Barcelona Travel Guide
Barcelona is the second-largest city in Spain and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. From family travelers to the cruise ship crowds to the hordes of young travelers that descend upon this city during the summer months, Barcelona has a little bit of everything for everyone. It is a city steeped in history (the Barri Gothic dates back to Roman times), architecture (Gaudi is everywhere), unique food (Catalan), and a wild nightlife that doesn’t even begin until 2 AM. One of my favorite cities in the world, Barcelona lives up to its reputation as a world-class destination.
Hostel Prices: Dorm rooms can vary dramatically in price here. They start at $12 USD per night, but $17-22 is average. At the more popular hostels, expect to spend around $30 per night. Private rooms start at around $60 USD per night for a double. My favorite hostels in the city are Kabul and Hello BCN.
Budget Hotel Prices: Hotels in Barcelona aren’t cheap unless they are far away from the center. Double rooms start at $75 per night and go up from there.
Average Cost of Food: You can get cheap tapas and meals for around $7-14 USD. That will include about 3 or 4 tapas. If you want wine included, expect to spend about $20 per meal. A good restaurant meal will set you back around $27 USD. If you go out for Paella, drinks, appetizers, etc. then you should plan to spend around $40 for a meal. Cheap food like McDonalds and Maoz cost around $7. If you buy your own food, expect to spend about $40 for a week’s worth of groceries.
Transportation Costs: A bus or metro ticket costs $2.60 per journey and if you get the 10 pack of tickets, you can save quite a bit. A pack of 10 tickets costs $13.50.
Money Saving Tips
Get the Barcelona Card – The Barcelona Card offers free public transportation and all sorts of discounts at museums, nightclubs, entertainment facilities, shops, and tourist restaurants. The Barcelona Card covers the Metro or bus and unlimited travel on all public transport.
See the free sights – Many museums in Barcelona are open to the public for free. All city museums are free on the first Sunday of each month, except the City History Museum, which is free on the afternoon of the first Saturday of the month. Museums are also free to groups using the visit for study on Wednesday afternoons, and many are free after 3 PM on Sundays.
Eat seafood for lunch – Head down to the beaches during the day for seafood. The restaurants in this area are really expensive but, during the day, you can get a good plate of food for $10-14 USD.
Top Things to Do
Wander Gaudi’s Architecture – Gaudi is Barcelona’s most famous architect- not only because of his tragic death getting killed by a tram, but also because of his unique style, use of nature, and catalog of work. His work is a real visual treat. If you like unique architecture, consider doing something different in Barcelona and take a tour of Gaudi’s works.
Visit the Barcelona History Museum – Barcelona has one of the best city history museums I’ve ever been too. It does a great, great job of explaining the history and importance of this city. Moreover, there are 4,000 square meters of roman ruins located beneath the museum that you can walk through. There is a free, detailed audio guide and detailed explanations of what you are seeing. They do a great and thorough job. This is a must-see.
See the Picasso Museum – Picasso was a great artist. While I’m not a huge fan of most of his later work, it’s still interesting to learn about the life and work of one of the most influential artists in the 20th century. With over 3,000 pieces of art, there is a lot to see here.
Walk La Rambla – This famous street in Barcelona where all the tourists go. You’ll find overpriced shops, restaurants, and camera-toting tourists all over this long street. However, despite that, there is a great energy throughout the street. It’s a great place to people watch; it’s central, and it is filled with the best street performers in Europe.
Get Lost in the Barri Gotic – This is the name given to the old area of Barcelona, which is filled with windy streets and historic buildings. Spend a few hours getting lost through this area, stumbling upon old buildings, churches, and plazas. The deeper you go into this area, the more local and interesting it becomes.
Visit the Gothic Cathedral – Located in the heart of the Bari Gotic, this Gothic cathedral was built on the top of an 11th-century church. There is a cool cloister in which to walk around. The real highlight of this church is the roof. You can take an elevator up to the top where you can get stunning views of the surrounding area.
See the Gaudi Fountain – Gaudi out did himself with this huge fountain located in the Parc de la Ciutadella. It’s a huge tribute to the god Neptune. There are huge griffins spouting water, Neptune on his chariot, and a gold statue on top. With benches and an ice cream place nearby, it’s a good place to relax.
Enjoy the Beach – Barcelona has a wide and long beach that is incredibly popular year round. The water is good to swim in and there are a lot of good restaurants on the boardwalk.
Ride the Harbor Cable Car – The 1450-meter long harbor aerial tramway with red cars connects Montjuic and Barceloneta. It starts in Barceloneta on the top of 78-meter Torre San Sebastian tower, which has also a restaurant on its top that’s accessible by an elevator. It has an intermediate stop at Torre Jaume I tower (close Columbus monument), which can be reached by elevator from ground–107-meter tower, the second-tallest aerial tramway support tower in the world.
Visit the Aquarium – Perfect for a rainy day, the Barcelona Aquarium consists of 35 different tanks, showcasing species from a variety of underwater ecosystems. The walk-through tunnel is the best part. Entrance costs $24 USD.
Walk through the Raval – Barcelona’s old literary district is known as the Raval. It used to have a bit of a dark, edgy feel in the ’20s, but is now filled with businesses and some trendy shops. It’s worth taking a stroll around the area.
Catch an Outdoor Film – If you’re in Barcelona in July or August, consider going up to Montjuïc castle to catch an outdoor film around the moat. Screenings take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and are preceded by some cool live music.
Head out to Montserrat – The Montserrat mountain range is just outside of the city, and makes for a great daytrip. You can reach the area by taking a one-hour train ride. Once there, walk around the natural park area, and pay a visit to the famous shrine of the Black Madonna. It’s a beautiful area, and is a nice getaway from the urban atmosphere.