A sun-drenched seaside city with a vibrant culture, renowned architecture and history, plus great food – what’s not to love? From the many whimsical Gaudi creations to the Picasso and Miró museums, it would be easy to fill a few days seeing all the must-see attractions.
This insider guide to Barcelona takes you off the beaten track and allows you to wander the city like a local. As you wind your way through narrow alleys, through small parks, and into some of the best restaurants and cafés, you’ll discover the hidden treasures of this Mediterranean gem.
Catalan food is known for being simple yet delicious. Whether you’re picnicking at the beach, tucking in at a neighbourhood bar, grazing through market stalls, or fine dining at a fancy establishment, Barcelona’s culinary scene shines with flavour and atmosphere.
Food is an integral part of the city’s culture and eating like a local is, in part, down to timing. Lunch and dinner are eaten late, with lunch starting around 1:30 pm and dinner at 9:00 pm – or as late as 11:00 pm on weekends.
Lunch is typically a heavier meal, such as seafood-laden paella, and dinner is lighter – think tasty tapas and pintxos. One of the best streets for tapas and pintxos is Blai Street, with Blai 9 being a local favourite.
For an authentic exploration of international cuisines, stroll through Santa Caterina Market. Less touristy than Boqueria Market, it’s an architectural delight and a local hotspot.
After browsing the stalls of fruit and veg then, pick up some ham, cheese, olives and wine and head to nearby Parc de la Ciutadella for a picnic.
The calm Mediterranean-style space is one of a kind in Barcelona at Greenhouse Restaurant. You can expect only organic and local ingredients, converted into vibrant dishes rich in Spanish spirit and flavour.
Whether you’re going for ambience or flavour, Barcelona’s cafe and bar scene have plenty of both. Start the day at Satan’s Coffee Corner to fuel up on caffeine before a day of exploring.
When the sun begins to sink lower in the sky, there’s no shortage of spots along the beach to find the ultimate sunset cocktail. However, if a panoramic view of the city is more your style, rooftop bars are plentiful.
A shady table at Terraza de Vivi offers a blissful escape from the sweltering streets to sip on a glass of vermouth – a favourite accompaniment to some simple tapas.
Whilst most people usually associate Spain with the fruity flavours of sangria, cava is arguably Barcelona’s most beloved drink. This bubbly wine is produced in the nearby Penedès region and is found on most menus. Can Paixano is one of the best places to try a glass.
Lists of Barcelona’s top attractions are readily available, and although a wander through the opulent Sagrada Familia is encouraged for first-time visitors, the hidden gems lie elsewhere.
If you’re a Gaudi fan, but want to avoid the crowds, queues, and entry fees at Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, there are plenty of other awe-inspiring Gaudi sights throughout the city. As you explore the city streets, works of art such as Casa Vicens, Casa Milá, Palau Güell, and Casa Batlló can be spotted.
If you decide you’ve had enough of Barcelona’s busyness and want to find some peace, Jardines de la Tamarita and Jardins de Rubió i Lluch are the perfect small garden spaces for a tranquil escape.
These lovely gardens provide an urban oasis where you’ll find quiet courtyards, trickling fountains, and fragrant orange trees. Additionally, the view of Barcelona’s landscape from Jardins del Turó del Putxet is to kill for.
Many visitors to Barcelona miss out on the experience of being active and discovering the natural beauty that encompasses the city. The weather is ideal for walking, hiking, cycling and water sports throughout most of the year.
The 10-kilometre trail at Carretera de les Aigües is popular with locals for walking, running or biking while gazing over spectacular views of the city. Come in the evening to enjoy the sunset.
Lace your running shoes for a run along the beach boardwalk, breathing in the fresh salty air. Running from the Villa Olímpica towards the Forum is the quieter option. If it gets too hot, a dip in the sea is the optimal reward.
If being on the sea is calling to you, join a kayaking excursion right there in the city centre, or venture further afield to the crystal-clear waters of the Costa Brava.
Considered one of the hippest areas in the city, the visually stunning Passeig de Gràcia is a top choice for some of Barcelona’s trendiest shops. Frequented by locals and fashion gurus, hip cafes dot the avenue, providing outdoor seating for tired feet and optimal people-watching.
The Born neighbourhood is full of artisan shops and boutiques within centuries-old gothic buildings. This part of Barcelona’s old town is a fabulous place to wander, getting lost among handmade shoes and leather goods, vintage furniture, and funky accessories.
Four days a week, you can discover treasures, such as jewellery, vintage clothing accessories and antiques at the Els Encants Flea Market. One of the oldest flea markets in Barcelona, this is an eclectic place to while away the hours browsing for trinkets and souvenirs.
If you’re visiting Barcelona with kids, there are endless museums and parks to explore, while the vast expanse of beach is at your disposal for sandcastle creations and an escape from the city heat.
Montjuïc Magic Fountain is dazzling entertainment for the entire family. The water show, lights and lasers will captivate everyone, and although the magic takes place after dark, we guarantee it’s worth delaying bedtime.
Sometimes the only answer on a hot day is ice cream. And the best place to treat your mini explorer is at Gocce di Latte,, located in one of the older neighbourhoods of Barceloneta. The aquarium isn’t far away, which is another option for family fun.
Like many large European cities, Barcelona is made up of different neighbourhoods, each with unique characteristics and advantages. Whichever barrio you choose, excellent public transportation helps you get from one side of the city to the other.
Pobla Sec and Eixample are great options for escaping the throngs of tourists while remaining within the pulse of the city. Both areas allow you to experience the shops, bars and restaurants that make up the real Barcelona. The boutique vibe is strong in Barcelona, and the choices are vast. With places such as Pulitzer Barcelona, you can’t go wrong.