Barcelona

Barcelona is the most visited city in all of Spain and also one of the very best cities to explore in Europe. This vibrant city celebrates its role as the capital of Catalonia and covers the richness of history that dates back to 218 BC.

This Catalonian city is famed for its architectural buildings and structures designed by the famous Catalan architect Antonio Gaudi, the historical Gothic Quarters, tasty Spanish tapas and meals, and the beautiful beaches along the Mediterranean Sea.

Best Time to Visit

The perfect time to visit Barcelona is Spring between March to May and Autumn in September and October. During my visit in early October, the weather is pretty chill. It is no long queues to enter the attractions like La Sagrada Familia and Casa Battlo.

June to August is the high season and do expect to see many European visitors flocking into Barcelona. Airfare and hotel prices will skyrocket and tickets for trains and attractions have to be booked well in advance. November to February is the low-peak season and you can get great deals on air tickets and accommodations.

Getting There

By Plane

Being the second largest and busiest airport in Spain, Josep Tarradellas Barcelona- El Prat Airport (Airport Code: BCN) is well connected to many cities in Europe as well as a few destinations in North America and Middle East. Spanish national carriers Iberia, Air Europa, and Veulig along with other budget airlines Ryanair, EasyJet, and Level frequently fly to many cities in the European regions.

El-Part Airport has 2 terminals– Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. If you are flying from another country or by a low-cost airline, you will most likely land at Terminal 2.

The airport is located around 15 kilometers from the city center and the fastest way to get to the city is by Aerobús. Tickets can be bought in advance or the ticketing machine next to the bus’s pick-up point at the airport. You only need to present the ticket printout or e-ticket before hopping on Aerobús A1 (at Terminal 1) or A2 (at Terminal 2). The bus will stop at Placa Espanya, Gran Via, Placa Universtat or Placa Catalunya and the journey usually takes at least 30 minutes.

One thing you need to take note of is that the bus routes returning to the airport are slightly different, so it is important to check which bus stop to take to the airport. If you are planning to use public transportation, you can purchase the combo package with Hola Barcelona and Aerobús. See below under Getting Around’ for more information (Check here for more details and buy the ticket).

Travel tips: If you are looking for a local SIM card with good data plan to keep in touch with family and friends, and use Google to search for locations and information on attractions and restaurants, there are several operators such as Orange, Movistar, Yogagi, and Vodafone. Orange is my preferred choice of prepaid SIM card that provides 50 GB data, unlimited calls in Spain, and free roaming in EU countries for 30 days just for €15 and is sold at the tobacco shop just outside the Arrival Hall of Terminal 2.

By Train

Traveling by train is very easy and comfortable. Their high-speed RENFE train connects Barcelona Sants Train Station to the capital city of Spain- Madrid (2.5 hours), Seville (5.5 hours), and Valencia (3 hours). Tickets can directly be bought from Renfe’s official website without any additional booking fee and only need to show your e-ticket before boarding the train.

By Bus

If you opt to travel by bus, the local bus operator called Alsa runs frequent journeys all over Spain and its neighboring countries including Germany and France. Traveling by bus can be the cheapest mode of transport, but do bear in mind that the ride may not be comfortable, especially if you are going on a long journey that takes more than 6 hours (Click here to check on the destination and price).

Getting Around

Barcelona city is well-equipped with an excellent transportation network that can easily get you to all the tourist spots. Hola Barcelona gives unlimited journeys to its public buses (TMB), metro, subways, trams, and funiculars for consecutive periods of 2 days (48 hours), 3 days (72 hours), 4 days (96 hours), or 5 days (120 hours). The travel card can be collected from the ticket machines at the office on the lower ground floor of Terminal 2 next to the Aerobús pick-up point as well as any metro and train stations in the city center. The travel card will be activated from the time it is first validated (Click here to buy the ticket in advance and enjoy 10% discount).

If you are coming to Barcelona by plane, Hola Barcelona Aerobús is a better option that includes Hola Barcelona Travel Card and a return trip Aerobus ticket from the airport and city center (Click here to buy the ticket in advance and enjoy 10% discount).

The city center is filled with pedestrian-friendly streets where you can roam the city on foot. It is safe to walk from one attraction to another because they are close to each other, such as La Ramblas and the Gothic Quarters

The Best Activities for 4 days in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most exciting cities in the world worth discovering. With impressive architectural buildings, fascinating history, lovely neighborhoods, and tasty Spanish food, one would easily for in love with this city. When it comes to Gaudi’s work, he seems to leave his mark throughout the city and many stories about many historic sites and monuments can trace back to him.

It is recommended to spend at least 4 days and 5 nights in Barcelona to explore Barcelona. Let’s check out what are the interesting things you can add to your travel bucket list.

Wander along La Rambla street

This famous La Rambla street stretches 1.2 kilometers from Plaça de Catalunya to Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell. Plaça de Catalunya is one of the oldest squares in Barcelona, surrounded by several sculptures, monuments, decorative arts, theatres, hotels, cafes, and restaurants.

The pedestrian street is shed with tall trees which is more enjoyable to walk. Apartments above the shops on both sides of the streets were beautifully painted and built with small balconies There are many souvenir kiosks and pavement cafes that served various types of paellas. As you walk towards the Columbus Monument, do spot the colorful Miró Circle on the ground created by the Spanish painter Joan Miró.

Travel tips: Beware of pickpockets in La Ramblas due to its touristy site. Also, if you want to eat paella, head to the neighborhoods of Gracia, El Born, and Eixample to taste its authentic Spanish food. The cafes in La Rambla mostly cater to tourists and expect to pay a higher price.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L1, L3, L6 and L7 to Pl. Catalunya Station

Browse through La Boqueria Market

Situated along La Rambla, La Boqueria Market (Mercado de La Boqueria) is one of the famous markets in Barcelona that draws many tourists. You can sample plenty of Spanish tapas, fresh produce juices, nuts, olives, and fruits in this market.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L3 to Liceu Station

Address: La Rambla, 91

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 8.30 pm

Take a glance of Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi

Built between 1319 and 1391, the Basilica de Santa Maria del Pi is dedicated to the Blessed Lady of the Pine Tree. The Gothic-style basilica has the largest rose window in Catalonia. What you see today is the remake of the 14th century original, which was destroyed by fire during the Spanish Civil War. It also has the highest cross-vaulted ceiling in Spain, which gives a true sense of monumental scale.

The bell tower consists of six bells, and ‘Antònia’ is the largest among them all with a diameter of 1.4 meters and weighs 1.8 tonnes. Inside this Catalan church houses a 14th century Gothic image of the Virgin of the Pines.

Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm and from 5 pm to 8.30 pm, and Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm and from 5 pm to 8 pm

Entrance fee: General entry: €5

Hang out at Plaça Reial

Plaça Reial which translates as “Royal Plaza” is a popular meeting point during the summer and hosts many events like New Year’s Eve and La Mercè in September.

The plaza is surrounded by palm trees, restaurants, and nightclubs. The uniquely designed lamp posts found in the square were the work of Gaudi’s creation.

Visit Museu Marítim de Barcelona

Museu Marítim de Barcelona is dedicated to shipbuilding between the 13th century under the rule of Peter III of Aragon and 18th century. Built in the shipyard and former Gothic military building, the museum displays the history of navigation from the early days and the Spanish Navy since the Catholic Monarchs in the 15th century up until the present. It also houses a replica of the royal galley of John of Austria, navigation instruments, weapons, portolans, and paintings.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L3 to Drassanes Station.

Address: Av. de les Drassanes, 1

Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 8 pm

Entrance fee: Adults: €10/ Children aged 7-16 and adults aged 65+: €5/ Children aged 0-7: Free (Free access for all every Sunday from 3 pm)

Marvel the stunning La Sagrada Familia

This magnificent La Sagrada Família is a huge unfinished basilica that was designed by the famed Antonio Gaudi. Construction began in 1882 and expects to complete in 2026, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

This Roman church made it onto the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2005. Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and granted it the status of a papal minor basilica in 2010.

The architect spent 40 years working and dedicated the last 12 years of his life to this project. If the basilica finishes as planned, the progress would have taken up to a total of 144 years.

Short History of La Sagrada Familia

The superstar of Barcelona is designed with a combination of Spanish Late Gothic, Catalan Modernism, and Art Nouveau style. There are three grand facades: the Nativity facade, the Passion facade, and the Glory facade.

Construction started under the supervision of Francisco de Paula del Villar and Gaudi was present at that time for laying the foundation stone, However, despite the dispute between del Villar and the building management, Gaudi took over and dedicated the remaining of his life to this project.

Gaudi still stuck with Villar’s plan, but made a little twist by adding decoration of flora and fauna due to his love of nature when he was a child. An unknown donor provides new funds to help him to continue his work right before the work on the nativity facade started.

On June 7, 1926, Gaudi was hit by a tram when he was on his way to work. Sadly mistaken for his neglected appearance, he was denied adequate medical care and taken to Hospital de la Santa Creu for the poor. His friend and co-worker Domènec Sugrañes and the church chaplain identified him there three days later and immediately brought him to a private room but he passed away on the same day. As the result, the project was delayed.

To make matter worse, the construction was halted due to the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The revolutionaries set fire to the crypt and destroyed some of Gaudi’s original plans, drawings, and plaster models. It took 16 years to put the pieces together and resumed work in the 1950s.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L2 or L5 to Sagrada Familia Station

Address: C/ de Mallorca, 401

Opening hours: November to February: Monday to Saturday- 9 am to 6 pm and Sunday- 10.30 am to 6 pm/ March and October: Monday to Saturday- 9 am to 7 pm and Sunday- 10.30 am to 7 pm/ April to September: Monday to Saturday- 9 am to 8 pm and Sunday- 10.30 am to 8 pm

Entrance fee: Entry to Sagrada Familia only: €26/ Entry with Guided Tour: €30/ Entry with Guided Tours and Towers: €40/ Entry with Towers: €36 (Click here to buy the tickets in advance and check other discounted rates. Entrance ticket includes an audio guide)

Step into the magical Casa Batlló

Casa Batlló is another Gaudi’s brilliant masterpieces and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building was originally built in 1877 by Emilio Sala Cortés, an architecture professor of Gaudi. In 1903, it was bought by a textile manufacturer named Josep Batlló y Casanovas, and invited Antoni Gaudi to remodel his mansion through his creativity.

The house has a visceral, skeletal organic quality known as the Art Nouveau style. Most of the facade is decorated with a mosaic made from broken ceramic tiles and it tells the legend of Saint George, the patron saint of Catalonia.

The living room is the main highlight of the house, illuminated by sunlight shining in the blue-stained windows that resemble tortoise shells as if staring toward the eye of the sea.

The roof terrace is perhaps one of the most popular features where Its dragon back was designed with colorful tiles to make up the animal’s spine. There are also four stylish chimney stacks to prevent back draught.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L2, L3, or L4 to Passeig de Gràcia Station.

Address: Passeig de Gràcia, 43

Opening hours: Daily from 9 am to 8 pm

Entrance fee: Adults: €35/ Adults aged 65 years and above: €32/ Children aged 13-17: €29/ Children aged 0-12 years: Free (Click here to buy the tickets in advance and check other discounted rates. Entrance ticket includes an audio guide)

Admire the amazing Casa Milà

And yet, more of Gaudi’s architectural work!

Although there is not enough time for me to visit Casa Milà it’s pretty nice just to view from outside. It is also known as La Pedrera or nicknamed “the stone quarry” due to its unusual rough-hewn appearance. In 1984,  the building was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site.

This Catalan modernism-style house was owned by a couple Pere Milà and Roser Segimon. Gaudi was assigned to build them a new property and made this the last private residence designed by the architect.

His goal was to express his ultimate talent and be inspired by nature. The construction of the building was pretty complicated when Gaudi made several changes in the building’s appearance.

At one time, he went over budget and failed to abide City Council’s building codes. Some structures were built exceeding the permitted length or height and some pillars of the facade had occupied the public walkways.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L3 or L5 to Diagonal Station

Address: Passeig de Gràcia, 92

Opening hours: Daily from 9 am to 6.30 pm

Entrance fee: Adults: €25/ Adults aged 65+: €19/ Children aged 7-12: €12.50/ Children aged 0-6: Free (Click here to buy the tickets in advance and check other discounted rates. Entrance ticket includes an audio guide)

Relax at the beautiful Barceloneta Beach

Located close to the city center, Barceloneta Beach is the most popular beach in Barcelona. Luckily for me, the beach is not crowded at all during my visit to Barcelona in autumn and able to enjoy the evening cool breeze. It usually tends to be overcrowded during the middle of the year.

You will find a unique La Estrella Herida sculpture, a four twisted cube built by the beach. The “Wounded Shooting Star” was created by German artist Rebecca Horn to pay tribute to Barcelona’s fishing district.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L4 to Barceloneta Station

Take a free Gothic Quarter Guided Tour

Join the Sandeman‘s local guided tour in the old Gothic Quarter, the oldest part of Barcelona. This is the time to learn the history of Roman heritage. As the tour goes on, you get to admire the gorgeous Barcelona Cathedral, Santa Maria del Mar, and other historical sites.

The quarter used to be a Roman village some 2,000 years ago and today still retains the remains of its glorious past. It was fully transformed from a shady neighborhood to a vibrant district during the major restoration for the 1929 International Exhibition.

The Gothic buildings are structured with fascinating facades. Due to its former city plan, the district is laid with narrow pedestrian streets that create a labyrinth-like layout.

After the tour concludes, continue to take your own paces to explore the cobblestone streets as the Gothic Quarter will astonish you with many hidden alleyways.

Travel tips: Sandeman is a tip-based guided tour where you are encouraged to tip the guide to support and reward them according to your satisfaction at the end of the tour.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L4 to Jaume I Station

Passing through Pont del Bisbe

This Gothic-style Pont del Bisbe was built in 1929 by architect Joan Rubió I Bellver that connects the Palau de la Generalitat to La Casa dels Canonges.

Several local legends and superstitions had associated with this neo-Gothic bridge. One of the interesting legends is said that if the dagger which traverses the skull is ever been removed, the city of Barcelona will fall. Others said the skull was the architect’s way of expressing his anger over the disapproval of his original plan while some said that anyone who looks at the skull will be cursed with bad luck.

On the bright side, another legend suggests that if you make a wish while walking backward under the bridge and look directly at the skull, your wish will come true.

Be “WOW” by the incredible Barcelona Cathedral

The Cathedral of Barcelona (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia) is dedicated to Saint Eulalia, a 13 years-old virgin who was martyred during the Roman times, and her body was entombed in the crypt here.

This Gothic cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries during the Romanesque period and medieval era. Gargoyles and other mythical and domestic creatures were featured around the cathedral.

Opening hours: Daily from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm

Entrance fee: General entry: €9 (click here to buy tickets)

Admire Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar was built between 1320 and 1383 and is the only surviving church in the pure Catalan Gothic style.  The church served as a place of worship for medieval merchants and shipbuilders. The precious icon of Black Modonna is found in the chapel near the left side of the door.

Have lunch at St Caterina Market

Santa Caterina Market (Mercat de Sant Caterina) has a fair share to attract tourists and locals alike. Nestled in the El Born district, it has 100 stalls that span over three floors. The market caters more to the local community and has lesser tourists. This makes a great place to enjoy more authentic Spanish food.

It is a piece of spectacular art of its own. The covered food market features its theatrical roof that is adorned with a magic carpet of 325,000 colorful ceramic tiles made from Seville. The design was created by a couple named Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue, the team famous for their promiscuously expensive projects. It consists of 60 colors representing the fruits and vegetables sold here.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L4 to Jaume I Station

Opening hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 7.30 am to 3.30 pm, and Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 7.30 am to 8 pm, Closed on Sunday

Catch the sunset at Temple of the Scared Heart of Jesus

Don’t be mistaken for the famous La Sagrada Familia!!

Located at the summit of Tibidabo, the Temple of Sacred Heart of Jesus consists of a crypt and a minor basilica. Built 512 meters above sea level, the church offers breathtaking panoramic views of Barcelona and a perfect sight to watch a wonderful sunset

The crypt was designed with a Neo-Byzantine style with Gothic and Romanesque decorative elements. Its baroque-style doorway beneath a mosaic arch at the main entrance portrays Jesus surrounded by angels and Spanish saints.

The grand outdoor stairways will lead you to the basilica above. The Neo-Gothic church consists of five towers. The four towers are decorated with statues of the 12 apostles and the main tower is crowned with a seven-meter statue of Jesus. The interior of the church is decorated with stained glass windows and an altar with a large crucifix.

Take the lift to the large viewing platform and climb the spiral staircase to the top of the tower where a circular balcony is located below the statue of Jesus. It is worth the climb as the tower offers magnificent 360-degree views of its surroundings. During a clear day, you can see as far as Belearic Island.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Train S1 or S2 to Peu del Funicular Station and transfer to the funicular from Vallvidrera Interior to Vallvidrera Superior. Walk out of the funicular stop and take Bus No. 111 to Pl Tibidabo bus stop.

Opening hours: The basilica opens from 11 am to 6 pm between January and April, and between October and December, and 11 am to 8 pm between June and September. The crypt opens daily from 8 am to 8 pm.

Entrance fee: Free to enter the crypt and basilica, but need to pay €5 to take the lift to the tower.

Roam around Park Güell

Park Güell is home to some of the most wonderful Gaudi mosaics. The park was officially opened to the public in 1926 and later listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

You can enjoy the fabulous views of Barcelona from the mosaic tile bench of the Serpentine Bench. Find El Drac, a mosaic salamander statue near the gates of the park. Also, visit the Porter’s Lodge Pavilions with the right pavilion- the Barcelona History Museum that showcases several works and collaborations of Antoni Gaudi.

Back then, Gaudi was assigned by Eusebi Güell to design a garden city that consists of more than 60 villas. The Catalan architect used the symbol of his organic style with an imaginative creation. The intention of the project was to create high-quality homes for the wealthy, but was later abandoned due to the lack of funding.

Only three houses were built in 1914 and one of them belonged to Gaudi. He moved in from 1906 to 1926 (until his death) with his family and father. In 1963, the house was converted into Gaudi House Museum, which houses his original works and a few of his collaborators. Güell’s house is used as the school of Escola Baldiri Reixac.

Getting there: Take Bus No. 116 to the main entrance of Park Güell

Opening hours: January to August: Daily from 9 am to 10 pm/ September and October: Daily from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm/ November to December: Daily from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

Entrance fee: Adults: €10/ Adults aged 65+ and Children aged 7-16: €7/ Children aged 0-6 years: Free (Click here to buy the tickets in advance and check other discounted rates)

Amble along the path of Arc de Triomf

Hey, look! Barcelona has its own Arc de Triomf.

This classical Arc de Triomf was built in 1888 as a getaway to the Universal Exhibition fair, which was held in Parc de Ciutadella. The monument was designed in such a style as the symbol of Barcelona’s respect for the nations and provinces who partake in the event. The shields of the 49 Spanish provinces at the top of the arch are presided over by Barcelona city’s coat of arms.

Walk around Parc de la Ciutadella

This charming 74-acre Parc de la Ciutadella is the green oasis of the city. The ornamental fountain was designed by Josep Fontserè and young Gaudi. This recreation park is also occupied by a city zoo, the Palau del Parliament de Catalunya, and the Museum of Natural Science.

Opening hours: Daily from 10 am to 10.30 pm

Explore the Olympic Ring

The Olympic Ring is the monumental site that consists of Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium, the Palau Sant Jordi, and the Explanada de l’Anella.

Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium was used to host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1992 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. You can walk around the Olympic ground to see the striking 136-meter-tall Torre de Calatrava, a communication tower, and Plaça d’Europa, an open-air museum.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L2 or L3 to Para-lel Station, transfer to Funicular Montjuïc and catch bus No. 150 to the Olympic Stadium. Or vice versa by bus No. 150 from Av Ferrer i Guàrdia – Mèxic bus station near Espanya Station and Montjuïc Fountain to the stadium

Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 10 pm and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday

Enjoy the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc night show

The Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is a fascinating night show displaying colors and lights with wonderful music and water acrobatics. Neither it is a drizzle rain or just an usual evening, the night show draws hundreds of spectators

Its first performance was held on 19 May 1929 before the start of the Exposition. This ambitious project was designed by Carles Buigas and brought 3,000 workers together to build in less than a year.

Getting there: Take Barcelona Metro L1 or L3 to Plaça España Station

Performance Time: 9 pm to 10 pm

Entrance fee: Free

Travel Tips

  • Avoid bringing too much money at one time, take care of your personal belongings, and be vigilant against pickpockets at crowded and touristy sites.
  • Always buy tickets for tourist attractions well in advance to secure the date and time, especially during the peak season.
  • Check out any discounted rates or free entry to the city attractions for youths, students, adults above 65 years old, and person with a disability regardless of the nationality of a country on their official website to save some money on your travels. Remember to bring your I.D. as proof of identification.

Going Elsewhere in Spain?

If you are looking for more adventure in Spain, you can look at my other posts for some travel guides:

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All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been.
As the author of this blog, I assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content and any action you take upon the information on this site. The information contained in this site is provided on an ‘as in’ basis with no guarantees of completeness.

2 thoughts on “Barcelona”

  1. Had a wonderful journey in Spain including Barcelona. Loved driving through the ‘white villages – pueblo blanco’ in Andalusia. Great write up. Makes me want to go again.

    Liked by 1 person

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