The Catalans are fiercely proud of their beautiful city, and rightly so!
A vibrant mix of modern cosmopolitan chaos and dotted with Gaudi’s colourful masterpiece, Barcelona is the heartbeat of the relaxed Mediterranean lifestyle. Bars and cafés spill onto the alleyways and busy pavements and markets spring up most days of the week.
I was fortunate to live in the city for six months and explore it thoroughly. Barcelona should be one of the major stops of a European adventure.
I would suggest staying between three days and a week in Barcelona, though you could easily spend many weeks getting lost in the maze of streets.
If you can only spare the weekend, head out early to make the most of your time.
WHERE TO STAY?
My two favourite areas to book accommodation in Barcelona are the Gothic Quarter (old town) and El Born area.
These two neighbourhoods sit either side of Via Laietana, a major boulevard through the city, and encompass the character of Barcelona and its speckled history.
There are countless cafés and wine bars hidden in the narrow streets of the Jewish quarter and my favourite thing to do in Barcelona is meandering down these ancient streets without agenda.
Running parallel with Via Laietana is the famous boulevard, Las Ramblas, (El Raval area) where there are many hotels, apartments and hostels. It is not my first choice for a base as it is packed with tourists, pickpockets and a lot of nightly street noise.
If you can get a good deal on accommodation in El Raval, you will be in the centre of town and it is also a great place to explore from.
La Barceloneta is nestled between Port Vell and the beach front, it has a local feel. There are not as many hotels or accommodation options in this area as it is more residential, it is a long walk around the port to Via Laietana and Las Ramblas.
North of the Old City near Passeig de Gràcia is the Dreta de L’Eixample neighbourhood. It is a wealthy suburb that was originally built for the upperclass locals who wanted to move out of the decrepit old town.
The hotels in this area are lavish on price and decor with high ceilings and fine architectural detail. You would not be among the old city action but a quick train trip or a 15 minute walk will connect you..
Plaça de Catalunya and the area around the Universitat underground station also have many hotel and B&B options.
MY TOP FIVE SIGHTS IN BARCELONA
The construction of this masterpiece began in 1882 with Antoni Gaudí taking over the project in 1883, after many stops and starts to the Basilica’s progress, the much anticipated completion date is set for 2026.
The Sagrada Família is undoubtedly Gaudí’s most famous works in the city and his “intention was to express Christian belief through the architecture and the beauty of the building and communicate the message of the Evangelists”.
Gaudí’s architectural style is distinguished by his manipulation of light and colour through geometrical forms that are often inspired by nature. Fortunately, the world supports his detailed vision for this basilica and the builders and architects working on the project today are following Gaudí’s original plans which barely survived WWII.
Sadly Gaudí died in 1926 at the age of 73 with less than a quarter of his design completed.
Book online well ahead of your arrival into Barcelona, the interior tours are organised into time slots.
Click here to visit the official website of The Sagrada Família.
Another of Gaudí’s triumphs, Park Guëll is located on Carmel Hill and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Gaudí eventually lived in the park and his small but stylish house is open to visitors.
Like the Sagrada Família, you will need to book in advance to enter the spaces where most of Gaudí designs are featured. If you are unable to get tickets or don’t wish to pay, the park is still worth visiting for the views across Barcelona.
Take the green metro line 3 towards Trinitat Nova and disembark at Lesseps. It is a 15 minute walk up-hill to the park, if you have trouble walking, I would suggest taking a taxi straight to the park as the final hill is quite steep.
This neighbourhood stretches between La Ramblas and Via Laietana and has several popular sites within it. Visit Plaça Reial, Barcelona Cathedral, City Hall, and my favourite street in the city to photograph, Carrer del Bisbe.
This Gothic cathedral is a feast for the eyes built between the 13th and 15th century. The cathedral overlooks Placita de la Seu and Plaça Nova, large public squares that contains one of the few remaining ancient gates to Roman City dating back to the 4th Century AD.
Measuring 83 meters in length and 25 meters high, the cathedral is free to enter in the morning, in the afternoon the entry ticket costs €6 and includes the roof, museum and chorus.
If you don’t have time to wander inside, the facade from the main square is beautiful to gaze upon.
Click here to visit the official website of the Barcelona Cathedral.
Another of Gaudí’s architectural feats, Casa Batlló is on Passeig de Gracia in the very heart of the city. The Batlló family bought the house in 1900 and commissioned Gaudí to redesign the interior and exterior in 1904.
True to Gaudí’s audacious architecture style, Casa Batlló design is colourful and intricate, the walls and balconies are curved and adorned with mosaic. There is a museum inside the building which guides you through the spectacular rooms including the Noble floor which was once the private apartments of the Batlló family. Enjoy the innovative design and genius manipulation of natural light Gaudí is renown for.
MY BEST ADVICE…
Barcelona’s accommodation and top attractions are in high demand during the summer months, especially July and August.
I don’t particularly like organising my days in a city so far in advance but in Barcelona you must pre-book your visit to La Sagrada Família and Park Guëll. Arriving to find you can’t visit either on your trip is heartbreaking!
This beach attracts everyone and there is plenty of people watching to do from your beach towel or a busy restaurant on the esplanade.
Soak up the sun and listen to busker under the Spanish sun. Year-round Barceloneta Beach is a great place to spend your day.
I love the pedestrian street, Avinguada del Portal de L’Àngel, for me it the best clothes shopping street in the city with Plaça de Catalunya (main square with a fountain) on one end and the Barcelona Cathedral and city gate on the other.
I had to eventually ban myself from walking through that part of town so I would not buy more clothes.
If you walk north to Plaça de Catalunya and up Passeig de Gràcia there are more expensive designer shops lining the boulevard. The department store, El Corte Inglés, is on the east side of Plaça de Catalunya.
I have been to Barcelona countless times and lived there for six month and I never had a problem with pickpocketing, but, the statistics show the thieves are having a very profitable time. Avoid being oblivious target with an open backpack, your head in a map leaving no eyes on your belongings.
Be smart and conscientious and you will have no problems. The pickpockets are very smart, often they are dressed as tourists pretending to look at a map and some will ask for directions to distract you.
Today the Monastery is visited by countless tourists who enjoy the mountain air and see the famous black faced Madonna wooden sculpture from Jerusalem in the 12th Century.
Get your weekly dose of travel stories directly into your inbox!
So who am I…? Hi! My name is India.
I am a nomadic Australian who has wandered the world full time exploring over 60 countries and 5/7 continents.
After ten years on the road, I have launched my own website – Travelling Notebook – to share the knowledge I have gained on the road and the images I have collected over the years with fellow adventurers. Keep reading…
I am a freelance travel writer, photography and videographer, based in London. If you need specific travel advice or would like to collaborate please send an email my way!
Always say yes to adventure!
Leave A Comment