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Bucket list destination:

Barcelona

  • Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Dana Facaros

Vibrant, confident, cosmopolitan – few cities in Europe can touch Barcelona for sheer style and exuberance. A progressive cultural and fashion scene is offset with a relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere, long sandy beaches and boat-filled marinas.

There are world-class museums, venerating Spanish artists such as Picasso and Miro, though its perhaps best known for its fluid-looking, ornate ‘Modernista’ architecture pioneered by the incomparable Gaudi.

Barcelona also takes its food and drink very seriously – with plenty of chic, experimental cuisine served across tapas bars, gastronomic restaurants and hip concept cafes, not to mention a lively all-night bar scene.

This colourful, beautiful metropolis will delight whether you’re 18 or 80.

Orientation

The central square, Placa de Catalunya, divides medieval Barcelona (the Barri Gotic (with the Cathedral), the uber-trendy El Born, Las Ramblas and edgy Raval) from the 19th-century Eixample or ‘extension’, filled with Modernista gems, including the towering Sagrada Família.

The big hill of Montjuic to the south hosts gardens, museums, and the Olympic stadium.

On the Mediterranean Sea, there’s Port Vell (with the Aquarium), the fisherman’s quarter of Barceloneta, the Olympic village, nightclubs, marinas, and sandy beaches.

Tours, tickets & transfers

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

  • Barcelona

Discover the very best of Barcelona with a 24 or 48 hour hop-on hop-off bus pass. This double-decker bus tour takes you to all of the key landmarks of this world-famous city, including Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Camp Nou, Barcelona Zoo, Casa Batllo, Placa de Catalunya and much more! From the open-top deck you'll see beaches, parks, modern districts and historic architecture, including the work of the iconic Antoni Gaudi! Hop on and off as many times as you want within the chosen time period, creating your own schedule and seeing this modern paradise at your own pace. This sightseeing tour includes a multilingual on-board audio commentary, enabling you to experience the history of Barcelona in a more immersive way. Also be sure to explore many of the local attractions, and take advantage of the discount booklet that is included with your pass.

Price €33

Min age 4

Rating 4.09 / 5 [3835 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

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  • Barcelona

Ensured small group tour of maximum 16 pax. Round-trip hotel pick-up & drop-off included. Get a taste for the top attractions in Barcelona during this 8-hour excursion covering the many highlights of the Catalan capital. Tour Passeig de Gracia, an elegant boulevard that hosts a wealth of modernist architecture like La Pedrera and Casa Batlló, before discovering Antoni Gaudí's Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia. You’ll also explore the incredible history of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter before finishing with sublime city views from on top of Montjuïc. - Full-day highlights trip of Barcelona's top attractions - Admire the modernist architecture like Gaudí's Casa Batllo - Enjoy the whimsical design and amazing views of Park Güell - See the towering spires of the Antoni Gaudí masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia - Wander the ancient streets of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter - Take the trip to 'new heights' on top of Montjuïc Mountain - Great introduction to the many attractions in Barcelona

Price €100

Min age 0

Rating 4.77 / 5 [2977 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • Barcelona

There's no better way to see the sights and learn the history of Barcelona than by joining a Fat Tire bike tour! You get to have fun and socialize, have some exercise and be entertained by your knowledgeable English-speaking guide. This enjoyable and informative outdoor experience also gives you the chance to meet other travelers. There's no doubt it will be the best day you'll spend in Barcelona!

Price €25

Min age 0

Rating 4.73 / 5 [2779 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >
  • Barcelona

Visit Barcelona at your own pace aboard one of our double-decker red buses. Hop-on and hop-off as many times as you wish through the day with a single ticket. Switch routes and discover Barcelona with an audio guide system. Now available in 15 different languages! Make the most of your Barcelona visit choosing the combo with one of our catamaran cruises, and see Barcelona Skyline from a new point of view! Join a 60 minutes cruise or pick the premium 90 minutes cruise that includes a chill-out background music. Leaving from Port Vell, admire monuments such as the World Trade Center, the largest yachts in the city, Port Olimpic and much more!

Price €33

Min age 4

Rating 4.17 / 5 [2508 ratings]

Tour supplied by:

Viator Logo
Website >

Travel advice

When to go

With a mild Mediterranean climate, Barcelona is a year-round destination, at its most beautiful (and least likely to rain) from May to June and September to October. July and August (especially the latter) can be hot and crowded with tourists; in August especially, many locals (including many restaurant and shop owners) go on holiday and abandon the city to the tourists.

Barcelona’s winter is fairly mild, and a good time to see museums, take in the opera and concerts, and meet more of the locals. June and September are the prime months for festivals and the clement weather.

Getting there and away

The easiest way to access the city from the international airport is by taxi (about 25-30 minutes, €25-30). An airport shuttle bus, the Aerobus Express, leaves the airport every 20 minutes between 5am and 12am for the central hubs of Placa Espanya and Placa de Catalunya. RENFE trains run every 30 minutes from the airport to Barcelona Sants (the main train station) and Passeig de Gracia, both of which are on main metro lines.

Getting around

Barcelona has a safe, reliable and well-integrated system of metros, buses and trams. Taxis are affordable and plentiful, but traffic can make journeys frustratingly slow. Because of the city’s compact size, and clement weather, walking and cycling (there are many places to hire a bike) are often the best option. Avoid driving: parking is difficult and expensive.

The Barcelona Card is available at all tourist offices, it’s good for 2, 3, 4 or 5 consecutive days of public transport and discounts on 80 museums, tours and attractions. Bike Rental Barcelona delivers bikes to the place of your choice. Perfect for getting around town.

RENFE trains from Passeig de Gracia and Sants stations serve outlying towns, notably the attractive beach resort Sitges.

Where to stay

If this is your first visit, stay central – the picturesque streets around landmark Las Ramblas and Placa de Catalunya, heading towards the sea, are the most pleasurable to just wander, stumbling upon tiny galleries, museums, shops and tapas bars. Aim for a hotel on a quiet side street or check if yours has decent soundproofing.

The labyrinthine-like Barrio Gotic (Gothic Quarter) and hip El Born districts around here each have a handful of stylish hotels, surrounded by atmospheric streets, bars and boutique shops, while more are opening up in the edgy Raval area, home to some of the city’s best bars. The less-touristy Eixample district has the city’s grandest hotels, rooftop restaurants or pools, and shopping, and puts you closer to charming, old-fashioned Gracia, with its restaurants, bars and village feel.

To be near the beaches, stay around the Vila Olimpica and Barceloneta – but be aware that it’s a taxi or metro ride to the central sights from there.

Where to eat or drink

Top restaurants are found across town but with a greater concentration in the Eixample. For simple but delicious seafood try Barceloneta and nearby waterfront.

For the edgiest bars, head to the Raval. In the Born, the creative set drink in design-savvy bars. Sophisticated urbanites quaff cocktails in slick Eixample bars, or by the sea in the Vila Olimpic. Near the latter, the ex-industrial district of Poble Nou is currently evolving into the Next Big Thing.

Where to shop

Barcelona has more shops per inhabitant than any city, and massive sales in January and July. For designer labels, antiques and upscale boutiques, head to Passeig de Gracia. Trendy, independent boutiques line the narrow streets of the Barri Gòtic, Born and Raval. Specialist shops still thrive in Barcelona. Get (inevitably) lost in the Barri Gotic and discover shops from a by-gone era dedicated to traditional wonders like hats, cigars, feathers and candles.

La Boqueria market is excellent for food, including the all-important jamon. Placa Espanya’s bull ring is now Les Arenas shopping mall; bargain hunters have the massive Encants flea market at Les Glories Catalanes.

Antiques & Boutiques, run by two very lovely British women, offer personal shopping, with an emphasis on Catalan designers and small exclusive boutiques, and bespoke tours of the city.

What to buy

Independent designer fashions and shoes, handmade quality leather goods, homewares from interior designer Mecca Vincon, and locally produced foodstuffs including hams, wines and cheeses.