We often see Barcelona listed online as one of the ‘must see‘ cities of Europe but some how, we had never visited this famous Catalan capital. All the more surprising as it is an easy city to get to with lots of cheap flights from most regional airports.
Finally, at the start of September, the stars had aligned, the omens were good or simply speaking, we just got our act together and bought a couple of EasyJet tickets. We then headed south to the sun, sea and Sangria of Barcelona.
As you get to know any city there are always the more obscure attractions that are supposed to be worth visiting. But as first timers, you probably want to see the main sites which Barcelona is famous for. You can leave the vegan, hipster coffee shop which is only accessible by unicycle until your 3rd or 4th visit to the city.
These are our favourite 5 places we visited in Barcelona.
90 years and still unfinished. This cathedral is number one for tourists and it does live up to the hype. Antoni Gaudi’s architecture is really interesting if slightly bizarre, he didn’t really go for the ‘less is more‘ style. There is still building work going on around you, an estimated 10 more years to go. Yes it is worth going inside, the stained glass windows are outstanding even if you are not religious.
Make sure you book an audio tour online to get the most out of the visit and avoid the queues.
The famous ‘La Rambla’ is a tree lined walkway stretching from the Columbus monument up to the Plaça de Catalunya. There are plenty of street cafes and bars as well as the compulsory caricature artists and illegal street vendors. So if you want a highly flammable, fake FC Barcelona kit then this is the place to come.
Yes, it is full of tourists and usually quite crowded but the areas either side are very interesting. You must wander through the market ‘Mercado de La Boqueria’ or visit Gaudi’s ‘Güell Palace’. La Rambla is touristy but like Piccadilly Circus, London or Times Square, New York it’s a place you can’t miss during your stay.
There is a lot of talk of how bad the pickpockets are in this area, when we visited there was a highly visible police presence and felt like any other city centre. Just use your common sense and you’ll be fine.
The unusual Casa Batlló designed by Antoni Gaudi, there’s no straight lines here. Venetian mask style balconies, multi coloured mosaics and windows, a dragon like roof and that’s just the outside. Like the Sagrada Familia, book online to avoid the queues and get a designated entry time. What is excellent is the augmented reality tour which really captures the imagination and vision of Gaudi and brings the building to life.
La Barceloneta is the main beach front area of Barcelona. It was originally the home of the fishing community and basically ignored by the city until the 1992 Olympics. Since then there has been a major transformation, boardwalks, good seafood restaurants and cool beach bars have replaced the run down industrial units of the past. We would recommend visiting the area and enjoying La Barceloneta’s nightlife but not really the beach itself. It can get very busy but if you’re happy to lie sweaty shoulder by shoulder while looking at an old man in budgie smugglers then you’ll be fine.
The Gothic Quarter
Take a stroll through the old Gothic Quarter and lose yourself in the narrow streets. These narrow streets suddenly open up to reveal a shaded square or ornate gothic church. One of the best way to get know this area and the Catalan culture is on a walking tour. You can see what we got up to on our Walking and Tapas Tour.
Do you have any Barcelona travel tips for the first time visitor then let us know, thanks, Mel and Marcus.