Europe

Travelor’s Guide to Barcelona

LAST UPDATE:  5/6/2020

There are few cities in Europe, if not the world, that seems as magical as the city of Barcelona in Spain.  Rumored to have been established over 400 years ago by none other than Hercules, Barcelona has been home to its fair share of larger-than-life figures throughout its history.  Arguably one of the city’s most famous residents in its history was Antoni Gaudí, whose architecture can be found throughout the city and is world-renown for its unique style and beauty.  Arguably the most famous of his buildings is the infamous Sagrada Familia church, which has the distinction of being under construction for longer than it took to build the Great Pyramids of Giza.  In fact, the church is still under construction to this day.

People from throughout the world flock to Barcelona each year to enjoy the beauty of the city, relax on some of its beautiful beaches (which were all man-made for the 1992 Olympic Games), walk and shop on the infamous La Ramblas Street (which is the most heavily walked road in all of Spain), and try some of the fantastic local cuisines.  No matter what your reason for wanting to visit Barcelona, the city is sure to impress you with its vibrance and color.

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In this guide, I am going to give you all of the information you need to plan a successful trip to Barcelona, Spain.  I cover the best times to visit and the best ways to get there so that you can maximize what you are able to see and do on your trip.  In addition, I outline the top things to see and do while you are there and where the best places to stay and eat are.  With this information in hand, you can be confident that your trip to Barcelona will be one that you remember for the rest of your life.

At A Glance
Top Things to See
How to Get There
Best Time to Visit
Where to Stay
Where to Eat
Recommended Tours and Excursions
Photo Gallery

At a Glance

Before you start making any travel plans, you will want to make sure to take care of all of the passport, VISA, and immunization requirements for your trip.  In addition, you will want to make sure you have a clear understanding of what language they speak in Spain and what currency they use so that you can plan any translation needs you might have for your trip and exchange currency before your trip if necessary.  I have included some of this key information below for you to review as you start to make your travel plans.

Passport requirements exist. See below for details.
Immunization recommendations are listed below.
The official language in Spain is Spanish.
The official currency in Spain is the Euro.

Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements

In order to assist you in navigating the legal requirements for visiting Spain, I have included a link to my Spain Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors Guide as well as some information on the EU’s new ETIAS VISA requirements below for you to review.  These guides will give you all of the information that you will need to meet the VISA, passport, customs, and immunizations requirements and recommendations for visiting Spain.

READ MORE:
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New Visa Requirements for Americans to Visit Europe Starting in 2021
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Spain Passport, VISA, Customs, and Immunization Requirements for Visitors

Travel Immunizations

Before you leave for your trip to Spain, you need to make sure you have all of the proper vaccinations.  Not only to protect yourself but to protect others.  If you have questions on what immunizations you will need and what to look out for when you go to get them, below are some general guidelines I can pass on to you from experience.

  • Most specialized travel clinics will not accept insurance so you will have to pay for your travel consultation and immunizations and then request reimbursement from your insurance company later.
  • Some immunizations aren’t accepted by every insurance company, so check with your insurance provider before getting your immunizations.
  • Check with your regular doctor first, as often they can do a travel consultation for you and write you the necessary prescriptions for your immunizations, even if they aren’t able to give them to you.  This way you can ensure that at least your travel consultant will be covered by your insurance up-front.
  • Check with Walgreens or other drug stores that give flu shots to see if they have any of the immunization shots that you require before going to a specialized clinic that doesn’t accept insurance to get them.  Walgreens can give you many of the immunizations necessary for international travel, and they accept insurance up-front.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website can be a great resource for answering any travel immunization questions that you have.

In case you are unsure of what travel vaccinations you might need, I have compiled a list below of some of what you might expect your physician to recommend.

  • Hepatitis A & B (if you haven’t had them).
  • Tetanus (if you aren’t current).
  • Transderm SCōP Patch (for motion sickness) or at minimum Dramamine pills if you get motion sickness easily and you plan on getting out on the water or doing adventure activities.
  • Flu Shot

Packing Tips

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Outside of taking care of the passport, visa, and immunization requirements so that you can get into Spain and don’t get sick, there is no more important pre-travel planning task than making sure you pack the right clothing and gear for your trip.  To help make sure you are properly packed and prepared, I have included links to some of my packing resources below for you to review.

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The Ultimate Travel Packing Check List
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The Essential Carry-On Checklist

Top Things to See and Do

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Barcelona is a magical city with an abundance of amazing things to see and do.  Whether you are visiting to see the beautiful architecture, soak in the unique and fantastic culture, enjoy some tapas and delight yourself on tasting the local cuisine, or if you are just in the mood to explore, the city of Barcelona will not disappoint.  If you are in the process of planning your trip and need to fill out your itinerary, I have included a list of my top things to see and do in Barcelona for you to review below.

Top Things to See and Do in Barcelona Spain Map

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El Drac de Gaudí at Finca Güell
Casa Vicens
Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona
Casa Milà (La Pedrera)
Las Ramblas Street
Montjuïc Castle and Cable Car
Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria
Casa Batlló
Parc Güell
The Sagrada Família

El Drac de Gaudí at Finca Güell

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Out of all the Gaudí features in the city, this is the most frequently missed by tourists.  Yet, this masterpiece of metal sculpture may be one of Gaudí’s most impressive pieces of work.  The work was the first piece that Gaudí created for his good friend Finca Güell, who owned many pieces of property throughout Barcelona and commissioned Gaudí for several of the world-renown buildings he is famous for in Barcelona to this day.  Gaudí was commissioned to design the boundary wall and unique dragon gate for this estate, which currently hosts medicinal gardens that you can tour as well.

Casa Vicens

Casa Vicens

Another one of Gaudí’s masterpieces in the city and accessible by the hop-on-hop-off buses that offer tours of Barcelona.  True to Gaudí form, this building is an amazing work of art.  All of his buildings are so unique and beautiful, and the Casa Vicens is no exception.  Considered one of the first buildings of Art-Nouveau, and the first house designed by Gaudí, it was commissioned in 1877 by Manuel Vicens i Montaner, an owner of a brick and tile factory living in Barcelona at the time.

Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona

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There are few structures in Barcelona that are as big or as imposing as the Arco de Triunfo.  Like other famous arches in cities around the world, it has an almost bigger-than-life presence.  Situated on the busy Passeig de Lluis Companys, near the Parc de la Ciutadella, the Arc de Triomf is hard to miss.  Built as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair by architect Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas, the front frieze contains the stone sculpture Barcelona rep les nacions (Catalan for “Barcelona welcomes the nations”) by Josep Reynés.

Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

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Another of Gaudi’s masterpieces that you will get to see when you tour the city of Barcelona is Casa Milà, which is known locally as La Pedrera (meaning “The stone quarry”).  Built between 1906 and 1912, this was the last private residence designed by architect Antoni Gaudí.  Like most of his buildings, the Casa Milà is characterized by its unique curved shapes and beautiful accents.  Gaudí was one of the driving pioneers of this architectural style, which became known as Art-Nouveau.

Las Ramblas Street

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If you are looking to see the heart and soul of Barcelona, look no further than Las Ramblas street.  Well known for it’s shopping and nightlife, Las Ramblas street should be on the list of every visitor to Barcelona.  Whether you are looking to do some shopping, eat at one of the many street cafes that line the street, or just sit and people watch, Las Ramblas street is definitely worth experiencing.

Montjuïc Castle and Cable Car

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Constructed starting in 1640, Montjuïc Castle has seen many battles because of its strategic defensive position on top of Montjuïc mountain.  Once captured by Napolean during the Napoleonic Wars, Montjuïc Castle is most notable for its use as a torture facility for both sides during the Spanish Civil War.

If you have the time, you can pay to tour the inside of the castle.  Otherwise, I would suggest taking a walk around the perimeter of the castle to check out the fortifications.  Even if you aren’t into castles and history, the ride to the top of Montjuïc mountain via the cable car is worth it for the views.  After taking the cable car to the top, I would recommend walking back down so that you can soak in all of the breathtaking vantages of Barcelona.

Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria

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Anyone who is a fan of farmer’s markets will be a fan of Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria.  Fresh meat, seafood, produce, juices, candy, you name it.  Even if you aren’t hungry, walking thru the market just to see all of the merchants at working selling the fruits (excuse the pun) of their hard-earned labor is worth it.  I recommend that you snack your way thru the market, grabbing a variety of foods.  What better way to learn about the local cuisine!

Casa Batlló

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This may be my favorite of Antoni Gaudí’s works.  This house has been remodeled several times, but it was Gaudi’s work in 1904 that made this house famous.  Given the name case dels ossos (House of Bones) locally because of it’s visceral, skeletal look, Casa Batlló is absolutely mesmerizing to look at.  We only got to admire it from the outside, but if you have the time I recommend that you tour the inside.  From the pictures I have seen, it is absolutely gorgeous.

Parc Güell

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Parc Güell was one of the places I was most looking forward to seeing after doing some research on Barcelona.  It is a public park composed of gardens and buildings designed by, you guessed it, Antoni Gaudí.  Built between 1900 and 1914, it officially opened to the public in 1926.  One of the most notable treasures in the park is Gaudí’s own house.  We really enjoyed walking thru the park and taking in all of the beauty.  If you really want to experience everything the park has to offer, you are going to want to plan at least a full half-day to explore.

The Sagrada Família

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Toping my list of the top things to see in Barcelona is one of the most famous, if not most beautiful, churches in the world.  The Sagrada Família is arguably Antonio Gaudí’s most famous works, and for good reason.  To call the church breathtaking would be an injustice.  The detail work on the church’s exterior and interior will blow your mind.

If you have the time, you can pay to go up one of the two towers in the church.  One of the towers highlights the nativity and the other the passion.  You get to see the church from a whole other perspective, and the views of Barcelona aren’t bad either.  One thing is for certain, you definitely don’t want to short change your time spent exploring the inside and outside of this cultural treasure.

How to Get There

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If you are visiting Barcelona from outside of Spain, there are a number of ways that you can get there.  For those visiting from outside of Europe, the easiest way to get to Barcelona is to fly into the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport (BCN).  If you are visiting from elsewhere in Europe and have the time, an attractive alternative to flying into Barcelona would be to take the rail system.  The rail system in Europe is quite advanced, and the rail system within Spain is no exception.  In fact, taking the train can save you time versus driving if you are heading to Barcelona from other locations within Spain as well.  If you are traveling to Barcelona from another location within Spain and would like more information on travel times by train and by car, I have included a map below for you to review.

Barcelona Spain How to Get There Map

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Best Time to Visit

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Average Temperature (°F)

Because of its location on the Mediterranian coast, the city of Barcelona typically doesn’t get extremely cold temperatures at any point throughout the year.  However, depending on why you are visiting, you might find the average temperatures in certain months more attractive than others.  During the peak summer months of June thru August, the average high temperature can reach into the upper 80s or 90s and the low doesn’t typically drop below the 60s.  This is perfect whether if you are visiting Barcelona to enjoy the beach and get some sun.  However, if you are planning on doing a lot of walking and sight-seeing and these temps are a bit too hot for you, planning your trip for the late spring months of April and May or the early autumn months of September and October might be more desirable.  If you do decide to visit during the spring or autumn, you will also have the added benefit of missing the busy summer crowds.

Average Precipitation (Inches)

If you are planning on spending a lot of time outside during your visit to Barcelona, you are going to want to make sure that you coordinate your visit during the dryer months of the year.  In particular, you will want to avoid visiting during the late summer and autumn months of August thru November.  This four-month stretch of the year is typically the wettest time of the year in Barcelona.  On the contrary, the summer months of June and July are typically the dryest months of the year.  So if you can tolerate the crowds and hot daytime temperatures, you have a great chance of getting a lot of sunshine if you visit during this time.  However, the best time of year to visit and have nice weather and small crowds is probably in the spring months of April and May.  The weather is usually reasonably dry and the large summer crowds have yet to arrive.

Where to Stay

Barcelona Hotel

One of the most important decisions you are going to have to make when planning your trip to Barcelona is where you will stay.  When you travel, the accommodations you choose are oftentimes amongst the biggest expenditures for your trip.  So not only do you need to be comfortable where you are staying, but you also need to be comfortable with how much you are paying to stay there.  Finding the right accommodations for your trip involves looking at the amenities, the location, and most importantly, the price.  If you are starting to plan your trip to Barcelona and want some hotel and hostel suggestions, I have included some great options at different price points below for you to review.  As always, don’t be afraid to expand your search to room sharing sites such as Airbnb or VRBO if you aren’t finding a hotel or hostel that meets your needs.

Barcelona Spain Hotels and Hostels Map

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Hostel One Ramblas ($)
Hostel One Paralelo ($)
Hotel Praktik Bakery ($$)
Hotel Praktik Vinoteca ($$)
Yurbban Passage Hotel & Spa ($$$)
Room Mate Gerard Hotel ($$$)
AC Hotel by Marriott Barcelona Forum ($$$$)
Hilton Diagonal Mar Barcelona ($$$$)
The Serras Hotel Barcelona ($$$$$)
W Barcelona ($$$$$)

Where to Eat

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When most people plan a trip, the primary focus is one how to get there, where to stay, and what is on the list of things to see and do.  What many travelers neglect to plan, is where to eat when you are there.  Granted, it is sometimes fun to be spontaneous when choosing a restaurant while traveling, and it is always smart to get recommendations when you arrive.  However, it can also be advantageous to have some ideas of restaurants you would like to try during your trip written down beforehand as well.  This way you can be assured that you won’t miss out on a highly recommended culinary experience that you will regret.  To help you decide on some restaurants in Barcelona to add to your list, I have included a list of some highly recommended options for you to review below.

Barcelona Restaurant Recommendations
Restaurant Cuisine Price
Mimo’s Born Mediterranean, Spanish, Healthy $$-$$$
Bodega Biarritz Mediterranean, European, Spanish $$-$$$
Taps Mediterranean, European, Spanish $$-$$$
Colom Bar, Seafood, Mediterranean $$-$$$
Acces Mediterranean, European, Spanish $$$$
Con Gracia Mediterranean, Spanish, Fusion $$$$

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There is an abundance of amazing things to see and do in the Barcelona area and one of the best ways to experience those things is on a tour.  If you are looking for fun tours and excursions to fill out your trip, I have included some category links to recommended tours and excursions you can review below.

Cruises, Sailing & Water Tours
Cultural & Theme Tours
Food, Wine & Nightlife
Multi-day & Extended Tours
Outdoor Activities
Walking & Biking Tours
Water Sports

 

As a travel photographer, I absolutely loved my visit to the magical city of Barcelona.  The beautiful architecture and busy streets really challenged me to find creative ways to take my street photography skills to the next level.  If you would like to see some of the many pictures I took during my visit, I have included a gallery for you to view below.

Barcelona, Spain

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