Ultimate Barcelona City Guide
After living in Barcelona for 3+ years, I’m so fortunate that a lot of my friends have been able to visit me. Therefore, I wrote an Ultimate Barcelona City Guide, perfect for first time visitors! This Barcelona City Guide will help you navigate your way through Barcelona.
Tips & Suggestions
- Before coming here, call your bank cards and let them know your travel plans so your card doesn’t get blocked.
- Upon arrival, do NOT exchange money. Withdraw from an ATM and pay a 1 time fee. Most restaurants and shops take credit cards so you won’t need to carry a lot of cash.
- If you use your credit card a lot like me, add it to your Apple wallet. Most shops and restaurants have the portable CC machine and it’s “contactless.” It’s faster and you don’t even have to insert your card. It’s better to pay in local currency (euros)
- On Sundays, most shops will be closed so plan ahead if you want to do a little shopping before going home.
- On top of that, Spanish people LOVE their holidays – you can check here for a list of dates – just note that most shops/restaurants will probably close as well.
- There’s always some sort of fun festival going on. You can take a look at this calendar of events.
- Siesta Time – “Nap” time is usually from 2pm – 5pm – once again, you will find some shops that will be closed during these hours. In the more touristy areas, shops will stay open.
- Buy wine!! It’s so cheap and a decent bottle will be about 2€ – Just remember if you go to the grocery store, you have to bag your own groceries.
- If you are crossing the street and you see the green man blinking, you literally have 4 seconds to get to the other side. By the way everyone jay walks here so don’t worry about getting a ticket.
- If you rent a scooter/bike, do not ride it on the sidewalk. Fines start at 100€.
- UNLOCK YOUR PHONE – If you have a iPhone 6 or older model, you must call the carrier to unlock your phone. My friend made the mistake of waiting to do it when he got here and T-mobile said it could take up to 72 hrs to unlock.
- SIM Card – Using data can be very expensive while roaming. I recommend you go to an ACTUAL Vodafone or Orange phone company store and buy a SIM card and pop it into your phone. Your phone must be unlocked. Around 15€ for 5 GB of data. With this SIM card, it will most like work in most other EU countries. Don’t forget to bring your passport to register for the SIM.
- Pickpocketing is a major problem in Spain. In touristy areas such as La Rambla and the train stations please be on high alert and keep you bags close to you and never hang your purse or bag on your chair or leave it anywhere. It will be gone in a second. Ladies, bring a purse with a zipper. Gentlemen, never leave your wallet or phone in your back pocket. If you want to read more about scams, click here.
- You do not need to leave a tip! If anything, for restaurants leave up to 1€ or for taxis, whatever couple cents you have left of your change.
- Before coming here download “Cabify.” It’s similar to Uber. I was unable to add my cc directly so I had it linked to my Paypal. They provide water and free wi-fi.
- Update!! As of January 31st, 2019 Uber and Cabify have pulled their services from Barcelona. What an upset!
- Google Maps works perfect here in Barcelona
- Subway – Hours of operation: Sunday – Thursdays 5:00 am – midnight. Fridays till 2 am and Saturdays are open 24 hours. Go to the ticket machine and get a “T-Casual” (formerly known at T-10) for Zone 1 (11.35€) That means your ticket is good for 10 trips (and includes transfers). The T-Casual ticket is good for 1 person only where as the previous T-10 could be shared amongst more than 1 person. This machine accepts cash or an ATM/CC. If you use a credit card, it will prompt you for a PIN. Just hit OK and it should go through.
- Last Resort: If you do end up taking a taxi, have your google maps open. A lot of them try to scam you and go a longer route. The usually accept credit cards so don’t let them tell you otherwise!
Where to Stay?
- Placa Catalunya – the main square in Barcelona
- La Rambla – If you want to be in the center of everything, this is the most lively neighborhood. Really touristy area and loud.
- Passeig de Gracia area – A lot of great hotel chains and shopping on this street
- Do NOT stay in the Raval area – it is dangerous due to high theft and crimes, drugs, etc. I wouldn’t even recommend coming here at night.
- With the high rise in violent thefts, try to pick a place that is NOT in the narrow streets of Barcelona especially on the Gotic and Born area.
If you happen to be arriving early before check in or have a late flight out, there are numerous places that offer “left luggage” services. You can search on stasher.com to find the nearest location. A popular locker storage is LockerBarcelona.com near the center Placa Catalunya (price starts at 3.60€)
Getting To The City Center From the Airport
You can get to the city center by train using your T-10 Casual Pass (formerly known as T-10 pass)! That’s right! But if you’re unfamiliar with the train/subway system and you have a lot of luggage, it might be a little tough. Plus the main train departs from Terminal 2 in which you have to take the green inter terminal shuttle bus if you land in Terminal 1.
There is the blue “Aerobus” that will take you to either Placa España or Placa Catalunya (main city center) for 5.90€ and you can purchase your tickets on the bus. It’s about a 35 minute ride and they offer free wi-fi. You can find the Aerobus when you walk outside the airport and head down to the street level.
Things To Do
- Get your bearings and do a FREE walking tour of Barcelona.
- Don’t want to walk? Do a FREE bike tour instead.
- Barcelona Hop On and Off Bus – takes you all over the city. You don’t even need advance tickets. Just hop on and purchase a ticket there. (30€ – Credit cards accepted)
- Go Shopping at La Boqueria Market located on La Rambla – Free! Some vendors are assholes and don’t like it when you take pictures and don’t buy anything – just ignore them.
- Starting at 39€ you can learn to make paella and of course sangria without breaking the bank. Click here.
- Watch a soccer game. Get the schedule and purchase tickets here.
- Want to explore another part of Spain? Take a train to Madrid from the Barcelona Sants Station. It drops you off right in the middle of the city. For schedules and tickets, click here.
- Want to see a Flamenco show? There are many places that offer dinner and show for 25€+ however, there is this hole in the wall place that does Flamenco shows on Sundays for ONLY 5€. Keep in mind, you pay for what you get. It’s a tiny stage but really intimate. The address is Robadors, 23 (in the Raval area) I recommend getting there at 9:30 the latest to grab a seat. Show starts around 10:00pm or 10:30ish. Here’s a schedule of their other shows including jazz music also worth going.
Museums are FREE the first Sunday of every month! You can see a detailed list of museums here in Barcelona here.
Must See Attractions
- Gotic Church – In the Gotic Quarter near Placa Catalunya – Free to visit and if you want to go up to the rooftop, it’s 2.50€
- La Sagrada Familia – If you plan on coming during the summer, purchase your tickets in advance. Dress appropriately if you plan on going inside. Tickets start at 20€ so if you’re cheap like me…just walk around outside! Still amazing.
- Park Guell Tickets – During peak season, I highly recommend purchasing your tickets in advance for your time slot – 10€. I “heard” that if you go at 7am, you can get in for free…so if you’re jet lagged, hit this place up first!
- Casa Batlló – Gaudi’s House – Tickets start at 25€ but it’s cool to look at it from the outside.
- View from the Bunker Del Carmel – FREE – Barcelona’s best kept secret. It is quite a hike so wear comfy shoes. For amazing views, watch the sunset. Address: MUHBA Turó de la Rovira, Carrer de Marià Lavèrnia, s/n, 08032 Barcelona
- Magic Fountain of Montjuic – FREE – Come here at night to see the light show. View the schedule here.
- Parc De Ciutadella – free
- Arc De Triomf – right near Parc Ciutadella
- Palau de Musica – Guided tours start at 20€. Take a picture with the columns.
- Tibidabo – You can take the funicular all the way up or you can hike from the train station (1.5 hours) Another option is taking the bus up.
- Montserrat – You can take a train from Barcelona to here. It’s about 1 hour ride and then you take a cable car to the top of the mountain. On Sundays when church is in session, you can go inside and listen to the choir boys sing. There’s also a little market that sells a variety of honey and cheeses.
Other Cities in Spain To Check Out
I think 2-3 full days in Barcelona is plenty. You might want to check out the South of Spain (Granada, Malaga, Marbella, and Seville – I did all these cities in 4 days. You can check out my blog here. Suggestion – If you book early, you can find flights for 30€ each way. Don’t come here during July & August – it’s waaayy too hot.
Can’t figure out where to eat or don’t want to spend time searching on TripAdvisor? Look no more! I have a whole page dedicated to my favorite restaurants & bars in Barcelona. You can check it out here.
A lot of people always ask about nightlife so I made another page just for this. Check it out here!