Barcelona

A city that has it all: Amazing things to see, an interesting history, shopping, great food, excellent public transport, and, incredibly, a decent beach.

What to See

There are quite a number of things to see and do in Barcelona. For first time visitors a good idea is to probably take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city (two operate here, Barcelona Bus Turistic and City Tour Barcelona, both of which seem to think they are “official” tours) which pass most of the main tourist sites and hotels of the city. Note that these bus tours also include discounts to most attractions which may come in handy (10% off is better than nothing).

Gaudi has had a significant impact on the city with many of the interesting places to be seen designed by this famous artist with his trademark organic, alien aesthetic.

So, my list of things you absolutely should see/do:

  1. Sagrada Familia (METRO Sagrada Família) - Gaudi's masterpiece, still under construction this is an incredible place to visit. You need to pick up your tickets in advance and I would recommend you also visit the towers for a great view of the surrounding city. The audio guide is also very helpful.



  2. La Rambla (METRO Catalunya) - Leading from Plaça de Catalunya to the waterfront (and out into the harbour), this is the place to see and be seen with lots to see and eat along the way. Be sure to go for a walk along here and take your time. Note that this is often extremely busy and be careful of pickpockets.



  3. The Beach in Barceloneta (METRO Barceloneta) - Though you are often accosted by hawkers and it is often extremely busy the beach is really quite pleasant with cool, clean water as well as some really nice places to eat - Do what the locals do and have a long, relaxed drink and nosh sitting outside a tapas bar on the promenade.



  4. Parc Güell (METRO Alfons X METRO Lesseps) - A failed real estate development in the hills on the edge of the city, Parc Güell has a public (free) part and a core (paid) part having the main sites you want to see. We took a tour which was also useful to explain the context of what we were seeing and show us how to get around. If you are up for it, be sure to climb to the top of the mountain where the cross is for great views of the city. Tickets can be purchased on the day and (English) tours are available though these must be booked in advance. Note that it is a long up-hill walk from nearest Metro station though you can catch a taxi or local bus right to the entrance.

  5. La Pedrera (Casa Milà) (METRO Passeig de Gràcia) - A residential development on Passeig de Gràcia, this is Gaudi at his commercial best with it's famous, bizarre, roof-top. I found particularly interesting visiting both the You absolutely need the audio guide to help guide you around. Generally, advance tickets are not required as the queues are often quite small (but you can purchase in advance if you wish). They have “free” lockers (a coin deposit is returned to you by the locker) to store your bags or jackets that is useful as there is a bit of walking and narrow spaces here. There is a free art exhibit at the end, be sure to also visit that. Note that they also offer visits by night if you want to see the alien-like roof lit up with various colours at night…



  6. Walking Around Old Town - Just take a walk around the old town, the area around Plaça de Catalunya and having the cathedral. There are a lot of small, interesting alleys that offer a picture of the traditional way of live in the city. Some great markets too…

We also took the “Transbordador Aeri del Port” - the aerial cable car that takes you from Barceloneta to/from Montjuïc mountain passengers alight in the Costa i Llobera Gardens. It is a good way to see the city from the air (for those that aren't too concerned about heights) but there can be large delays as it only takes a few people at a time.

What to Eat

There are lots of places to eat including the ubiquitous chains you find anywhere in the world but tapas is really the name of the game. See my list of a few places we visited here.

Getting Around

Getting around Barcelona is quite simple with a large number of relatively inexpensive taxis (yellow and black) that have a fixed tariff but there is also an extensive bus and subway (metro) service as well. There are “top up” cards available for public transport as well as unlimited daily travel tickets. We found the top up cards even for a short visit were fine for us not knowing how much we would use transport…You use the ticket when you enter the metro station or get on board the bus but not on exit.

To be fair, Barcelona is really a city to walk around in. So much to see and do it is also quite easy to find your way around particularly with the straight roads that run all the way through the city. It is only the old town where the roads get a bit tricky.

Pictures

Pictures from our trip to Barcelona via Flickr…

 

Further Information

For further information, please see the following: