Barcelona contains both the authentically historic and the wildly bizarre. From the tree-lined Las Ramblas to the narrow alleys of Barri Gòtic; from the beach side nightclubs to the city’s dozens of sacred churches and cathedrals, this city by the sea seems to attract all types: the family, the adventurer, the couple, the backpacker, the culture lover — and more — with an almost overwhelming variety of things to do. You could stay for a few days, but chances are you’ll need a whole week to explore.
In Barcelona, even the beach is bustling, but it’s really the cosmopolitan city that gets all the attention. Much of the activity revolves around Las Ramblas, a series of narrow streets and alleys packed with restaurants, nightclubs and a vibrant pedestrian market. But you should also take a tour of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces; Gaudí is responsible for sites like Parc Güell, Casa Batlló and La Sagrada Familia. And it would also be absurd to miss out on the eclectic shopping scene and the region’s exquisite food and wine. Do you see why we suggest a week vacation?
Barcelona Culture & Customs
Barcelona is a fun, exciting city. Gaudí’s famous structures and the Picasso Museum attract art-lovers in droves, cozy eateries dishing up dozens of tapas plates entice foodies and an energetic nightlife and entertainment scene caters to those who prefer not to spend their nights partying rather than dreaming.
Spanish society — especially in Barcelona — still takes a siesta break at midday, usually between noon and 2 p.m. During this time it’s common for stores and banks to close, so be mindful of this tradition and don’t fret if the city suddenly goes quiet. To get a full taste of Spanish culture, take a siesta yourself and gather energy for the long and entertaining night ahead.
The official languages in Barcelona are Spanish and Catalan; Catalan is most commonly used among local residents. Barcelona citizens will appreciate travelers who attempt to speak Catalan or Spanish. Helpful Catalan phrases include hello (hola), good-bye (adéu) and thank you (gràcies).
Barcelona’s official currency is the euro (EUR). Since the euro to U.S. dollar exchange rate fluctuates often, be sure to check what the current exchange rate is before you go. Major credit cards are accepted at most restaurants and shops.
Local cuisine is increasingly meat-centered; common dishes include stews filled with chickpeas, greens and lots of pork or beef. Seafood is also a popular ingredient, with most traditional restaurants offering assorted versions of the celebrated paella, a mix of shellfish, spices and rice.
Ordering tapas — small appetizer-sized dishes usually served with a glass of beer or cava — is a great way to sample the regional cuisine without overspending.
Popular neighborhoods for dining out include Barri Gòtic, Gracia and Eixample.
Best Things To Do in Barcelona
Barcelona has some of the most unique and inspiring architecture in the world, so a tour of the city’s parks, museums and churches is a must.
You won’t want to miss out on seeing Gaudí’s Casa Batlló, La Sagrada Familiaand Parc Güell. Later, relax on the waterfront with a cool cerveza (beer) or glass of cava, accompanied by some tapas, all the while enjoying a picturesque view of the Mediterranean. After a brief siesta, we suggest you hit the nightlife in Las Ramblas.
How To Save Money in Barcelona
- Buy the Barcelona Transport Card Discounts on top things to do and unlimited use of public transportation make this card worth your money upfront. But be sure to purchase it before you travel, so you can take advantage of the free train ride from the airport to the city center.
- Stay in an apartment Cut down on food costs by renting an apartment (rather than a hotel), where you can buy groceries and cook your own Catalan feasts.
- Gorge on lunch If you eat your big meal at lunch, you can cash in on the Menu del Dia (Menu of the Day), which is usually an affordable and tasty three-course meal. After this midday spread, a few cheap tapas plates around dinnertime should tide you over until breakfast.
Keep in Mind…
- Take a break Siestas (naps) used to be a daily occurrence throughout Spain, when local businesses would shutter their doors in favor of a mid-afternoon break. Though no longer as common in large metropolises, you can still partake while you’re visiting. Eat a large, satisfying lunch and then head back to your hotel for a short snooze to prepare for a long night on the town.
- Don’t visit in August Swarms of locals leave in August to catch some relief from the sweltering humidity. Likewise, many restaurants and shops are closed until September.
- Spanish vs. Catalan Many residents will refer to themselves as “Catalan” and speak the Catalan language rather than traditional Spanish. Many of the words are similar, but the pronunciation is quite different.