Embark on a magical journey to Barcelona on the northeast of the Iberian Peninsula. Barcelona is a cosmopolitan city with a vibrant cultural atmosphere, set amongst fabled and fantastical architecture, legendary art and museums, castles, flamenco, world-class entertainment and dining AND the Mediterranean – what’s not to love?
Barcelona will impress you. Located on Iberian Peninsula, facing the Mediterranean Sea and protected by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, Barcelona enjoys a Mediterranean climate all year round. The only problem will be trying to fit everything in. Spectacular vistas of the city and surrounding coastline await from the top of Tibidabo, the highest mountain in the Collserola ranges, rising sharply to the north-west to 512 meters (1,680 ft). At the summit is the neo-Gothic Roman Catholic Temple Expiatori del Sagrat Cor (Expiatory Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus), with a neo-Byzantine crypt and crowned by an enormous statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Adjacent is the Tibidabo Amusement Park, which can be reached via the Tibidabo Funicular.
After a demanding day of exploring, escape the tourist-saturated La Ramblas in neighborhoods such as Sant Pere, La Ribera, El Raval and Pole Sec, where you’ll find excellent eateries in all shapes and sizes – from a hole-in-the-wall tavern to funky and chic cocktail bars and lounges.
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How do you get to Barcelona from the airport?
Barcelona Airport (BCN) is located 15 km (9.4 miles) from the city center. There are several modes of transport to the city center, however, the journey time is 20 – 30 minutes depending on the time of day for all modes of transportation. The Barcelona Airport Train is the R2 Nord RENFE and two airport trains run every hour, one to and one from the airport. The most convenient way to reach the city center is with the express Aerobus service, which runs approximately every 5 -10 minutes from stops outside the terminals to both Plaça España and Plaça de Catalunya. Traveling by taxi is cheap and convenient, especially if you have a lot of luggage. Taxi ranks are outside all airport terminals and the official Barcelona taxis are black and yellow.
What about getting around the city?
The Barcelona Metro (subway) network is an easy way to get around the city and avoid above-ground traffic jams. It is clean, punctual and air-conditioned and will take you to most of the major sights and attractions – plus you won’t have to wait longer than five minutes for a train. “Transports Metropolitans de Barcelona” (TMB) runs the city bus network, with more than 100 lines covering all four corners of the city. Barcelona also has two independent tram networks, both named after their end stops and running a total of 6 tram lines. One of the best ways to get around Barcelona is on foot, as the city center is quite compact and you can explore at your own pace.
What else is good to know about Barcelona?
If you arrive or depart from Terminal 1 at Barcelona Airport, you cannot walk to or from the train station. You must catch one of the free shuttle buses running between the train station and T1. If you are taking the R2 Nord train to the airport, make sure you take the train that says R2 Nord. There is another train called the R2 (without the Nord) that doesn’t go to the airport. If you get on the wrong train, get off at El Prat de Llobregat station and change over to the R2 Nord train. It’s one more stop to the airport from here.
Most popular attractions of Barcelona
Barcelona is not only a world-leading seaside tourist destination but also a leading destination for economic, trade and cultural affairs and a key influencer in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science and the arts. If that’s not enough, there are also endless opportunities to get outdoors. Jog along the beach before taking a dip in the Mediterranean. Take a sunset cruise. Hike or mountain bike the forested Collserola hills. Lose yourself in endless exploration amid botanic and sculpture gardens and an old castle at the hilltop Montjuïc.
- La Ramblas
- The Gothic Quarter
- Passeig de Gràcia
- La Sagra Família
- Park Güell
Exploring the tree-lined, pedestrianized La Ramblas is a rite of passage for tourists in Barcelona. It stretches 1.2 km (0.75 miles), connecting Plaça de Catalunya in the center with the Christopher Columbus monument at Port Vell. Lined with cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops, flower stalls and newspaper kiosks, it’s at the heart of Barcelona’s life and image, and forms the boundary between El Raval to the west and the Gothic Quarter to the east. El Raval is home to a handful of bohemian taverns and the “upper Raval” is home to the contemporary art museum MACBA and new cutting-edge galleries, designer restaurants and fashionable bars appear almost weekly.
On and around the Passeig de Gràcia is where you’ll find most of the show-stopping modernista buildings along with a range of upmarket galleries and some of the city’s most fashionable hotels, shops and boutiques. It is also the location of Gaudi’s unfinished Basilica I Temple Expiatory de la Sagra Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family). Gaudi’s work on the basilica is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
Another UNESCO World Heritage site featuring Gaudi is Park Güell – a public park on Carmel Hill with gardens and eccentric architectonic elements reflecting Gaudi’s abundant artistic flair in his naturalist phase. Originally intended as an organized grouping of high-quality homes, the park is today home to the Gaudi House Museum and “El Drac”, Gaudi’s multi-colored salamander at the park gates.
Barcelona and its history
Barcelona is bursting with architectural treasures spanning a 2,000-year period. Important vestiges from the Roman era are displayed underground at the Plaça del Rei as part of the Barcelona City History Museum. Fragments of Roman walls are incorporated into the Basicila La Seu. The labyrinthine lanes of the Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) are the medieval heart of the city and part of the Ciutat Vella (Old Town), with many of the small streets opening onto squares. The best way to see the Gothic Quarter is on foot. Here you’ll find the Gothic Revival Barcelona Cathedral (Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia), which keeps alive the tradition of the “dancing egg” on the fountain of the cloister on the day of Corpus Christi. You’ll also come across August’s Temple and Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats) – the cafe that became known as a meeting place for famous artists including Pablo Picasso during the Modernisme (modernist) period in Catalonia.
Find out more in our comprehensive guide to Barcelona's attractions.
The home of Catalan cuisine
Molecular gastronomy – the transformation of simple, flavorful ingredients such as seafood, cured ham and fresh produce into mouth-watering delicacies and serving them in captivating settings – has long been at the heart of the celebrated tradition of Catalan cuisine. Savor hearty, rich paella al fresco overlooking the sea or be transported back to the 1920s at an elegant art nouveau dining room. Basque-style tapas bars, Galician seafood taverns, avant-garde Japanese restaurants and divine chocolate shops are also essential parts of the expansive Barcelona culinary landscape. Whatever your taste, Barcelona’s got it.
For al fresco dining, head to the Mediterranean waterfront where you can take your pick from excellent beachside restaurants serving fresh seafood, classic tapas and more. From venues boasting stunning sea views to gastronomic gems in unlikely settings, the city’s coastal dining venues are aesthetically diverse with plenty of bars and restaurants that attract Barcelona’s party people as the sun goes down.
Experience the real deal and get a genuine feeling for the vibe of the city and a glimpse at everyday life at any of the many food markets. In the 18th century neighborhood Barceloneta, you’ll find the Mercat de Barceloneta. One of the oldest markets in Barcelona, the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria – or La Boqueria to the locals – is a large public market in the Ciudad Vieja district with an amazingly diverse range of goods and has become one of the city's foremost tourist landmarks.
Trying some of the best dishes in the world might just round off your list of things to do in Barcelona. Home to more than 20 Michelin-starred restaurants, the Catalan capital continues to lead the way in cutting-edge international cuisine. Most of Barcelona’s star-studded restaurants are located in and around the Eixample district including Lasarte, Disfrutar, Moments and Xerta.