Barcelona is one of those cities that most people want to go to at some point, but often you don’t see as much of the city as you’d like. After recently visiting Barcelona, I thought I’d put together some tips from my travels for anyone heading there so they don’t make the same slip ups I did. Comment if you have any questions!
- Everything costs money. All of the major sites and attractions have an entrance fee, so any sort of budget for your holiday should definitely include money for getting into each venue. And the tickets can be surprisingly expensive. Casa Milà costs €22 alone to get into, Casa Batlló €23.50, La Sagrada Família €15 just to get in, but it’s an extra €7 for the audioguide, another €7 to go to the tops of the towers for a panoramic view of the city, overall costing €29. To get your fill of Antoni Gaudí‘s amazing works, you need to budget accordingly or else you’ll miss out.
- Book ahead. This is vitally important if you’re wanting to look at the inside of any tourist attraction. Although they reserve some tickets to be sold on the day, you can almost fully guarantee that these will be sold out before you’ve even reached the site. La Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló and Casa Milà all have never ending queues to reach the ticket offices and even the lines for those with tickets can be extensive. Even Park Güell costs, although most of the park is free to explore, it’s best to book ahead if you want to gain access to the parts of the park where you can see Gaudí’s architecture and designs.
- Think carefully before buying a Barcelona Card. Although this card boasts free transport and free access to Barcelona’s top sites, it may not be as costs effective as you think. To use the card for 72 hours costs €45, and although you do get free access to all public transport and free access to some museums, you only get discounts on the main sites, and these discounts can be minimal. For example, you only get a €1 discount on La Sagrada Família, a €3 discount at Casa Batlló, and 20% off at Casa Milà. You also only get a discount as opposed to free entrance to some of the main museums, like a €1 discount at the Casa Museu Gaudí, and 30% off at Museu d’Historia de Catalunya. You do however get free access to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Museu Picasso and the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona. I would suggest instead investing in a T10 metro pass. The T10 is a 10-ride ticket that can be used for all of Barcelona´s public transport systems. Costing €10, it makes each journey only €1 each, and are easily purchasable from the metro ticket machines. Buying one of these and booking your tickets to the main sites online will ensure you can move round the city quickly and see all there is to see in this beautiful city.
- Dress appropriately. The Vatican in Rome is known for having particular standards for dress, but less known is that the Cathedral Basilica of Barcelona does also. I would take a similar approach to as if you were visiting the Vatican – no knees or shoulders showing, with a scarf handy ready to cover your head.
- Be selective of restaurants. This can be said for almost anywhere you visit, but if you want to sample Barcelona’s authentic delicacies you need to do a bit of hunting amongst the variety of restaurants and cafes. For breakfast, head to Plaça de Catalunya to Cafe Zurich on the top of La Rambla which is great for a simple pastry and coffee while people watching, while Cafe Txapela (there are a few in the city) is great for sampling over 50 pintxos (like tapas but usually spiked on bread with a skewer). For a tapas bar on Barcelonaeta (the walkway near beach) head to El Rey de la Gamba for paella with great flavours and huge portions. For more authentic and local dishes, try Quimet i Quimet or La Cova Fumada.
- Head to the markets. No trip to Barcelona would be complete without a detour to the markets, particularly La Boqueria Market. La Boqueria is a large, covered public market just off La Rambla that is bursting with flavours, colours and smells. From fresh meat and fish, to delicious baked goods to vibrant fresh and candid fruits and mouthwatering smoothies, La Boqueria has an eye-watering variety of goods to try. On a hot day, the iced fruit smoothies are just what you need to cool down, but venture far into the market to get the best deals as the fruit smoothies that are €5 at the start of the market are reduced to €1 0r €2 further in. Make sure you buy some chocolates and sweets while you are there. Although they aren’t cheap, the chocolate and sweets there are divine and worth the price as a little holiday treat to yourself.
- Search out the history. Although Barcelona comes across as a very modern, cosmopolitan city, it has got a lot of history that not everyone makes the effort to find out about when they visit. If you want to stay by the beach and only by the beach, then miss this last tip. But if you, like me, enjoy learning a bit of history of the place you’re in, then first things first and take a walk. Barcelona’s history and culture is displayed through its architecture throughout the city so one of the best ways to see its past is on foot (or alternatively on the Hop on Hop off buses which run very helpful tours). The city’s Gothic Quarter as the centre of the old city bears witness to the splendour enjoyed by the city from the 13th to the 15th centuries with several medieval buildings still standing as well as some of the old Roman wall still visible. Walking to see sites such as Gaudí’s Casa Milà and Casa Batlló give you a taste of the legacy of Catalan modernista architecture, while climbing up to Castell de Montjuïc which not only has great panoramic views of the city, also offers you insight into Barcelona’s turbulent history as a key defensive site in War of the Spanish Succession . Of course, for those of us who love nothing better than to dive into the past, head to the Museu d’Historia de Catalunya and the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya for an afternoon in the history of Catalunya.