Barcelona Spain, one of my favorite European destinations, has so much to offer the traveler that you could spend several vacations exploring the city and still not run out of interesting things to do. Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city and the capital of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia, a fiercely independent region of Spain, with it’s own language, culture, and history. Located on the Mediterranean coast its climate can be described as “perfectly Mediterranean”, never too hot and never too cold. It’s the perfect location to spend time walking the boulevards, shopping, spending time at a café, eating Tapas in the evening, visiting world-class museums, spending time at the beach and so much more.


Barcelona’s main airport, El Prat is located 6 miles from the city. It is easily accessed using Taxis or the commuter train line from Barcelona. Several US airlines offer direct flights from their US hubs, and most European Airlines offer direct flights from all the major European Cities. One note of caution, several European low cost airlines fly into the Girona-Costa Brava airport located 60 miles from Barcelona, the transfer from the airport to Barcelona can be lengthy and expensive.

Barcelona is a popular embarkation and debarkation port for many cruise lines. This is a great opportunity to extend your vacation with a couple of extra days pre and post cruise. Most cruise lines will have packaged tours or you can make independent plans through your trusted travel advisor.


Barcelona is broken up into 10 different districts, each with its own flavor. Three of the districts are the most popular with visitors, each is very different and should not be missed.

District 1, Ciutat Vella, contains some of the oldest parts of Barcelona. Here you will find the El Gòtic area, also known as Barri Gòtic, containing many examples of Gothic architecture plenty of winding pedestrian only streets perfect for exploring. Don’t miss the Cathedral of Santa Eulalia, a splendid example of gothic architecture built between the 13th and 15th centuries. This district also borders the Mediteranean with its La Barceloneta neighborhood, known for its sandy beaches, restaurants and nightclubs. The magnificent Hotel Arts, a Ritz-Carlton hotel is located on the waterfront and dominates the Barcelona skyline.

Cathedral of Santa Eulalia

District 2, The Eixample, borders Ciutat Vella. The Eixample, or “addition”, so named because it was added to the city when it ran out of space to expand in its older neighborhoods in the 19th and 20th centuries is characterized by straight streets, wide boulevards, amazing architecture by the likes of Antoni Gaudi and other Modernista architects, as well as the world famous Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s unfinished Catholic Church.

Antoni Gaudi Casa Mila

District 6, Gràcia, borders The Eixample. The most well known attraction in Gràcia is the Gaudí-designed Parc Güell, which is located on El Carmel Mountain. Casa Vicens, Gaudí's first important work and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is also located in Gràcia. The park was intended originally as a location for luxury home sites in the early 1900’s, but this plan was never realized and it has since been turned into a municipal garden.

Parc Güell

Things to see

Several world-class art museums are home to Barcelona. The Fundació Joan Miró, Picasso Museum and Fundació Antoni Tàpies hold important collections of these world-renowned artists. The National Museum of Art of Catalonia possesses a well-known collection of Romanesque art while the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art focuses on post-1945 Catalan and Spanish art.

Antonio Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, a work still in progress and scheduled to be completed in 2026, dominates the Barcelona skyline. Gaudi left his mark all over Barcelona, from the magnificent Parc Güell, to his apartment buildings on the Passeig de Gràcia, a wonderful boulevard to shop, dine and admire the great architecture. Spaniards love to take their evening walks at around 7:00 p.m., this is a great time to walk the Passeig de Gràcia.

Sagrada Familia

La Rambla or Les Rambles is the most famous street in Barcelona. This wide boulevard connects the busy square of Plaça de Catalunya to the Monument a Colom, a tall column erected in honor of Christopher Columbus. The tree-lined boulevard has plenty of café’s, shops, flower stalls and street vendors all vying for your attention. La Rambla is also known for its pickpockets, so be sure to guard your valuables closely.

La Rambla

Eating in Barcelona

Spaniards like to eat late, very late, unbearably late for most Americans. Most Spaniards would not think of having dinner before 9:00 p.m. and sometimes as late as midnight. But luckily they also love to eat Tapas. Tapas are most easily described as small appetizers, or small plates of food, both hot and cold. Tapas bars are very popular in Barcelona and walking down any street will lead you past Tapas bar after Tapas bar crowded with patrons enjoying a bite to eat, a glass of wine or sherry, and discussing the days events with their friends. I have found that Tapas can be a great substitute for a more formal dinner. Not only are Tapas bars open earlier, you can spend an entire evening ordering small plates of food and experimenting with things you may not be familiar with. Most Tapas bars will serve a menu of 8 to 12 items with most fewer than five Euros. I like to find a Tapas bar with outdoor seating, grab a table, order a glass of house wine, examine the offerings, and then start ordering. It’s best to order just a couple at a time, don’t rush the experience, and enjoy your time watching the people and events around you. My favorite Tapas bar in Barcelona is the Cerveceria Catalana, located at Mallorca, 236. Two blocks off of the Passeig de Gràcia.


Shopping aficionado’s head to Passeig de Gràcia, home to many designer boutiques such as Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Bvlgari, Armani, Cartier, Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana as well as a host of cafes, bars and other local attractions. You can easily spend an entire day browsing the shops, having lunch and finishing with an evening of Tapas. One of my favorite hotels, the Hotel Majestic, is strategically located on the Passeig de Gràcia.

Passeig de Gràcia

Other Considerations

  • Spanish and Catalan are the official languages, but you will find English spoken throughout the city.
  • Shops generally open at about 9am, close for lunch from 2-4 p.m. and then reopen and stay open until 8 or 9 p.m.
  • You will find a wide range of hotels, from 2* basic to luxury 5* accommodations. But if you are staying for 5 or more days you might want to consider renting an apartment. There are many to choose from, most offering kitchens and laundry facilities and this is a great and economical way to visit Barcelona.
  • August is the month most Europeans take holiday, this means many destinations will be crowded and many shops and restaurants may be closed.
  • Barcelona has a great public transportation system with easily accessible and economical trams, buses and a subway networking the city. Renting a car for city driving is not recommended.
  • Are you a soccer fan? Catch an FC Barcelona game while in town, one of Europe’s most popular teams.
  • Want a day trip out of the city, visit Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dali and home to a museum dedicated to his works, or head to Sitges, renowned for it beaches, restaurants and shopping. Both are a short train ride from Barcelona.
  • Take a Segway tour. The Segway, a personal transportation device, is a great way to cover a lot of ground and see things you may not get a chance to see if you were just on foot. They are safe and easy to use, and a lot of fun.
  • Barcelona hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics and many of the venues are open for visitors to view. One of my favorites is the Estadi Olímpic de Montjuïc, originally built in 1927, it was used for the opening and closing ceremonies and a variety of Olympic events. Located on a hill with commanding views of the harbor it makes a great tour stop.

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome info! I found myself reminiscing about a lot of the stuff you mention in this article; Parc Guell, the Sagrada Familia, Picasso Museum. The Dali museum in Figueres is amazing!