Considering how much I love Barcelona, I’ve never actually made a city guide for the wonderful place. Back in 2014 I spent a few weeks there on a work placement and during that time I really got to grips with the city. There’s so much to fill your time with and coupled with an amazing laid back atmosphere it really is the perfect city break destination.
And I do 100% see Barcelona as a city destination rather than a beach destination. Yes, it’s right on the beach and that only adds more value to the place, but it’s definitely not somewhere I would go for a beach holiday.
Where to stay:
I’ve stayed in a few places in Barcelona, first the H10 hotel just off Plaça Catalunya, which is a very nice hotel, but worth noting that while it has a very lovely roof terrace it doesn’t have a swimming pool.
On this most recent trip we stayed in the Sunotel in L’Eixample which was also a very good option. It has a nice little pool on the roof and is perfectly positioned for exploring the city.
I have also stayed in an apartment in the Gracia neighbourhood, which is well known for being one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Barcelona. Have a look on Airbnb and I’m sure you’ll find a gem. Maybe even try and time it with the Festa de Gracia in August and it’ll really add to your Catalonian experience.
What to do:
There’s so much to do in Barcelona! We were only there for two days, so minus time for sleeping it was about 24 hours of exploring the city. I would recommend wandering around the Gothic Quarter and El Born areas. These are essentially the old town and are full of winding narrow streets with cobble stones and beautiful buildings to admire. You’ll also find the cathedral here and the Picasso museum which is a really great little museum and a haven from the heat. From here you could head over the La Boqueria, the infamous market on Las Ramblas. Yes it’s very touristy, but it’s also still frequented by locals and well worth a quick visit.
Barcelona is famous for it’s Guadi architecture and by all means visit one of the Guadi houses, they’re very interesting but my favourite bit of Guadi’s handiwork is Park Guell. In the north of the city looking out over the rooftops you’ll find the park of all parks. The curving tiled seat, the pillars and domed roof, the mosaic lizard are all features as well as the amazing view all the way down to the sea. It does cost to get in now, but I think it’s only about 6 euros, or you can go early in the morning (before 8am) for free and you also won’t have to battle all the other tourists.
The olympic swimming pool on Montjuic is my favourite pool ever. It’s about 6 euros to get in but that ticket will last you all day if you fancy it. It’s not chlorinated water and it’s frequented mainly by locals so not completely packed out, even on a Saturday afternoon. It looks a little run down, but don’t let that put you off. The water is clean and fresh, plus you get one of the best views across the city from there.
Where to eat and shop:
In Barcelona I find it quite hard to find anything other than tapas on the menu. The advice I will give you is to head out of the city center, and definitely away from Las Ramblas, to find a smaller family run restaurant where you’re guaranteed to find a more authentic meal. A lovely place to visit is El Nacional, which is quite central and it’s description of a ‘food court’ doesn’t do it any favours, but trust me it’s well worth a visit. Previously it was a car park, but it’s been transformed into the most amazing building. You will have to queue but you can get a drink from the bar while you do so. For something a little different I have heard that Mosquito is good for Asian inspired tapas.
For brunch and lunch there are a few good recommendations in Brunch and Cake and Flax & Kale. For great coffee head to Satan’s Coffee Corner and Nomad Coffee Lab. And basically anywhere in El Ravel, which is the student area and basically over run with hipsters now.
I have heard really great things about the El Poble-Sec and Sant Antoni neighbourhoods. They are emerging as more affordable places for professionals, so currently they are a great mix of coffee shops, boutiques as well as family run places and old Barcelonians.