Barcelona offers the perfect mix of beach and urban city, as well as plenty of architecture, history and culture. For this reason, many people head to the Catalan capital for both city breaks and summer holidays, as there is plenty to do no matter the time of year. For those that have never been to Barcelona before, it can sometimes be difficult to decide where to go and what to see, so we’ve created a detailed beginner’s guide to help you on your way!
Getting Around the City
It can sometimes be a little bit daunting figuring out the transport system in cities that you don’t know too well, but Barcelona is known for having incredible transport links that can take you wherever you need to go! TMB is the city’s main transport system, operating the buses and metro.
The most frequently used mode of public transport in Barcelona is undoubtedly the underground metro service. The Barcelona Metro operates 12 lines with hundreds of stops across the city, meaning accessing any area of the city is a quick, simple and affordable experience.
Knowing the closing times for the Metro is especially useful. The usual schedule from Sunday-Thursday is 5am to midnight. On Fridays the timetable is 5am-2am, whilst a Saturday service runs throughout the night, making it very convenient for those travelling home after a late night or to/from the airport. Tickets can be purchased from the machines at any of the underground stations. We recommend buying a T-casual ticket which provides you with 10 journeys for just over €7.95!
An inexpensive and handy form of transport around Barcelona is the bus. With more than 100 lines covering Barcelona and its surrounding towns, hopping on a bus in the Catalan capital will definitely get you where you need to go.
On TMB’s website, you can use the ‘Going To’ feature to put your start location and destination and the website will show you how to get from A to B via bus, metro or a combination of the two. In terms of actually catching the bus, T-casual tickets can also be used, although other tickets options are available. Simply check that it’s the correct bus by looking at the route map pictured on the bus stop, hop on and insert your ticket into the reader. Then all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the views of the city – but don’t miss your stop whilst doing so!
TMB also offers a handy Night Bus service (NitBus) that runs between 10:40-11-40pm until 5-6am all over the city. Many of the lines pass through Plaça Catalunya, the city’s central hub, making it perfect for those staying in central Barcelona.
Other options – taxi, train, walking, cycling
Barcelona also offers plenty of other ways of getting around the city such as by taxi or train. However, exploring the city on foot is usually one of the best ways to get a real feel of the city, especially in districts such as the Gothic Quarter or El Born with their winding side streets where you can spend hours exploring. If you’re worried about getting lost, many companies offer walking tours where you have the opportunity to enjoy the city with other sight-seekers. These can be tailored to fit your interests, be it food and drink, architecture, culture, art or anything else. So, although Barcelona has incredible public transport links, make sure you leave some time to enjoy a stroll around the city!
Cycling is also another great way to explore the city and luckily, there are bike hire stores on every corner! Barcelona is one of the most bike friendly cities around, so don’t worry about being limited to unnecessary routes. With miles and miles of cycle paths, you’ll be in safe hands!
Barcelona is home to thousands of amazing restaurants, offering all different types of cuisines, meaning it can often be difficult to decide where to enjoy your evening meal. Check out some of our guides to dining out in Barcelona to help you choose – you won’t be disappointed!
- Street Food
- Michelin starred restaurants
It goes without saying that the Sagrada Família should be at the top of anyone’s Barcelona to-do list. The iconic structure by Antoni Gaudí is perhaps the city’s most important tourist attraction, not only for its size, design and intricate modernist features, but also due to the fact that it has been in construction for over 130 years – longer than the Egyptian Pyramids took to build!
Top tip – book tickets in advance to avoid the queues and take the audio guide for the best experience
Metro: Sagrada Familia (L2)
Whether you consider yourself a big Barça fan or merely wish to marvel at a landmark that many people consider to be the best stadium in Europe, a trip to Camp Nou is of utmost importance in a city where football is almost a religion. The ‘Camp Nou Experience’ begins in the opposing squad locker room, leads visitors through the players’ tunnel, and onto the pitch… what are you waiting for?!
Top tip – try to see a Barça game at Camp Nou, the atmosphere is unparalleled!
Metro: Collblanc (L5) or Les Corts (L3)
A trip to Park Güell offers a serene escape from the bustling city centre, with views of the Mediterranean and the Barcelona skyline. From the moment you enter the park it is evident that you have stepped into Gaudí territory, due to the exciting spectrum of coloured mosaics, unusually shaped rooftops and an overall naturalist feel – not to be missed!
Top tip – book tickets in advance, as there are designated time slots for visiting Park Güell.
Metro: Lesseps or Vallcarca (L3)
Perhaps one of the most famous parts of Barcelona, La Rambla is another Barcelona must-see. Characterised by its many trees and flower stalls, and the famous Boquería market, many popular shops such as the Nike store, H&M and Mango can be found here. Additionally, walking down La Rambla from Plaça de Catalunya takes you directly to Columbus Monument and Port Vell. A fun fact about La Rambla is that it’s not actually one street, it’s a combination of 5 smaller streets, which is why it is often referred to in its plural as ‘Las Ramblas’!
Top tip – be cautious of pick-pocketers on La Rambla, as this area gets very busy especially during the summer season.
Metro: Liceu (L3) or Catalunya (L1, L3)
Situated on the famous Passeig de Gràcia next to Casa Amatller, Casa Batlló is a UNESCO World Heritage Site designed by Gaudí that’s characterised by its skeletal structure, colourful façade and curved roof. We guarantee that it will be unlike anything else you will see in the city!
Top tip – in the summer season, buy a ticket to Casa Batlló’s ‘magic nights’ and enjoy live music and drinks on the rooftop.
Metro: Passeig de Gràcia (L2, L3, L4)
Other Things to see
Situated in Gràcia, this magnificently unique structure is characterised by intense, bright colours (mostly green, red and white) and floral patterned tiling with yellow blooms and bulbs. It was built with red-coloured bricks, undressed stone, and vivid ceramic tiles, using Oriental and Eastern styles as inspiration. The interior of this colourful building was only opened to the public in November 2017, so be sure to check it out when in Barcelona!
Top tip – final entry for Casa Vicens is 8pm so be sure to get there earlier.
Metro: Fontana (L3)
What’s a visit to Barcelona without a trip to the beach? The coastal city boasts miles and miles of sand where you can kick back, enjoy a picnic, go for a dip or simply top up your tan!
Top tip – head to the beaches in the northern part of the city such as Nova Icaria or Bogatell to avoid huge crowds of tourists.
Barceloneta (L4) – for Barceloneta beach
Ciutadella Vila Olímpica (L4) – for Nova Icaria
Llacuna (L4) – for Bogatell
Poble Espanyol is a model village that features winding streets, charming squares, facades and buildings inspired by different autonomous regions and provinces of Spain. Situated atop Montjuïc, the village is the perfect place to go exploring on a warm, sunny day!
Top tip – there are many top events held in Poble Espanyol, so check out their website prior to going to see if you fancy any of these.
Metro: Espanya (L3, L1)
Best Views in Barcelona
Barcelona is known for having plenty of spots for panoramic viewpoints over the city. These are just some of our favourites!
Bunkers del Carmel
The Bunkers del Carmel, or the Turó de la Rovira stands 262 metres above sea level and is one of the very few places that boasts 360-degree views over Barcelona. This site is an old military base that was originally built during the Spanish Civil War to spot and fend off enemy airplanes during the Franco regime. To get to the bunkers you can get the metro, however this will require a 20 minute walk up to the top. There are many buses including lines 22 and 24 that will take you closer to the top so that you don’t have to walk as far.
Top tip – arrive at the Bunkers early enough to get a good spot and catch the sunset.
Metro: El Carmel (L5)
Montjuïc hill provides more spots with beautiful views of Barcelona. From the Montjuïc Castle, on top of the hill, you can grasp a view of the city’s buildings, harbour and the sea. Also, the front of the MNAC (Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya) faces the Montjuïc Magic Fountains, Plaça d’Espanya and the Serra de Collserola mountain range.
Top tip – go on the cable cars at Montjuïc for the best views over the city!
Metro: Espanya (L3, L1)
Tibidabo is part of the Serra de Collserola mountain range as well as being the tallest mountain in Barcelona at 512 metres high. On the top you can find an amusement park and the Sagrat Cor church, which can be seen from the city at night when it is all lit up. Tibidabo provides an astonishing view over the city at all hours of the day. However, we wouldn’t recommend getting the metro to Tibidabo, as there aren’t any stops in close proximity to the mountain.
Top tip – The Ferris wheel at the top of the mountain offers an even better and unique view of the city!
Bus: T2A Bus from Plaça de Catalunya
It’s important to consider the different neighbourhoods and areas of Barcelona, as the best place to stay can vary depending on what you want from your visit.
Plaça de Catalunya
Although it’s not actually the name of a neighbourhood, Plaça de Catalunya is generally considered as being the most central point of the city centre, so if you want to be right in the heart of the action, staying nearby this grand square would be the best option for you.
Gràcia is a great choice for those who want to be close to the main city centre, but not directly inside it. It’s also a good option for those wanting to be closer to Park Guell and the Bunkers del Carmel.
Part of the old town (Ciutat Vella), this interesting neighbourhood is popular with students, as it is in close proximity to the Universitat de Barcelona’s main building.
Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is in the heart of the city as it once was ‘the original Barcelona’ where the city began before Eixample was built. This area is characterized by winding, labyrinth-like streets, wonderfully picturesque architecture, and plenty of restaurants and cafes full of atmosphere.
Split into different areas, Eixample is Barcelona’s largest neighbourhood. Neighbourhoods such as Sagrada Família and Fort Pienc are part of Eixample as it is so vast. Eixample Dreta (right) is perfect for those who want to be near Passeig de Gràcia and the ‘main centre’ and Eixample Esquerra (left) is home to Barcelona’s main university, shopping streets, the Mercat de Sant Antoni. The area between the Ronda Sant Antoni and the Ronda Universitat is known as the “Gaixample”, where Barcelona’s LGBT community have opened bars and restaurants.
This area is home to Barcelona’s closest beach to the city centre. Barceloneta is a popular neighbourhood amongst those that want to be close to the beach but want easy access to the city centre.
Poble Sec isn’t home to many tourist attractions, however it’s a great place to stay as it is only a 10-minute journey to the centre by metro. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars, as well as Carrer de Blai, a street famous for its tasty pintxos and tapas!
El Born/La Ribera
Also part of the ‘Ciutat Vella’, El Born offers culture, traditional buildings and is in walking distance to the rest of the centre and the beach. It’s also known for having plenty of restaurants, bars and cafés.
Known to some as the ‘Catalonian Manchester’ due to its industrial history, Poblenou is an district full of new hotels, shopping centres, office buildings and restaurants. This neighbourhood also boasts its own beaches, which are often less busy than Barceloneta.
Sants is a residential area of Barcelona and doesn’t tend to have many attractions, however the ease with which you can travel to areas of interest is a huge plus point, and one of Barcelona’s main train stations is located here.
So now you know Barcelona like the back of your hand, the city will be your oyster when you visit. Feel at home during your city break/holiday to Barcelona by staying in a centrally located apartment!