Barcelona is one of the most vibrant cities in Europe, an ideal place to spend a romantic weekend or surf the bars with your friends. Situated on the South East coastline of Spain, Barcelona enjoys a warm mediterranean climate, where even in the winter the temperatures rarely drop below 12C, but it can get very hot in the summer. Barcelona is also a 2 hours drive from the french border giving access to the Pyrennees and further a field the Riviera and the Alps.
Barcelona rivals most European cities in terms of architecture and nightlife. Gaudi's influence can be seen throughout the city and during your stay you will probably visit at least 2 or 3 of his creations. Barcelona is also a very laid back city with siestas in the afternoon, and most people not coming out till late to party. In most cases you can find somewhere open till the early hours. Spain is of course in the EU so euros are the main currency here and prices are generally quite reasonable, with it being very possible to do Barcelona on a budget, depending on where you eat and drink.
The transport in Barcelona is cheap and efficient, a metro ticket (one journey costs €1.10 and you can also by travel cards or 7 day passes if you are going to do a lot of travelling around. It is possible to walk most of the old town, but if you are heading out further a field up past the Eixample or Gracia, you may want to use the metro. The metro runs till 2am on the weekends and till 11pm on the weekdays. Buses are also a convenient way to get around, but get a bus map first, nightbuses fill in over night, with services every 30 mins.
If your planning an excursion out of the city use the stations at Plaça de Catalunya or Plaça d'Espanya
Its also worth noting that a lot of museums and restaurants shut on Monday and also between the hours of 1 and 4pm for siestas, although a lot of the larger places stay open daily.
Also you can use your metro ticket to go from the El Prat Airport to the city center.
I will also recommend you to do the tour bus, although a bit pricey it is worthy. There is 2, one which explains the history and another one that just takes you and tells you where are you. I strongly recommend the one with history.
Although it's a city with a lot of tourism, it is also the second most important city in Spain . Therefore people lives there their lives without caring about the tourism, that is part of their charm, that you see the real life in Spain, if everything will be prepared for tourism and focus on that it will be Benidorm or Las Vegas, and everyone will talk English as well, but a taxi driver or a regular person working in a shop it is logical that they don't speak English, they live in Spain and they don't need to. Just as a regular shop assistant or a taxi driver in London don't speak any other language apart from English.
I can also say that in every city in Spain , people have lunch breaks in their jobs between 1 to 4 in the afternoon. The reason is because in the Mediterranean culture lunch is the heaviest meal, and it is also a social event. So families go home and eat together, then some will have a siesta (not longer than 30 min) to recharge batteries and go back to work until 7:30 or 8 pm. After that you might go for a drink with some friends and have a light dinner. Obviously this way of live is thanks to the weather.
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You'll probably come into Barcelona, if your flying, either to Girona (Ryan Air) or El Prat (Easy Jet). Girona is about an hour away by train, these run quite frequently and are only about €3-4. Its worth having a look round Girona if you have time as it is an ancient walled medieval city with a lot of charm. If your coming into El Prat, the train runs every 20-30 mins to Barcelona and is only about €2.50, the journey time is about 25 minutes. A taxi costs roughly €25 to the old town should you be feeling flush.
Depending on where you are staying, the best place to start would probably be Plaça de Catalunya, which is the main square in town and has a useful tourist info office, just down the steps to the south-east corner of the square. Also useful to note is that Sants Estació station (on metro line 5 - same line as Plaça de Catalunya) has a left luggage office (4am-midnight), useful for stashing your bags if you have to depart your accommodation early, another one can be found at the Estació de França, next to the Parc de Ciutadella, east of the centre. Estació de França is also where a lot of the international trains stop if you are coming into Barca on the train. Some international trains may come into Sants Estació.
If you are coming by car, you'll find parking quite expensive (€17-18 for 24 hours in an underground car park) there are free spaces available as long as you avoid the blue-meter zones in the central section of the Eixample. Car crime is high in Barcelona so it may be worth paying for a bit more security.
Its a good idea to learn some Spanish before you come or invest in a good phrase book and dictionary as a lot of the menus are in spanish or catalan, and a lot of the places we encountered, except the touristic places, our English wasn't understood!
Don't wantingly flash valuables around the Plaça de Reial area, this place is notorious for petty crime.
Internet is cheap at only €0.60 for 15 mins just on the Ramblas almost opposite the Gran Theatre. Mobile phones, including pay as you go should work, one of the networks is called Movistar!
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Apartments Bahia -
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Things to do
The Ramblas - Take a leisurely walk down Barcelona's famous avenue, with street performers, stalls selling souvenirs, pets (!), flowers and much more.
La Boqueria Market (La Ramblas) - Ideal for getting supplies if you are planning to be self sufficient food wise, this market is awash with vibrant colours and smells, there are also a couple of great tapas bars in the centre of the market itself.
Casa Batllo (Passeig de Gracia) - An appartment transformed by Gaudi with a surrealist feel, it was said to have inspired Dali. The €10 is a bit steep though.
Casa Mila (Passeig de Gracia) - Also known as La Pedrera this is a better bet than Casa Batllo and has a very good museum on Gaudi, Barcelona history and a stunning rooftop terrace with sculptures and great views of the city.
Segrada Familia (Provenca or Segrada Familia Metro) - Gaudi's most ambitious work that unbelievably is still unfinished, the towers that do stand are actually the smallest of the lot, so it makes you wonder how even more awe inspiring it will be when/if it is finished. Be prepared for a lot of climbing stairs and queuing while people take pictures. Also be aware that as it still 'under construction' the architecture shares its space with large cranes and building materials.
Centre d'Art Santa Monica (Bottom of the Ramblas) - Free contemporary art museum with good high profile exhibitions.
MACBA (Plaça dels Angels) - The main museum of contemporary art with temporary exhibitions aswell as a permanent collection, entry is free on sundays.
Museu d'Art de Catalunya (Monjuic) - Massive collection of cultural artifacts and art spanning the centuries, allow the best part of a day for this
Estadi Olimpic (Monjuic) - Behind the Museu d'Art de Catalunya, this is also where Espanyol play their games and also hosts some international football matches. The communications tower nearby is an interesting design worth a photo.
Parc de Joan Miro (Plaça D'Espanya) - A delightful little park where you can watch a game of volleyball or visit the giant Joan Miro sculpture on the South West corner.
Parc de Cuitadella (Cuitadella Metro) - The site of the Universal Exhibition in 1888, this park is a perfect way to while away a Sunday, take a boat onto the lake or sunbathe on the grass. There is also the Museu de Zoologia, the Museu de Geologia and a zoo to also check out.
The Beach (stretching from Barceloneta eastwards) - This is one of Barcelona's main selling points that sets it aside from most other European city.
Nou Camp (Les Corts) - No visit to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to Barcolona's famous football stadium. Tours cost €9 and you get a tour of the stadium and entry into a very good museum on the history of Barcelona FC and Barcelona culture. If you really lucky try and get tickets for a match (normally Sundays) be warned if its against high profile opposition it may be worth buying in advance and tickets can cost as much as €60 depending on where you site. Its also important to note that the tour doesn't run on match days.
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Amaya (Rambla Santa Monica 20-24) - Main restaurant and tapas bar (which we tried) serves relatively cheap tapas with speedy service, no english menus.
Can Ramonet (C de la Maquinista, Barceloneta) - A rustic restaurant tucked away in the harbour area with friendly if not too attentive service. A bit pricey
Cappucino (Passeig de Gracia) - Street side cafe serving good coffee and OK snacks. Sit out on the street and watch the world go by or sit inside the lavish tiled interior.
La Llimona (Avda Gaudi 37) - A pleasant, easy going family run restaurant ideal for refueling after visiting Segrada Familia. Order the DIY freschetta where you get a basket of toast and a plate of tomatoes and garlic to rub into it!
Ambos Mundos (Placa Reial) - I'm only including this as a place NOT to go, the food is lousy, the service poor and you constantly get hassled by street performers and caricaturists.
Bar Ra (Pl de la Gardunya, Behind the Market) - Designer food either in the small modern cafe that is shared with the kitchen or on the terrace outside (this gets very popular). You choose 2 items from a selection of a set menu of 6, with the prices at €10.50 its a cheap way to eat.
La Gardunya (Pl de la Gardunya, Back of the Market) - Another set menu during the day with a more extensive menu at night, this place serves up market produce, but when we went their the food was disappointingly bland.
Taverna del Bisbe (Avinguda de la Cathedral) - Set on the doorstep of the cathedral, sit on the terrace and eat tapas. Prices are cheaper if you elect to eat inside.
El Gran Cafe (Bxda de Sant Miquel 1) - Possibly the best place we found to eat, but be prepared to pay for it (€31 for 3 courses). There is a big selection of food, the presentation is world class and the setting is one that exudes elegance. Its a good idea to book a table in advance
4 Cats (Montsio) - Cafe/Bar with high ceilings once a hangout of Picasso. It serves up high quality pricey food but is worth it at least once for the experience.
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Bars & Clubs
Bar Bahia (Pl George Orwell) - Friendly but scruffy bar frequented by locals, seating outside in the square
La Socarrena (Merce) - Small Asturian bar split on two levels serving 'Leche de Pantera' (milk, whisky, brandy and gin) and a potent cider (sidra) which involves the waiter expertly contorting his body and pouring the cider from a great height into your glass.
Avesta (Rigomir) - Snug bar in a wine cellar like vault playing classic rock and serving free popcorn to each table
Hook (Ample 35) - Pirate themed second hand flea market turned cocktail bar. The barmaid is an amazingly plastic woman called Wendy who even features in a newspaper cut out on the wall. That aside the barman will provide you with tasty cocktails at above average prices.
Bar Pastis (Santa Monica 4) - Small dingy french bar with artistic and theatrical memorabilia, it has a friendly vibe and is a good place to finish off the night away from the crowds
The Quiet Man (C de Unio) - Irish Bar with pool tables at €2 a game and beer at €3 you'll soon run out of money! Best bet is to try El Gat a street a way on Nou de Rambla which also has a pool table but is generally harder to get on it.
L'Anscensor (Bellafina) - Pretentious bar in which one has to go through an old lift to enter the bar. We didn't stay long as we were asked to move from one table to a small one right at the back of the bar!
Yi Los Alamos (Escudellers) - Bar in old town with a limited selection of beers, fixed bar stools but worth it as the toilets are entitled 'Pee Pee'!
La Concha (La Guardia) - Darkly lit Turkish/Egyptian style bar with its own homage to Spanish Film star Sara Montiel, the real pull is the hookah pipes which you can hire from €5.
Almirall (c/de Joaquin Costa 33) - Dating back to 1860 this is Barcelona's oldest bar and is a nice way to start an evening off. They have a wide selection of drinks and also have fliers for local clubs. Great vibes with a touch of jazz thrown in.
Parnasse (c/Ginglas 21) - Relaxed bar with very friendly staff famous for its absinthe, if you ask for a large one you will get about 4 shots worth! They also have a nice 'Hoegarden' style beer and play from a large selection of Jazz. My favourite bar in Barcelona!
London Bar (c/Nou de Rambla 34) - Modernista Bar dating from the early 1900s this is a good place to catch a drink before going to L'Enfants the club nearby, but be warned its very touristy
L'Enfants (La Guardia) - Small club popular with students with free entry, be warned it can get busy, and I've got to admit I can't remember what music they played!
El Bosc de les Fades (Rambla Santa Monica) - Situated up the alley where the wax museum is off the Ramblas, this 'tree' bar seems to suffer from a Jekyll and Hyde complex, in one part couples hide a way in cosy alcoves of gnarled trees (with faces!), while slap bang to one side is what appears to be a room from a doll house, while next door a trendy minimalist cocktail bar can be found!
Sincopa Music Bar (Avinyo) - Cuban Music Bar with old instruments lining the wall, good selection of spirits although seating is limited to just a handful of bar stools. Please take note that this place can be frequented by shady characters and we have recently received a complaint that one visitor was sexually harassed here by one of the regulars.
Sugar (c/ de la Raurich) - Small red/pink bar with very friendly vibes, basically like being at someone's private party. It does incredibly busy and be prepared to get drinks spilt on you
Sidecar (Plata Reial) - 2 level bar with bands and a Drum and Bass club later on downstairs with a sophisticated modern cocktail bar on the ground level.
Dot (San Francesca) - Very trendy modern late night bar showing old cult porno films, is quite pricey
Travel Bar (C de la Boqueria) - Backpackers bar which is a good place to meet people if you are travelling alone or wish to get some information on what to do, also has Internet.
In every place of Spain , even in villages, you will be able to go out in the night until the early morning, people enjoy partying. But if you go to other cities of Spain you will see that music and atmosphere is different from Barcelona . Spanish people enjoys good music, but for night clubs or bars you will notice that they also enjoy cheesy music that its funny or happy and boost up the party spirit.
After all these comments I definitely recommend you to go to Cadiz , if you enjoy party and windsurf.
For Surf I will recommend you the North of Spain: Basque Country and Asturias are famous for their fantastic beaches for Surf, their gastronomy and beautiful green mountains and landscape.
If you want something different to anything you have seen before: Seville will be your destination.
Nightlife in Madrid is amazing and the city is beautiful with lots of history and monumental buildings.
Info compiled by Andy Webb with some additional info from Maria Lence.
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