Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia is well known as being one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of Europe. It's got the laid back cosmopolitan vibes and is famous for it's architecture and art. Travellers come from all corners of the globe to visit the stunning Sagrada Familia and other buildings designed by Gaudi. This guide will include everything that you need to know about this fabulous place and I'll be throwing in some hints and tips on where to go and what to see.
What should you expect?
With Barcelona being a big city you need to be street savvy and follow some basic rules. Even though I've been countless times and never experienced it, pickpocketing and bag snatching is a big problem so do your best to guard your valuables. Ladies, I recommend a satchel type bag, put it over your shoulders and under the opposite arm (like my photo). Don't keep your phone in your hand all of the time (I know it's hard to do this when you want to take photos), try to blend in and don't look like a tourist - pretty hard when you're British, you can spot them a mile off and I can say this, I am one.
What we all really care about....the weather!
I've been at different times of the year and I can guarantee that it's always been fairly mild. The winter months are from December to February where the temperatures are around 15 degrees but it gets very cold at night with a chilly 5-9 degrees, so please don't forget your jumper! I have managed to sit outside for dinner in January without a heater or a cardigan during the day though. The hottest months are May to October when the temperatures are well into their 20s - perfect temperature for the beach! (Yes, it's got one, we'll get to that shortly) The best time to go to Barcelona though to miss the humidity would be early Spring or early Autumn. If you go at these times it means you won't be walking around feeling like you're in the Sahara. Also to add, August is when the Catalans tend to leave Barcelona because of the heat and restaurants, bars and shops tend to close, so if you want to go around this time - you may need to take this into consideration.
Where to go! (My favourite bit)
Barcelona is one of the largest cities on the Mediterranean (it has a population of nearly £6m people) but it's so easy to find your way around. This by the way is coming from someone who gets lost quite often in St Pancras station....with Google maps. It's got a few self contained quarters (neighbourhoods) and it stretches from the harbour all the way up to greenery and woodland.
The most popular ones are:
L'Eixample: This place is jam packed full of bars, restaurants and stylish shops around the Placa De Catalunya square. I went to the Sky bar Terrace (pictured) overlooking the square and I can't recommend it enough. Nice atmosphere and beautiful views with a cocktail in your hand, what's there not to like? There's always a restaurant, supermarket or bar in walking distance and also a subway if you want to use that instead of walking everywhere. It’s also only just a short walk to the Ramblas so this area is definitely very handy for your city break! Also home to The Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila-La Pedrera, Casa Batllo and Case de les Punxes.
Gothic Quarter: This is one of my favourite areas! It's one of the oldest in Barcelona and is part of the Cituat Vella which means 'the old city' in Catalan. It's also home to the famous Las Ramblas which is the most central shopping boulevard and cuts right through the city. Walk through this area and have a look at the Cathedral, the palaces and the museums around Placa del Rai. At the bottom of the Ramblas is the waterfront that's been spruced up and there’s the beach, an aquarium and the marina. It also has a huge shopping centre with restaurants and if you walk East past the Parc de la Ciutadella and go down the promenade, you'll reach Port Olimpic which hosts cafes and restaurants. It's basically like a resort which has a beach that stretches as far as Parc del Forum. A beautiful city AND a beach? Wonderful!
Sants Montjuic: This area has several parks and offers amazing views of the city when you get to the top of the moutain. It's full of attractions which include the National Art Museum, CaixaForum and the Joan Miro Foundation. There are also amazing gardens to discover with a castle at the top which overlooks the city.
In the Placa d'Espanya area, you will also find the Magic Fountain of Montjuic which has shows every night (see video - apologies for the guy trying to sell me a glow stick). It’s got the Las Arenas shopping centre which was once a bullfighting ring and offers 360 degree views of the city from the roof. There's also a wide variety of restaurants at the top so you can enjoy the view whilst you eat! I must say, it's lovely at night!
*Tip Time* Just a couple of tips from moi, I recommend getting onto Air BnB to rent an apartment as it's a great way to explore the city and sometimes it's cheaper than renting hotels. Also if you're on a budget and don’t want an apartment, the cheaper hotels are further out of the city like Sants Montjuic so I would definitely get onto a hotel booking website and have a browse. Just don't do what I did and accidentally book yourself into an "adult hotel" because you thought you found yourself a right bargain. (A story for a different time) If it's too good to be true, in my experience it usually is! So just make sure you read reviews and do a bit of research before you check in. Or if you like, you could contact me at Jet Set You and I’m happy to help you find a suitable hotel, I’m quite good at finding deals you know!
This leads me onto my next section.......
Where to stay?
This is always the biggest issue for me. See, I’ve got this problem and this problem is that I tend to browse for hours on hotel websites and contacting hotels directly. I find the perfect one, book it...but then carry on browsing just in case I’ve missed something even better. Then I end up cancelling the original one and the circle continues all the way to the day before I travel.
Here though, is a couple of hotels that I would recommend..
Hotel Rec Barcelona;
This hotel is just down the road from the Arc de Triomf and is situated in La Ribera. It's number 4 on trip advisor and you can stay here for £87 per night. This is perfect if you're wanting to blend in with the Catalans and explore the parts that aren't very well known to tourists.
It has a beautiful rooftop terrace which offers views of the city, wifi and a bar and lounge. It's also only 8 miles from the airport so you can either hop in a taxi, take the airport shuttle or the Metro. View it on Trip Advisor here.
Hotel Praktik Essens:
This is one of my favourites! Perfect for that romantic trip away or even a girls' weekend. This boutique hotel is in L'Eixample on the Passeig de Gracia. This avenue has the best restaurants and some of the best modernists buildings are located here like the Casa Batllo. The rooms have rain showers, in house fragrances, air conditioning and if you want to splash out on a suite, they have plunge pools. There's also a bar and a terrace lounge. At the time of searching, rooms are starting at £106 and it's number 21 on trip advisor! (Should be higher if you ask me!) Details are here.
The last one I have is the extravagant one!
This one is a beaut and it should be with prices starting at around £286 per night. The hotel was designed by Ricardo Bofill and is located on the beachfront on the Barceloneta boardwalk.
It has stunning panoramic views of the city and a roof top bar that you really need to go to. If you're keen on insta, this is definitely one of the places that you need to be to get that perfect shot. There are ocean view rooms available, suites, an airport shuttle and VIP room services available too! You can find this hotel and the reviews here.
Gettin' around the town! (City in this case)
Metro: Barcelona has 8 metro lines and these will take you anywhere that you need to go. A single ticket will cost you around 2 euros but you can get a T Card which lets you travel for 10 rides and that's going to cost you about 10 euros.
Taxi: Taxis are easily identified because they're yellow and black. They have to charge you what the meter says so don't let them try and charge you more. It is very cheap to be honest and I tend to use this option when I'm there and rather take a taxi than use a metro.
Airport buses do run outside the airport if you don't have anything booked. You can find more info on the Aerobus timetable here
That's all I have for now on Barcelona but if you have any questions, just use the contact form and I'll be happy to help.