Barcelona Travel Guide

Introduction to Barcelona

Barcelona is a stylish coastal city that combines everything you love about the Mediterranean – blue seas, plenty of sunshine and a relaxed pace – with modern city living, historic monuments and award winning restaurants. It's almost always a good idea to visit: summer brings festival fever, the city blooms during spring and Mardi Gras, and the Christmas Markets make an unusual festive getaway.

You can see Gaudi's influence all over the city, whether you're getting the signature photo at the Sagrada Familia or investigating his house in Park Güell. The trencadis are everywhere, from the pavements to the ceilings – these are the intricate, coloured tiles representative of Gaudi's style and the modernista movement.

You're spoilt for choice when it comes to hotels here: choose Barceloneta for that seaside feel, the Gothic Quarter to be in the centre of everything, or L'Eixample if you want to blend in with the locals a little more. Regardless of where you stay, you can't move for epic architecture, snug tapas bars and views of the surrounding mountains and coastline in Barcelona.

Other things to do in Barcelona

The Ciutat Vella (Old Town) is a must-see in Barcelona. It's easy to spend a few hours here, hopping from bar to bar (with a spot of shopping thrown in), meandering through the cobbled streets, nibbling on tapas as you go. Stretch your legs and walk up to L'Eixample if you'd like to spend the rest of the day shopping till you drop in Zara, El Corte Ingles and Mango.

If you're here during the summer, the beach is a great way to cool down and there are usually plenty of parties too. Barceloneta is almost a separate neighbourhood to the rest of Barcelona, with their own community of shops, bars and restaurants near the sea.

The iMax cinema and the Aquarium are great day trips to do with the family. If the kids are up to it, Barcelona is also a brilliant city for outdoor bike rides and picnics. Parc de la Ciutadella and Parc of Montjuїc are easy to reach from the city centre via taxi, bus or metro, and they're full of sculptures, fountains and grassy areas where you can bask under the Spanish sunshine.

The city is a maze of beautiful architecture, but for a double dose of palaces and history, the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya and Palau Nacional in the Parc of Montjuїc are perfect. These are located a 10 minute bus ride outside of the city centre, but the palace is definitely worth the journey – particularly if you get there for sunset.

Eating and drinking in Barcelona

Mercat de Boqueria or Mercat de Santa Caterina are foodie institutions in Barcelona, the stalls here sell everything from fresh seafood and your weekly veg shop, to delicate, sugar-dusted pastries. La Paradeta is a chain of restaurants throughout Barcelona, and they're known as the 'place to go' if you're after fresh fish – you choose your fish (or crustacean), pay for it by weight, then they'll cook it on the grill for you immediately.

The fine dining scene in Barcelona is pretty hot too. There are several restaurants in L'Eixample that carry shining Michelin stars for their cuisine, and some of the restaurants in Barrio Gotic require booking months in advance. Enoteca is one of the few restaurants with 2 Michelin stars.

Whilst you could easily dine at prestigious restaurants every night of the week in Barcelona, the real culinary gems are in the family-run tapas bars you find hidden between the laneways. The same can be said of Barcelona's drinking establishments. Whilst you'll find those typical Irish bars in the Gothic Quarter, walk a little further into El Raval for smaller bars where you might find carafes of sangria and plates of olives, waiting to be tucked into with a good conversation. El Poble-sec is great for stylish nights out, especially if you're with good friends or family. Make sure your walk home isn't too long by getting a hotel in the neighbourhood.

Barcelona climate

Whilst the city experiences year round sunshine, winters can get a little chilly with averages dropping to 5° during December and January. Alternatively, the summers are hot, averaging at a temperature of 29° (fortunately, the sea breeze makes it feel a little cooler).

It rarely rains here, and the driest months are June and July. There's an average of 5 rainy days per month during winter, spring and autumn.

When to go to Barcelona

A weekend in Barcelona is always a good idea, but coinciding it with a festival or football game is even better. Primavera and Sonar are 2 of the most popular music festivals in the city over summer, whereas football games take place in Camp Nou year round.

Flying to Barcelona

Barcelona (El Prat) Airport is 12km away from the city centre, and you can easily access it via metro, taxi or bus. Check flights to Barcelona now.

Often, budget airlines will fly into Girona (north of Barcelona), and Reus (south of Barcelona). If you have the time, both of these cities are charming, smaller Spanish haunts, great for bar hopping and tapas tasting.

Ready to go? Check out these Barcelona hotels for every budget.

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Hotels in Barcelona

Car hire in Barcelona

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