Barcelona is my favorite city in the world and feels unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The architecture and general spirit of the city is unlike any other city I have ever been. I studied international business at Universitat de Autonoma de Barcelona and live in Barcelona for two months. I loved just walking around the city, even the walk to class was amazing. During my breaks from class I would just walk everyday in a different direction to see a new part of the city.
Highlights of the city:
Arc de Triomf – the Arc de Triomf is a beautiful landscape that is a must see in Barcelona. It is in an exciting area of the city right on the Passieg de Sant Joan, which is the street I lived on when I lived there. It is right on the edge of the Gothic Quarters (which I will get to next) and just a few blocks from the beach. If you continue to walk down the street you’ll run into the Parc de la Ciutdella a beautiful park with a huge golden fountain. It is a great place to picnic or read a book in the afternoon.
Gothic Quarters (went on a tour in 2015) – You can get lost in the Gothic Quarters for hours, whether you mean to or not. It is this amazing maze of quiet streets right in the heart of Barcelona. It is worth spending time there if you have an afternoon. It is full of small bars, restaurants and shops and has a true authentic Spanish feel. It is bordered by Las Ramblas on one side and Barcelonetta on the other which are also great places to visit if you have time.
Park Guell – Park Guell is the first of the Gaudi attractions. All of the Gaudi buildings/ attractions are worth a visit but my three favorites are Park Guell, Segrada Familia and the skeleton building. Park Guell is unique because it gives you a full view of the city. The park is amazing with beautiful mosaics all over from the main buildings to the steps. If you were a fan of the Cheetah Girl movies growing up the steps are featured in one of the songs. I would recommend hiking up the hill for the full panorama view in my opinion that is the best view of the city and the best picture as well. You can see the whole city, we could even point out our apartment from up there.
Barcelonetta – If you want to go to the beach in Barcelona you should start off in Barcelonetta. This area is one of the more popular areas down by the water with lots of shops and restaurants. I would recommend starting your beach journey here and traveling down the beach to look for a place to sit and enjoy the ocean views or even the ocean itself.
Segrada Familia – This is without a doubt the most beautiful church, or better yet building I have ever been to and most people who have been there would probably back me up on that. It is amazing from the outside and it makes you think how could this get any better and then you walk inside and it does. Everything with the church has a meaning from the doors to the facade to the stained glass so it is worth it to go on a tour and hear it all explained. If you don’t go to any other buildings in Barcelona make sure to go to this one.
Passeig de Gracia is like the Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue of Barcelona it hosts the high end stores as well as the more affordable stores so it has a little something for everyone. Plus there are two Gaudi buildings on the street so even if you aren’t interested in shopping you should still walk up the street just to see the architecture.
Las Ramblas has some great smaller stores and is an amazing place to check out while in Barcelona. Its also just a great place to walk around and explore. There are a bunch of street vendors selling their merchandise and it’s a great place to get a real looking Barcelona jersey if you can’t afford an official one (make sure to haggle if you do because you can usually talk them down a fair amount).
Surf House (American/ vegan cuisine) – most of the time I lived in Barcelona I ate at home since I have a lot of dietary restrictions. (I have a full post on this if you are interested in reading here is the link: https://rileyrecommendstravel.com/2020/02/06/how-to-travel-with-food-restrictions/) The only place I went outside of my apartment to eat was Surf House their food is what I would call healthy fusion there are burgers, nachos, smoothie bowls, burritos and poke bowls. They have some vegan food which is nice for me since I know it is safe but in general their food never disappoints and it isn’t super expensive either. They also have pretty good drinks if you are looking for a mojito or pitcher of sangria.
Clubs on the Beach – If you are looking for clubs in Barcelona you can’t go wrong with the clubs on the beach. They are a lot of fun and you can meet some really interesting people there. I would recommend Opium over the rest. It has always been my favorite of the ones I’ve been to. Shoko is okay too but is incredibly crowded so if it’s a weekend or you don’t like people on top of you all the time it might be best to avoid it. None of these bars are a real representation of Spanish culture but they are still fun. If you stay until the
Las Ramblas – If you are looking for a bar that has more of a Spanish feel check out the bars in Las Ramblas or the Gothic Quarters. My favorite bar in Barcelona is La Oveja Negra (The Black Sheep) it has almost a cave/underground feel where you can just sit at long tables and hang out with your friends or make some new ones. It also has 13 Euro 2-Liter pitchers of sangria that will definitely hit the spot.
The W – If you are looking for an upscale bar with a great overview of the city check out the W but be warned the drinks are really expensive so if you’re on a budget maybe just go for the views.
Other bars to check out – The Mint, Dow Jones, Razzmatazz, Apolo
St. Christophers Inn
Other hostels to look into in Barcelona: Hostel One
Other attractions worth visiting:
Camp Nou (if you are a football/ Barcelona fan), Parc Citadelle (walk to the golden fountain then possibly walk from there to the beach), all of the Gaudi buildings, the Bunkers (you can bring wine up and watch the sunset but it is a hike – I recommend the park above Parc Guell since there are escalators to take you most of the way up the hill and there is a bathroom near by).
Things to be careful of:
PICK POCKETS – the city is full of them. They will rob you if you are not being careful. It is nothing to be afraid of they are in most major European cities (such as: Rome, London, etc) but they are a lot worse there. It is important to be careful with your belongings do not carry a backpack on one shoulder or a bag that does not zip. Do not hold valuables openly in your hands (wallet, cellphone, passport, etc). If you are carrying a purse make sure to put it across your body instead of on one shoulder and you should be fine.
Be careful of your drinks in bars and clubs as well you should do this everywhere but I was drugged in Barcelona and know others who were as well. Always keep your hand over the top of your drink, don’t set it down anywhere and never take a drink from a stranger no matter what.