Barcelona is a city cherished by many. Some go for the people, others for the weather which is pretty good year-round, however, in my opinion, the main reason to go, is the food (as mentioned in the Madrid City Guide). The city is simply perfect for any food lover – from restaurant critics right through to armchair gastronomists. Prepare to spend your days discovering new gems to eat and be continually surprised by just how adventurous the Catalan cuisine can be.
When you’re not eating, however, there’s plenty of great sights to see. Architecturally the city is amazing. It’s all about contradictions from the grid-block connecting the warrens of an old city with those in La Graçia, right through to the Moorish influences in many of the official buildings right through to the awe-inspiring work of people like Gaudi. La Sagrada Familia is a must-do, It encapsulates so many elements of what makes up Spain – warmth, grandeur, piousness.
Barcelona has a fascinating history, basically losing its dictator in 1975 and then becoming a tourism mecca with the 92 Olympic games. Most of the Catalan locals still don’t know what hit them.
Barcelona Airport is a large and well-connected hub. Clearing it is normally fairly swift, and there’s some selected shopping. Be careful though, there’s no Star Alliance lounge – so check in advance if your departing airline is contracted to the Pau lounge (SAS isn’t). The easiest way to get into the city is a 20 min cab ride at roughly 30Eur. Get in line outside the arrivals terminal – there’s only one cab option in BCN.
BCN is big, however, there are plenty of options to get you from A to B. Walking is always good, but you can easily rack up 15 – 20 kms if you have a full day of jumping from one end to the next. Bikes are a great option to easily get a good idea of the city. City bikes require registration, however, there are plenty of bike rental places. The metro is very well connected for reaching places a little further away from where you may find yourself. Cabs are great, generally clean and friendly drivers who excellent knowledge of streets. The pricing is also regulated and pretty low so no need to fear getting scammed. This also means that there’s no Uber / Lyft here, but that’s OK considering there’s no real need.
Like most Spanish cities and southern European destinations, prepare to have lunch early (12 – 14), as restaurants close early afternoon. Dinner is also normally had late – 9 is a good time if you can’t wait for later, but 10 can be nice if you’re planning a night out in town.
- Betlem – Go here for their great selection of wines & dishes to share. Try the squid an whatever else is on the menu.
- Bar Bodega Quimet – Expect a small room, plastic tables outside, and the best, grilled octopus on mashed potatoes.
- Elsa y Fred – Great vibes in El Born for a casual dinner.
- El Pachuco – The food at this Mexican place with space for about 20 people will change your life.
- La Pubilla – A great Catalan menu in a low-key setting with a passionate team of people. Go for lunch and the Menú del día.
- Bar Brutal / Can Cisa – If natural wine is your thing, this place has a great selection that doesn’t all taste of sewers – and excellent food to go with it.
Drink & Coffee
Catalans & Spanish love to eat while they drink. Always something small – stuffed olives, chorizo, hams, cheeses – take your pick.
- La Vinya del Senyor – A classic wine bar next to St Mary’s Basilica with an excellent selection of wine.
- Satans Coffee – After your morning cup here, you can safely say “Not today Satan.” 🙂
- Nømad – Tucked away in the charming, tiny Passatge Sert, swing by here for some refreshments while exploring the alleys of El Born.
Barcelona is mainly a bar/pub culture, however, there are also plenty of large festivals happening throughout the year. For more around events look at the TimeOut event guide.
- Inventory – Perfect for some small decor items and gifts
- Mercat dels encants – An antique and flea market next to Torre Agbar – you can find anything here.
- Antic Beauty – Find some great vintage lamps and light fittings from the lovely Cyril.
- Pinar Miró – The Spanish have some amazing “hydraulic tiles” for your next renovation project.
- Wer Haus – A well-curated selection of artworks in this gallery-cafe.