Barcelona is so cool it almost hurts. With absolutely stunning architecture, great places to eat and drink and plenty to do and see, it’s a fantastic place to visit for a short break – or, if you can, a longer stay. Here’s a guide to what you need to know when visiting the Catalonian city.
Buy tickets for La Sagrada Familia in advance
As one of Barcelona’s main tourist attractions, La Sagrada Familia is always going to be busy and slightly chaotic. The best bet is to buy your tickets online in advance (you can get them from their official website); you’ll probably have to wait for a short amount of time to get in but it’s better than waiting twice!
Parc Güell will also be busy – and you have to pay to enter it
As Parc Güell is an actual park, we’d assumed it would just be free to enter. This is unfortunately not the case. To maintain visitor numbers, you have to buy tickets and can only enter the majority of the parts designed by Gaudi within an allocated time. As a result, we just wandered around the free bit and took some photos over the fence.
In fact, anything to do with Gaudí will be busy
And you’ll probably have to pay to see most of it. But the city’s other architecture is also beautiful – so if you’re on a budget, just keep an eye out while you’re wandering round for intricate and eye-catching buildings.
Montjuïc Castle has one of the best views of the city
Located atop Montjuïc hill, the imposing Castelle de Montjuïc is a must-visit. It’s had a dark history, with many people tortured and executed at the site, in particular during the civil war, and it was once a museum. It’s now open to the public with a small display inside about the site’s history and the opportunity to explore the building. The hill provides panoramic views across the city and out to sea. You can walk up (it’s got some fairly steep roads up to it and there’s also a cable car and funicular railway providing access to the top) and it’s about €5 to get in.
Locals and tourists alike flock to Parc de la Ciutadella
Located in the heart of the city, this stunning park is a great place to see a real slice of Barcelona city life. Locals will bring picnics and relax about on the grass, or practice a variety of skills such as tightrope walking and juggling, and families will run about and play. It’s also home to a glorious fountain – which the young Gaudí is said to have worked on.
Avoid the tourist buses
At €28 a day each, those tourist buses aren’t cheap and there are a variety of much more affordable public transport options such as day passes. We bought T2 passes (a two-day pass) for €14 each which were valid on all of the city’s public transport and provided much better value for money. Tickets can be bought from machines at any Metro station.
Do be careful on the subway
You’ll have heard that Barcelona does have an issue with pickpocketing, and I think this is enough to scare many visitors away from using the (very convenient) subway system. But if you keep an eye on your bags and be aware of your surroundings, it’ll be fine. It’s worth noting that the warnings about pickpockets aren’t just for tourists; locals who use the subway will be just as protective over their handbags. Personally, I didn’t feel any less unsafe than I would do in, say, London.
The further along the coast you walk, the quieter it will be
Barcelona’s beaches are extremely popular with tourists and locals alike. But if you walk further on around the coast, you will find some less busy spots. As a bonus, the further away you go from the main area at Barceloneta, the less people there will be trying to sell you blankets/sunglasses/mojitos while you’re sat on the beach.
Pretty much every bar will have some food on offer
Barcelona’s residents enjoy long, hearty lunches and nibbles, such as tapas dishes, during the evening. With this in mind, almost every bar will have some sort of food offer – you should be able to get snacks such as olives, nachos and bread and hummus until very late on. Vegetarians are also fairly well catered for.
Flying back with a budget airline? There is more in the terminal that first appears
Travellers using budget airlines like Easyjet will find themselves at Terminal 2C at Barcelona Airport. On first glance, it looks like a very small area with a single café and a news agent. But if you walk around past the news agent there’s plenty of other shops and restaurants (including a Burger King, if that’s your thing) in the main terminal area. Just remember that it’s a bit of a walk back! Another thing to note; if you’re flying to the UK, there’s an additional passport check to reach the gates so leave enough time.