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Top Tips for Exploring Barcelona
June 5th, 2020 | By: Matthew Williams
Barcelona is without a doubt the most exciting destination in Catalonia. It is the second-largest city in Spain and the second most visited, so it definitely deserves its own article to tell you what you can do there!
With sightseeing galore, afternoons full of shopping and whole nights of partying, there are plenty of things to do in Barcelona. There is unmissable art, culture, and history and even a long sandy beach… you will not get bored in the capital of Catalonia. The colourful metropolis combines historical beauty with modern elegance. Must-sees are the well-known Park Güell and the Sagrada Familia Basilica. Both, incidentally, are projects of the architect Antoni Gaudí, who has had a significant impact on the city. In addition to architecture, there are also some interesting museums in Barcelona, for example the Museu Picasso. If you are into your football don’t miss Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona.
Our top tips for visiting Barcelona include the best places to visit, learn Spanish, and finding the right tour. Keep reading to plan a great trip to this wonderful city!
Top Places to Visit:
1. Sagrada Familia
Without a doubt the most famous sight in the city. Construction began in 1882 and is still ongoing. Completion is not expected until 2026! The Sagrada Familia will consist of 18 towers and 3 different facades, which represent the birth, passion and glory of Jesus. The imposing exterior, is nothing compared with its colourful interior. Inside you can see its vibrant colours and the inspiration Gaudi took from nature to build a forest in stone. If you want to go inside, make sure to book your ticket well in advance and it is also worth taking an audio guide.
2. Las Ramblas
The 1.5 km of Las Ramblas is the most popular and important street in the city. Stretching from Plaça de Catalunya to the waterfront, the street is full of kiosks, terraces, street artists and many, many people. Lively around the clock, there are plenty of shops, cafes, bars, and entertainment all day long. Here you will find plenty of artisans that sell homemade goods and even sweets. If you visit Spain, a must-try is Xixona nougat, a sugary delicacy made almost entirely with sweet almond dough. Do not forget about churros con chocolate either! The most outstanding places are the Boquería market (make sure to grab a bite to eat here!), the Liceo, Palau Güell, the Café de la Opera, the Plaza Real and the statue of Columbus at the end of your tour, looking out to the sea. Important for tourists, but also for football fans, as Barcelona celebrates its titles there.
3. Paseo de Gracia
From one street to another, Paseo de Gracia is another one that you should not miss. It is lined with many architecturally important buildings, such as the Amatller House and Batlló, both designed by Gaudí and declared a UNESCO heritage site, or the famous Pedrera, another Gaudí building that receives more than a million visits a year. Pedrera is the eighth most visited site in Spain! If you want to visit it, we recommend that you buy the ticket in advance to avoid disappointment.
4. Born District
Just 10 minutes from the beach, this neighbourhood is the ideal place to relax, as you get lost in the magic of its narrow streets. Enjoy a delicious afternoon of tapas or visit the famous Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, known for the work "La Catedral del Mar", the Pablo Picasso Museum and the old Born market, the first market in the city.
5. Gothic Quarter
Close to Las Ramblas is the Gothic quarter. It is one of the oldest parts of the city and a wonderful place to explore. Lose yourself wandering through its narrow streets, where you will find the Cathedral of Saint Jaume and the beautiful Plaza Real. Make sure not to miss the history museum where you can walk under the cathedral and discover the Roman and medieval past of the ancient city!
6. Parc Güell
Can you guess who built this park? If you answered Gaudí, your answer is correct! This magical park was not created as a city park at all, but as a private garden city for Gaudi's friend Eusebio Guella. The focal point of the royal Gothic Quarter is the square and cathedral of St. Eulalia. There used to be kings in Barri Gotic, today the Government of Catalonia has its seat in the Government Palace. From here you will have views of the city and even the sea. The park is full of sculptures such as the dragon sculpture, fountains and buildings, such as the Holy Family which are inspired by nature. There is a free section of the park and a ticketed section. In order to see the dragon statue and the steps you need to buy your ticket, but you can still catch a glimpse of them from the free area and still enjoy the views of the city.
At more than 170 meters high, Montjuic is the best viewpoint from which to observe Barcelona. You are probably wondering; do I have to climb that high? Not to worry, there is a funicular and even escalators to reach the top. At the base, you can enjoy the light and water show at the Magic Fountain and further up the mountain you will find the National Art Museum of Catalonia, the Olympic Ring, the Palau Sant Jordi and the Montjuic castle, among others. Montjuic Castle was a military defensive fortress built around the year 1640.
8. Keep learning about Gaudi in Casa Batlló and Casa Milá
The whole chessboard of even, perpendicular streets of the Eixample district are full of modernist tenement houses. Among them, there are queens such as La Casa Elizalde with a thriving Culture Center. Almost everyone visiting Barcelona among the Eixample tenement houses is looking for those created by Gaudi. The task is not difficult at all, Casa Batllo has fish scales or stone Casa Mila is difficult to confuse with any other buildings. Gaudi's works are without doubt one of the biggest attractions of Barcelona.
9. Picasso Museum
Open since 1963 on the initiative of Pablo Picasso himself, the museum houses more than 4,200 permanent works. There is a room dedicated to his self-portraits and another to canvases based on the Meninas de Velázquez, among others. The museum is located in 5 large Gothic-style SXIII-XIV mansions.
10. Tour the Barri Gòtic
The oldest part of Barcelona is not a uniform grid of streets, instead it is a jumble of medieval streets and squares with a surprise around every corner! The Old Town consists of many different districts, from Barri Gòtic to El Raval and is a great place to wander, have drink and explore the quaint shops and ancient churches.
11. Relax in Parc de la Ciutadella
Barcelona's most beloved park is the Parc de la Ciutadella. It is a great oasis of peace, where it's easy to forget you're in the city while lounging under a palm tree or paddling on a small lake. At the top of a wide avenue of palms you will see the Arc de Triomphe, which was once the entrance to the Barcelona Universal Exposition in 1888.
Where to stay?
Barcelona is a big and expensive city and finding accommodation that fits your needs is not easy. We recommend that you rent an apartment with Barcelona-Home. Barcelona-Home has more than 20 years of experience in offering accommodation in Barcelona. They have a wide offer of apartments with competitive prices and are perfect, especially for families. In addition, with Barcelona-Home you can find good options to stay in the best areas of Barcelona such as Eixample, Barri Gòtic and El Born or areas that are not very central like Poble Sec, Sant Antoni or El Raval. A big advantage is that Barcelona-Home offer both, daily rental or long-term rental that can be monthly or yearly. They will make sure you have the best stay in Barcelona!
Barcelona is the best spot for a linguistic immersion. Learning Spanish, meeting new people while discovering a new culture? Yes, totally! Those who wish to learn Spanish Barcelona will find the perfect city for combining learning and amusement. There are plenty of Spanish schools in Spain, but check Expanish if you are looking for the favorite. Flexible courses that allow you to do activities other than just studying is the main strength when traveling. This school has been over 12 years on the market and they certainly get what students expect: official accreditation, online and face to face courses, experts as teachers, and lots of fun!
Find the Right Tour
In Barcelona one of the best ways to get to know the city is to take a tour with a local guide. You have many different options to choose from and all offer different insights on this lively city. You can opt for a walking tour of different parts of the city or just focus on the historic centre, take a bike tour to see a wider area or go for one of the more specialised experiences, such as a food and wine tour of the gastronomic heights of the city.
We recommend you check out
- ForeverBarcelona Private Tours is a great choice if you are looking for a more premium experience. Forget about being part of the flock and enjoy having your own private tour guide showing you around, stopping where you want to stop, answering all your questions and giving you personal recommendations for the rest of your stay. You even get to skip the lines like a VIP where others stand for hours! They also do private food tours and can take you on tours exploring sites out of town for a day.
- Barcelona Vibes, a multi-lingual team of guides who know all there is to know about Barcelona and can create tailor-made experiences for your trip. With them you will find the best activities in the city to really get to know its history and culture!
- Free Walking Tours Barcelona, arguably the city's best free tour with passionate guides who will show you the wonderful architecture of the city, explore its history and share the lively Catalonian culture with you while making sure you are kept entertained. Tours take around 2 and half hours starting at 11 am at the Plaça Catalunya (look for the purple umbrella) and ending near the cathedral. Make sure to reserve your spot on this popular tour online!
So there you have it, our guide to the beautiful and chaotic city of Barcelona where you can find some of the most exciting food and interesting architecture anywhere in Spain!
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