Barcelona is the Catalan city on the eastern coast of Spain. Known for its food, architecture, and night lift, Barcelona is the perfect travel destination. There are so many amazing nooks and crannies to explore in this beautiful coastal city that it can be overwhelming. If you want to experience all Spain has to offer, then you MUST visit Barcelona. There is a magic in the city that is truly indescribable. To help you plan your adventure, I have created the Barcelona City Guide to help you figure out exactly what you can’t miss!
I figured I would start this Barcelona City Guide off with the most in-your-face building in Barcelona: The Torre Glories. This giant building is visible from all areas of the city. It is an architectural marvel, yet it is actually just a normal office building on the inside.The Torre Glories (Formerly Torre Agbar) is an unmissable landmark in central Barcelona especially as it lights up with different colors at night. This pickle shaped building was designed by architect Jean Nouvel in 2005. It is truly a sight to behold as it looks very odd in a mostly older city. It is also a great site to take “Leaning Tower of Pisa-esque” photos as you pretend to lean against the building from a distance. Make sure to get your tourist photos here!
Arc de Triomf
Many of you have probably heard of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It is a famous Roman gate that is now a famous national monument. The story behind the Arcs de Triomphe is that every time the Roman Empire would conquer a new major city, they would erect an Arc to show that they have came and conquered. Pretty savage to think they killed a lot of people just to expand their empire and build a landmark.
HOWEVER, this Arc was actually built in the late 1800s as an entrance to the World’s Fair that was being held in Barcelona. Even though Rome did conquer Spain, this arch was harmless and designed to bring more attention to the beauty of the city. Now, there is a park that surrounds the arch that you can spend the day hanging out in, watching children blow bubbles, and maybe going for a bike ride.
Mercado de la Boqueria
Mercado de la Boqueria is a famous and amazing open air food market near the heart of Barcelona. This market contains hundreds of stalls and even more food options. I spent HOURS just walking around this market looking at all of the beautiful food options and tasting as much as I could. It was like walking into the most beautiful hallway of food in the world. I wanted to eat EVERYTHING. We ended up finding a paella place on the edge of the market to eat lunch at. This is one market definitely to come hungry to. One interesting fact about this market is that it dates back to the 1200’s! There are remarks about the market in documents from that time and proof of it continuing on until now. Although it feels much more modern now, the history and culture is evident in this beautiful market.
It is open Monday-Saturday 8:00am-8:30pm (Closed Sundays). It is completely free to walk around, but come hungry as there are many shops and stalls that will have you salivating!
Location: Rambla, 91 08001 Barcelona
Parc Ciutadella was my absolute FAVORITE part of Barcelona, a city with so much to love. This park tops it all. Located at the center of Barcelona, this giant park includes a zoo, the Catalan Parliament, a museum of modern art, and so much more! It is a huge park near the Arc de Triomf that boasts ping pong tables, bike paths, beautiful fountain, and THIS AMAZING ELEPHANT/MAMMOTH STATUE that is featured above. This statue has honestly made for one of my all-time favorite travel pictures. The park itself shows roman influence in its beautiful fountains and statues. All over the park you will find different little spots of statues or fountains that will take your breath away.
This park was created in the late 1700’s and has been added to ever since. Now it even includes a Geological museum and a beautiful little bond that you can rent boats for. I highly recommend renting a bicycle so that you can enjoy the entirety of Parc Ciutadella. Entrance into the park is free although the museums may have their own entry fees. This Barcelona City Guide would not be complete without mentioning this amazing park.
Sangria is an alcoholic drink that originated in Spain. It is fruity punch that includes wine and fruit and whatever else the maker decides to mix in. This is a very common drink in Spain and is especially common in Barcelona. There are usually two types of sangria: red and white. The type of sangria is based on the color of the wine that is used to make the punch.
One of the nice things about Sangria is that it is often cheaper than bottled water in Spain. If that’s not an excuse to drink it then I don’t know what is. It’s delicious and you deserve it. Also try these 37 Unique and Fun Things to do in Spain while you’re at it.
Eat Paella: A Must Do From the Barcelona City Guide
Paella is a famous dish that originated in the Valencia area of Spain which includes Barcelona.The Valencia are of Spain is famous for some of the best food in the world, and let me tell you, the food lives up to the hype. It is the most famous dish to order in Barcelona, and you need to be prepared. Paella isn’t just a meal, it’s a feast. It is made in a human sized skillet. It consists of rice, vegetables, spices, and generally a type of meat.
Being right on the coast, Barcelona has amazing seafood so seafood paella is the most popular. However, there are also other meat options as well as vegetarian options. Paella is generally made to order in the biggest skillet you have ever seen. It is a group dish that is designed to be shared among friends so come prepared to order a paella to share. Even if you’re not a foodie, you can’t go to Barcelona and not experience this traditional dish.
Rent a Bike on the Pier
Barcelona is a HUGE city, and seeing it all is quite a large task. The best way to see everything on this amazing Barcelona City Guide is to rent a bike! The weather in Barcelona is truly beautiful and there are so many beach and pier areas to explore. A bike allows you to go anywhere in the city without completely killing your feet! There are many different shops, especially around the beach, that rent you these bikes for cheap. We loved them and they made for such cute pictures. We rented bicycles early in the day and used them to travel around the city. Prices start around 6 euros for two hours. You can find more information about renting bicycles in Barcelona here.
Barcelona City Guide Adventure Tip:
You can also skip the bicycle and rent a Vespa! These little motorcycles can be CRAZY to drive around the Barcelona streets. It’s not easy, but it sure is fun. Make sure that you bring your international drivers permit though or they won’t let you rent one!
La Sagrada Familia
No Barcelona City Guide would be complete without mentioning La Sagrada Familia, one of the most famous churches in the world. Even though it is incredibly famous for its beauty, it is actually an unfinished Catholic Church. Construction was begun on it in 1882 and it is still continuing today. This makes it one of the longest running modern construction projects.
Antoni Gaudi was one of the chief architects of the program, and it is easy to see his influence on the design of the church. The spires mirror many of his other architectural works like the ones displayed in Park Guell.
Though it is under construction, you are still able to tour the inside. Inside the church, the design is equally as beautiful as the outside. The stained glass and uniquely designed ceilings make it a truly unique experience. Despite the cranes, this church is indescribably beautiful and worth a visit. The Sagrada familia is an easy location to visit as it is located in the heart of Barcelona. Tickets are required to go inside and can be expensive, starting at 26 euros, but viewing the outside is completely free. .
Drink Mojitos on the Beach
First off I should mention: All beaches in Barcelona are topless beaches. You don’t have to be topless to go, but don’t be surprised if you see people who are. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the beaches are absolutely beautiful. The best part about the beach is they have open alcohol rules! This means that you can carry a drink while you soak up the sun and enjoy the ocean views. However, this also means that there are people swarming all over the beach coming up and offering you an ice cold mojitos while you are baking in the sun. Alcohol is easily accessible as the massages on the beach. It truly feels like you are royalty when the alcohol comes to you.
The beaches also are lined with bars and casinos that come to life as the day turns into night. There are ICE bars and other themed bars that make the party scene extra interesting. Barcelona also has plenty of “Party” hostels that will help you find your way around the night scene. Just try not to lose all of your money at the casinos.
Also if you are interested in trying some amazing wine while in the Valencia area, be sure to check out The Codorniu Cava Vineyards, Barcelona which offers an awesome selection of wines to try.
Go to a Futbol Game
Futbol is a BIG deal in Europe, especially in Spain. Between Real Madrid and Barcelona, everyone in Spain is a soccer fan. Be careful mentioning either team though as they have an intense and sometimes violent rivalry. Soccer is part of the Spanish culture and the game often mimics the politics of the time. While I was studying abroad in Spain, I was living in a small city outside of Madrid. Everyone in that city didn’t like Barcelona (the city, the team, or the people) due to Barcelona trying to annex themselves from the country of Spain. This intensified the rivalry between Madrid (the capital) and Barcelona.
Despite the rivalries, Soccer is still considered the beautiful game. You would be missing out if you didn’t experience the energy of a live game in a stadium in Spain. Even if you don’t like soccer, you have most likely heard of Lionel Messi. Messi is considered one of the greatest players of our time. What’s cool is that you can actually see him play live for Barcelona! If you have never seen Spanish futbol fans in action, let me tell you, it is truly a sight to behold. There is nothing like the atmosphere created by crazed fans that fill up a stadium. Go see for yourself at Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona.
The final piece of the Barcelona City Guide that I wanted to mention is Parque Guell. Parque Guell is one of the most famous sites to see in Barcelona and has recently been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed by the famous artist Antoni Gaudi, this park began construction in 1900 and was designed to showcase Gaudi’s work while also recreating the “British” style gardens. Gaudi’s amazing modernist architecture can be found all around Barcelona, but this park resides at the top of Carmel Hill, making it the perfect viewpoint for the rest of the city. Gaudi is famous for his mosaic work which can be found all over the park. From the rooftops to the benches, everything in the park has his touch of mosaic or his architectural design.
To get to this park, you will want to take a bus or a Vespa since it is located at the top of a hill. It is not a comfortable walk from the city center. From the top of the park, you are able to overlook the entire city. Many movies in Barcelona make a point to shoot at this spot to depict the beauty of the city.
Tickets start at 10 euros. You can book them in advance here.
Where to stay: Urbany Hostel Barcelona