Mid-July 2015 I decided to go on my first completely solo trip to a different country. I was living in England and it was a somewhat last minute decision. This was something I wanted to experience and I have always wanted to see Spain so why not. I booked a flight into Barcelona and out from Madrid, using trains to travel within Spain.
I stayed in Barcelona for four days and I definitely didn’t even come close to seeing everything. Barcelona has a reputation for a reason. It is a beautiful city next to the beach with so much to offer. I know it won’t be my last trip.
Here is a map you can save to your Google account to help plan your trip to Barcelona. All of the places I discussed and more are listed and separated into categories for easy viewing.
All Things Gaudí
Antoni Gaudí is a famous architect whose work is heavily showcased in Barcelona. You can see his work all over Barcelona, some of the most popular spots are at Park Güell, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, and most famously, Sagrada Familia. The photo below is from La Pedrera and below that, Casa Batlló.
Depending on how much you want to dedicate to these sights there are tours at each, or you can simply browse the outside of the structures of all of them except for Park Güell.
My travel tip here is to arrange your Park Güell ticket in advance. They only allow so many people inside per time slot. I didn’t know this before walking all the way there. I personally suggest for you to not do this in the middle of summer. By the time I got there, they only had a slot available for me several hours from then and there isn’t much in that area to go see while you are waiting.
I personally only went inside Sagrada Familia and felt like I still got to experience the beauty of Gaudí’s work. I didn’t want to spend the time and money to be stuck in tours all day while there was valuable beach time to be had. Also now I have a reason to go back.
If you are traveling during peak tourist season I advise you to preorder your tickets to Sagrada Familia one to two days in advance. Especially if you want to do a tour. These tickets go fast!
Even if you have no intentions of going to Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya you should still maybe consider going just to see the outside. You can take the metro to Plaça d’Espanya and walk towards the museum. It is a beautiful area and worth an hour of your time. This is also where the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc is located, where you can see free shows every night at 9 pm.
The museum is €12 for entry and depends on your interests if it is worth it. I personally loved the way it was organized and felt I learned a lot about Catalan culture and art.
Another museum that was recommended to me, but I passed on was the Museu Picasso (entry for €11). This museum is located more centrally and might be a great way to get out of the heat for an hour or two.
L’Eixample: High-end designer shopping, you will find all of the big names while walking down beautiful streets.
Gràcia: While a bit more residential it had a lot of boutiques and small artisan shops. If you wander into this area I advise knowing a tiny bit of Spanish to get by as I did not encounter many people who knew English.
Il Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter): Wandering these streets never got old full of random boutiques and small quirky shops. Make sure to go at the right time as the shops are all closed in the middle of the day for siesta!
Barceloneta: possibly the most popular. I stopped here my first day in the city and it was too crowded for my liking. There were a handful of bars along the beach and small bars in the neighborhood of Barceloneta. If you travel north on this beach you will come into another area full of restaurants and nightclubs.
Playa de la Mar Bella: this beach was my preference. It was quieter, more space, and I could rent an umbrella. My skin thanked me for that one. In this area, you can also do a lot of different water sports, activities, and games.
La Boqueria: a lively market off of La Rambla is a must eat lunch spot! Tons of stands selling freshly squeezed juice for just €1 and a handful of places to eat. I had incredible seafood paella for only €9. I sadly forgot to make note of the name of the stand, but I advise you to wander around the market and follow your nose for whatever you would like.
La Xula Taperia: I loved this place so much I went twice. It is in Gràcia so not exactly in the center of tourist Barcelona. They have free tapas 5-9pm with a purchase of a drink and an impressive menu. I just really enjoyed the vibe of this place, and everything I ate was really nice. If you are looking for something more off the beaten tourist path check it out.
And, that’s all! I hope you enjoyed reading and maybe some of my experiences will be useful to help inform your future travels. Follow my most recent adventures on Instagram @wanderinghelene
Owner of wanderinghelene.com. Anthropologist, content creator, castle explorer, coffee drinker, and lover of markets and very old places!