Because Barcelona is home to many cruise ships. And because Barcelona is, quite frankly, one of the best cities I’ve ever been to… It’s no surprise that we get the question on a rather regular basis about what we would recommend visitors do when they come to Barcelona. Friends, friends of friends, family, etc. Here are our suggestions!!
La Sagrada Familia (get the audio guide too and order your tickets online beforehand (at least a day before) so you won’t have to wait in line. Here’s a link to tickets.. if you have time purchase the audioguide and the tickets for the elevator up in to the tower.
Walk down Las Ramblas from Plaza Catalunya to the Boqueria
Walk through the Boqueria
Have lunch at Bar Lobo (next to the Boqueria) or if you really love trying food at one of the stands in Boqueria. Remember lunch is from 2-5 ish… or if you want a quicker lunch and LOVE burgers.. head to Bacoa on Ronda de la Universitat, 31. Soo good!
Wander around the Barri Gotic until you want to go back to your hotel. (The Picasso Museum is here… and is pretty amazing.. especially if you have seen the painting “Las Meininas” at the Prado in Madrid.. as Picasso spent a lot of time creating his own interpretation of this painting and there’s a whole wing dedicated to this in BCN). Here’s a link to tickets.
For dinner if you want to be on the water and have great paella.. head to Pez Vela (which is in the lower half of the W Hotel).. or have lunch at Agua again, make reservations if you can!
If you get up early… head up to Parc Guell (I’m talking like 8AM or so) and walk through the park with NO CROWDS… and lots of early morning views! This used to be free, but you need to purchase tickets in advance now to avoid the lines.
Head to either La Pedrera or Casa Battlo… (it depends on how much Gaudi you want to see)… go to both if you are crazy about Gaudi.. (Get your tickets online in advance to avoid lines.. La Pedrera tickets or Casa Battlo tickets. Also, notice you can see these amazing structures at night!!! I haven’t done this… but highly recommend heading to the rooftop terrace at Hotel Omm.. to view the lights on La Pedrera at night! Incredible!
Barcelona has gotten more sophisticated. They are using the Disney “Fast Pass” approach at times. Which means, not only can you skip lines, but you don’t have to pick specific times either. If it’s available, spend a bit more for this luxury. And, if you combine it with Bus Turistic (the red bus) you can hop on and off at your leisure. BTW you can purchase tickets to the Bus Turistic at any Bus Turistic stop. A 2-day pass is the way to go it’s like 10 euros more… and you’ll save money on cab fare.. and it’s a great way to see the city.
Have lunch at Cerveceria Catalana for some of the best Spanish tapas we’ve had. It gets crowded so if you head to lunch at 1… or 1:30.. you may even beat the crowds. It’s also near La Pedrera..
Hire Sarah Soler from Galaplacidiatours she will not only show you great historic places to shop, but walk you through the Gothic Quarter and give you a load of history about Barcelona!
Dinner at Isabella’s (make reservations!)… is one of our favorite restaurant in Barcelona. And be sure and order the menu degustacion. (The chef will deliver whatever he wants.. and it’s always amazing!)… And be sure and order the Ternera (steak) but the way they prepare it, it’s like CANDY!!! Also get the croquetas with gorgonzola and the burrata… and tell Isabella I said hi! If you head here, you are in my old stomping grounds for where we lived.
The other restaurant we are Crazy in love with is Boca Grande (make reservations or just go to the sister bar next door Boca Chica) be sure and head down to the co-ed bathroom afterwards for a DJ hosted party in the potty. Not sure if the DJ is there every night.. but definitely on the weekends, you will enjoy the bathroom dance party with strobe lights, drinks, etc. Here’s us partying in the potty…. a bit blurry..but you get the point..
OR consider heading to Bar Mut Restaurant and then ask about the secret jazz club upstairs afterwards (we only learned about this the last year we lived in Barcelona).
If you want to see the coast, take the train up to Sitges and enjoy a day at the beach. You can do this by train at the Sants train station. From here, you could even take the high speed train to Paris!!
The Palau de la Musica is amazing.. but I wouldn’t pay for their tour. Instead, if there’s a show that looks interesting, it’s better to go to a show there.. here’s a link to upcoming shows..
Also, try and see the Castellers! They now have a website dedicated to people like us!!
Also, if you happen to be lucky enough to be in town when Barca is playing… get tickets!!! Here’s their calendar.
There are a bunch of things we have yet to do, but are saving for when we have friends with smaller kids… they are as follows:
Tibidabo – an old amusement park that overlooks the city.
The Barcelona Zoo
We’ve visited the aquarium.. but didn’t much like it. It’s hard to top the Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati..
The Museum of Chocolate
The Ice Bar (near the Arts Hotel on the water)
A bike tour.. Fat Tire Bike Tours
Hike the Carretera de las Aguas…. this trail is on the side of the mountain that looks over Barcelona and the Sea… you would hop on the Metro (subway) to the Peu del Funicular stop… then hop on the funicular (your ticket is good for both) and head up the mountain. Don’t get off at the top, but get off at the next stop as it’s heading back down.. and that’s the Carretera. Walk in either direction.. it’s beautiful! But if you plan a lunch up there, you can make reservas at Can Marti and have a very traditional meat heavy catalan lunch… from white beans, patatas, sausage, wine, etc. It’s a fabulous experience.
We also get questions about HOTELS. Here are some of our suggestions:
Le Meridien is right off of Las Ramblas
Hotel Majestic is right off of Passeig de Gracia
Casa Fuster has a fabulous rooftop deck that has gorgeous views overlooking the Passeig de Gracia…
And the other view from the rooftop bar..
Hotel Arts (off the beaten path, but we hear it’s great).. BTW Hotel Arts has a Six Senses Spa that is awesome … the best in the city as voted by my body… and a fabulous view to boot!! Here’s a view from one of the deck’s post treatment..
Here’s a link to an apartment in our neighborhood. A metro station away from Las Ramblas. Or a quick 15 minute walk to Passieg de Gracia.
Several friends have also rented this Apartment on Arago and felt that it was perfect and close to everything…
There’s so much more.. so as we think about ideas, we will add more. Here’s a link to the calendar of holidays here.. as there are many.. and most of them are really, really fun and interesting!
BTW, we haven’t spent much time in Montjuic but it too is a popular place to go with the Miro Museum and the National Museum of Art.. also the Magic Fountains at night and Poble Espana which was built for the World’s Fair and replicates architecture from all over Spain with little shops that sell things you would find made in Spain. It’s kind of a working town if you will.
And.. thanks to a visitor that’s here now.. she’s introduced me to this… I haven’t done it.. but it looks like it might save you a bunch of money. I’m not sure if it helps you skip some of the long lines though! It’s an Articket…
Ok and lastly, let’s talk SHOPPING… what to buy, what to buy…
If you are going for made in Spain stuff….
Definitely pop in to Zara and Mango. Cheap, inexpensive clothes. But totally hip and trendy! Also Desigual is Barcelona made.. not as cheap!
Pretty Ballerina shoes and Espadrille Shoes or more Espadrilles here .
Loewe Bags or for less expensive bags Vaho (these are bags made from old recycled street banners)
There’s an unbelievable jewelry store.. from crazy costume jewelry to super cool expensive stuff (cool and different.. very artsy).. it’s called La Basilica Galeria and is on Sant Sever which if you face the Cathedral and walk up the right side of the Cathedral.. it’s a street off to your right.
Farga Chocolate be sure and get the chocolate balls that are milk chocolate powder on the outside with sugared almonds on the inside… they are called Catanas and are very common here..
For high end (and expensive) shopping try Jofre in our neighborhood or hit Passeig de Gracia and visit Santa Eulalia along with Hoss.
And of course Barca jersey’s are always a great gift item..they also sell cool Barca shopper totes… so you think of this amazing city as your shop the markets back in the US.
On another note, I just got back from a great lunch and shopping in San Cugat! Wow!! What a beautiful village!!! And you can take the Metro there! There are a bunch of fabulous shops that I wanted to dip in to.. but I landed in one in particular that I LOVED! It’s called Julia Koo. The owner is from Vancouver.. lived in Shanghai which is where she has all of her clothes made (for women) and they are the most beautiful fabrics… silk and bamboo (which feels like cashmere) and so stylishly beautiful!!! This, for me, truly is the first time in BCN I have walked in to a store and wanted almost everything!!
Here’s a recent link to an article featured on CNN about Barcelona with some tips too! Enjoy!!
Remember.. get your tickets to the museums ahead of time.. to skip lines.. and make your dinner reservations (and lunch too) to ensure you get in! :) And if none of the above suits your fancy and you just want something extra special.. or are organizing groups and want something incredible, call Christian at Barcelona’s Guest… if he made the Pope happy with his trip here to consecrate La Sagrada Familia, I’m sure he can make you happy!! He’s a total CAN DO guy! And one of our favorite people here in BCN.. xo