This blog post was originally posted on August 30, 2016, and was updated on September 19, 2017.
Coming to Barcelona for the first time? The city can be a hard nut to crack, so make sure you have the tools and the know-how to feel like an expert with our first-timers guide to Barcelona!
First up, a bit of background about Barcelona! Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, one of Spain’s 17 different autonomous communities. It’s the second largest city in Spain, with a population of 1.6 million. Though Barcelona is known today as a modern, cosmopolitan city, it’s actually over 2,000 years old and boasts quite a bit of fascinating history! You will find two different co-official languages in Barcelona; Spanish and Catalan. Many people, at least in the city center, also speak a lot of English.
The city of Barcelona is very easy to navigate. Looking at a map, you will see a large part of the city is built on a grid system called the Eixample. The actual meaning of this word is ‘the extension’ in Catalan. The old city, Ciutat Vella, is made up of 4 main neighborhoods and borders the sea. The Eixample connects the old city with neighborhoods that were once small towns or suburbs of the city center, such as Gracia, Poble Sec and Poblenou.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
There are loads of different options of places to stay in Barcelona, and it can be hard to choose what’s best! Whether you’re looking for the perfect hotel, neighborhood or local experience, doing just a bit of research will make for the perfect first visit to Barcelona. Read our full posts on where to stay in Barcelona and of course our guide to Barcelona neighborhoods.
Things to Do in Barcelona
The list of things to do in Barcelona is infinite! So much so, that we made a list of 100 of them! However, if it’s your first time to Barcelona, there are certain things that are a must on the itinerary, even if you’re here for just two days.
- Visit the Sagrada Familia.
- Walk down la Rambla.
- Explore the Boqueria market while you are there!
- Get lost in the historical Gothic Quarter and Born neighborhoods.
- Take a self-guided tour of famous architect Antonio Gaudi’s work.
- Wander around one of Barcelona’s many wonderful museums.
- Hike around Montjuic and visit its many different sights.
- Hop on a bike ride and head down Barcelona’s coastline.
- Go on a food or tapas tour to discover the city’s wonderful gastronomy.
Getting Around Barcelona
Barcelona is a very walkable city. Depending on where you’re staying, you might never set foot on public transport! That said, certain places, like Gaudi’s famous Park Güell, can be a bit of a hike by foot. If you aren’t walking with a map in hand, make good use of the metro system which is easy to understand and functions almost flawlessly.
Local’s Tip: If you plan on taking the metro several times, get a T-10 abono, or 10-ride pass, which is about half the price of buying individual tickets. The pass costs €10 and you can buy it inside the metro or at any tobacco stand. Any guide to Barcelona will tell you that this is the best value for money when it comes to transport.
If you’re the bicycle type, Barcelona is a fabulous city to see from the seat of a bike. There are plenty of bike rentals that will provide you with a map of the city’s bike lanes.
Guide to Barcelona’s Best Food and Drink
Barcelona is famous for its wonderful cuisine, and it’s no wonder why! The city boasts an incredible array of options, from rustic Catalan dining to modern and trendy tapas bars. Of course, don’t miss all the sweets in between! Check out the best options for different tastes and occasions below.
- Traditional foods in Barcelona
- The best tapas bars in Barcelona
- Top pastry shops in Barcelona
- 10 must-visit restaurants in Barcelona
The eating schedule and habits of locals can be tricky for visitors! If you’re looking for tips on how locals eat and drink in Barcelona, look no further than our guide to eating like a local in Barcelona!
Finally, for a true taste of local flavor, head to the different historic food markets around the city. The Boqueria market is a must, but there are so many others to discover! Take a look at the video below to get a guided tour around the beautiful Santa Caterina Market with our lovely co-founder Lauren Alouise.
If you know where you’re staying, make sure to check out the top bars, restaurants, cafes and more in each neighborhood. Of course, we have you covered as always! Check out the links below to some of our favorite neighborhood spots in our guide to Barcelona’s best bits!