Travel tips

The Ultimate Barcelona Travel Guide

Located in Catalonia, in Northeastern Spain, Barcelona is the second largest Spanish city. Famed for its unique architecture, art, delicious food and drink and of course, its football, the city attracts around 18 million international tourists each year.

Planning a trip to Barcelona? Here's everything you need to know before you go. 

Travelling to Barcelona

Depending on where you fly from, it takes on average around 2 and a half hours to get to Barcelona from a major British airport. It takes just over 2 hours from London, 2 hours 20 minutes from Manchester, 2 hours 30 minutes from Belfast and around 2 hours 50 minutes from Edinburgh.

If you want to grab cheap flights to Barcelona, then the most affordable months to fly are October and November, followed by February through to April. Summer is the busiest time for tourists visiting Barcelona, so if you want to avoid expensive flights and busy crowds, then avoid travelling in July and August. Holidays, such as Easter, Christmas and New Year are also popular times to visit the city, so don’t fly over these times if you want to catch a cheap flight.

Barcelona has three airports with direct access to the city. Barcelona International Airport, also known as Aeroport de Barcelona-El Prat (BCN), is the most popular airport to fly into as it’s the closest to the city centre, just 13km away. It will take around 20 minutes by taxi to get from the airport to the city, or there’s an Aerobus service that takes around 30 minutes. 

Girona Airport is 103km north of the city and would take about an hour by taxi to get into the heart of the city. Alternatively, Reus Airport is around 100km south of the city, and would take about an hour by taxi too.

Getting around Barcelona

Barcelona is a large city, and although many of its famous landmarks are within walking distance of each other, to explore all of Barcelona you will need to use public transport at some point.

The Metro and tram are by far the quickest, fastest and most affordable ways of getting around the city, and they operate along all the major tourist hotspots. The bus is an alternative way to travel - it’s a cheap service that’s popular with locals. However, it can be busy, especially around the major tourist areas, and if you don’t speak Spanish it may be difficult to communicate with the driver and buy yourself a ticket.

There are two main types of public transport cards in Barcelona. The T10 ticket is a multi-person ticket and can be used for ten journeys in the zone one area in Barcelona – the main tourist area. Although numerous people can use the ticket and it can be used for ten journeys, each time a person uses it, it is classed as a separate journey.

The Barcelona Card can be used by one person only, it allows free access in the zone one area, the RENFE train to the airport and discount on certain Barcelona attractions too. The T10 Card costs €10.20, and the Barcelona card varies depending on how many days you purchase one for, but a 2-day card will cost €20.00.

Alternatively, you could take a taxi - if you want to hop into a cab then hail one of the city’s 11,000 iconic yellow and black cabs that operate all over Barcelona. The Catalan government recently passed a new law to prevent taxi apps such as Uber and Cabify competing directly with the city’s taxis, so Uber and Cabify will no longer operate in the city.  

Where to stay in Barcelona

Barcelona is home to many different neighbourhoods, and it’s important to choose the right one as your base to stay in the city. So, whether you’re looking for lively accommodation in the heart of the city, or quieter lodgings a little way out, take a look at our top picks of the best places to stay in Barcelona below.

Las Ramblas

Las Ramblas is a popular place for tourists to stay in Barcelona, as it's right in the heart of the city. There are plenty of hotels, amenities and places to eat here, and staying here means you’ll never be too far from the action.

Las Ramblas is easily accessible too. There are three direct metro links along this street, (Liceu, Drassanes and Plaça Catalunya) and you can easily get to the street by taxi or airport shuttle.

Due to its prime location and reputation, it can be expensive and noisy to stay here, as the street is always busy – even until the early hours. So, if you’re looking for somewhere a little quieter and secluded then Las Ramblas probably isn’t for you. However, if you want lively accommodation in the heart of the city that’s just steps away from a whole host of bars, restaurants and shops, then it’s a perfect choice!

Affordable:

You can still find places to stay in Las Ramblas if you’re on a budget and there are plenty of hostels, guest houses and budget hotels in the area. Hostal Benidorm is a great option for tourists looking for low-key accommodation in the city. Recently refurbished, it offers clean and modern accommodation in the heart of Las Ramblas at a fraction of the price.

Luxury:

If you really want to splash out, then choose Hotel 1898. With a spectacular pool rooftop terrace, an on-site restaurant, a spa and a host of luxury rooms and suites, it’s the perfect place to stay if you really want to kick back and relax.

Gothic Quarter

The Gothic Quarter is a maze of quaint streets, squares, restaurants and bars. The neighbourhood is home to a whole host of famous landmarks, including the Barcelona Cathedral, and is always a popular place to stay while in the city.

Busy and lively, it’s a great choice for friends or couples looking to enjoy Barcelona’s famous nightlife, or solo travellers looking to meet new people. It’s also home to some of Barcelona’s most affordable accommodation.

Affordable:

Pensió Alamar is a quaint townhouse located in the centre of the Gothic Quarter. Run by the same family for over thirty years, Pensió Alamar provides reasonable rates, clean and cosy rooms and a friendly atmosphere. Plus, it’s just a few steps away from the Drassanes metro stop, giving you easy access to the city.

Luxury:

Want a luxurious place to stay in the Gothic Quarter? Then Soho House Barcelona is for you. This beautiful townhouse hotel is decorated in farmhouse-country style, with comfy rooms, a rooftop pool, a spa, gym, cinema and an on-site restaurant. It’s a perfect escape for couples.

El Raval

El Raval was once one of the poorest areas of Barcelona, but has been completely transformed in recent years. It’s Barcelona’s most edgy, arty and diverse neighbourhood, and is home to the famous MACBA modern art museum. There are plenty of independent boutiques, restaurants and bars to enjoy, and it's especially popular with young couples and groups of friends.

Raval has a great location too. It’s just a couple minutes’ walk to Las Ramblas and has great direct access to the city. 

Affordable:

Raval Rooms is our pick of the best affordable accommodation in the neighbourhood. A modern guesthouse, Raval Rooms offers reasonably priced rooms and even has a sauna and rooftop terrace to relax after a long day sightseeing.

Luxury:

Hotel Espana is our ultimate choice for top accommodation in Raval. Originally opened in 1859, it was later renovated by the modernist architect Lluis Domenech I Montaner. Rooms are spacious and decorated in art deco style, with amenities including air conditioning and free Wi-Fi. The hotel boasts a highly-rated restaurant and rooftop pool too. 

Eixample

One of Barcelona’s most upmarket neighbourhoods, Eixample is home to some of the city’s most desired hotels and high-end shops. What’s more, the building of Eixample coincided with the Modernist movement, so you’ll also find Gaudi’s most famous works, including the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila and Casa Batlló here too.

Bordering the Old City, Eixample is a little quieter than the hustle and bustle of Las Ramblas and the Gothic Quarter, so it's a great base to stay for families or those looking for something a little more peaceful.

Affordable:

You may struggle to find budget accommodation in Eixample, but Hostal Martinval is a great wallet-friendly option. Hostal Martinval has pleasant accommodation with modern décor and free Wi-Fi, and is within walking distance of Eixample’s main attractions.

Luxury:

For the very best accommodation in Eixample, the 5-star Mandarin Oriental Barcelona will not disappoint. The rooms and suites are opulently decorated by designer Patricia Urquiola and the hotel boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant, Mimosa Garden Bar, spa, pool and rooftop terrace that offers unrivalled views of the city. It’s easily one of the best hotels in Barcelona.

The best places to eat in Barcelona

Barcelona is home to many great restaurants and delicious Catalan delicacies, including suquet de peix, a potato-based seafood stew, paella and, of course, tapas. With so much choice, it can be difficult to seek out the best places to eat in Barcelona when you’re there, so take a look at our list of recommended restaurants and cafes below so you can prepare beforehand!

Pocket-friendly and on-the-go options

For on-the-go lunches or affordable dinner options, we recommend the following places:

 

  • Bar Celta, El Born

A lively tapas bar, Bar Celta serves the very best in Galician tapas at a great price. The house tapas, pulpo a feira (boiled octopus sprinkled with paprika), is a must-try. They serve all the classics too.

 

  • Bormuth, El Born

Bormuth is a no-nonsense, deliciously tasty tapas bar in El Born. Friendly and lively, Bormuth is a favourite with locals and is always packed full of people. Plus, it’s incredibly affordable – go at lunchtime and you can grab three plates of tapas and a drink for €8.50.

 

  • Bacoa, various destinations

Bacoa is Barcelona’s first ever burger chain, with various locations all over the city. You can choose to eat in or take your burger away, and the food is delicious and affordable. It’s a great lunchtime option or if you just want to grab your dinner on the go.

 

  • La Pizza Pazza, Gothic Quarter

Offering what many say are the best pizza slices in the city, La Pizza Pazza is a small pizza shop in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. Grab a slice on the go or sit in for a meal - you won’t be disappointed.

 

  • Mosquito, El Born

Mosquito is one of Barcelona’s most popular restaurants. You’ll almost certainly have to queue to get in, as the restaurant itself is small and a local favourite. Mosquito serves Asian tapas and a selection of craft beers – don’t miss their famous selection of dumplings!

For special occasions and memorable meals

If you want to experience the very best dining and food that Barcelona has to offer, the best restaurants are:

  • Lasarte, Eixample

Located in the upmarket Eixample district, Lasarte is the first restaurant in Barcelona to hold three Michelin stars. Head chef Martin Berasategui heads up the restaurant, and serves a selection of delicious Italian and Mediterranean cuisine. 

  • Enoteca Paco Perez, La Barceloneta

This seafood restaurant is headed up by chef Paco Perez and has been awarded two Michelin stars. Seafood is at the heart of most dishes here, and the espardenyes (Mediterranean sea cucumbers) are a stand-out hit.

  • Els Quatre Gats, Gothic Quarter

Located in a spectacular Modernist building designed by Gaudi’s contemporary Puig I Cadafalch, Els Quatre Gats was once the favoured watering hole of Picasso. Today, the restaurant serves a whole host of delicious traditional Mediterranean cuisine, tucked away in the narrow back streets of the Gothic Quarter.

  • Moments, Eixample

Moments has two Michelin stars and is located in the trendy Eixample neighbourhood. With a focus on Catalan cuisine, Moments serves traditional dishes with an innovative edge, including scotch bonnet mushrooms, prawns with glazed tomato petals and beef fillet with mushrooms.

  • Botafumeiro, Gracia

Botafumeiro is one of Barcelona’s most famed seafood restaurants. With a focus on freshness, seafood is collected each morning and served the very same day. If you love the freshest ingredients and a taste of the sea, then don’t miss Botafumeiro.

Nightlife in Barcelona

Barcelona has a lively, popular and extensive nightlife scene. There isn’t one set area, or strip, in Barcelona, but the liveliest districts and the best areas for nightlife are undoubtedly Las Ramblas or the Gothic Quarter. If you want to stay in an area of Barcelona with lively nightlife, then these are best for you. These are always busy and bustling with people, and you’ll be right in the heart of the action. Las Ramblas is home to countless cocktail bars, pubs, bars and clubs, while the Gothic Quarter has many stylish bars and Irish and British pubs.

If you want to experience Barcelona’s renowned club and dance scene however, you may need to go further afield. Located in Poble Nou, Razzmatazz is undoubtedly Barcelona’s most famous, and largest club, while the world-famous Pacha nightclub, located in Port Olympic near Barconeleta Beach, attracts world class DJs each week.

La Terrrazza offers crowds something a little different. Located in Guardia, in a quaint museum, La Terrrazza is a rooftop, open air nightclub that operates over summer only.

These mega clubs can be expensive to get into on weekends, and you can expect to pay up to €30 for the privilege. Drinks are on the pricier side too – around €5 for a beer or wine and €8 for a spirit and mixer. In Barcelona, the legal drinking age is 18, and they are meticulous with ID checking, especially with large groups of tourists, so make sure you have some with you when you hit the bars and clubs.

Barcelona daily budget

The currency in Barcelona is the Euro, and budgeting around €30-35 per day should be enough for your meals, drinks, transport and entry to the attractions. If you’re planning on going out one evening, or just want to splash out at a more expensive restaurant, then you’ll need to budget more.

On average, transport around the city costs around €5 per day, lunch or dinner will cost around €15, and a drink will cost around €4. Most attractions of free or a couple of euros but do bear in mind that if you want to go inside the Sagrada Familia, this will set you back €15.

The Top 10 Things to do in Barcelona

There’s plenty of exciting things to do in Barcelona, from exploring the city’s culture and museums to sitting back and relaxing with a glass of sangria on the famous cobbled streets. Plus, many of the best things to do in Barcelona are free!

You’ll never be stuck for choice, but our list of the top things to do in Barcelona will help you decide where to start:

La Sagrada Familia

One of the most visited Barcelona landmarks, La Sagrada Familia is one Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi’s most famous structures.

Although construction began in the late nineteenth-century, La Sagrada Familia is famously still under construction, and is not expected to be completed until the late 2020’s! The church combines several architectural styles and once complete, will be the tallest church building in the world.

Although free to visit, it will cost €15 for you to go inside.

Park Güell

One of the most impressive public parks in the world, Park Güell is one of Barcelona’s most famous landmarks and is even a UNESCO world heritage site.

The park was designed by Antoni Gaudi and is an incredibly popular attraction filled with unique fountains, houses and pillars.

The defining part of Park Güell, however, is its colourful mosaic benches, pathways and structures, including the famous dragon that greets you as you walk into the park.

The park is free to visit, although you will have to pay to enter the monumental zone, which hosts most of Gaudi’s work. It’s advisable to book tickets beforehand as entry is limited to 400 people per half hour, and tickets will cost on the €6 on the door.  

Gothic Quarter

Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter is one of the city’s most beautiful and popular neighbourhoods. It’s located in the old part of the city, and boasts narrow medieval streets packed with bars, shops, hotels and restaurants.

The Gothic Quarter is also home to many squares for you to relax and take in the surroundings and is a great place to go to if you’re looking for a lively night out. We’d recommend Bosc de las Fades – meaning ‘Fairy Forest‘, this bar boasts enchanting décor as if you were in an actual magical forest!

One of the main draws of the Gothic Quarter is the Barcelona Cathedral. This stunning Gothic cathedral was built in the thirteenth century and is located in the heart of the Gothic Quarter.

Las Ramblas

No visit to Barcelona is complete without a wander through Las Ramblas. A central boulevard that runs through the heart of the city centre, Las Ramblas is a lively and vibrant tourist attraction in Barcelona.

Las Ramblas is filled with bars, cafes, shops and street performers, and is always packed full of visitors, 24 hours a day. The boulevard is home to the world-famous La Boqueria Food Market too.   

Casa Batlló

Another of Antoni Gaudi’s creations, Casa Batlló is one of the city’s most visited sites. Original and unique, Casa Batlló is an apartment block that was designed by Gaudi for wealthy aristocrat Josep Batlló in 1877.

From the outside, the facade looks like it’s been made from skulls and bones – which are actually balconies and pillars. The building’s roof is paved with colourful tiles to replicate a dragon’s scales, and the interior is just as extravagant. It’s definitely a must-see if you’re interested in seeing the genius of Gaudi close up.

If you do want to go inside, there’s an entrance fee of €28.50 per adult.

Casa Milà

Casa Milà is also known as La Pedrera or “the quarry” and is Antoni Gaudi’s most iconic showcase of architecture and design.

Designed as the home of industrialist Pere Milà I Camps in 1906, Casa Milà is unlike anything in Barcelona and is even an UNESCO world heritage site. With its curved walls, slanting columns and accessible rooftop complete with stairways and huge chimneys, it’s a true representative of Gaudi’s unique style.

Like its counterpart, there’s a €25 entrance fee to Casa Milà, but taking in the building and stunning exterior is free.

Spend a day on the beach

Part of Barcelona’s charm is that it’s a city and beach holiday in one. Barcelona’s main beach is Sant Sebastià in La Barceloneta, and is a great place to soak up the sun, relax and take in the surroundings. With a host of beachfront restaurants and bars too, you can easily spend a day here.

Alternatively, the Olympic Port is more upmarket, great for nightlife and packed with yachts and exclusive bars and beach clubs. It’s a little way out of the city, but you can easily take a metro here.

Camp Nou Stadium

For avid football fans, a trip to Camp Nou should be at the top of your Barcelona bucket list. If you can, try get tickets to a football match here - the atmosphere will be electric!

If not, then you can always buy tickets to a guided tour, where you can explore the grounds and experience what it feels like to walk through the players tunnel into a full-capacity stadium before a match.

Palau de la Musica Catalana

The most famous concert hall in Spain, Palau de la Musica Catalana is another UNESCO-listed heritage site in Barcelona.

The stunning building was built in 1908 and is still a fully functioning music hall today. The hall is ornate and extravagant in design, and the best way to explore it is through a guided tour, which costs €20 per adult.

Picasso Museum

Barcelona is home to many museums, and the Picasso museum is one of the best. Devoted to one of the greatest and most iconic artists of all time, the Picasso Museum is a great way to while away an afternoon in Barcelona.

The museum houses one of the most extensive Picasso collections in the world, and you can expect to see work from across his lifetime, including Motherhood (1903), Minotauromachy (1935) and Seated man (1969).

Alongside the Museum of National Art, the Museum of the History of Barcelona and Barcelona Music Museum, the Picasso museum participates in free museum Sundays. This means that every first Sunday of the month entry is free – which is worth considering if you’re planning on visiting any of them.

Barcelona: Pros and Cons

Barcelona is a unique, pretty and interesting city that attracts millions of visitors each year. Its quirky architecture and heavy Gaudian influence are perhaps the biggest draws of Barcelona, and there’s really no other place in the world like it.

Plus, Barcelona is both a city and beach break in one, offering tourists the best of both worlds. What’s more, the food, especially the fresh seafood, is wonderful. There’s good year-round weather and you’ll never be stuck for something to do. Each district offers something different, and you can easily spend a week or more here without getting bored. 

However, although Barcelona is generally a safe area for tourists to visit, like every major city it does have a problem with pickpockets and bag-snatchers, especially around the tourist hotspots.

Be especially aware when visiting Las Ramblas, La Sagradia Familia or any metro station, as these are the main areas that thieves will target. Keep a hand over your bag and pockets at all times and be wary of people standing too close to you. If you’re sat in a bar or restaurant, we’d suggest hooking your bag strap around your chair, as often thieves can target your belongings this way. And as always, try to keep your passport and other valuables locked away in a safe at your hotel so you’re not carrying these around with you.

Plus, Barcelona can get crowded and busy in the summer months, so if you do want a more peaceful and relaxing trip then it’s best to avoid travelling between July and September.

Weather in Barcelona

August is the hottest month in Barcelona, with daily average temperatures of 26°C and nine hours of sunshine per day. July and September are also hot and sunny, with average temperatures across these months of 23°C and eight hours of sunshine.

If you want to have warm, mild weather but avoid the crowds, then April, May and June are good alternatives. Although it can be cooler, the city has an average temperature of 20°C and eight hours of sunshine per day and has less tourists than during the peak summer season.  

The coldest months in Barcelona are December, January and February. During these months, temperatures will only reach a maximum of 14°C, with minimum temperatures of 5°C. You can expect just five sunshine hours during these months too.

If you want to take a more detailed look at the weather in Barcelona, then check here.

Euros for Barcelona

If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona, you’ll need to make sure you have your Euros ready! At ICE, we offer great deals on Euros, for home delivery or click & collect. If you’d rather not carry too much cash, you can also load your Euros onto a prepaid card, which is a secure, hassle-free way to spend abroad.

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