Ok…you have booked your trip to Barcelona! Congrats! You are about to set foot in one of the most storied cities in all of Europe. You are about to indulge is masterful art and architecture, a compelling history, complex cuisine, and meet warm and friendly Catalonians as they call themselves. A few of the basics: Barcelona is perched on the sun drenched Mediterranean Sea. It is a kaleidoscope of culture. The city is perhaps best known for its championship football team, aka “Barca”. They call Camp Nou home, it is a shrine to the game, a must see for any soccer fan. There are many lodging options, everything from the very basic to luxury apartment rentals in Barcelona.
Barcelona international Airport “El Prat” is the gateway into the city. Flights from Europe and the rest of the world arrive there each day. Some 47 million passengers arrive each year at El Prat. The airport is some ways away from the downtown area. There are a number of options for transfer/transportation including: rental car, bus, metro and smaller shuttles called Rapid shuttle. Barcelona is actually a very drivable city, if you elect to rent a car, you will have additional freedom to explore the entire region.
Navigating around the city is simple. They have a very advanced metro system. You can easily purchase tickets in the underground and navigate yourself around the city. We suggest the weekly card for extended stays. There are a number of aps that help you design your routes. You can combine bus and metro to get to all of the key areas, as well as the outlying areas. As with any large city, keep an eye on your belongings and be situationally aware.
Barcelona offers a wide variety of lodging options. You can choose from everything from luxury accommodations to the very basic spartan lodging. We elected to stay just outside the city, in a very nice business class hotel, and found the commute easy via the metro, and our dollars went a lot further.
Lets go see the city! A quick primer. The city’s skyline and history is dominated by one name: Gaudi. Antoni Gaudi (25 June 1852 – 10 June 1926) was a famed artist and architect. His work is one of a kind. You see his fingerprints all across the city. The best way to get a feel of the entire town is to take one of the double decker open bus tours. I know, I know, they are bit basic, but the hop on hop off buses really give you a lay of the land for your visit. Take note of the sights that interest you the most and build your itinerary. If you are traveling with your sweet heart, check out our post on the best places to Kiss in Barcelona.
The other dominate thread throughout the city is the Olympics. The city played host to the 1992 summer games. There are a number venues that are still in place and operating. The Olympic museum is a fun visit and is a tribute to sport and friendship. The diving platform with views of the city is one of the iconic camera shots from the game.
Hands down, our fave place to visit in Barcelona is the Park Gurell. (https://www.parkguell.cat/en/) This is truely one of Guadi’s grand visions. Originally, it was intended to be an upscale planned community. Fortunately for today’s visitors, Gaudi’s vision was a little deeper than the pockets of prospective investors. Today, the entire development has been transformed into a public park and greenspace. It is a masterpiece. Wander around the grounds then climb the Instagram worthy lizard stairs. There are a number of vistas of the city and of the grand Sagrada Familia Cathedral. The park is the perfect place to picnic or cool down during a warm afternoon. There is a nominal charge for entering the park.
Once you have had a view of Sagrada Familia from a distance, time to go discover the work of art up close. First things first. This place is very popular. By popular we mean there are throngs of people that que up to see the inside and take pictures of the quirky characters that adorn the exterior of the building. We recommend making this a first or last stop during the day to avoid the herds.
So what exactly is this?
Dreamed up and designed by Gaudi, the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family) cathedral is Gaudi’s tribute to his beloved religion, Catholicism. He spent every last peso on its development and construction. He died leaving the building only 25% finished. Construction was commenced 1883 and continues to this day. Construction has been interrupted by civil war, construction company disagreements and most of all lack of funding. With all of that turmoil it is one of the most unique and intriguing structures. The way the entire building is filled with light, the shapes, curves, and spires make it an icon.
One of the most underrated parts of town is the water front. While Barcelona proper doesn’t have any prime beaches, it does have some stellar fish houses along the water. You can dine on some seafood paella and watch the boats come in and out. Don’t forget to snap a picture of one of you fellow travelers- Christopher Columbus!
Once you have had your dinner, head over to the city center and watch the magic fountains of Montjuic. The display is made up of hundreds of jets shooting water high into the air, and the entire show is set to music. It is a wonderful mix of water, color and sounds! Not to be missed.
Barcelona is truly one of those places that change the way you travel. You immediately want to dive deeper and understand the architecture, culture and the vibrant and engaging people of this city. Did we miss something? Have you been? Please let us a comment below.