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Barcelona Travel Guide: Where to Stay, What to Eat, and More

Located on the northeastern coast of Spain, Barcelona offers plenty of beachline, beautiful architecture, and great food. Whether you’re traveling to Spain and plan on visiting other cities, or live in Europe and are popping over for the weekend, Barcelona has something to offer everyone. 

The beautiful Gaudi architecture is enough of a draw alone, and the Sagrada Familia should be on everyone’s list. This impressive structure has been in construction for 135 years! Other draws include a Picasso Museum, beautiful parks, and Camp Nou, home of Barcelona’s football club. A vibrant food scene offers paella, croquettes, jamon, and gazpacho paired with delicious wine, or better yet, vermouth. 

Where to Stay

Like many cities in Europe, there is lodging at all price points in Barcelona, from super-affordable hostels for the budget traveler to high-end hotels.

As far as where to stay, the map below offers a nice overview of the different neighborhoods of Barcelona. Barri Gothic is centrally located and makes a great jumping-off point. Though El Raval and El Born are other great choices. The Eixample is another great choice, especially if you plan to spend time at Sagrada Familia.

Map of Barcelona Neighborhoods
maps-barcelona.com

St. Christopher’s Inn – Hostel

Lobby of St. Christopher Inn

Located in the Gothic Quarter, St. Christopher’s Inn offers affordable lodging for the budget traveler. Hotels are great in that they offer a variety of room types at different price points. Just need a place to sleep? A bunk bed in a room with 12 other people for $22? Sure. A room all to yourself? They have that, too. 

  • Nearest Airport: Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport
  • Time: 18 minutes
  • Distance: 8 miles

Hotel Casa Camper

Terrace of Casa Camper

Another great centrally located option is Hotel Casa Camper. No 12-person bunk beds here. Casa Camper is a modernist hotel with excellent reviews, a terrace bar, and free snacks 24/7. When you get hungry for something more than snacks, don’t worry, Casa Camper is right next to the Michelin-starred tapas restaurant, Dos Palillos.

  • Nearest Airport: Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport
  • Time: 17 minutes
  • Distance: 8 miles

What to Eat

Great food options abound in Barcelona. From cheap, quick bites to high-end sit-down restaurants, there’s something for everyone. One thing to note, the eating schedule is skewed slightly later in Spain and Americans should prepare for that. Lunch is usually eaten around 2 or 3 p.m. and many businesses close after lunch for a few hours. Don’t expect to be sitting down for dinner at 5 o’clock. Many restaurants aren’t even open for dinner at that point and often dinner is eaten much later, between 9-11 p.m. 

Embrace the schedule! And approach eating with more of a grazing attitude. Have breakfast at the hotel when you wake up at 7 or 8 a.m. and then somewhere between 10:30 and noon you’ll have almuerzo. This is like second breakfast (brunch), or early lunch, depending on how you want to consider it. You’ll eat your next meal between 2-4 p.m., so eat something that’ll hold you over until then. Okay, 2 p.m. rolls around, it’s time to start thinking about what you want to have for lunch. This is often the biggest meal in Spain, so don’t hold back. Things tend to slow down after lunch, and many businesses close down for a few hours. Relax and maybe take a nap before the evening’s festivities begin. Start looking for dinner around 8 p.m. though some folks won’t eat until as late as 11.

  • “$” = budget-friendly or cheap
  • “$$”= average
  • “$$$”= expensive

Citizen Cafe

Brunch plates at Citizen Cafe
Mini Guide

Citizen Cafe is perfect for either first or second breakfast (aka brunch). With many positive reviews, what stands out is their tasty food, good service, and value for the price.

  • Best for breakfast/brunch
  • $$ 

Browse the Menu

Apluma

Rotisserie chickens in oven

If you’re looking for simple but delicious food that also happens to offer a good value for your money, check out Apluma. The rotisserie chicken is the star of the show here, but pair it with the tomato salad and roasted eggplant, with balsamic pineapple for dessert. 

  • Best for lunch
  • $$

Browse the Menu

Boqueria Market

Fruit stand at Boqueria Market
barcelonahacks.com

Open from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Boqueria Market is a super popular spot to visit in Barcelona, and for good reason. Whether you’re looking to pick up ingredients, a meal, or souvenirs for friends and family, this market has it all: fresh produce, seafood, olives, ham, vermouth. Grab a fresh fruit smoothie in the morning, tapas for lunch or dinner, or a quick snack any time of day.

  • Best for breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • $$

Browse the Market

What to Do

Whether or not architecture and design are something you’re actively interested in, you’ll want to check out some of the impressive buildings in Barcelona. The Sagrada Familia is one of the big attractions, but a longer walking tour of the works of Antoni Gaudi is well worth it. Other draws include art museums and the beach. 

Barcelona beach

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia exterior

Construction on this basilica began in 1882 and it is still under construction today. There are a number of buildings around Barcelona designed by Antoni Gaudi, but the Sagrada Familia is his most famous. The intricate detail of the design is stunning and will surely leave you impressed.

You can take guided walking tours or venture out on your own to see all of the Gaudi structures around Barcelona.

Interior ceiling of Sagrada Familia

Free Walking Tour

Picasso Museum

Interior Musee Picasso
The Muse Life

Barcelona is home to a museum celebrating the early work of Pablo Picasso, who was actually born in Málaga, Spain (about 10 hours south of Barcelona). 4,251 works make up the collection and are primarily focused on Picasso’s formative years. Appropriately, the museum highlights Picasso’s ties to Barcelona, where he lived as an apprentice artist.

Visit the Museum

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Barcelona

Experiences

As I mentioned above, there are free, self-guided walking tours of Barcelona. This is a great way to save money if you don’t mind doing a little navigating. Also, if you happen to be in town on the first Sunday of the month you’ll be able to visit many of Barcelona’s museums for free!

Hotels

One of the best ways to save money on lodging is by staying in hostels, not hotels and spas. You can find rooms for under $20 per night. Hostels are also a great place to meet fellow travelers, get suggestions for what to see and do, and often have deals with popular restaurants and attractions to save you money. 

Vehicle Rentals

Book in advance and travel in the off-season! That said, Barcelona is a super walkable city with good public transportation. If you’re just going to be in Barcelona, you’ll probably be fine without a car. If you’re worried about getting from the airport to your hotel, just take the train/metro (it’s way cheaper than a taxi, anyway). Sometimes our travel plans call for a rental car, though. If that’s the case, our advice above applies. 

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