Travel Guide: Barcelona
In a bid to make the most of this year’s Easter long weekend, my sister, our boyfriends and I went on a little trip to Barcelona, Spain, in search of some sun, amazing food, wine and relaxation. That’s pretty much exactly what happened.
As we do with every trip, before jetting off we all made an effort to collect as many insider tips as we could from the locals. This meant we didn’t waste any time getting caught in tourist traps and managed to see and try some of the best food, drinks and sights that Barcelona has to offer, which I now want to share with you.
Don’t forget to check out the map at the bottom of this post, to help you find all the recommendations!
We stayed in Gracia, a very cool and old area of Barcelona that is safely away from the key tourist spots, allowing us to have a much more fun and authentic experience. It was described to me as the east London of Barcelona with lots of boutiques, amazing bars and a great atmosphere, and it didn’t disappoint.
As always, I found my accommodation through Airbnb. As always, I was impressed although this time surely surpassed all other Airbnb experiences. The apartment we stayed in was absolutely gorgeous! It was two storeys of design heaven – two bedrooms, two bathrooms, two balconies, an amazing kitchen, lounge room and office. Every single piece of the apartment had been perfectly thought out and I was still finding amazing new details on day 3 that I hadn’t picked up on before.
Airbnb always helps me feel like a local and it’s so much more fun than staying at a hotel, which tends to make all trips quite same-y. Then of course there’s the tips that the host can provide, ensuring you get to see the best of what a city has to offer. In our case, the list of best tapas in Gracia proved invaluable as we greedily made our way through them all!
Lots of low cost airlines fly directly from London to Barcelona, including Easy Jet, RyanAir and Monarch. The flight is around 2 hours and a return trip will set you back anywhere between £50-£300.
As I went over Easter and booked it quite last minute, I paid £175 to get there with RyanAir and around £100 to fly back to London with Monarch, carry-on luggage only on both flights. So as you see, it can get quite expensive to go during busy times like Easter and bank holidays so make sure you book as early as possible, but most other weekends are fairly cheap.
I always use Skyscanner to find the best prices as it compares all airlines and is really easy and reliable to use.
The tube and buses are both very efficient. You can buy a T10 ticket at the metro station – this is 10 journeys and it costs the same whether its one stop or 10 stops away. You can use the T10 pass between 2 or more people, just slot it through the machine and then pass it back to your friends. I’ve been promised that it’s perfectly acceptable and legal.
A taxi from the airport to our apartment in Gracia cost €30. Taxis run on a meter and they all look the same (black and yellow), so they’re really easy to spot. (Warning: they’re not afraid of speed!)
Depending on where you say, you’ll probably find that you can walk to a lot of the main sights in Barcelona. I always prefer to explore a city on foot when I can, you get to take in so much more than you would travelling on a tube underground.
Lunch generally starts from 2pm or 1:30pm in some places.
Dinner starts from 8:30pm or 9pm.
If you’re eating earlier then it most likely means that you’re in a tourist trap, so be sure to stock up on snacks if you tend to get ‘hangry’ quite easily 😉
Service is typically slow in Spain and not necessarily “friendly”, though if you’re coming from London then you probably won’t notice any difference.
You’re not required to tip in Barcelona. Catalans tend to tip 1% to 3% if at all, though I still go for the 10% tip when we get great service.
Here’s an amazing list of delicious tapas restaurants, as recommended mostly by our Airbnb hosts in the Gracia areas, but also by friends. Lots of these places were recommended by more than one person, which is always a great sign!
NB: I have plotted all the following places on the Google map at the bottom of this post
- Bodega Quimet (carrer Vic, 23) – An institution in the Gracia neighbourhood!
- Puku (carrer Guilleries, 10) – Really nice tapas and torrades (Catalonia’s answer to pizza)
- Viblioteca (carrer Vallfogona, 12) – Good cheese tapas, excellent wines.
- Bar Mut (Calle Pau Claris, 192) – Book ahead as it gets busy. Has 2 sittings nightly, extremely top wine list. Expensive.
- Bar Cañete (Carrer de la Unió, 17) – Amazing tapas off Ramblas. You can also try Mantel Cañete next door for more cosy/ romantic lunch/dinner. Better to call ahead and book.
Good Catalan Cuisine:
- Taverna El Glop (carrer Sant Lluís, 24) – The artichokes (and the calçots in the winter) are fantastic!
- La Llesca (carrer de Terol, 6)
- Cal Boter (carrer Tordera, 62)
- Can Punyetes (carrer de Francisco Giner, 8-10)
More Gracia Options:
- La Pubilla (Plaça de la Llibertat, 23) – Just brilliant
- El Tossal (calle Tordera, 12)
- Gut (Carrer Perill, 13)
- La Panxa del Bisbe (Carrer Torrent de Les Flors, 158)
- La Singular (Carrer Francisco Giner, 50)
- La Pepita (Carrer Córsega, 343) – One of our favourites of the trip! They don’t take reservations but well worth the wait.
- D.O. (Carrer de Verdi, 36)
And even more food (because that’s what holidays in Spain are all about):
- Xemei (Paseo de la Exposicion, 85) – A Venetian restaurant off the beaten track with amazing service. Not to be confused with generic “Italian”. If you like white wine, ask for a bottle of Sharis.
- Xiringuito Escribà (Avenida del Litoral, 42) – Great paella restaurant by the beach.
- Cantina Machito (carrer Torrijos, 47) – Great Mexican restaurant
- Chido One (carrer Torrijos, 30) – Another good Mexican spot
- Botafumeiro (carrer Gran de Gràcia, 81) – If you want to splurge on a meal, go here for Galician food to die for. Ah, the seafood…
- La Nena (carrer Ramón y Cajal, 36) – For hot chocolate, churros and cakes in general. Great for children.
Most places don’t get busy until after 11:30pm and clubs are empty until around 12:30-1am, so learn to love your afternoon siestas during your time in Spain. In saying that, we went out for drinks around 9:30-10pm each night and found a great atmosphere in all the bars we went to.
All of the above tapas bars also have great wine and drinks menus, so I’d recommend spending an evening simply bar hopping from one tapas bar to the next, making sure you don’t fill your belly too quickly so you can sample some tapas from each bar.
In Spain, Gin and tonics are all the rage. Many bars don’t do any type of cocktails and Cubatas are the norm – so rum and coke, gin and tonic, etc. Of course there’s also Sangria, a sensible choice 🙂
- Ginger (Palma de Sant Just, 1) – Good cocktails and tapas
- Banker´s Bar at Mandarin Oriental (Passeig de Gràcia, 38-40) – An upscale bar
- Boca Chica (Passatge de la Concepció, 12) – 3 floors of exotically-decorated bars
- Beachside – Trendy spots at the moment are the restaurants and bars below the W hotel (Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents, 1).
If you’re not sure where to go, just wander around and explore all of the lovely squares in Gracia: Plaça de la Virreina (our host’s favourite), Diamant, Sol, Revolució, Rius i Taulet (Vila de Gràcia)… Great for a drink during the day or after dinner.
- Satan’s Coffee Corner (Carrer Peu de la Creu, 25) – A coffee institution in Barcelona
- Nomad Coffee Productions (Passatge Sert, 12) – The barista here was trained at one of my London favourites – Nude Espresso
- Skye Coffee (Carrer de Pamplona, 88) – Great coffee in the Poble Nou area
- Cafe Camelia (Carrer Verdi, 79) – We stayed just next to this cafe and whilst the coffee wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, it certainly did the job and I was pleasantly surprised! The cafe was also always full, from morning to night, so they’re doing something right!
Things to Do
I can’t recommend seeing the Sagrada Família enough – it was absolutely breathtaking and no photos that I took could ever do it justice. It’s usually less busy in the late afternoon than in the morning, but in general it’s always busy. On Easter weekend, we had to buy our tickets online within a certain time slot, so I recommend that you check online before you go. Tickets can be downloaded to your mobile phone so you don’t need a printer, but be sure to use wifi as the buying process is a little long-winded.
If you’re not much of a walker or just have trouble with navigation (hey, it happens), you can get a ticket for the Bus Turistic which will take you to all the main tourist spots for €27 per day, or €38 for two consecutive days. The main stop is in Plaza Catalunya.
- Sagrada Família – The famous Roman Catholic church designed by Gaudí, still a work in progress
- Casa Milà – This modernist building was the last civil work designed by Gaudí
- Park Güell – Gaudí’s Park. It’s on top of a steep hill, so pack your walking shoes (or get a bus/taxi). Avoid cycling there.
- Camp Nou – Football stadium in Barcelona, home to FC Barcelona. They run daily tours for €23, well worth a visit if you’re a football fan
- Picasso Museum (Montcada 15 – 23)
- Museum of Modern Art (Plaza del `Angels. Rabal)
- Palau de la Musica Catalana (Sant Francesc de Paula 2)
The main beach in Barcelona is Barceloneta. Barcelona’s beach isn’t the most beautiful in the world (I have some pretty high standards), but it’s definitely better than no beach and it’s perfect for a walk or to sit and watch some quality volleyball matches.
- Mercat de La Boqueria is the main market in Barcelona and can be found downtown on La Rambla. Just a warning: it has become very touristy so it’s not the most enjoyable place to wander around and you need to mind your bags when you walk around this area (or anywhere in the centre for that matter!).
- Encants Vells or Fira de Bellcaire (Metro station: Glòries) – This big, Gaudy, shiny structure on plaça de les Glòries is home to Barcelona’s biggest flea market, open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
I hope you find this guide useful. If you have any other recommendations to share, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!