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Barcelona Travel Guide

About Barcelona

Modernist buildings, stunning sandy beaches, lovely weather, laid-back people, and scrumptious local food: Barcelona highlights are truly one of a kind! Known as the biggest city on the Mediterranean coast and the second-largest metropolis of Spain after the cosmopolitan Madrid, Barcelona is also the capital of Catalunya, an autonomous community in the North-East of Spain, proud of its traditions, distinctive language, and rich history.

From its founding in the 3rd century BC by Hannibal’s father, the frightful Carthaginian leader, to the Moorish and Bourbon domination, Barcelona has always been able to integrate the old with the new and never lose its dynamic and fervent soul. You can see this in the architecture of the city center, where the squarish and gloomy Medieval churches of El Born stand beside the sumptuous and dainty Baroccan buildings of Placa de Catalunya. A few steps away, the Barrio Gotico entices the city’s visitors with its characteristic narrow streets bordered by artisan laboratories and antics shops. And how to forget about Eixample, home of fashionable stores and stylish cafes; Gracia, edgy and rebellious; La Rambla, the beating heart of the city, with its colorful and noisy market La Boqueria, and Barceloneta, overlooking the sea with its traditional restaurants and trendy nightclubs? 

Of course, you can’t talk about Barcelona without mentioning Antoni Gaudi, the genius of Modernism whose breathtaking and kaleidoscopic installations attract millions of visitors annually. The Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Casa Mila, Casa de Les Punxes, and Parc Guell are only a small part of the invaluable legacy he left to the city he lived -and died- for. 

Magical, sunny, colorful, and charming: how can you not fall in love with Barcelona?

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Barcelona, ES
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Best Time To visit

From January to December, every month is good for taking a trip to vibrant and multicolored Barcelona! 

Spring and Fall are ideal for visiting the city calmly and admiring the eccentric colors of Gaudi’s creations without suffering from the heat typical of Summer months. In December, the city becomes a true Winter wonderland, with the joyful Christmas markets in Placa de Catalunya and the adrenaline Ferris wheel and carousels animating the Barceloneta waterfront. Moreover, the temperatures are still pretty mild, especially if compared to other major European cities. 

But it is in Summer that the city truly comes alive, with glamorous parties organized on the terraces of the best sea-view clubs and the majestic light shows held every week at the Font Màgica de Montjuïc, right above Place de Espanya. However, this might not be the right time to visit the city if you can not tolerate excessively high temperatures and noisy crowds. 

Ultimately, there is truly no wrong time to visit Barcelona. It all comes down to personal preference and the vibe you are looking for!

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What to expect

Youthful, dynamic, and glamorous, yet very rooted in its age-old traditions, Barcelona truly knows how to surprise different types of visitors, from party-seekers to families, from foodies to wellness lovers. 

 

The multi-faceted nature of this Mediterranean city is also reflected in the juxtaposition of ancient buildings and contemporary urbanism, which seem to harmoniously coexist in the old neighborhoods (“barrios”) of La Barceloneta, El Gotic, El Raval, e Sant Pere. Testimony to this is, for example, the 

dazzling cover of colorful mosaics that have been placed over the roof of the historical Santa Caterina market, manufactured by Catalan artisan Toni Cumella in the early 2000s, that seem to naturally integrate with the centuries-old installations of Old Town Barcelona.

Exploring Barcelona is a true joy for the eye and the soul: let yourself get caught by the lively atmosphere of La Rambla, the main artery of the city that connects the magnificent Plaça de Catalunya to the old port, and share the delicious traditional tapas of LaBoqueria with your loved ones. Then, wander through the tangled alleys of El Born, home to a vibrant community of artists, cultural spaces, and museums, such as the prominent Picasso Museum and the MEAM (European Museum of Modern Art).

And don’t forget to visit the most iconic landmarks of the city, most of which carry Gaudi’s unique signature, such as the breathtaking Sagrada Familia, the artist’s unfinished masterpiece, the eclectic Park Guell, from which you can have a bird-eye view of the city, and the mesmerizing Casa Battlo declared in 2005 UNESCO world heritage.

After a long day under the scorching sun, what’s better than a refreshing glass of Sangria? Even better if sipped on one of the most glamorous rooftops in the city, such as the Sky Bar, located on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Central, or the Terraza Ayre, overlooking the posh Eixample district, at less than 200 meters from the Sagrada Familia.

Barcelona is a cosmopolitan, laid-back, and jovial city, perfect for a relaxing and recharging vacation. However, be sure to stay in the right district: for a premium experience, choose the area nearby Passeig de Gracia, the most elegant and majestic promenade in the city, home to luxury hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental and El Palauet.

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Things to know

Here are a couple of essential things to keep in mind when traveling to Barcelona: 

  • Language: Catalan and Spanish are the official languages spoken in the city. While Catalan is the official language in most offices and schools, the road signs are generally bilingual, and most residents can easily switch between both languages. 
  • Common Sayings: here are a couple of valuable sayings in Catalan that will help you get by in the most common situations. 

Good Morning – Bon dia

Good Afternoon – Bon Tarda

Good Night – Bona nit

Please – Si us plau

Thanks – Gracies or Merci

Nice to meet you – Moit de gust

What’s your name? – Com et dius?

My name is John – Em dic John

Where are you from? – D’on ets?

Do you speak English? – Parla angles?

A table for two, please – Una taula per dos si us plau

Bon appetit! – Bon profit!

The bill please – El comte si us plau

That was delicious! – Estava bonissim!

  • Time Zone: Barcelona is on Central European Time (CET), which is six hours ahead of New York (EST), nine hours ahead of Los Angeles (PDT), and one hour ahead of London (GMT).
  • Currency: Spain belongs to the so-called “Eurozone,” which means that the currency in Barcelona is the Euro (EUR). Although credit cards are accepted in most places nowadays, it’s always a good idea to have cash on hand, especially for purchases in antics shops or typical food markets.
  • Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, and Maestro are widely accepted in most restaurants and shops (to avoid unpleasant surprises, check beforehand the sticker on the front door indicating which cards are accepted).
  • Plugs + Voltage: Barcelona electrical outlets use plug types C (with two round pins) and F (with two round pins and two earth clips on the side). They operate on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.
  • Airports: there is only one major airport in close proximity to the city, El Prat de Llobregat Aeropuerto, from which you can arrive at the city center in less than half an hour by taking either the bus, metro, or taxi. Alternatively, you can fly to Girona and Reus airports, approximately 120 km outside the city but very well connected via transfer services. 
  • Vegetarian and vegan food: Barcelona offers plenty of options for eating delicious and wholesome plant-based food. From the raw and gluten-free lasagna and cannelloni of Potstot to the all-natural and organic menu of RasoTerra, awarded as the best vegetarian restaurant in Spain by Elcomidista. And how to forget the spatial cauliflower head with tahini, aioli sauce, and pomegranate arils from Sesamo Comida Sin Bestias and the decadent vegan cronuts of Chök – The Chocolate Kitchen.
  • Organic Groceries: Biocenter, Woki Organic Market, Veritas, and Organic Market San Joao are some of the best options for organic, km-zero grocery shopping. They all offer a wide variety of products, from fresh fruit and veggies to grass-fed meat, plant-based cheese, and eco-friendly personal hygiene products.
  • Safety: despite being very crowded, Barcelona is generally a safe destination and serious crimes are uncommon. However, as in other major tourist cities, pickpocketers and scammers can be around the corner, especially in the most heavily touristic areas. Make sure to always carry your most valuable belongings close to you and keep an eye on your surroundings. Try also to avoid poorly lit areas and suburban neighborhoods, especially at night time.
  • Opening Hours: most shops in Barcelona are open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. However, some artisanal laboratories and family-owned boutiques may close in the afternoon from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. On the other hand, restaurants generally open from 12 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. and from 7 p.m. to 11.30 p.m.
  • Popular Sites: among the most popular sites in Barcelona are Gaudì’s modernist masterpieces, such as the Sagrada Familia, Casa Battlo, and Park Guell, the gothic churches of Basilica de Santa Maria al Mar and the Catedral de la Santa Creu I Santa Eulàlia, the sumptuous Placa de CatalunyaLa Rambla and the vibrant market of La Boqueria. We recommend booking the most popular attractions in advance to avoid long lines and have more time to explore the city freely.
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how to get around

Walking is undoubtedly one of the best ways to fully experience the vibrant and cosmopolitan soul of the city. All the main attractions are relatively close to each other, especially if you stay in the central barrios of L’Eixample, ElBorn, Gracia, and Raval. 

For longer distances, we recommend taking advantage of the efficient public transport network, which consists of trams, buses, and the suburban rail service (FGC), all of which are slowly shifting toward clean energy sources.

Similarly, with 11 lines, the metro system is well-served and affordable. Some of the main lines are the L9S – orange, which connects the city to the Prat Airport (both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2), the L1 -red, which runs through the entire city from east to west and stops at places of interest such as the Arc de Triomphe, Plaça Catalunya, and Plaça d’Espanya, and the L2-purple, which stops at the Sagrada Familia and Passeig de Gracia. 

Cruising around the city by bike is another fantastic option: Barcelona boasts a wide network of cycle lanes and several bike rental services. Among the most popular is Donkey Republic: with prices starting from 12 euros a day, you can have full access to the largest fleet of bikes in the city. All you have to do is download the app and pick the closest bike.

Barcelona is a very tourist-friendly city and offers different options for experiencing its vibrant soul to the fullest!

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Where to stay

Pg. de Gràcia, 113, 08008 Barcelona, Spain

Once known as Casa Bonaventura Ferrer, designed by architect Pere Falqués I Urpí in 1906, and today part of Barcelona’s Historical and Artistic Heritage, El Palauet is a luxury hotel that perfectly integrates its  . . . .

modernist nature with the contemporary furniture by Paola Lenti and Ron Arad. The six suites, with inlaid floral ceilings and custom-made Corian bathrooms, relish a superb view over Passeig de Gràcia, Barcelona’s most elegant and majestic promenade, connecting Plaça Catalunya with the Gràcia district. 

Pg. de Gràcia, 38-40, 08007 Barcelona, Spain

Lavish, classic, and elegant: the Mandarin Oriental is heaven for luxury travelers. Located on Passeig de Gràcia, the most exclusive shopping boulevard in the city, overlooking Gaudì’s modernist installations,  . . . . 

all the rooms boast the contemporary touch of Spanish interior designer Patricia Urquiola. At the same time, the gastronomic offer is signed by the world-awarded female chef Carme Ruscalleda. A true gem in the beating heart of the city!

dels Lledó, 7, 08002 Barcelona, Spain

Mercer Hotel Barcelona is a 5-star luxury hotel in the heart of the Barrio Gotico, the picturesque Gothic district in Old Town Barcelona. Looking to the future while respecting the past is the leitmotif of the  . . . .

Mercer,  housed in a group of historic installations -among which is the Roman wall of Ancient Barcino- newly refurbished under the direction of multi-awarded Navarran architect Rafael Moneo. The historical elements are masterfully entangled with the high-tech facilities and the expressionist art by Agustí Puig. The restaurant, overlooking the picturesque Orange Tree Courtyard, offers traditional Catalan dishes revisited by the creative flair of chef Xavier Lahuerta.

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