Things to Do in Barcelona
Barcelona, although located in Spain, very much sees itself as a separate entity. As the capital of the state of Catalonia, Barcelona epitomises everything that is unique about this autonomous community. The city is perhaps most famous for Antoni Gaudi’s architecture but it has so much more to offer – from great Catalan-Spanish fusion food, lovely beaches and outdoor parties; to numerous bars, restaurants and coffee shops that range from the trendy and hip to the grungy and quirky. There is a great emphasis on art, crafts, music and culture demonstrated through the many hidden art studios, boutique craft shops and endless markets; along with the bigger museums of Joan Miro, Picasso, the Modern Art Museum of Barcelona and the National Museum of Catalonia. The best thing about Barcelona is the outdoor culture, energy and zest for life contained in the atmosphere. Just sitting outside on the terraza of a coffee shop, sipping an Estrella beer and soaking up the life of the city is one of the best things to do in Barcelona!
Where is the best place to stay in Barcelona?
There are a number of affordable hostels all over Barcelona for those on a budget. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can only find these on Las Ramblas – the city’s main shopping street – which many would have you believe. Las Ramblas is great, but it’s noisy and full of pick-pockets. Instead, try any of the many hostels along Passeig de Gracia; this is the long, wide street leading into the centre with a number of affordable hostels oddly dotted amongst big high street stores such as Burberry and Tiffany’s.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that you don’t have to stay right in the centre in Barcelona for convenience sake. Barcelona is really easily navigated, with a quick and efficient underground system and because of its size it is possible to walk everywhere once you get your bearings. Check out the areas of Arc de Triumph, L’Eixample, Sants or Gracia for affordability and convenience. There are a number of shared apartments in Barcelona located rented out by different private companies. These apartments can have as many as six separate rooms and three or four bathrooms. They should also have kitchens with all the mod cons. The idea is you share with other travellers and this greatly reduces the cost.
Barceló Raval :
If you have a bit more money to spend and want don’t want to share an apartment there are a number of really stylish, Art Deco apartments available for rent in el Barrio Gotic (the Gothic Quarter) or Barceloneta, right by Barcelona’s primary beach. If you prefer a hotel option you could try the Barceló Raval hotel which was built in the last few years as part of the redevelopment of the Raval neighbourhood, which saw it transform from a seedy, underground world to a funky, artsy and cultural hub. This curved, brightly lit, modern exterior, with a trendy avant-garde interior design, is equipped with all today’s mod-cons including iPod docs and Nespresso machines.
How do you get around?
As mentioned, the best way to get around Barcelona once you get your bearings is to walk. It really is very straight forward as the street plan of Barcelona was designed to match the grid-like layout of Manhattan. Therefore it is made up entirely of intersecting streets divided among several ‘barrios’ or neighbourhoods. However, if you want to be sure you don’t get lost then hop on the metro – it really is the easiest underground system in the world! Each line is colour coded and you will never need to get on more than two different coloured lines to get to your destination. There are metros every 4 minutes during the day and 10 minutes later at night. They also run 24 hours on Saturday and until 2a.m. on Friday’s as well as until midnight every other night. If you fancy a healthier way of getting around, but want something quicker than walking, renting a bike is one of the best things to do in Barcelona and there are cycle routes all over.
Best places to Eat & Drink?
O’Toxo Tres Hermanos: This is one of the best and most reputable tapas restaurants in Barcelona. It is located in El Raval and is therefore an ideal spot for drinks afterwards. It is affordable and caters for large groups as well as couples. The staff is really efficient and friendly. This is a popular spot so be sure to book in advance or be prepared to wait (which you can do at the bar).
Restaurante El Mussol: This is a great restaurant for good quality typical Catalan food. Try out authentic Catalan cuisine and choose from a wide variety of dishes from snails to egg and chips! The menu has something for everyone, and again the staff is extremely professional and friendly. It isn’t massively expensive but it isn’t the cheapest place to eat either. However, it’s well worth the price for good quality food.
Marmalade: This is one of the trendiest cocktail bars in Barcelona. Located in El Raval, it is the sister bar of the now famous Milk Bar. The décor is one of the best things about this place with intimate lighting, and antique style furniture with a touch of Art Deco. It is famous for its cheap and delicious cocktail menu which come in pitchers or single glasses. They also have a good food menu. This is a great place to meet up with a group of friends before a night on the town.
L’Ovella Negra: This bar is less about the décor and more about the crowd. It’s a popular bar amongst students, locals and young people and will give you a great taste of classic Spain with long rows of wooden benches and further barn-like furnishings. It has a great selection of cheap drinks and serves some of the best sangria in Barcelona. This hidden-away cave-like bar is a lively haunt that gets more and more packed as the night goes on. Head to L’Ovella Negra (meaning ‘black sheep’) on a night out and finish your weekend in Barcelona like a local!
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