I've chosen Barcelona as my very first travel post. Traveling is something I'm very passionate about and Barcelona is the city that made that passion come alive. I caught the #travelbug in Barcelona.
At the bottom of this article, you'll find a link to download my list of suggested things to do in Barcelona. The beautiful city has a very special place in my heart since I lived and studied there my junior year of undergrad at UCSB. I may be a bit biased due the that, but I truly think Barcelona is one of the best cities in the world, and here are some reasons why:
The Mediterranean climate; it's mild all year round. Barcelona's location has a similar latitude to that of San Francisco, and the difference is that it's warmer. Also, since it's not on the bay, its much warmer in the summertime and not windy (we're talking 80s to 90s) and even sunny in January/February. Think Santa Barbara weather.
The neighborhoods are like old villages; each district, like San Francisco, has it's own character and charm, yet they are much older. The city's architecture is truly gorgeous. Barrio Gotico (the gothic district, pictured above) is my absolute favorite. I would have some of the best days ever wandering through the gothic district getting lost in the tiny alleyways.
It's a big city located on the beach; yes, we do have this in San Francisco too, but we don't have the type of beaches you typically picture with warm enough weather to go lay out at but a few times a year. The beaches are so much fun, always crowded with people playing beach volleyball, swimming, drinking, etc. Don't be too shocked when you see Spanish ladies with no tops -- the beaches are topless for the most part. The beaches also get cleaned nightly, and are nearly spotless! Finally, the nightclubs are literally on the beach, enough said.
Gaudí's architecture is the most unique; lots of the architecture looks like it's from a fairytale world and is extremely beautiful and vibrant.
Ping pong on the regular; I love ping pong, and it's a public thing in Barcelona. You can play at any of the parks, as there are built in tables at each. I wish I took advantage of this more when I lived there.
Siestas; my mom thinks this is the only reason I chose to study in Barcelona -- it fits right into my lifestyle. Although that's not true, I definitely took advantage of my daily siestas! The entire city (aside from tourist attractions) shuts down between the hours of 2:00pm and 4:00pm. Don't try to go grocery shopping, out for a meal, etc. You'll find the streets empty.
Lots of the bars have themes; this is a concept I'm still shocked hasn't caught on in the states (million dollar idea for someone right here!!) A couple of my favorite to note are Dow Jones and Chupitos. Dow Jones is essentially a stock market themed bar (if you couldn't tell by the name), and has the same concept of stocks rising and falling, but for drink purchases. The prices are listed on a big digital board, and they will constantly change throughout the night. Sometimes, the "stock market" will even crash when nobody is buying drinks and everyone rushes to the bar when they hear the sirens to get dirt cheap drinks. Chupitos is a "shots" bar, as the name translates to that in english. They have the most creative shots I've ever seen -- lit on fire, with hot sauce poured in your mouth, etc. It's a lot of fun!
Public transportation is actually awesome; the metro is literally so easy to take. Out of all the cities I've been to, Barcelona's transportation still cannot be beat.
Below you can download a PDF with my list of suggestions of Barcelona's best sights, restaurants, bars, clubs, and day trips. I've recommended this list to many friends over the years and seems to be a hit!
My Barcelona To-Do List
download it here!
Sights to see:
Camp Nou (FC Barcelona’s fútbol stadium. Try to get tickets for a game! If you can’t, definitely do the tour -- it's pretty cool. You can just buy tickets there for a self-guided tour)
Barceloneta Beach (It’s warm enough from May through September to lay out typically. Otherwise, just walk around for the views.)
The Bunker (One of my favorite views of Barca, and typically deserted as it’s off the tourist path. You can take the metro most the way, then it’s a little bit of an uphill walk up it. You’ll find old war bunkers with new graffiti every time you go. The views are truly breathtaking!)
The Labrynth Park (This park is really cool that’s actually a maze!)
Although these are the top things I'd recommend for a quick 3-4 day trip, another great site I'd recommend reading through if you have more time in Spain, is this 100 things to do in Spain article!
Bo De B (The best sandwiches ever. I still crave these! You get a ton of food and it’s really cheap and right on the border of El Born and the Gothic districts.)
El Xampanyet (An awesome tapas/lunch spot. This place is extra cool because it has a super authentic Spanish vibe. They’re famous for the their hamberguesa and cava rosa. Here you’ll stand the entire time, grab a tapa or two, and have a drink. You just throw your trash on the ground when you’re done, and they’ll come by and sweep it up periodically.)
Cera 23 (District: El Ravel), modern Spanish cuisine
Can Cisa (District: El Born), tapas and wine bar
Cal Pep (District: El Ravel), tapas
Cuines Santa Caterina (District: El Born), Mediterranean-Japanese Fusion
Cervecería Catalana (District: L’Eixample), tapas
Quimet & Quimet (District: El Poble-sec), tapas
*stay away from food on Las Ramblas
Bars: don’t go to bars until around midnight
Chupitos (Try the Harry Potter shot and the boy scout shot!)
Dow Jones (stock market bar thats super cool!)
Pippermints (The drinks are fishbowls – great for groups.)
Le Cyrano (This bar is owned by mother and son and has amazing service. It’s a local spot, with a truly Catalan vibe. It’s a great, cheap place to drink and you are able to pour your own drinks.)
L’Ovella Negra (An awesome pub. You can purchase 5L mini taps of beer or sangria. It’s a huge beer hall and very loud, so a great place to go with friends to play drinking games!)
Dance Clubs: go around 1:30-2:00-6:00 AM (Barca has the best night life. You must take advantage of it while you’re there!)
*Search for news about these clubs on Twitter and Facebook to find promoter specials – typically if you say a specific promoter’s name at the door between certain hours, you can get in free without paying a cover charge.
Day Trips from Barcelona: all of these cities are about an hour train ride from Barcelona and are worth the visit if you have the time.
Girona: an old town with hundred of ancient arcaded houses, beautiful churches, and cobbled streets. Home to a huge Jewish community. There is also an airport here that RyanAir flies to for cheaper fares.
Costa Brava: a small city on the north coast of Spain with tropical beaches and relaxing days, but a lively nightlife scene. It’s only a popular day trip during the summer season (June to mid September), and completely deserted after that.
Montserrat: Montserrat Mountain is Catalunya’s holiest site, and a monastery. You’ll take about an hour train ride and then take cable cars up the mountain to the basilica on the mountain face; the views are breathtaking. This is also a beautiful area to hike in.
Sitges: A cute town with whitewashed walls that is perfect for relaxing on the gorgeous beaches. Again, it’s very crowded during the summer season, and desolate during the cooler months. There are a lot of contemporary and modern art galleries here too.