Sightseeing in Barcelona is a possibility open to all types of tourists. Statistics make clear its position as one of the main tourist destinations in Spain, as it offers numerous options ranging from urban tourism to rural or gastronomic. In this complete tour guide in Spanish we show you everything you need for your next visit: where to stay, what to visit, what to see for free, what to do with children and much more.
Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.
- 1 General data
- 2 Brief history
- 3 How to get
- 4 City maps
- 5 Where to go sightseeing
- 6 Where to stay
- 7 What to see in the surroundings
- 8 When to go
- 9 How to move
- 10 Practical tips
Barcelona is one of the most tourist cities in Spain, as well as one of the most populated after Madrid. One of its main advantages is that in it the national and international tourist can enjoy several types of tourism at the same time: urban, historical, sun and beach tourism, alternative…
In accordance with Barcelona Tourism, official tourism website in Barcelona, statistics grow year after year. In addition, the tourist profile is not only international, but also national and local tourists choose to visit the most emblematic sites of the city.
Below is a table showing the percentage of tourists who stayed in hotels in Barcelona city according to their origin for the years 2014 and 2015:
Barcelona has also increased its figures in terms of Russian tourists, a sector that had fallen in recent decades, but in which there was a new increase from 2015, with approximately 50,000 visitors during that year alone.
You can travel to Barcelona cheap or, conversely, as a VIP tourist, depending on the budget you have planned for your visit. It is a city in which the options are endless, so you can sleep in cheap hostels or eat something simple, fast and at a good price. In addition, there are numerous low cost flights that arrive at Barcelona-El Prat Airport.
You should know that there is a tourist tax or tax on stays in tourist establishments that must be paid per person and night. It is an own tax paid by the Generalitat of Catalonia and ranges between € 0.5-2.5 per overnight stay, depending on the category of the hotel where we are staying. This rate does not apply to children under 16 years.
It is recommended that all tourists go to a tourist office to obtain information regarding the tourist attractions of Barcelona, public transport options, etc. There is an extensive network of information points throughout the city.
The history of Barcelona goes back 4,000 years ago, when it was born from the union of various peoples, including the Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, Jews, Muslims and Christians. Perhaps the most prominent periods can be summarized in the following three periods:
- Medieval times: Barcelona County acquires preeminence over the rest. After the formation of the Crown of Aragon, it becomes one of the main political, economic, commercial, social and cultural centers of the Mediterranean.
- XIX century: the city grows at a demographic, economic and urban level after the crisis during the medieval era. The Ensanche plan and the extension of the entire urban perimeter take place. In the social sphere, however, the class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is accentuated, which gives rise to the birth of the modernist trend in the artistic field.
- Twentieth century: political turmoil culminates in the Spanish Civil War. After the end of the Franco dictatorship, the city begins a period of recovery with the arrival of democracy.
From the 21st century, Barcelona becomes a prosperous and internationally recognized city. However, after the autonomous government of Artur Mas in 2010, there was the rise of the independence movement of Catalonia, which continues today in an extensive political debate. Since 2015, the mayor's office is led by Ada Colau, a supporter of a more social and corruption-free policy.
How to get
If you travel from another city of Catalonia or national, the best option to visit Barcelona is the train. Renfe offers an extensive long and medium distance network through the Talgo, Euromed, R. Expres and Alaris trains, among others. There are special offers that can save a lot if you buy your tickets in advance. The main station for arrivals in this means of transport is the Barcelona Sants.
On the other hand, traveling by car from another Spanish city is one of the most common options among national tourists. It is located about 620 km from Madrid, 350 from Valencia and about 300 from Zaragoza. You can easily organize your trip with a GPS thanks to the Google Maps or Google Earth application. Lonely Planet or Repsol paper guides also offer very useful maps.
However, traveling by car can often be more expensive than if we do it in any other means of transport, due to high number of tolls on the highway that goes there, especially if you leave from Valencia. To see the different highways and prices from several cities, we recommend you click on this link.
Frequently, low-cost airlines such as Ryanair or Vueling offer flights to Barcelona for very affordable prices (from € 30), which could be an alternative to the train or car if your budget is limited. In addition, Barcelona-El Prat Airport is one of the most important in Spain, with numerous connections by metro, bus and taxi to the city center.
There is also the possibility of arriving by boat or bus, although they are the least requested options due to their long duration. However, the bus is the cheapest option to arrive, although on the other hand it is the option that will take you more hours. On average, a trip from Madrid lasts about 8 hours, while from Santander it can take you 10 hours or more.
Barcelona is a relatively large city. Therefore, if you do not know it, it is advisable to carry a good map with which you know at all times where you are and do not have the risk of getting lost.
In addition, today, we find numerous types of plans, each adapted to the needs and tastes of each person. In a place like Barcelona, you can find them in almost any language.
The most recommended maps for tourists are those that indicate where the most important attractions are and make a brief explanation of each one. It is also better if the public transport network is represented.
Where to go sightseeing
What to see and do is a part of our trip that depends on its duration. Therefore, our advice before traveling is that you organize and plan which tourist sites you will see based on the average time that the visit to each of them usually lasts.
The extension of the metropolitan area of Barcelona makes it a suitable city to do all kinds of tourism and for all types of audiences, from young people to retirees. It is also a very good option for alternative tourism, especially if you go through the Gothic Quarter, one of the oldest areas of the city.
It is a tourist area where you can stroll leisurely through labyrinthine streets of medieval appearance, at the same time you enjoy points as well known as the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia, Plaza Sant Jaume, Carrer del Bisbe, Plaza Real or the neighborhood Jew.
If your trip is going to be only a weekend (2-3 days), it would be best to focus on the Ensanche district, which is the area in which the neighborhoods and main points are:
- Mila House
- Arc del Triomf (Arc de Triomphe)
- Parc de la Ciutadella
- Barcelona Zoological Park
In one day you can visit these points, leaving us the Sagrada Familia, which is a little further away, for the next.
The most important tourist places in Barcelona are concentrated in several points and are the result of combining several tourist options: from urban tourism to night, through other options such as LGBT tourism. In summary, the most outstanding monuments and areas are:
Also known by the nickname of Ciutat House, is located in the Plaza Sant Jaume. Open days are organized on February 12 (Santa Eulàlia), on April 23 (Sant Jordi) and during Corpus Christi. It is worth visiting to enjoy its Gothic architecture.
The Expiatory Temple of the Sagrada Familia is a Catholic basilica designed by the famous architect Antonio Gaudí. Although its construction began in 1882, it has not yet been completed. It is considered Gaudí's main masterpiece and the greatest exponent of Catalan modernism.
Palau de la Generalitat
In tune with the characteristic Gothic-Renaissance style of the city, the Palace of the Generalitat of Catalonia is one of its most visited points. It is located in the district of Ciutat Vella, specifically in the Plaza de Sant Jaume.
It is one of the most central roads, where you will find countless street stalls where you can buy from food to souvenirs from the city. If you walk from the beginning to the end, you will reach the famous Columbus Monument, in the Plaza del Portal.
The mountain of Montjuïc is a tourist point of obligatory visit due in large part to the numerous museums found there: Fundació Miró, Museu d’Arqueología, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC), etc.
The Estadi Lluís Companys and the telecommunications tower of Santiago Calatrava are located in the area known as the «Olympic Ring».
If you travel in summer, you cannot leave without visiting the beaches of Barceloneta, Somorrostro, Sant Miquel, Sant Sebastià or Nova Icària, all of them of high popularity. Sitges, meanwhile, is the ideal destination for gay tourism.
The of the Barceloneta It is the first beach in Barcelona. It is a summer corner where you can enjoy many other activities apart from taking a bath: do windsurfing and kite surfing It is within your reach if you are passionate about this type of sports.
The Parc Güell is a public park located in the upper part of the city. It is the work of Gaudí commissioned by businessman Eusebi Güell, hence his name.
It's considered World Heritage Site «Works by Antonio Gaudí», because it is a reflection of the artistic fullness of the Catalan architect.
Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar
Built between 1329 and 1383, it is located in the Ribera neighborhood. Currently, it is a Catholic church of Catalan Gothic style whose fame has made it the protagonist of literary works as well known as The cathedral of the seaby Ildefonso Falcones. Reference is also made to it in The game of the angel by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
Born and Raval Neighborhoods
Barcelona also offers other possibilities if you don't want to move around the busiest areas. It is one of the most recommended cities for Alternative tourism, with numerous shops, bookstores, restaurants and special places to do different things. Born or Raval neighborhoods are the most advisable to enjoy this type of establishments.
Where to stay
As we said above, Barcelona has an almost infinite hotel offer that has been consolidating since the beginning of the 1992 Olympic Games until today. Whatever your preferred type of accommodation, in Barcelona you will surely find it.
The best sleeping areas are those of Eixample, he Gothic Quarter and the Catalonia Square. The Paseo de Gracia (Passeig de Gracia in Catalan) it is also one of the best areas, although the prices you will find here will be somewhat higher because it is one of the most central points, with access to the main tourist points.
On the other hand, the areas that should be avoided, especially at nightfall, are the Ramblas and Raval. Although during the daytime they are the most tourist spots in the city, the truth is that at night they are not the most recommended.
If you decide to stay in a hotel, the average price per night and person is around € 50 in a simple establishment without great luxuries. The most valued hotels are those that, as we said before, are located in the area closest to the center, in which case the average price could reach € 100.
For stays of more than 2-3 days, a good option to save on lunch and dinner could be to rent a tourist apartment. Although the cost per night may be somewhat higher, in the end it is an advantage for our pocket because we avoid having to eat out every day, which ends up making our trip cheaper.
What to see in the surroundings
Trips of 4, 5 or 6 days give to see many other sites and not-so-known corners of the city. The municipalities and cities around Barcelona are an excellent option to get to know Catalonia in greater depth, so here are some suggestions if you want to explore other Catalan areas:
This municipality located on the coast belongs to the region of Maresme, 56 km from Barcelona. It is a destination very frequented by Germans, which is why it is popularly known as Calella of the Germans. The main points of interest are the lighthouse, the turrets, the Pineda de Can Dalmau and the promenade Manuel Puigvert.
Located in the Bages region, this town has a Romanesque-Gothic castle that was built in 886 by Wifredo el Velloso. Other highlights are the Church of San Miguel, the collegiate church of San Vicente de Cardona, the Salt Mountain, the Market Square and the Torre del Botxí, among others.
Girona is a city belonging to Catalonia that is located about 100 km from Barcelona, so it takes about 40 minutes by AVE and 1 hour and 30 minutes by car.
It is worth visiting its historic center or Barri Vell, one of the most beautiful in Catalonia. It has monuments such as the Call (former Jewish quarter), the colorful Houses of Oñar and the Gothic Cathedral, considered the widest in the world.
Rupit and Pruït
It is the last town in the province of Barcelona, belonging to the Osona region. It is a small town of no more than 400 inhabitants where you can enjoy the visit to various Romanesque churches, such as the Church of San Juan de Fábregas or that of San Lorenzo Dosmunts.
The Far Sanctuary and the entire urban center, with its stone streets, are also key points.
It was the pioneer city in the Industrial Revolution of Catalonia and, currently, it is the fifth most populous municipality, with more than 200,000 inhabitants according to INE data published in 2014.
You can visit different museums, such as the History of Sabadell, the Art Museum or the Dr. Miquel Crusafont Paleontological Institute. It also highlights its main festival, called Aplec de la Salut, in which the families go on foot to the hermitage to eat, dance and carry out other group activities.
Written Santa Susanna In Catalan, it belongs to the Maresme region, in the province of Barcelona. It is one of the charming villages of Catalonia, where you can visit traditional places of the Catalan coast.
Due to its location, it is a strategic point to start routes to the Costa Brava or the interior of Spain. The old chapel of Santa Susana or the Molino d’en Jordà (17th century) are the main points of interest.
This municipality is famous for its frequent fog in winter, time during which temperatures of up to -10 ° C are reached. In summer, however, storms are common, which favors the presence of plant species such as oak.
It stands out, on the one hand, for having one of the most striking medieval groups in Catalonia; On the other hand, their sausages, especially Vic sausage, are famous inside and outside the country.
When to go
The Mediterranean climate of the city gives rise to cool winters and rather hot summers. If you decide to travel in winter, you should keep in mind that the average temperature is around 6-7 ° C, so you should wear warm clothes, especially in the months of January and February.
A good option to go to Barcelona in winter is to do it at Christmas. You will find the city decorated with Christmas lighting and Christmas trees in the main shops and, in addition, several markets are mounted throughout the city, such as the Fira de Santa Llúcia, which is placed just in front of the entrance to the Cathedral.
You will find frequent torrential rains in autumn and winter, especially during the months of September and October. Strong storms accompanied by lightning and thunder are common. However, the city with rain offers endless possibilities: from having a drink in a tea shop to numerous spas to relax.
July and August are the hot months, with temperatures of 37 ° C or more. In addition, the percentage of humidity is usually high as a result of its location by the sea. Therefore, we recommend looking for hotels that have air conditioning or at least a fan if you are going to visit the city in summer.
On the other hand, fans of celebrations of Easter You will find a wide range of traditional activities if your stay coincides with the period from March 24 to 28. Examples of this are: the Procession of the Silence of Badalona, the Andalusian Holy Week in L'Hospitalet or Good Friday, with the Sermon of the Seven Words in the Cathedral of Barcelona.
How to move
The bus network consists of 80 lines that give access to virtually any corner of the city. They are fully adapted to people with reduced mobility and the schedules are very functional: from 4:25 in the morning until 23:00. There is also a night bus service called Nit bus, with hours from 22:40 to 5:00 in the morning.
The city of Barcelona has one of the best public transport networks in Spain and Europe, with 8 subway lines whose frequency of working hours is approximately every 3 minutes. In addition, there is a stop at all the central points of the city, making it the most comfortable way to go sightseeing quickly.
The lines can be easily identified because each one is a different color. The price of a single ticket is € 2.15. However, for tourists it is advisable to buy a T-10 voucher for € 9.95, which can be much cheaper than moving with simple tickets, especially if the stay is going to be more than one day. There is also the subscription Hi Barcelona for periods of up to 5 days.
If you prefer to opt for a more ecological form of tourism, cycling is perhaps the most recommended option. The city has perfectly adapted lanes to move from end to end, including the main parks. You can check the main bike rental companies by clicking on this link.
The tourist card Barcelona Card It is ideal for stays of more than two days, as it saves money and time. It is focused on people who will be between 3 and 5 days, and its main advantage is that it combines unlimited public transport trips with entrance to all the monuments and museums without paying at the moment. For more information, visit the official website at this link.
As it is the second largest city in Spain, if you are going to travel to Barcelona we recommend you follow a series of tips to avoid mishaps and make your trip a success, even if you decide to travel on a reduced budget:
- To avoid queuing, it is recommended to buy the ticket online for the following monuments: Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, Santa Pau Recinte Modernista and Joan Miró Foundation.
- Some museums offer free admission on the first Sunday of each month from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Some examples are: Museum of the History of Barcelona, Disseny Hub Barcelona, Maritime Museum of Barcelona, Museum of Decorative Arts, Botanical Garden and Museum of Natural Sciences.
- According to the opinion of most travelers, November is the best month to visit the city, specifically after the All Saints Bridge and just before the end of the month bridge. It is the time when you will find less tourists.
- It is best to carry a tourist information guide and a map by hand throughout the trip.
If you travel by train, the most common is that the destination is the Barcelona-Sants Station, where you will find most of the necessary establishments, including a Tourist Office, an official FC Barcelona store, the Hotel Sants and a luggage storage, Very useful for getting around the city without having to carry luggage or other packages.
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