Have you ever visited a city that’s a museum? No, not a museum in a city, a city that’s an open air museum – you read that right. That’s the experience Barcelona offers to its visitors. Amazing boulevards filled with no straight corners architecture and of course, the famous Sagrada Familia cathedral.
All of these combined with the Mediterranean vibe, make Barcelona an open air museum like you’ve never seen before. Read more below as we aim to take you on a tour of this wonderful Catalan capital.
Barcelona is located in the south east part of the Iberic peninsula. It’s unclear regarding the origin of the first settlement and its name. Most believe it was a Carthaginian settlement made by Carthaginian general, Hamilcar Barca, father of Hannibal, who supposedly named the city Barcino after his family in the 3rd century BC.
Over the centuries is was ruled by the Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and even the French. This has created an unique blend of culture and separate language compared to the rest of Spain – Catalan.
Nowadays, Barcelona is a prosperous city with 1.6 million population. It is a cultural and economic powerhouse in Spain but also in the western Mediterranean region. This can be seen in the architecture and local culture.
It also hosts one of the world’s most renown football teams – FC Barcelona enhancing the city’s prestige in the world.
How to get here and where to stay?
Regarding flights, Barcelona’s main airport is Barcelona–El Prat Airport (BCN) and is located 15km outside the city grounds. However, it is easily accessible using the local regional trains. Flights tend to be within reasonable amounts compared to other similar destinations.
If you want to see how you can travel cheaper by plane, please check our article on how to find cheap flights. This is how we made sure we got the best value for money on this trip.
We would recommend you stay at least a weekend (or a long weekend) to allow you to visit all the major points of interest.
In terms of accommodation, we would recommend booking your travel through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. On this particular occasion we chose to stay at a chain budget hotel – Travelodge Barcelona Poblenou as it was quite central and conveniently placed near public transport stops.
Top things to do in Barcelona
There are so many things to do and places to see in Barcelona, our recommendations are below. If you don’t have enough time in the city, you might consider Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour to cover the main attractions.
Marina at the Olympic Port
No matter the time of year you are visiting head over to the Marina at the Olympic Port. It sure is a great way to start your visit and offer great views of the beach and the sea.
As you walk south as it were, you will see a statue of Christopher Columbus pointing towards the New World. Over there you can also go to the Sea World attraction if sea life is of interest. If you want to read more about Christopher Columbus, check out our article about Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Taking a turn to the right you’re met by the famous avenue of “La Rambla” which is a must if you’re visiting Barcelona for the first time. Over here you will find many cafes and restaurants all ready to serve hungry and thirsty tourists. Churros, Sangria, tapas or even paellas.
For the best churros we also have an article in our Madrid visit, so if Madrid is also on your list be sure to check it out. We recommend to enjoy at least a coffee under the shade of the plane trees and see how the people pass by.
Mercado de La Boqueria
As you finish your coffee, make your way further in the city through the Rambla. At some point you will see a large glass hall on your left. That’s the Mercado de La Boqueria, a vibrant and well stocked market in the middle of Barcelona.
It offers various typical Spanish and Catalan merchandise such as wines, fruits, meats and many more. It’s a sure win visit for any of you gourmet enthusiasts.
Plaça de Catalunya
When you see a large opening in front of you, this is how you know you’ve reached Plaça de Catalunya, a large central square culminating with an open fountain. A great place for a photo break indeed.
From here we propose the following. You have 2 options to go to Sagrada Familia. Walking, which wouldn’t be a bad idea if you want to further explore the splendour of Barcelona or you can use the Metro (tube).
The tube stop isn’t too far away from the cathedral so you have to walk a little bit more. However, you know you’ve arrived when you see massive queues of people waiting to enter.
We recommend you arrive there before the strong Spanish sun as you don’t want to be melting whilst waiting. (There you go, I even made a rhyme for you 😉 )
The Basílica de la Sagrada Família, also known as the Sagrada Família, is a large unfinished Roman Catholic minor basilica in the Eixample district of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Designed by the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí, his work on the building is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The work is still undergoing and yet to finish. Currently the chief architect Jordi Fauli estimates the cathedral is 70% done. Remains to be seen when it will be completed.
As you enter the cathedral you will notice how this building is like no other. This is because of Antoni Gaudi’s philosophy that in nature there are no straight lines. He drew a lot of his inspiration from mother nature and hence his buildings reflect that all across Barcelona.
His work showed a lot of promise but also wow-ed many potential critics from quite early on in his career. It is said that his very own architecture lecturer said that “I don’t know if I gave this degree to a madman or a genius.”. I guess some people’s work take years for us to understand it.
Back to the cathedral. Whilst there, sit down on one of the benches. You will notice how the stained glass colours beautifully the arches and columns designed as trees. Or how the various cement flowers decorate the walls giving an impression that we are in a concrete forest.
One word should describe your feelings at the end of your visit: inspirational.
Now, get back on the metro and head towards Plaça d’Espanya. A famous plaza bordered by architectural landmarks, with fountain shows, shopping & an arena. Over there you can also see the Venetian Towers, an impressive feat of architecture.
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Head towards Montjuic. As you walk through the boulevard you will see the Montjuic Magic Fountain. During certain times in the evening it hosts a water and light show all orchestrated on classical music. A must for sure!
As you progress through the gardens you will see the National Palace, which hosts the Arts Museum. An amazing Neo-Baroque style building that brings an amazing balance to the architectural landscape of this area.
Head up the stairs to get a closer look and by all means feel free to visit the museum, it’s there for a reason!
As you come out of the museum you will see a large royal like garden in the back of it. It shows many busts of Catalan and Spanish personalities but also different gardens with different themes.
Note to self: Don’t be tempted by the oranges you see in this park. These are wild oranges and they taste amazingly horrible.
Montjuic is also the former Olympic area. Barcelona hosted the Olympics in 1992. You will also be able to see many stadiums and other such things.
On the other end of Barcelona one must definitely go and see it – Park Güell. Eusebi Güell assigned the design of the park to Antoni Gaudí, the renowned architect and the face of Catalan modernism. You will have remembered Gaudi from the Sagrada Familia cathedral.
Typical to his style, this is a very interesting park that shows off how man-made structures can seamlessly blend in with nature.
Now having seen some of the modern Gaudi architecture, it would be also interesting to check out some classical gothic style one. For that we recommend the Barcelona Cathedral. It’s an impressive contraction with gorgeous gothic arches and imposing façade.
Built on the ruins of an older church, construction began in the 11th century and was finished in 1913. Whoever project managed this, was not in a hurry.
Another great place to go and see but also relax is Ciudatella Park. Originally the site of the Barcelona World Fair in 1888, this park hosts a botanical garden and also the city Zoo. So a definite must if you have kids.
We found this park similar to El Retiro park in Madrid – absolutely beautiful!
Barcelona, as with most of Spain, serves Paella. Although a Valencian recipe most restaurants offer it here also. Churros is another element that comes up in the culinary landscape.
When we went there we tried some of these classics and they were good. We also went out and had a few tapas with various elements. They are amazing when served with your favourite beer or even Sangria.
Typical is also pastry sheets but unlike in classic cuisine where they use butter, here they can use lard in the more traditional shops.
Jamon, is another staple of this region’s cuisine. Depending on your tastes and preferences a good cut can cost a few good hundred euros. But hey – it’s tasty!
Barcelona is an amazing city for families and city breaks. It offers amazing architectural landscapes and impressive views. This makes this city stand out on the world map and truly be a pioneer of human culture and architecture pushing ever so more the boundaries.
We believe that after you visit this place, you become more culturally enriched, but also impressed of what 1.6 million people from Barcelona call home.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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