When the weather in England starts to get you down (aka Winter) you start looking for sunny escapes and when you find a flight for less than £50.00 you book! Even when you get laid off from your job literally 2 days after booking, and spend the next few weeks furiously trying to sort out your life and figure out your finances, then make the executive decision to go because you need the sun & relaxation. While that little story is true, the BTS details were less than cheery (obviously) and a late night convo with my ever supportive mom who in not so many words told me to “screw it, just go” , really did make me feel better. While travel isn’t always going to fix everything, there’s something about being in the sunshine & doing what you love most that brought back my happy feeling & the motivation I needed. I hadn’t ever thought I would visit Spain in all honesty, but I am beyond obsessed now and already looking into heading back to explore more of what the country has to offer. So until then, here are the best things to do in Barcelona!
How to get there + Getting Around
Multiple airlines fly from London Gatwick so whichever proves to have the best price should work for the 2 hour flight. I booked with EasyJet From El Prat Airport you have a few options to get to the city centre..1 Way = €4.20, and while my only complaint is the 1 bag/person rule for carryon, for a £45.00 RT flight I really have nothing negative to say about the airline.
Train (how I got to the city centre)- Located at Terminal 2 and runs every 30 mins. For the Generator Hostel you’ll want the stop “Passeig de Gracia” (on the R2 or R2 Nord lines) & then it’s about a 15 minute walk
Metro - At Terminals 1 & 2, Line L9 Sud will take you into the city 1 way = €4.50 AeroBus - From the airport the 2 major stops are Place Espanya & Place Catalunya where you can get the metro further if necessary RT Fare = €10.20
Getting around Barcelona on foot was my method of transport (hence the 175 000 + steps by the end of 4 days) as I find that the best way to explore. But if you prefer public transit the metro & bus system is pretty workable and single tickets are both €2.20. (For more info or options check out the airport website here)
Lay Your Head At Night
Generator Hostel Barcelona 373 Carrer De Corsega
Having stayed at Generator branded hostels before, I knew it was more of a “luxury” spot than a proper backpackers spot, but with the price so low I would have been crazy to change hostels. The 8 bed dorm that I booked was equipped with 2 sinks, a shower room & a toilet which is convenient to some but the state of the facilities were a letdown. Not once in the 4 nights I was there did it seem that housekeeping came into even empty the bins or change the beds (even after people had checked out). It wasn’t terrible but I would opt for a room without ensued next time.
There is a bar/restaurant on site, and on my first night I ordered a drink at the bar but didn’t again after that. The staff were some what standoffish and there wasn’t really any sort of atmosphere, maybe because I was visiting during shoulder season and there weren’t many people around. I wound up only being in the hostel to sleep for my time there.
4 nights (8 bed dorm) = €48.60 [there was a Winter City Breaks discount when I booked but right before posting I checked the price and the same dorm is now €67.05 ]
Dónde comer [Where To Eat]
Pikio Taco Across the street from Generator Barcelona
Love tacos? If you said yes, then that’s really all I need to know to recommend this spot. Cool little joint with good music & great food within a stones throw from the hostel front doors too.
Tia Santa 337 Carrer Còrsega (2 blocks down from Generator Barcelona)
Whether it’s coffee you’re after or a little appetizer and sangria this spot has great vibes & really good food- try the Cava Sangria & Patates Bravas after a long day of walking.
Churreria J. Balsells 08008 Carrer de Còrsega (2 blocks down from Generator Barcelona)
Handmade & fresh churros, need I say more?
Cereal Addicts Calle Bailen 154
Because when you’ve walked 60k steps in a day, you’re a bit lost & you see a neon sign wit hotel word Cereal in it you stop. Chose from dozens of cereals that will throw you back to childhood. Mix & match your faves for less than €5.00
Narciso 9 Carrer de la Princesa
Recommended to me by a friend who had visited Barcelona this summer & someone I consider quite a foodie I knew I needed to check this spot out! In the Gothic Quarter and tucked perfectly on a corner I stumbled in after a morning of exploring to an empty restaurant starving. Do yourself a favour, sit in the window, order a large glass of Lambrusco & the Porchetta sandwich to enjoy while people watching.
Pudding 515 Avenida Diagonal
Another friend recommendation, I managed to figure out that there are two cafés in Barcelona called Pudding (who’d have thunk it?) This is one I stumbled on but ended up being totally different from the original recomendation. Was I disappointed you ask? NO. Why? Because the place I stumbled upon ended up being a Harry Potter themed cafe. I bought a random drink just to spend time in the space & totally HP geek out!
Pudding 90 Carrer de Pau Claris
This was the original cafe I intended to find when I set out in search of pudding! A cool little piece of what I thought was very Alice in Wonderland. While the menu was pretty pricey (think cake & coffee for €9.00) the space was pretty cool and the actual food menu seemed to be decently priced.
Off Las Ramblas
If you’re on a seriously strict budget and can only afford one meal that is pot noodles I suggest hitting up the market! Fresh fruit, cured meets, cheese to die for and some seriously epic fruit juices to even please the healthiest of travellers. Even just strolling around is an experience.
Gelati Dino Facing Barceloneta Beach Because when you’re headed to the beach gelato is the perfect accompanying snack! And these guys do an awesome job with original flavours & treat options.
See & Do
Arc De Triompf Similar to the one in Paris, built in 1888 as the main gate to the Barcelona World Fair in the same year. Walk through the arch and you’ll find lots of street vendors selling everything from souvenirs to sunglasses, buskers & maybe even a man making some seriously impressive bubbles with a homemade bubble wand. Continue through to Parc de la Citudella.
Prior to the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona this harbour was created and is now a hub for entertainment in the city, home to the aquarium, an IMAX and plenty of other shops & restaurants. The perfect place to stroll around soaking in the sunshine taking in all the boats &. The view of the cable car that goes straight across so be sure to keep your eyes looking up every once in a while to spot it!
If you continue past Port Vell you’ll inevitably end up with your toes in the sand. And living in England, in January, the last thing I thought I’d be doing is soaking up the sun with my toes in the sand! (weather daily was about 20’c & sunny just to give you an idea). There’s a boardwalk with all your drinking & dining requirements and the perfect place to get your dose of vitamin d, and to watch the sunset, which I totally recommend you do!
Do yourself a favour and go up here before sunrise, your exhausted self will thank me later when you see the views. Not only is this park incredible (thanks Gaudi) it’s one of the highest points in the city so the views are, as you can imagine, unreal. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1984 under the works of Antonio Gaudi, the entrance to the main park is free but if you wish to access any other parts (where the mosaic tiles are etc) then you will need to book in advance - and to avoid the line ups which can get out of control in peak season. €7.50/adult
Hands down the best view point in the city and thanks to Instagram (when I’m not pissed off at low engagement or another new algorithm) I was able to find this spot! I dubbed this spot home to the Barcelona Leg Day (think outdoor stair master) but it is so so worth it when you get to the very top! Semi secluded and abandoned anti-aircraft defence bunkers built as anti-aircraft fortifications in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War you’ll be able to get an unreal 360’ view of the city. Another favour to do for yours truly - go up for sunset (or sunrise, which I didn’t manage to do). There may be a few more people for sunset, but the changing sky will be reward enough.
If you’re anything like me, one visit to this masterpiece won’t be enough - but one tip (a theme for this trip) is to head out for sunrise. Not only does the light illuminate this church, but you’ll be able to get the most spectacular photos without the 1000’s of people who flock to it daily. The best views are from Place Gaudi, framed by the serene pond & some gorgeous trees. And that’s just the outside, venturing inside is a whole other shock to the system. While still under construction (completion is estimated for 2026) La Sagrada is the largest unfinished Roman Catholic Church in the World, and not just a place in an Ed Sheeran song! Another place to book in advance to visit the inside, and stay a while, the look inside changes with the sun..you’ll find out what I mean when. You visit ;)
€18.50/adult (skip the line ticket)
If you take the train from the airport to the hostel this is one of the first pieces of Gaudi architecture you’ll spot on your walk from the station to the hostel. Initial construction began in 1887 and has continued on being refurbished by Gaudi using stones, metal, wood, ceramic and colours on the facade and interior. I was blown away by the outside, and it was recommended to me that I visit the inside. So I paid more than I normally would, and sadly I felt let down by the inside compared to the exterior. It is still beautiful, but my audiovisual guide had some issues, and the only real bonus was going out to the roof for the views there. If you’re unsure or trying to keep your budget low, I would skip the interior & save your money.
€29.50/adult (skip the line ticket)
Also known as La Pedrera, is another of Gaudi’s work that is another Unesco World Heritage Site housing exhibitions, galleries and even a cafe. While the building is impressive, I wasn’t compelled to visit the inside, but I read and heard it was gorgeous. So if it’s in your budget give it a visit, if not the view from the street is still incredible
€22.00/day visit adult
€34.00/night visit adult
Casa Vicens One of the first buildings showing the Art Nouveau style and the first house built by Antonio Gaudi. What started off as a private residence it was recently (November 2017) opened as a museum to the public. The exterior is covered in geometric tiles and design and the interior is home to both permanent collects such as Gaudi’s manifesto and temporary exhibits which at the moment include the meaning behind the creation of the house by Antonio Gaudi. This was another spot I admired from the street rather than paying to go into.
What is now a restaurant, was originally built as a residence & commercial property for a textile manufacturer by Antonio Gaudi. In 1900 Casa Calvet was awarded the building of the year by the Barcelona City Council for it’s original Catalan design using local stone in the creation of the buildings interior & exterior.
Also known as The Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, located in the Gothic Quarter and the seat of the Archbishop of Barcelona. Strolling up the street you’ll get your first glimpse down a tight street & in the right light looks almost magical. Constructed between the 13th & 15th century, with a roof housing gargoyles, and a wide range of animals. A good first stop on your explorations of the Gothic Quarter itself, listen out for opera buskers & you’ll get a totally etherial vibe
Las Ramblas + Plaça Reial
The central boulevard in the city and home to a lively and vibrant promenade full of buskers, artists, souvenir stands, food stalls and runs right along the Boqueria Markets too! Walking along you’ll find all your souvenir needs and duck off onto a side street to find the stunning Plaça Reial, a great little spot to take in more of the stunning architecture, surrounded by palm trees & restaurants with a gorgeous fountain in the centre (sadly contraction was happening here during my visit so it wasn’t as peaceful as it could have been)
Plaça Catalunya & Plaça d'Espanya
Two of the most well known squares in Barcelona, both great spots to take in the hustle & bustle of daily life and people watch. There are also 2 main metro/train stations here in terms of arrival from the airport.
Saving my absolute favourite part of the trip for last! Something I nearly didn’t do, but am so glad I decided to at the last minute. A solid day trip from the city, and one easy enough to do on your own (so save your € and skip the organized tours). From Plaça d’Espanya metro station you’ll hop on the R5 train (the destination is Manresa) and travel about 1 hour to the base of the mountain. From here, during shoulder season, you have one option - the cable car (aka rack railway up the mountain) which will be included in your ticket (which you can purchase at the train station). Once up at the top take in the sweeping views, and you’ll totally feel like you’re in another world high up in the clouds. Keep note of the time table (Summer vs. Winter times differ) or else you may end up stranded at the top with a (very pricey) taxi ride back to the city as your only option)
4.5 days, 175 000+ steps, and a happy soul. That’s what Barcelona had in store for me, and while I enjoyed every single minute (even when I thought my feet would fall off, a few times) it was definitely not long enough! One thing I’ll mention is that I read countless articles, and heard from countless people to be wary and that I would feel unsafe, but that was not the case over the course of my trip to Barcelona. I fell as if I’m smart enough to be safe when it comes to solo travel, and although I’m well versed in it, I will never disregard my own safety. I kept my wallet & phone super close at all times (especially along Las Ramblas & the Markets) and didn’t go out at night with my camera equipment, as I was on my own. I was smart, and safe and that’s all I can suggest to you. Whether you’re on a “i just lost my job” budget, or have a bit more to spend you’ll find so much to do and see in the city & if you have an extra day or two beside to look into day trips to Girona, Sitges, Gaudi’s Crypt & Figueres to name a few (aka the places I want to get back to explore). While things look to be a bit quiet on my end for the next little while (aka job hunting / making money for my travel fund) I’ll be looking back on my time in Barcelona with the biggest smile on my face & the best feeling in my heart about making my decision to go on this trip!