With its long dry summers and admirably laid back atmosphere - Barcelona has always been a favourite destination of the Tens team, whether it be with friends, family, partners or solo. As a city with limitless culture, history and cuisine - you could explore for months and still uncover something inspiring each day. Here is a quick guide to some of our favourite sights, activities, eats & drinks perfect for an escape to the heart of Catalonia.
The city centre is roughly 20 minutes away in a taxi from El Prat Airport, and will cost around €25, which is reasonable if there are a few of you. Might be a bit expensive for solo travel, so you can just take the bus. They are very frequent and will get you to Plaça de Catalunya in around 30-40 minutes.
If you’re limited for time, or not that keen on walking, buy what's called a T10. It's a 10 journey ticket you can use on all transport. Multiple people can also use it too, so you can put it through the machine and pass the ticket back to the next person. We would recommend just walking to most places in the city though, as you can pretty much get anywhere in less than 30 minutes, and you get to discover more of the city this way. If you are going to use transport a lot then you can maybe look at the 2-5 day tickets. The ticket machines can be changed to English and will tell you everything you need to know.
You can tick off the more popular places first by starting off at Plaça de Catalunya and taking a stroll down La Rambla. This is very touristy, so I would avoid going to any bars or restaurants here. You will pass the grand Bocqueria Market though, and this is a great spot to pick up some cheap breakfast and local meats, seafood and cheese. Towards the bottom of La Rambla you can cut left into the Gothic Quarter which is a labyrinth of beautiful architecture, shops and bars. You can weave your way through here towards the famous Cathedral.
Regarding the major sights I would recommend going inside the Sagrada Familia, Parc de la Ciutadella / Arc de Triomf. You can book your time slots for Sagrada Familia online to avoid queues - it could be the most impressive building you’ve ever seen. Parc Guell is another Gaudi sight, built high up overlooking the city. Great views and a nice way to spend an afternoon, would recommend bringing a packed lunch to have at the top as you’ll want to hang there for a while.
Barcelona played host to the summer Olympics in 1992, and not only can you check out most of the grounds, you can also take a dip in the pool. It’s not glamorous by any means, but we love the brutalist concrete surroundings, and the pool itself is perfectly cool - a great place to relax and sunbathe for a few hours. Once you’re done you can either get the cable car, or walk up to the top of Montjuic and see the castle.
Barcelona is famous for its beach right there at the edge of the city. We always started the day with a stroll through Barceloneta, past the super yachts and towards the sand. The beach gets VERY busy during the day, so either head here early for a Clara (cloudy lemon shandy) at one of the beach bars and watch the world go by for a moment.
If you do want to spend a day at quieter beach it is best to take a train to go out of the city along the coast. The train is cheap and in around an hour you can be at Sant Pol de mar. You take the R1 train from Plaça de Catalunya in the direction of Mataro. Worth the trip for a nice, chilled beach day. Sitges is also a great day trip only 40mins away with some great beaches. Montserrat is also a nice trip outside of the city, well worth the trip if you have a day to spare.
For some more, free, sightseeing it’s nice to walk from Plaça Catalunya up Passeig de Gracia. The Gaudi architecture there is amazing with a lot of nice terraces to stop and grab a bite to eat.
If you have time to kill during the first half of the day, check out these brunch spots: Tropico (just look at that Açai bowl), Milk, Federal, Alsur, Flax & Kale, or El Flako which is a 'trendy' novelty cereal bar. Later on, for something easy I would highly recommend trying the burgers from Bacoa and we'll let you off for eating a burger in Spain. For alternative quick bites there is an incredible hot dog joint called ‘The Dog Is Hot’ in Raval, or Rosa de Raval if you're in a taco kinda mood.
For something a bit fancier try Tickets (the holy grail), or either of the two Sensi restaurants in El Born. These are the places you’ll have to book in advance, so prepare accordingly. Inside the old Biblioteca, within a courtyard you'll find this al fresco restaurant called El Jardi - ideal for date night. For more of a traditional tapas vibe, check out Quimet & Quimet (they brew their own beer), or Can Paixano (for proper Cava) - both standing tapas bars and very Catalan. For cheaper tapas, spend an evening on Carrer Blai in Poble Sec. There are lots of small tapas bar where you just help yourself to what's on the counter, then they charge you for the number of cocktail sticks / plates you have at the end of the night (Yo! Sushi style).
For an incredible bargain, try La Malandrina - it’s a great South American restaurant that do MASSIVE steaks and creamy potatoes for roughly €10. On top of that they’ve got a lovely house red wine at only 6€ a bottle. For sweet things, be sure to grab ice cream from VIOKO (in Barceloneta & El Born), or eyescream and friends.
We enjoyed every single bar we visited. Barcelona is great for just wandering around and jumping into various small bars for cañas (small beers) - as long as you stay away from La Rambla, most places are well priced. Nevermind is a cool alternative bar with a skate bowl inside. Paradiso is also well worth a visit. On the outside it looks like a standard pastrami bar, where you can sit and order small plates of meat and kimchi. However, if you open the refrigerator door on the left, you’re taken into a dark, clandestine cocktail bar with a stunning interior and wild cocktails. Another great cocktail bar is L'Acensor. A 1920s-style elevator leads you into a very old school Catalan bar. It is a bit more expensive but definitely worth it for the atmosphere.
We came across a pretty special spot on top of the Barcelo 360 Raval hotel. If you walk into the lobby straight to the elevators, you can take the last one up to their roof terrace for a drink. It offers 360 views of the city and is the perfect spot to watch the sun set behind the hills. It’s not cheap, but the views are breath-taking.
Words & photos by Iain.
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