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Guide to Barcelona

Updated: May 24, 2023

In 2018, I lived in Barcelona for 6 months, and it is still one of my favorite places ever! It is the perfect mix of urban city with beach front town. It is very modern and artsy, yet rooted in the very old history of the city. The people are very friendly and offer a warm welcome. Whether you go to enjoy the beach, get lost in history or eat your heart out, there is something for everyone here.


Neighborhoods:

Barcelona is huge! There are different neighborhoods, and each neighborhood has its own feel and specialties. The Gothic Quarter is the old part where you’ll find all the historic buildings such as the cathedral, the old gothic streets, and other monuments. It is pretty touristy, but really cool to explore. Eixample Dreta is where I lived. It’s newer, a little bit less touristy and has some good restaurants. It has more of a metropolitan feel than old European city vibes. Gracia is super small and it is fun place to get away from the crowds to see the local lifestyle a bit more. El Born is very artsy but established. Its super fun to explore because there are a ton of little shops, bars and hidden gems. This was one of my favorite areas to just wander. Barceloneta is where the main beach is. It is very touristy and most of the restaurants here are overpriced. I do enjoy it though for walking or running along the beach. The water in Barcelona is also very warm and crystal clear, so going for a swim is always fun too.



Beware of Pick Pockets

Overall, Barcelona is a very safe place. I was often times exploring alone and never felt unsafe. Pick pocketing is a major issue here, and many people get phones and wallets stolen. Don’t keep anything in pockets and be especially careful in night clubs or metros. I would recommend using a fanny pack or belt bag. Do not put purses on the back of chairs while dining. You will have an amazing experience here as long as you keep close track of your items!


Airport Transportation:

  • Metro: you can take the metro from the aiport to the city center. Its only a few euros and takes about 45/60 mins depending on what part of the city you’re going to. Although it is not the fastest way to the city, it is the cheapest.

  • Taxi: you can take a taxi from outside the airport to your stay. It takes like 25 mins but is around 30 euro. There is a big price difference between the two options, but if you are traveling with friends or eager to get to the city, taxi would be your best bet.

Getting Around:

  • Uber/MyTaxi: Uber and MyTaxi are widely used to get around the city. MyTaxi works exactly like uber and tended to be a little cheaper.

  • Metro: Buy a T-10 card. This is 10 euros for 10 trips, and if you are there for a few days you will definietly get through this. You can also use it on the buses. The metro system is very clean, easy to navigate and efficient!

  • Walking: Barcelona is a very flat, walkable city with mild weather year-round. The streets are wide, clean and safe. I would recommending walking anywhere you can to see all the charm the city has to offer!

Restaurants:

Everyone in Spain is very laid back and in no rush. Be mindful that meals take a long time! So sit back and enjoy the experience. Expect 1.5-2.5 hours for a dinner or lunch. You must go to all three of these restaurants. I cannot stress how much I love all of them:

  • Sensi Tapas Bistro: This place is literally so amazing. They take reservations and I would make one in advance. Its a modern tapas restaurant. It has traditional tapas with a modern twist and the food is just incredible. It is not the cheapest restaurant if you are travelling on a budget, but by US standards is still very reasonable. Since they are small plates, I would recommend around 5-7 tapas between the two people. You must have the steak, the patatas and whatever amazing seasonal dishes they recommended.

  • Arroseria Xativa: Paella is very popular in Barcelona, but they are so many bad and overpriced places. This place is in the Gracia neighborhood, which, like I mentioned above, is way more local and mellow. This restaurant is incredible and so reasonably priced. It is around 14 euros per serving and they had great 10 euro bottles of wine. They also take reservations and would recommend doing so! I love the Valencian paella. I could not recommend this place more for authentic paella.


  • Da Greco: The most amazing italian place (even Beyonce has dined here)! Make RESERVATIONS!! It books up very fast. Its super reasonably priced and with each entrée you order they give you a second plate with tasters for the rest of the table. It is a super fun group experience. Not to mention the very cool ambiance too--you have to ring a doorbell in an alleyway to enter and then they open the door and let you in the restaurant. Also if you are a student, you can bring up to 2 bottles of wine with no corkage.

Other notable mention restaurants I liked:

  • Musiu: This is a great spot if you are traveling on a budget. The pasta is delicious and super cheap (6-8 euro for pasta and 2.5 euro for wine). It is healthy, affordable and fairly quick, so it is a good option if you aren't looking for a lengthy and expensive sit down.

  • La Boqueria: La Boqueria is the most famous market in Barcelona. It is located in the center of the city on Las Ramblas. It is essentially a permanent farmers market with fresh fruits, juices and meats. It is a great place to explore, but also to eat at. Grab a snack or some lunch, and explore all the food stalls!

  • El Petit Princep: This is an adorable local café. This is a great spot for a quick, affordable and delicious breakfast. I came here a lot to study/hangout and the owner was always so kind. The food is fresh and yummy!

  • Bar-Terraza Ayre Rosselló: This is a fun rooftop bar right across from the Sagrada Familia. It's not too expensive and has an amazing view

  • L'Antica Pizzeria Da Michele Barcelona: This is a great pizza place with 10 euro pizza. It is great for a quick casual lunch or take out for the beach.

  • Lokal: I lived right above this place and it was super fun to go to. The people are really nice and they have traditional foods here such as Patatas Bravas, Spanish Tortilla, Olives. We liked getting their steak plate to share.

  • La Nena: A SUPER local coffee shop (you will likely be the only tourist). It's in the Gracia neighborhood, so it's very local and authentic. You can get a coffee and breakfast pastries here. It is super fun to people watch and cool to hang with the locals

  • Hammock: I lived right above here as well. It's a quick, healthy breakfast spot and the whole place has hammocks for chairs! It is an affordable and a nice spot to hit up if you're tired of carbs to get some eggs, avocado toast or smoothies.

  • Surf House: This is kind of Americanized food but it is really good nonetheless. You can sit on the patio and see the water from there. It's a beautiful place to eat beach-front and a nice break from the Spanish food

Spanish food in general: You must eat Patatas bravas (like everyday), paella and churros con chocolate! There are lots of great bakeries everywhere with croissants and a cafe con leche for 3 euro. I would avoid getting paella in the very touristy areas, such as the marina or the gothic quarter, as many times their paella is frozen and not fresh.


Barcelona is huge with hundreds of amazing restaurants, so don't be afraid to try new places! In general, you will find more affordable and better food outside of the Barceloneta neighborhood.

Things to Do:

  • La Sagrada Familia: A MUST. It is actually one of the coolest things I have ever been to. There are also rumors that it may collapse in the next 15 years, so see it now! I highly recommend doing a tour for this excursion and bookings tickets online in advance. I am not much of a history buff, but I really enjoyed the guided tour through here and learning all the intricacies. Expect to spend 1-2 hours here

  • Parc Guell: This is another work of Gaudi's. You can take a bus up here or taxi. It has a cool overview of the city, and notably, where the Cheetah Girls have their famous scene. It's relatively inexpensive and a very laid back excursion. You just walk leisurely around the park and check it all out. Expect to spend an hour here

  • Cathedral: It's in the center of the Gothic quarter. If there is a long line to get in, it is still worthwhile to check out the outside.

  • Carmel Bunkers: This is not a must do, but if time permits it is a really cool spot for sunset. You can take the metro and expect a pretty hefty uphill walk, or you can taxi and it’ll drop you right off there. Everyone comes up here for sunset with wine, snacks, charcuterie, etc. It gives you a full 360 view of the city, even more so than Parc Guell. I definitely recommend doing at least the Parc or this so you can see the view of the city. it is free!

  • Beach Walk: Take the metro down one morning to Barceloneta and walk North. The Metro runs all along the beach north so you can walk until your over it and then hop back on the metro to go back. The further north you go the nicer the beach gets and the less people there are. There's a huge boardwalk of people running, biking, etc. so it's a great way to see the area.

  • Swim or Tan at the Beach: I would get off at Selva De Mar metro stop and go to the beach there. It is more quiet and has less hagglers. Don’t leave your stuff alone when you go in the water at any busy beach in Barcelona! The water there is amazing for swimming.

  • Picasso Museum: I really like this museum and they have a great collection of Picasso's works. It is very reasonably priced and the surrounding area is great to check out while you are there.

  • National Museum of Catalunya: This is a HUGE museum (think Louvre) and there is a very cool view from the museum. It's in an old palace so even the inside of the museum sans artworks is super interesting. It's a very cool place to go to for the art as well as the building itself.

  • Passeig de Gracia: This street has some of the best shopping ever and one of the main streets in Barcelona. This is where the bourgeoise used to live, so its very nice and you can see 2 of Gaudi's houses walking down it as well. It is definitely worthwhile to check out if you are in the mood for some shopping.

Going Out:

If you are traveling to Barcelona and enjoy going out, you cannot miss out on the night life here. There are some of the most fun and insane clubs right on the beach. Do note, people don't usually start going out until 12am or 1am, so it is not uncommon to be out until 3-5am in the morning. While this is so fun, if you have big plans the next day, I would plan accordingly. If clubbing isn't your thing, there are plenty of cute, laid back bars and cocktail spots.


Tips for going out:

  • Check out Aashi on Instagram. He is a club promoter and everyday he posts free pregames or club entries

  • Don’t go to clubs before 12:30/1:00am. We’d usually show up around 1:30.

  • Drinks at the clubs are expensive (18 euro) and take a long time to get, so I would recommend drinking before

  • If you happen to be in Barcelona on a Wednesday, Razmatazz on Wednesdays is SO fun. This was personally my favorite club.

  • Opium is the typical club everyone usually goes to. It's right on the beach and definitely a sight to see.

  • Make sure to have a fanny pack or belt bag if you go to a club. I cannot stress how many people's phones and wallets get stolen here. Pick pockets go to the clubs because they know a bunch of drunk foreigners are careless with their things. Do NOT leave your purse open, leave your items unattended, or have anything in your pockets. Again, the pick pockets are not violent, but if you aren't cautious, your things will vanish in a matter of seconds.


Overall, it is hard to do Barcelona wrong! It is a lovely place with a laid back and modern vibe. There are fantastic restaurants as well as tons of history to learn about-- there is something for everyone. It is a huge metropolitan city, so keep in mind it will be hard to fit everything into one trip. I lived there for 6 months and still felt like there was more to see! As a visitor, I would recommend a minimum of 3 nights but 4-5 nights would be more comfortable, especially if you want to do little day trips to the surrounding area. Enjoy!


My instant guide to Barcelona:



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