construction, but already stunning. You will have to prebook tickets to get in, but it is also worth seeing the outside of this unique church.
- Park Güell: a unique city park with incredible architectural features and a beautiful fountain. The park is currently being renovated but scheduled to reopen at the start of 2019.
- Casa Batlló: colourful and absolutely stunning
- Casa Milà: also known as La Pedrera, be sure to check out the roof.
3. Enjoy the view from Montjuïc
You can get a decent view of Barcelona from Park Güell, but the best viewpoint is atop Montjuïc. The hill was adorned with palaces, botanical gardens and exhibitions spaces for the World Expo of 1929 and sport arena’s for the 1992 Olympic Games. You can hike up the mountain from Plaça d’Espanya and then take a funicular to the castle on the top for a truly spectacular view.
4. Go to the beach
Barcelona is a seaside town with several beaches where people go to escape the city heat in summer. It’s a long walk from the city centre to Barcelonetta, but luckily there are also local bus services. The further east you go, the more relaxed and local the beaches become.
5. Eat and drink as much as you can
A lot of famous Spanish delicacies come from the Catalan region of which Barcelona is the capital. There is only one rule for eating good food in Barcelona and that is to never, ever, eat at the Ramblas. The restaurants there are all tourist traps.
For a delicious affordable and truly Barcelona experience, head to Carrer de Blai at night. The bars that line the street all over a big array of Basque style tapas, called pintxos for 1 to 1,5 euro a piece. Order a drink and indulge as you hop from bar to bar.
Are you planning to visit Barcelona? I hope these helped you along the way, let me know in the comments if they did!
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