According to the vast majority of Spain and Barcelona travel guides, Barcelona is by far one of the nicest cities to visit in the country. Elegant Barcelona hotels, world-class Barcelona restaurants, and activities that can only be found in Barcelona are just a few things that make this beautiful city unique. Barcelona museums, theaters, and art galleries are nothing short of spectacular and the city also has an impressive nightlife scene. Besides this, this art and design center has hundreds of interesting sights to offer to its visitors. It is beautiful.
The best place to watch people go by, to stroll or simply relax, is Les Rambles, a pedestrian street with dozens of cozy Barcelona restaurants and outdoor cafés. Here, you will find flower stands, book kiosks, and small market stalls where birds and small animals are sold. You’ll also find an endlessly fascinating flowing receptacle of pageant-jugglers, singers, dancers, puppeteers, sidewalk artists, living statues, and assorted oddballs on parade. Touring Les Rambles is a Barcelona activity that is well deserving of a top spot in any Barcelona travel guide.
Nearby is Plaça Reial with plenty of bars and restaurants, and Palau Güell, built by the Catalan architectural genius Antoni Gaudí in his undulating art-nouveau style. While engaging in Barcelona activities like strolling Les Rambles and Plaça Reial, be very aware of pickpockets, as they are plentiful in heavily populated tourist areas.
After having seen these sights, stroll the narrow winding streets of the Barri Gòtic -- a medieval Gothic quarter full of interesting tapas bars and cafés. Check out Picasso’s old hangout, Els Quatre Gats , which has been renovated, but it hasn't lost its bohemian charm. Or head for the old Barceloneta section on the waterfront. This working-class area, which was always slightly rundown and scruffy-looking, is now packed with paella restaurants. The new beach area, which runs from Barceloneta to the Olympic village, is much cleaner than the old beach area. Although some people believe that it has been cleaned up considerably, it might be a wise idea to stay out of the water. Fortunately, the beach itself is already a feast for the eyes (and ears), with its huge and roaring waves.
Catalans are known for their independent spirit as well as their sense of humor. Salvador Dalí was a Catalan (and unfortunately for Catalans, he was also a Fascist and supporter of General Franco's regime) and his bizarre sense of humor is just one example of the regions endearing weirdness. Language is a BIG problem for the English-speaking in Barcelona and also in areas around the city. There are no signboards in English and if you do not speak Spanish (or preferably Catalan), you are better off with a phrase book to guide you around. Even in the majority of Barcelona hotels they do not speak English. It comes as a surprise because the vast majority of tourists are English and tourism is a big contributor to Barcelona's economy.
Spring is the best time to visit Barcelona, as you can expect a temperature of around around 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20ºC). During summer, it can get very hot and humid, about 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30ºC), and extremely crowded, due to the large number of tourists and numerous cultural events taking place in September. Barcelona can be as expensive as you want it to be. Barcelona is relatively rich, so prices are much higher than places elsewhere in Catalonia or Spain. Still, Barcelona restaurants are relatively cheap -- at lunch time you can find a two course meal and desert for $10-$13US (7-9€), and for an average Barcelona hotel, three meals and a night out, count on it costing some $225 US (145 Euro) for two persons.
Top Things to See and Do in Barcelona
Architecture: if you love architecture, Barcelona is the city indeed.
Roman period: Roman walls, 4 remaining columns of the Temple at Centre excursionista, Museu d'història de la Ciutat (walk underground through the roman past).
Gothic period: Santa Maria del Mar (best gothic church), Plaça del Rei, Saló del Tinell, Drassanes, Catedral, Santa Maria del Pi, Llotja de Barcelona, Hospital de la Santa Creu, streets within Barri Gòtic (gothic ward).
Pre-modernist and Modernist period: Gaudí's main works: Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà, Parc Güell, Palau Güell, Casa Vicens. Other modernist architects' masterpieces: Palau de la Música Catalana, Hospital de Sant Pau, Casa Ametller, Casa de les Punxes, Arc de Triompf i Parc de la Ciutadella, Plaça Reial, Passeig de Gràcia. Some of those were included in the World Heritage list.
Modern Period: Pabelló d'Alemanya (German Pavilion 1928 Universal Expo, a masterpiece of the modern architecture designed by Mies Van der Rohe), Pabelló de la República (GATPAC), Escola Tècnica Superior d'Arquitectura (Coderech), Macba ( Museu d'Art Contemporani, designed by Richard Meyer), Anella Olímpica (Olympic area, Isozaki, Correa, Calatrava...), Torre Agbar (the new symbol in town by Jean Nouvel), Mercat de Santa Caterina (Miralles-Tagliube), Tibidabo's communication tower (Norman Foster), Forum's Convention Center (Herzog & de Meuron).
Art and Museums
Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya (MNAC) with the best Romanic paintings in the world. This museum preserves the wall frescoes of a great part of the Romanic churches in the Pyrenees (els Pirineus).
Museu Picasso: The museum is located in a medieval palace on Montcada Street, 15-23 in the Gothic area. Once inside you will discover a magnificent compilation of early Picasso paintings. Both oils and drawings displayed in this permanent collection are representative of the artist's formative years as well as later in his illustrious career. The entire collection of over 3,500 works include 24 masterpieces such as "Man in a Baret", "The Divan", "Margot or the Period of Waiting", and "Blanquita Suarez" just to name a few. Museu Picasso is a must-see in Barcelona.
Fundació Miró: Located in a good modern building from Sert, you'll find a wide sample of Joan Miró works.
Others: Centre d'Art Santa Mònica, Fundació Tàpies, Centre de Cultura Contemporània.
Barcelona's seashore walk: Departing from the Fòrum de les Cultures area, walk along Passeig Marítim, cross the Vila Olímpica, continue to la Barceloneta, follow el Moll de la Fusta to Colom monument. Best moments are at sunrise or at sunset. (3-4 km)
Les Rambles: From Plaça Catalunya, walk down to Colom, sit at a café and just watch the people go by. (500 m)
Barri Gòtic: Just keep your maps and guidebooks away, and lose yourself within the lovely old streets of el Barri Gòtic. Finish your walk taking a beer at la Plaça Reial (one of the nicest). (3-5-8 km, walk as long as you can)
El Raval: Submerge yourself in our little Karachi, just on the opposite side of les Rambles. Start at el Mercat de la Boqueria (traditional market), and lose yourself on the decadent streets of el Raval, try some shawarma, or some dhal in any Panjabi restaurant, and check how cosmopolitan is Barcelona (not as much as London or Amsterdam... but getting close). Take care about pickpocketing.
Passeig de Gràcia to Barri de Gràcia: From Plaça Catalunya walk up Passeig de Gràcia (the most elegant street in town with the most expensive shops) to the bohemian neighborhood of Gràcia. Just take a walk into the neighborhood and take a beer in any plaça (Plaça Rius i Taulet, Plaça del Diamant...).
Best City Views
From Montjuïc: Just go up to Palau Nacional (MNaC) at Montjuïc Mountain and enjoy the sunset over the city. If you are lucky (try on weekends), after the sunset you'll see the Magic Fountain Show.
From Tibidabo: The best views of Barcelona are from el Tibidabo. And old fashioned and decadent Atraction Park (but one of the top 5 in the world according to Lonely Planet), on the top of el Tibidabo. Yes that's our Corcovado...
From el Parc Güell: If you have not time enough to go to Tibidabo, you can get great views too, from Parc Güell.
Plaça Reial area . Take some beers at el Glaciar or el Sidecar, after that try at el Club 13 (until 03.00), and after that head to el Jamboree if you like hip-hop or el Karma if you prefer independent pop rock (until 06.00).
Say for instance, you are in search for an enjoyable night out on the town, the big problem lies in choosing what would be most to your liking from among all that Barcelona has to offer. In a nutshell, Barcelona nights is all about fun, fun, fun, and one can simply go insane just ticking off the choices on how to achieve it in one night. Even the most hedonistic man s standards for pleasure and enjoying the night away will be challenged in this great city!
El Raval is Barcelona's most diverse area with a mixture of cultures and atmospheres. It was much neglected until recently, but it is full of small, hip bars.
El Born and La Ribera , one of the trendiest areas to be in, combine the romanticism of the old city with the newly designed interiors of its numerous bars, clubs and restaurants. This area attracts couples and groups in their 30s looking for sophisticated, relaxing, and intimate bars.
Poblenou area: Take some beers at l'Ovella, and after that try Razzmatazz (one of the best clubs in town). Many popular bands, such as the Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack, Coldplay, Blur, and Oasis all played in this hall during their early tours.
Poblenou areaVila Olímpica area : For nice people, catalans say "ambient una mica més pijo". Try at Baja club or Catwalk.
Zona Alta area: Take your first beers at La Borsa (imported beers from worldwide), and after that go to a disco or club in the area. The top is Luz de Gas, where you´ll find people up to 50 y/old men trying to met 20y/old girls, and 40 y/old women trying the same with 20 y/old boys. If you want to meet rich socialites, this is the place. For the nicest people, "Ambient molt pijo".
For gay and lesbian: Try at El coño de mi prima (Eixample) or at Las Torres de Avila (Poble espanyol). Left Eixample is called Gayxample.
From Forum to Barceloneta, they all are fine, but always crowded in summer. That's the only standing rule on Barcelona beaches and Barcelona beach hotels, especially with its sunshiny weather all year round. This is one place where the beaches are teeming with non-stop action especially with the opening of the city to the sea -- a project first undertaken in the 1980s. The redeveloped seafront, from the Moll de la Fusta and the area around the Palau de Mar to the Rambla de Mar and the Olympic Port area, has become one of Barcelona's most popular spaces for recreation and leisure.
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