It’s not a surprise that after my first trip to Barcelona, I was completely smitten with the place. This first-timer’s guide to Barcelona shows the best of this energetic city and what you have to see on your first time there.
Barcelona is a destination that is easy going, where you can spend hours roaming the Gothic quarter, getting lost in each nook and cranny that the city has to offer. I often say that you can go for the sights, but it’s the food that will make you stay. A food scene unlike any other I’ve encountered in Europe, the mix of Catalan cuisine and fresh ingredients from the ocean, creates an oasis for culinary creations. The best part? You can get a taste of it and not empty your bank account.
Along the way you’ll find that the architecture seems to dwell and surround itself on all things Gaudi. Was there anything he didn’t touch? Of course his masterpiece La Sagrada Familia is something that can’t be missed, but look for his hand in other pieces like Casa Calvet or Casa Vicen. Either way you go, ending the day at Park Güell will surely not disappoint.
The First-Timer’s Guide to Barcelona
What to Know Before Visiting Barcelona
- The city is easily explored by foot, uber which is convenient or taxi. I would not recommend renting a car unless you have plans to explore the surrounding areas.
- For getting into the city, the fastest and cheapest way from the airport (BCN) is by taxi for a fixed rate of 30 euros to the main area of town.
- Though it’s a modern city, there are many restaurants that only take cash as well. So be prepared to have a few euros.
- The city is more formal than I found in Europe, so I’d suggest a bit of an elevated dress while there.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
There are plenty of great hotels to choose from and I’d recommend to be as central as possible. Either the Gotchic Quarter run or north of the Rambla is great.
If you’re looking for an Airbnb, here are 10 flats under $100 to consider. My three favorite hotels are Cotton House Hotel for upscale/luxury, Margot House for boutique luxury, and Praktik Rambla for one that won’t break the bank.
Where to Eat in Barcelona
To start, I have an extensive guide on where to eat in Barcelona. A few of the highlights include:
- El Quim De La Boqueria: Though the market may be tourist central, this gem hidden in the middle is a place I would fly in for their iconic breakfast of baby squids and two fried eggs.
- El Nacional: Come here for the most beautiful space consisting of multiple restaurants and bars.
- El Xampanyet: It’s an institution to the tradition of tapas, and this lively and often at first very intimidating bar is home to incredible food — don’t mind the brisk servers and do as the locals do. Get the house cava, pan con tomate, “lard pillows,” and the octopus.
- Can Paixano (La Xampanyeria): Come here for a down and dirty eat. Get the lomo, add cheese, get a bottle of house cava, and enjoy one of the best eats in town.
- 7 Portes: A solid choice for paella.
- Nomads: My favorite coffee shop in Barcelona.
- Tickets: If there’s one restaurant to plan a trip around, it’s certainly this one. Try to snag a reservation in advance or call the day of at 4pm to grab a cancelled reservation.
What to Do in Barcelona
- Explore all things Gaudí: like Park Güell, La Sagrada Familia, and Casa Batlló.
- Walk by foot through the Gothic Quarter to see beautiful architecture.
- Head to the W Hotel for a beautiful view from the top.
- Experience Picasso’s life at the Picasso Museum.
- Take a day trip to Girona to see a beautiful small town.