Looking for tips on things to do in Barcelona?
As part of our city guides series, we interviewed Mariana Calleja who has been in Barcelona since January 2010, fell in love with the place, and decided to stay longer.
Mariana shares with us her insider tips on the best things to do in Barcelona plus where to eat, sleep, drink, shop and explore.
Why Visit Barcelona?
Barcelona is a very rich city in many aspects. The easiest way for me to describe this would be through the senses.
In this city you get to eat really good food overall. The catalan cuisine is quite exquisite, from main dishes to pastry shops. No matter what time of the year, they always have special delights for everyone. Definitely a place to come, eat and relax!
Barcelona has incredible sightseeing routes. From Gaudi’s architecture to the natural mediterranean landscape. There’s something for everyone here, for sports lovers the Camp Nou, for art lovers amazing museums, for budget travelers lots of free things all year round. It’s impossible not to enjoy Barcelona.
Well, this might go in many ways, from cuisines all around town to the seaside afternoons. Each season offers something different and smells will definitely catch your way into curious experiences. I would suggest “just let go”.
Street sounds and catalan language. Musicians all over the place makes my day every day. Inside the metro, on the streets, along the beach. To me is like being in a movie every time!
Not to mention spectacular concerts in the different theaters which can go from a budget to expensive prices. And catalan language: an interesting one to listen to within all the stories attached. They really want to teach it to those interested. Again, there’s something for everyone.
Barcelona is definitely a place to feel things, to experience feelings. Just walk around, there’s magic hard to describe. There is friendly ambience. Safety too somehow, depends where you are coming from but still is a safe city to just enjoy day or night.
Barcelona is vibrant and intense, yet relaxing and welcoming.
Things to Do in Barcelona?
- Magic Montjuic Fountains, from friday to sunday (oct-apr) from 7pm to 9pm. Free outstanding show.
- Rent a bike and ride along the beach.
- Festes de Gracia in August is a must-sense!
- Local festivities such as Sant Jordi and La Merce are quite big parties around town, with beautiful unusual activities that can easily be enjoyed by travelers.
- Santa Lucia Christmas Market in front of the Cathedral.
Best Neighborhoods to Explore?
The traditional old spanish kinda neighborhood. All filled with little plazas perfect for a coffee afternoon or some beer and tapas. Also known both for a nice night life and a family friendly place.
Mystique area perfect for night life as well. All kind of bars, restaurants and international food makes of this neighborhood one of the best in Barcelona in my opinion. Cozy, alive and magical.
A unique and contrastant place. Deserves a good walk around into its authentic and ethnical streets, filled with an incredible mix of islamic and hindu cultures all around. Great for curious travelers into something beyond the city guides.
The modernist heart of Barcelona. Ideal for long walks while getting delighted with its great architecture and buildings, including Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Casa Milá, as for the most known attractions in the city. Not to mention the endless number of nice places for eating, having coffee or just a nice chat.
Where to Eat in Barcelona?
Boqueria Market (yes, the touristy one but food here is quite something, worth the rush!)
Any other local markets such as Mercat de L’Abaceria and Mercat de la Barçeloneta.
Ciutat Comtal: great for dinner time, quality catalan food.
La Bodegueta: Really good tapas with the homemade feeling. Also nice to have some wine and relax on the inside. Very local.
Not very catalan but good food around if you go to Arepería La Taguara in El Born neighborhood,inside the gothic quartier, although it’s venezuelan traditional food, it’s definitely not on the city guides and for some reason I can’t explain, you’ll love it too! Haven’t found another like these on my
travels so worth a try.
You Can’t Visit Barcelona Without Eating?
Fideua! Like a paella but made up with little special noodles and served with a traditional sauce called “alioli”.
Calçots in winter season! Your fingers and palate will be grateful forever.
Where to Drink in Barcelona?
Any bar at Gracia Negihborhood is always good. Specially at Calle Verdi and Plaza del Sol. Also around the Passeig del Born street you can find lots of nice places to grab a drink.
Best Place for a Night on the Town?
Gothic quartier is the place to go bar-hopping! For everyone, all tastes and all ages too. Amazing little place full of night life.
Where to Stay in Barcelona?
Anywhere close to La Rambla and Paseo de Gracia are good spots, well communicated within transport system or just walking. Anywhere around the street called Passeig de Gracia and/or Plaza Cataluña-Las Ramblas will be perfect for anyone visiting.
- Ayre Hotels are good on location and service.
- NH Hotels
- Hoteles Catalonia, all around the city to suit your needs.
Markets and Shopping?
Food markets are always a good idea! La Boqueria is the touristy one but is a nice place to admire and get the senses go active. Not on a budget but just watching and smelling is free.
Then, there are local markets such as Mercat de L’Abaceria in Gracia, located in a quite unique old building.
For a unique market experience, the Book Market in Sant Antoni on Sundays is a must-see! And last but not least, just get lost any weekend around El Raval nieghborhood, over its cozy Rambla you will find local artisan market stands, away from the city rush.
Major Events and Festivals in Barcelona?
- Festa Major de Gracia: an amazing display of community street art for a whole party-week!
- Sant Joan: the shortest night of the year must be lived on the beach over bonfires, good friends and endless fireworks in the sky.
- Sant Jordi: on april 23 rd, a special event takes place: red roses and books take over the city entirely, celebrating the defeat of the dragon by Sant Jordi, saving the princess and giving peace to the whole town from the dragon’s menace.
Barcelona is totally walkable, but it has many attractions all over the city. Sometimes you will need the metro or bus service to go from one corner to the other. The best thing would be to organize every day during your visit around sectors or neighborhoods. So you can enjoy the walking, the views and the local feeling while going on your own feet.
Is it WiFi friendly?
Barcelona is completely WI-FI friendly. You can find lots of wi-fi access points throughout town, around main attractions, even close to the beach. The sign is as shown on this picture:
Best Time of Year to Visit?
This is a very weather-friendly city. Summer is not extremely hot or winter not extremely cold. Of course best seasons would be intermediate temperatures, such as April-June and September-November.
Few rainy days throughout the whole year and even in winter you get sunny days with deep blue skies.
Favorite Side Trip?
Montserrat even though it’s touristy, is an amazing place to visit, into nature, hiking and all kind of activities for all ages and tastes. A place that should be seen.
Amazing Roman ruins in Tarragona is also an incredible day trip, and definitely not as crowded as Rome! Interesting place with the catalan touch.
Getting There and Away?
Barcelona is a great place in terms of location and transportation. Getting there is easy in any way: car, train, bus, airplane, ships. You choose! Airport is well located and well connected to downtown with bus and train service, all on a budget and in good timing.
Vueling Airline is one good low cost company that arrives in BCN from lots of destinations. Just to mention one. But definitely BCN is a VERY well connected city with the world, so no trouble here!
Best “insiders” tip?
For tea lovers you might not want to miss El Salterio Tea House, in the gothic quartier.
For tapas, any corner out from the city rush will be good. Ciutat Comtal is one great spot for tapas & montaditos. Really good food all year round. Very popular among the catalan community.
As always a good idea to try eating at the local markets, where any food will be 100% fresh and tasty!
I love Barcelona because?
It has given me life experiences, more than just travel. It has given me a dream come true, a life, a home away from home, a new language and culture, friends too and above all, it has given me a base to do my whole travel dream, to move around, to get to know more.
More Resources for Barcelona
Check out these helpful travel guides:
- Lonely Planet Barcelona (City Guide)
- Fodor’s Barcelona: With Highlights of Catalonia & Bilbao (Full-color Travel Guide)
- Rick Steves’ Pocket Barcelona
Do you have tips on things to do in Barcelona?