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*I spent 4 days in Barcelona in the Summer of 2012, and I think it’s one of the best all-around cities in Europe! Inside of this Barcelona Guide, I will share my travel experiences, and provide you with tips and recommendations for things like culture, food, attractions and nightlife. Everything is based off my own travel experiences.
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Barcelona: a city that is home to beautiful beaches, insane nightclubs, and some the craziest people around Europe. There is no doubt that this city is one of the most lively cities in Europe, and it makes for a hell of a vacation spot.
Situated right along the Northeastern coast of Spain, Barcelona has plenty of sunshine and nearly perfect weather year round. Within just 10 minutes from the city center, you can find 4.2 kilometers of golden sandy beaches located on 4 major beach areas. But the beaches aren’t only for swimming and tanning — you can also go parasailing, windsurfing, and kite surfing.
Barcelona culture is very open, as you’ll see many topless ladies and men with tight speedos on. You’ve gotta appreciate the scene!
What caught me off guard the most in Barcelona was the incredible architecture that is seen in all areas of the city. Buildings and landmarks range from ancient to new, tall to short, and plain to detailed. I didn’t turn a corner without seeing a famous Gothic-style cathedrals, or a magnificent piece by Gaudí, or a shockingly modern structure. This city really has it ALL.
Some of my favorite things to do around the city were going shopping down Las Ramblas Blvd- one of the most famous boulevards in the world, admiring Gaudí’s creations of Park Güell and La Sagrada Família and touring around Gothic Quarter- one of the oldest and most famous parts of the city.
Alright, let’s get into some quick facts!
– Currency: Euro (EUR)
– Language: Spanish and Catalan
– Population: 1.6 million (city), 4.5 million (metro)
– Barcelona is the largest metropolitan area in the Mediterranean Sea
– Over 150,000 people walk on Las Ramblas Boulevard everyday, making it one of the most famous streets in Europe
– The Barcelona International Airport (El Prat) handles 35 million passengers every year
– Drivers are so bad in Barcelona, that one accident occurs every 19 seconds. One of the highest rates in the world.
– Antoni Gaudí’s famous Church- La Sagrada Família- began in 1882 and still isn’t completed. It’s being worked on everyday. – Many buildings in Barri Gotic (Old Quarter) date back to the Roman Era
– Barcelona is the capital city of the County of Catalonia and is Spain’s 2nd largest city
– Porta de l’Angel is the most walked street in Spain
Culture & People
Barcelona is a large, modern and complex city with a fast paced way of life. At first you might be a little overwhelmed by the crazy amount of people and things happening all around you, but you’ll soon settle in and soak in the environment.
To be quite honest, Barcelona had a lot more tourists than I was expecting. Especially during the summer months, it’s almost hard to pick out local Spaniards because the beaches and streets are so flooded with tourists. It sort of took away from the blissful ambiance that everyone hyped up Barcelona to be like.
I didn’t find Spaniards to be very friendly, either.
Every time I tried to approach someone, I was scoffed at and completely shut down. Both guys and girls had the same mentality. I’m assuming it’s the fact that I am American, because the people are sick and tired of obnoxious American tourists roaming around the city and partying in the clubs. I’m sure they are very friendly once they open up to you, but I didn’t get that experience.
However, I still had a blast when I was there. The nightlife is so much fun, the beaches were amazing and there was some really cool architecture around the city that kept me very amused.
I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try to make some some local friends! Maybe you will have a different experience than I did. Click this link to learn the Top 10 Spanish Words to keep in your back pocket 😉
What to Do?
There are so many fun things to do in Barcelona.
As mentioned before, the beaches on the coastline are where the good life is at. My favorite beach is called Barceloneta Beach. It tends to get really crowded when it is warm outside. The culture on this beach is very laid back, with topless women tanning, people playing in the ocean and friends sipping on margaritas. You’ll see many poor people offering to give you a Thai massage for $5, or trying to sell you a can of beer. It’s quite the scene.
Las Ramblas Blvd. is another place to definitely check out. This famous street has cafes, restaurants, souvenirs, street performers, and more. But BE CAREFUL, because it is well-known to have pickpocketers and thieves. Make sure to not put anything in your back pockets and flip your backpack around to wear in the front on your body. I had a friend lose his cell phone on this street, and you don’t want that to happen to you or your trip will be ruined…
He is my favorite artist ever and his work is astonishing and creative. The interior of La Sagrada Família is the most mind-blowingly awesome artwork I’ve ever seen (shown in pic).
My friends and I did the “Hop on, Hop off” bus tour, and it turned out to be a great and efficient way to see everything. It is something like $20 for a 24-hour pass, and it takes you to all of the main tourist attractions around the city. You can hop off at any of your preferred destinations, and the jut hop on the next bus that comes every half-hour.
Especially if you don’t have much time, this is the way to go.
For a more complete list, see my post on 10 Things to do in Barcelona.
The Food in Barcelona perfectly contributes to the excellence of the city.
The most well-known dish in Barcelona is tapas– which are a variety of appetizers (or snacks) that are served in little portions on various different plates. Every one that I tried was absolutely delicious. Aside from the tapas, Barcelona’s close proximity to the ocean results in a large variety of fresh seafood. It’s notably some of the freshest and tastiest seafood in Europe.
There are fresh produce markets in almost every neighborhood. If you avoid the touristy restaurants, then you can find a nice local dish for €5-100 Euros.
If you want to learn more about the best local foods, then please check out my post on 5 Catalan Foods to Try.
The nightlife in Barcelona is exceptional, and goes above and beyond most cities in Europe. I can honestly say that I have never partied harder in my life than my 4-day trip to Barcelona.
Many of the best clubs are located next to each right on the beach, one after another. The locals usually take “siestas” or long naps after dinner, which means that they won’t go out until 12 or 1 and will party until the sun rises. Seriously, the peak hours at the bars/clubs are probably 2-5AM. One of the coolest experiences of my life was partying at a club until 5 AM at this club called Opium, and stumbling outside on the beach to watch the sunrise.
To learn more info about all the best clubs around town, check out my Ultimate Guide to the Nightlife in Barcelona.
Barcelona is just one of those cities that will be on your list for a second visit. Be sure to make the most of your time 😉
*Thanks for reading! Have you been to Barcelona before?
*Please comment because I’d love to hear about your experiences!