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2020-08-21 12:17:37

What you need to know for a self-guided trip to Barcelona: a detailed guide

What you need to know for a self-guided trip to Barcelona: a detailed guide

Barcelona is a dream city for lovers of exquisite architecture, warm Mediterranean climate, sports fans and food lovers. Few travel destinations offer such a successful combination of sightseeing, beach, and eventful recreation. This is one of the most popular European cities: it is not the most expensive vacation here, which attracts young people, people of mature age, parents with children.

It is quite possible to organize a trip to the capital of Catalonia by yourself. What do you need to travel on your own? Careful monitoring of resources, advice from experienced travelers, willingness to spend time on self-registration of a visa, booking tickets, accommodation.

Visa application

Spain is part of the Schengen area, so a visa from any Schengen member state is required to visit it. Those who have already visited Europe are familiar with the visa application process.

Accommodation, where to stay

Which type of accommodation to choose depends only on your budget - the choice of options is very wide. AirBnb, Booking are two of the simplest tools for finding accommodation: the first will offer options for renting apartments (there is a chance to find something authentic and at the same time inexpensive), the second is a universal resource for free and secure booking.

Hotel or apartment rental?

The hotel is comfortable, carefree, traditional.

  • Pros: employees will come to the rescue - they will tell you the route, restaurant, opening hours; do not have to deal with household issues.
  • Cons: price (most Barcelona hotels are expensive); presence of neighbors (thin walls + good audibility); the presence of general rules (do not make noise after 23:00, come to breakfast on time, do not invite guests); there is no kitchen, so you won't be able to save money.

An apartment is always interesting and closer to the reality of the chosen country.

  • Pros: economical compared to a hotel, tenants set the schedule themselves, can invite guests, cook your own food, get acquainted with the life of local residents.
  • Cons: full household workload (cooking, cleaning, shopping), no support from the staff, and not all Spaniards speak English, so keep an electronic translator ready for Spanish / Catalan.

Districts of Barcelona

The Catalan capital is heterogeneous in terms of construction time, architecture, infrastructure, and rental prices. When choosing where to stay, decide what interests you: proximity to attractions, identity or beach life.

The historic center, the main administrative region is called Ciutat Vella, or the Old Town. It unites the Gothic Quarter, Barceloneta, Ramblas, Plaza Catalunya. The quarters of the Old City are noticeably different from each other, so let's look at them separately.

  • The Gothic Quarter (ElGotic) attracts tourists with numerous attractions, although if you want to settle here, be prepared for high prices, noise due to the constant flow of tourists. In return, you will find yourself in the heart of the ancient city, not far from the sea, and there will always be life around - shops, restaurants, cafes.
  • Raval (El Raval) is located next to ElGotic, historically it was a bandit quarter, bardels were located here, criminals lived, robbery and attacks constantly took place. Today El Raval has become more prosperous, although pickpockets and prostitutes are still there, emigrants from Arab countries began to flock here. Narrow streets, motley population, romantic halo of "bad place" attracts thrill-seekers here. The low security level of El Raval allows you to save on housing, although the Museum of Modern Art is located nearby, and nearby - Palau Guell, La Rambla, will suit the lover of nightlife.
  • El Born is also located near ElGotic. This is a universal place: the city center, near the beaches, the atmosphere is measured, there are expensive shops, restaurants, bars. Prices are high here, but you pay for peace of mind, walking distance to the Picasso Museum, Santa Maria del Mar, French train station, Citadel Park, the zoo.
  • Barceloneta is a former fishing village, where a small district is now located. Its main attraction is the beach of the same name; there are restaurants, seafood cafes, small beach shops, few hotels, and apartments for rent. The area attracts young people thanks to the Opium club. "Tourist" prices are offset by the proximity to the Old Port, the Columbus Monument.
  • Eixample has existed since the 19th century, the layout was designed by I. Cerda, the straight streets of the district intersect at right angles, forming a regular geometric structure. Well-lit streets with well-organized traffic look a little monotonous, but it is safe here, the area chooses the middle class, there are many hotels, cheap hostels, apartments for rent, transport links with all points of Barca, the lively Diagonal Avenue passes through the Eixample. Nearby are examples of Gaudí architecture: Casa Mila, Casa Batlló, Sagrada Familia, a little further - the Tower of Agbar, but there are no beaches nearby.
  • Gracia is a quiet, calm place, unpopular with tourists, far from the sea, the historic center. There are low rental prices, there are many guest houses, apartments, cafes, restaurants, Park Guell, Vicens' House is located, magnificent views open up.

Transport, ways of getting around the city

Barcelona is distinguished by an extensive transport network:

  • The metro is open from 5 am to midnight, on holidays, weekends, the opening hours are extended to 2 am. Tickets are sold by automatic machines (cash, bank cards are accepted), cashiers (upon request, they will provide a free metro map - "mapa"). The most convenient option is a T-10 ticket for 10 trips, which can be used simultaneously by a group of tourists.
  • Taxis are inexpensive, convenient to call for long journeys. The center is crowded with cars, here it is faster to get by metro, bypassing traffic jams. The cost is calculated by the counter, tips are not required.
  • Car rental is an inconvenient option for moving around Barca. The city is congested, there are no free parking spaces, and the cost of paid parking spaces is high.
  • Tourist buses run on 3 sightseeing routes, stopping near major attractions. Buses are painted red, blue, green, tickets are sold for 1, 2 days.
  • Most of the city's guests use special buses from the airport (airbuses), they run from morning until late at night. Ticket price - 5,9 €, round trip (valid for 15 days) - 10,2 €. You can book a seat on the Airbus in advance.

Tourist cards

  • The Barcelona Card opens free travel on all types of transport, gives a discount on entrance tickets to the most popular museums in Barcelona, when buying tickets to visit the Philharmonic, the opera, some souvenir shops, restaurants. Cardholders receive a subway map, a map of attractions. The cards are valid for 2-5 days, the document cannot be transferred - the card is personal.
  • Barcelona City Pass will help you save time, money when visiting the Sagrada Familia and other attractions. The price of the card includes skip-the-line tickets to the main attractions of the city, transfer from / to the airport, travel by tourist bus, discounts on visits to museums.


Spanish cuisine is original, bright, a mix of traditional Spanish, Catalan dishes. A list of gastronomic masterpieces that you must try:

  • Paella is a famous dish originating from Valencia. Vegetables, seafood (Catalan version) are added to the rice, the traditional spice is saffron. Paella is served by expensive restaurants, street vans, hostesses of guest houses. "Tourist" price per portion - 17-20 €, in a good cafe in the sleeping area - 11-15 €. Most Spanish cafes serve generous portions of paella, which are shared by two.
  • Gazpacho - a soup made from mashed tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onions, garlic with Tabasco sauce, lemon juice, served cold, with croutons, serving cost - 5-6 €.
  • Tapas - a traditional Spanish snack for wine, beer, served in small portions. These include kebabs, sandwiches, jamon, sausages, shrimps, cheese, olives, potatoes, canapes, tartlets. Visit one of the many tapas bars and try the signature appetizer prepared here. From 1,50 €, this is a great option for a traditional Barcelona snack.
  • Jamon is a Spanish dry-cured ham, a favorite "present" of all tourists. The pork hind leg is dried up to 1 year old, served cut into thin strips.
  • Crema Catalana - creme brulee drizzled with caramel, the most popular regional dessert.
  • Sangria is a famous Spanish cocktail: wine or champagne is mixed with a small amount of strong alcohol - brandy, dry liqueur, gin, rum or vodka, pieces of fruit (oranges, apples), carbonated water, ice. The drink is served chilled, the price is 9-12 € per liter jug.

Features of the local timetable:

  • Lunch break / siesta - 14-17 hours
  • Dinner - 19-23 h.

Between these segments, it is best to have a snack with tapas, try local fast food.

The main attractions, what to see in the city

Sightseeing takes 3-4 days.

Route options:

  • 1st day - a walk through the historical center, Plaza Catalunya, Ramblas, Old Port, National Palace, Magic Fountain, ascent by cable car to Montjuïc mountain.
  • 2nd day - visit the Agbar Tower, Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, ride on the Blue Tram, visit Mount Tibidabo.
  • On other days, you can stroll around the Gothic Quarter, the promenade, the colorful Barceloneta, and visit the Montserrat Monastery.

Barcelona landmarks

  • The Sagrada Familia, or Sagrada Família (Basílica de la Sagrada Família) is one of the main symbols of the city, located in the Eixample. The construction began a century and a half ago, has not yet been completed, despite the participation of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. The gigantic structure repeats the shape of a Latin cross, surrounded by many pointed towers, it seems delicate, airy. Facades, interior decoration amazes with an abundance of decorative elements. The Sagrada Familia is the most famous "long-term construction" in the world, funding for the work should be carried out at the expense of donations from parishioners. The temple is an eclectic combination of elements from different styles and eras. The cost of the visit is 17 €.
  • Park Güell is located on a hill in the Gràcia district. At the beginning of the last century, according to the idea of Count Eusebi Guell, a noble city dweller, a regular customer, a friend of Gaudi, this place was supposed to be an elite development. A huge territory of more than 17 hectares, according to Gaudi's project, is built up with houses, there are some infrastructure facilities - a hall with giant columns on the hillside, a terrace area in the central part of the park with stairs lined with fragments of broken dishes, decorative tiles, and pebbles. The square is entwined with a long mosaic bench, echoing the shape of the lizard, the symbol of Barcelona. This is one of the most emblematic, unique parks, a popular tourist destination. The territory of the park is a vast green area, a pleasant place for walking with a playground. In the house where the famous architect himself lived, there is a museum dedicated to the life and work of the artist. Standard ticket - 8,5 €.
  • El Gòtic is located between the Ramblas, Columbus Avenue, Laetana Street, Plaza Catalunya. In the central part of El Gothic is the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, Saint Eulalia, Plaza Nova, market square. At the entrance to Plaza Nova there are towers, the Bishop's Gate, next to them are fragments of an aqueduct. It also houses the Baroque Episcopal Palace, a six-letter sculptural group dedicated to the Roman settlement of Barcino. The quarter is characterized by narrow streets, medieval buildings, shops, cafes and small restaurants are located on the lower floors of stone residential buildings. The atmosphere of the Middle Ages, earlier eras has been preserved here; the famous art cabaret "Four Cats" is located here. The Gothic Quarter is the venue for spontaneous musical performances.

  • Casa Milà is located at the intersection of Carré de Provença, Passeig de Gràcia streets. An unusual six-story residential building with a wavy facade, a roof decorated with bizarre chimneys, was built by Gaudí for the tycoon, politician Mila. The reinforced concrete structure does not have load-bearing walls, and the floors are supported by columns. Movable partitions are installed between the rooms to simulate the space. The balconies are decorated with curly railings that echo the shape of intertwined wrought iron algae. There is a summer rooftop terrace where musical evenings and concerts are held in summer. House of Mila is a masterpiece of Spanish architecture of the early 20th century; on the attic floor there is an exposition of drawings and plans of the hand of a brilliant architect. A magnificent view opens from the roof. A ticket costs 25 €, when buying online - 22 €.
  • Casa Batlló is a masterpiece created by Gaudi, located in the center of the Eixample, on Passeig de Gràcia. The eight-story building was built for the famous industrialist Batlló. All the details of the structure are distinguished by smooth lines, asymmetry: the tiled roof rises above the house with a hump, resembling the ridge of a writhing dragon, the structural elements are decorated with stone, decorative tiles, mosaics made of multi-colored ceramics, reminiscent of the scales of a mythical monster. Asymmetry, wavy lines were used in interior design: Batlló's office with a chandelier that looks like the sun, a salon with a wavy ceiling, a patio lined with glass and ceramic mosaics. Casa Batlló is one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture. There is a shop selling products "under Gaudí". The ticket price is 25 €.

Barcelona beaches

  • Barceloneta - the most popular beach stretches along the historic quarter of the same name. Local residents, guests of the city come here, in good weather there are a lot of people here. Proximity to the historic center, walking distance, accessibility to public transport, many restaurants with seafood, cocktail bars nearby. In addition to the infrastructure, visitors are attracted by the gentle slope, pleasant fine sand, the length of the beach is more than 1 km.
  • San Sebastian is located near the famous building with the letter "W", it is considered the cleanest, well-groomed beach. There are fewer tourists here, more locals: to get to San Sebastian, you need to walk along the promenade, past Barcelona, and Sant Miquel beach. There is an infrastructure for people with disabilities.
  • Mar Bella beach is open for the 1992 Olympics. It is equipped with umbrellas, sun loungers, a children's playground, a sports ground, and a yacht club. Mostly a youth beach is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, it is visited by nudists, representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation.
  • Somorrostro is a small calm beach near the center, there is free Wi-Fi: young people who prefer a quiet holiday come here (there are no bars, restaurants), parents with children (there is a developed infrastructure for children), travel bloggers.
  • Bogatel is a classic beach, suitable for everyone, remote from the center, appreciated by locals and tourists. Clean, well maintained, family friendly.
  • Levant (Llevant) - one of the most remote beaches in Barcelona, opened in 2007. Services: showers, changing rooms, toilets. It is calm here, few visitors.

Estimated travel budget

When forming your trip budget, proceed from the calculation of 33,3 € per day per person during the low season. This amount will cover a budget hostel, two trips on public transport, food costs (2 lunches in inexpensive cafes). In summer, the amount per day is 44,3 €. According to the BudgetYourTrip service, one Barcelona tourist needs 115 € per day. This amount covers food, hotel, entertainment, transportation, excluding airline tickets.

Summer months, September - a period of high housing prices, because walking in the beautiful center can be combined with a beach holiday. If paella, Park Guell interests you more than the beach, choose a different time to travel.

The cost of popular excursions in Barcelona:

  • Sightseeing tour of the iconic places of Barcelona, 2-3 hours - 15-40 € / person.
  • Rooftop and terrace tour, 3 hours - 100-125 € / person or 40 € / person for a group tour.
  • Gastronomic city tour with tastings, 2 hours - from 50 € / person.
  • Excursion "All Gaudí in 5 hours" - from 188 € for 1-2 people or 63 € / person, if there are more people
  • Excursion "Sacred mountain Montserrat", 9 hours - 55 € / person.
  • Master class on the production of Catalan wine with tasting, 5 hours - 180 € / 1-2 people or 90 € / person for the group
  • Boat trip on a yacht with refreshments, swimming, 2 hours - 57 € / person.

How to save money in Barcelona

  • It is better to buy tickets to Barcelona 3-6 months in advance: if you are going sightseeing, have a delicious meal - skip the high season. Monitor the offers of carriers, there are profitable flights from the Spanish low-cost airline.
  • Many cafes and restaurants offer a complex “menu of the day” - by choosing a set of dishes, you will receive a lower bill than for an arbitrary set of second + salad + dessert.
  • The T-10 card will save money when traveling from the airport: from Terminal 2 by train to Estació Sants, Passeig de Gràcia, by metro to the desired station. If you have time for 1 hour and 15 minutes, you will meet 1 €.
  • You can eat tasty, inexpensive food in the residential areas - Gràcia, Estació Sants: tourist areas offer high prices, and the quality lags behind the places where they cook "for their own".
  • If the trip falls on a Sunday, then many museums let visitors in for free: National Art Museum of Catalonia, Historical Museum of Barcelona, Frederic Mares Museum, Center for Contemporary Culture, Botanical Garden, Museum of Natural Sciences. The Picasso Museum is free on Thursdays from 6 pm, all day on the first Sunday of the month, and the Center for Contemporary Culture of Barcelona - on Saturdays from 4 pm. Traditionally, free admission on May 18 is International Museum Day.
  • Tickets for attractions online save a few euros, but most importantly, they allow you to skip the line.
  • Take free excursions: companies, private guides arrange walks around the city for donation.
  • Spend an evening in the square: Gràcia Barrio residents gather in the Plaza del Sol in the evenings to drink wine from the store, listening to songs with a guitar right on the squares.
  • Use the Barcelona Card or Barcelona Pass to travel free on public transport, dine, and discounted attractions.

A little about shopping, souvenirs: on Sundays and holidays, restaurants, pastry shops, some souvenir shops with an assortment painted "like Gaudí", a local football team with the inscription "I love Barcelona" are open. Consider this when planning your shopping. Take a closer look at the local handmade jewelry, you can find them in the markets, at the sellers of vintage shops - there are many talented people who create interesting, distinctive things that can be bought as a keepsake.

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Egor Eremeev
Current material has been prepared by Egor Eremeev
Education: Westminster University (Business & Management), London.
Egor studied and lived in the UK for 8 years and graduated from the university of Westminster. He is currently the co-founder and the director of business development at Smapse Education and personally visits foreign schools and universities, interviews students studying in those institutions.
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