Have you ever planned a trip to a new city and had absolutely no expectations, figuring you would just see what the city had to offer once you got there? That’s exactly how I felt about Barcelona. After spending several weeks cruising around the Mediterranean, Barcelona was the last stop on our itinerary. Before leaving for Europe, I was most excited to visit Mykonos and Santorini. I spent countless hours daydreaming about the Greek islands that Barcelona became an afterthought. All of that changed however the minute I stepped foot on Barcelona soil. The beachside city and capital of Catalonia has so much to offer and can easily rival magnificent cities like New York, Paris and Tokyo. I fell head over heels in love with Barcelona and would definitely plan a return visit. Here are the highlights of Barcelona:
Explore the City With a Bus Tour
Barcelona is a major international city with a lot to see and do. The public transportation system is extensive with the subway, trams and buses traversing the city. If you’re limited on time however, a city bus tour is a great option. We purchased a two-day pass with the Barcelona City Tour which was money well spent. The bus tour has two routes: the east route includes stops at major attractions like Plaça Catalunya, Sagrada Família, Port Vell and Tibidabo. The west route includes stops at El Born, Montjüic and Camp Nou stadium (for all the soccer fans).
Visit Gaudí’s Masterpieces
Whether you’re an architecture buff or not, it’s undeniable that Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces are unique. Gaudí was a Spanish Catalan architect and his modernist structures can be found all over the city and include Sagrada Família, Park Güell, Casa Battló and La Pedrera. We spent part of our first day in Barcelona at Sagrada Família. The church – begun in 1882 and not yet completed – is quite possibly Gaudí’s most widely beloved works of art. The main chapel is simply beautiful. If you’re planning to visit Sagrada Família, be sure to book tickets online in advance.
Carrer de Mallorca, 401, 08013 Barcelona
+34 932 080 414
We spent part of our last day in Barcelona at Park Güell. The park was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984. Park Güell is perched on Carmel Hill and offers stunning views of the city down below. You’ll also find a mind-blowing array of foliage, Gaudí’s unique and beautiful structures, colors and shapes. Tickets should be booked online in advance.
Carrer d’Olot, 08024 Barcelona
+34 934 091 831
Head to La Boqueria and Pinotxo for Breakfast
Touted as the best market in the world, La Boqueria is a feast for the senses. The market has an incredible selection of produce. Get to the market early for an incredible breakfast selection at Pinotxo Bar. Don’t bother ask for a menu because there isn’t one. Instead, just ask for a recommendation. We opted to try the traditional Spanish egg and potato omelette with pan con tomate (tomato on toast). Hearty and delicious! We also sampled the xuxos de crema which is a cream filled pastry, deep-fried and then rolled in sugar. Pair the xuxos de crema with a café con leche for a sweet take on a breakfast meal. If you’re still hungry after feasting at Pinotxo Bar, wander around the market for fresh fruit cups, juices, cheeses and chocolates.
Mercado de La Boqueria
La Rambla, 91, 08001 Barcelona
+34 933 18 25 84
Stroll Las Ramblas
Barcelona’s most famous street is just under a mile long and stretches from Port Vell (near the cruise port terminal) at the southern end with Plaça Catalunya at the northern end. Las Ramblas is a broad pedestrian boulevard set between narrow traffic lanes. The boulevard is crowded with tourists, locals and souvenir stalls at all hours of the day. There are many famous neighborhoods worth exploring located off Las Ramblas including El Raval and Barri Gòtic.
Take a Dip in the Mediterranean
If you need a break from city sightseeing, head down to one of Barcelona’s many beaches. The city has more than two miles of beaches where you can spend the day soaking up the sun rays. There are also many restaurants lining Barcelona’s waterfront that offer killer views and the freshest seafood. We spent one afternoon at Marina Bay by Moncho’s feasting on the seafood paella and sangria. The restaurant offers panoramic views of Port Olímpic and the sea.
Marina Bay by Moncho’s
Carrer de la Marina, 19-21, 08005 Barcelona
+34 932 21 15 14
Best Time to Visit Barcelona
Like most other European cities, summer constitutes the high tourist season when temperatures, humidity and prices are also at their highest. If you’re looking to save money, consider the spring shoulder season when temperatures are milder and the crowds are thinner. Just be sure to pack a light jacket. Regardless of when you opt to travel to this stunningly beautiful city by the sea, Barcelona is definitely a destination worth visiting.