Centrally located in Portland, close to all the action the Society Hotel offers a range…
Barcelona has some of the most unique and inspiring architecture in the world, so a tour of the city’s parks, museums and churches is a must. Start your days off with tours of Antoni Gaudí’s whimsical architecture, including Casa Batlló, La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell. Grab lunch at the bustling Boqueria Market then kick back and relax on the shores of La Barceloneta Beach with a cool cerveza (beer) in hand, all the while enjoying a picturesque view of the Mediterranean. After a brief siesta, hit up the nightlife in Las Ramblas or the Gothic Quarter. And if you’re a fútbol fan, you can’t leave Barcelona without a visit to FC Barcelona’s headquarters, Camp Nou Stadium.
1. GAUDI’S MASTERPIECE CASA MILÁ (‘LA PEDERA’)
Casa Milà, popularly known as ‘La Pedrera’ (the stone quarry). The lines were long, and it was expensive to get in – so we hummed and ahhed for a while about going in, but we eventually decided to go for it. And boy we were not disappointed.
The building was commissioned in 1906 by businessman Pere Milà and his wife Roser Segimon. At the time, it was controversial because of its undulating stone facade, twisting wrought-iron balconies and windows designed by Josep Maria Jujol. Several structural innovations include a self-supporting stone front, columns and floors free of load-bearing walls, an underground garage and the most amazing rooftop sculptures.
In 1984, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It is still a working building and is occupied by several businesses, but areas – including the roof – are open to the public.
Tip: Book your skip the line ticket in advance to avoid the long queues.
2. PARK GÜELL
Park Guell is one of the masterpieces of the great architect Antoni Gaudi, who projected it in 1900. Inaugurated as a public park in 1926, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
We loved touring this park, from the cloistered areas designed as an area for markets to the large terrace, lined with benches inlaid with mosaics of brightly coloured pottery pieces, offering spectacular views across Barcelona. Last time we visited it was a bit rushed but this time we had the leisure to wander the park and gardens and visit the gatehouse, which resembles something out of a Dr Suess book. This is an amazing and wonderfully inspiring place to visit.
The Park gets very busy during peak tourist seasons and access is limited by timed tickets. We turned up at 10 am in the summer and couldn’t get in that day. I suggest booking your tickets in advance. Click here to book your tickets.
3. THE SAGRADA FAMILIA
We had the opportunity to visit the Sagrada Familia back in 2010 during our grand tour of Europe and were excited to see what had changed in the last seven years. As with all constructions of this size it takes a long, long time to complete. Ground was broken in 1882 under the guidance of the architect Francisco Paula de Villar, until 1883 when Gaudí took over as head architect and transformed its design into the most extraordinary gothic creation. The construction work has been hampered by funding (it is privately funded) and wars but even after Gaudí’s tragic death in 1926 his conceptual designs have been faithfully followed by his successors. The Sagrada Familia is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was consecrated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, giving it the status of a ‘minor basilica’ (there is nothing minor about it!)
Getting into the Sagrada Familia, especially during the peak holiday seasons, can be crazy and involve several hours of waiting. I strongly recommend buying timed tickets in advance it will save you a long, hot frustrating wait. Buy tickets here.
4. TAKE A STROLL DOWN THE FAMOUS LAS RAMBLAS
Las Ramblas is often the first landmark that most tourists identify with the city. It is the central boulevard that cuts through the heart of the city centre and is a vibrant and lively promenade filled with Barcelona action at its best. It is a great place for people-watching. There are also numerous places to eat and shop.
5. EXPLORE BARCELONA’S GOTHIC CATHEDRAL
Of course, one of the most famous monuments in the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona is the 13th to 15th-century Gothic Cathedral. Yes, that’s right, it took nearly two centuries to build. From 8 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and 5:45 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., visitation is free. Furthermore, outside these schedules, you must make a donation to enter. Visit inside the church and be sure not to miss the patios and beautiful cloisters.
6. WANDER THE STREETS OF BARCELONA’S GOTHIC QUARTER
The charming Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic, has narrow medieval streets filled with trendy bars, clubs and Catalan restaurants. The Museu d’Història de Barcelona shows the remains of the Roman city. Artisans sell leather and jewellery near the Cathedral of Barcelona, while flower stalls and street-food vendors line busy avenue La Rambla. The Plaça del Pi, named after the adjacent Gothic church, hosts a weekend art market.
7. VISIT THE PICASSO MUSEUM
The Museu Picasso, located in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, houses one of the most extensive collections of artworks by the 20th-century Spanish artist Pablo Picasso. With 4,251 works exhibited by the painter, the museum has one of the most complete permanent collections of works.
8. STROLL ALONG THE SEAFRONT PROMENADE & BARCELONETA
Barcelona’s seafront promenade is one of the most pleasant areas of the city to go for stroll.
Some of the city’s best-known centres and institutions are here, like the Barcelona Aquarium, the Maremagnum shopping centre and the Parc del Forum. The promenade is packed with bars, restaurants, beach bars and sports facilities.
Barceloneta is one of the city’s most famous beaches and neighbourhoods. It is a unique neighbourhood thanks to the distribution of its -small and short- buildings and reflects the type of buildings that were built during the Enlightenment period.
9. CAMP NOU STADIUM
Even if you’re not a fútbol (soccer) fan, Camp Nou is worth a visit to experience the pride Catalans have for the FC Barcelona team. Able to hold nearly 100,000 screaming fans, which can be quite intimidating for visiting teams, Camp Nou is the largest stadium in Europe. The on-site museum showcases trophies and awards the team has garnered through the years. Interesting and interactive displays invite visitors to learn a little more about the fútbol culture and its impact on the city.
Tours start at 26€.
10. PALAU DE LA MUSICA CATALANA (PALACE OF CATALAN MUSIC)
Barcelona’s Palau de la Música Catalana is considered to be a masterpiece of Catalan art nouveau. Built by architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, the palace earned the title of a UNESCO World Heritage site for its striking architectural features. Outside, make sure to snap a few photos of the intricate mosaic pillars and the busts nestled atop some of them, which depict famous musicians such as Bach and Beethoven. The interior of the palace is even more of an eyeful, complete with mosaic pillars and intricate sculpture work of its own as well as stained glass windows and beautiful motifs of flowers spread throughout. And you won’t be able to miss the massive stained glass central skylight — it protrudes from the ceiling, treating the concert auditorium to plenty of natural light. Aesthetics aside, the Palace of Catalan Music is a hub for symphonic and choral music and of course, Catalan musical arts. It also acts as a concert venue for local, national and international acts.
Best time to visit Barcelona
The best time to visit Barcelona is from May to June when balmy temperatures in the low to mid-70s mesh with a flurry of festivals that trumpet the advent of summer. The actual summertime is sticky with humidity – locals leave their beloved city in droves to catch a breeze somewhere else. They come back for the fall when the average highs drop back into the 70s. Winter is mild compared to other Spanish destinations, with highs in the high 50s. And while coming during the spring may seem like smart idea for avoiding crowds, April sees frequent showers, which may put a literal damper on sightseeing plans (most of Barcelona’s top attractions are experienced outside). Keep in mind that no matter what time of the year you’ll visit, there will be tourist crowds: Barcelona is the most-visited city in Spain.
Where to stay in Barcelona
1. MH APARTMENTS
We have stayed at with MH Apartments twice when visiting Barcelona.
The apartments work well for us when we travelled as a family and as a couple. The apartments were spacious and well equipped. We like to eat some of our meals in when we travel so having a full kitchen is very handy.
The checking in procedurehas been easy both times we stayed. If you travel by car then parking might be a challenge. It is likely you’ll have to find street parking (not easy) or a close by car park.
2. LIVE AND DREAM
Live & Dream features a minimalist white design throughout with bursts of color in bedding and furniture. This stylish guest house offers free Wi-Fi and internet connection throughout.
Sants Station is 8 minutes’ walk away and from here you can get the highspeed AVE Train or the train to the airport. Located 650 feet away, Plaça de Sants Metro Station offers direct access to the Sagrada Familia, La Pedrera and the Ramblas.
The rooms at Live & Dream come with air conditioning.
3. BARCELONA CENTRAL GARDEN HOSTEL
BCG is an attractive middle sized hostel located just 3 blocks away from Plaça de Catalunya. It is a safe, friendly, clean and relaxing home away from home for genuine travelers and families. It is the perfect place to enjoy the city, with opportunity to meet new people and feel truly at home. This is not a party hostel’.
There is a comfortable lounge and kitchen area that faces onto a beautiful outdoor garden terrace.