Barcelona City Guide: best things to do in BarcelonaBarcelona, the cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia is one of the most famous cities in Europe. The city’s outlook is defined by the imposing Sagrada Família church along with the modernist creations of the renown architect Antoni Gaudi. Highly appreciated for its rich artistic background, beautiful coastline and lively atmosphere, it is one of the most popular travelling destinations around the world. The city welcomes more than 7,5 million of visitors per year, since travellers seem to adore its remarkable architecture, vivid nightlife scene and mouthwatering Catalan cuisine.
There are 2 legends hiding behind Barcelona’s construction. The first one claims that the city was founded by Hercules, the ancient Greek hero, while the second legend has it that Hamilcar Barca, the historic Carthaginian general, was the one who had founded the city during the 3rd century BC. Although nothing from the above can be officially proved, one thing is for sure: the city is full of history, remarkable monuments and loads of charm.
Perfectly combining a rich historical background with the elements of a modern metropolitan city, Barcelona covers all tastes and preferences. It’s the second largest city in Spain and one of the biggest in Europe, with an urban area stretches beyond the city limits, featuring a population of 4,7 million inhabitants. Although everyone in Barcelona speaks Spanish, Catalonia has another official language: Catalan. That means you will see Catalan along with Spanish almost everywhere, from restaurant menus to road signs to local media.
Surrounded by the magnificent Mediterranean blue and the forest covered Collserola Hills green, Barcelona boosts a magnificent natural environment. The city’s beaches like Sant Sebastià and Barceloneta are internationally famous, since Barcelona got listed first in the top ten city beaches in the world according to National Geographic and Discovery Channel. Besides the spectacular coastline, Barcelona also features wonderful parks like Montjuïc and Parc de la Ciutadella that add even more to city’s flourishing nature.
Getting aroundThe most convenient and simple way of getting around Barcelona is to use one of the 8 metro lines, the fast & ecological tram, or the supplemental rail network of FGC (Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat). A wide array of buses is also available, since the city maintains a fleet of more than 1000 vehicles. The buses operate over 80 routes, connecting all of Barcelona’s districts and suburban areas.
An integrated fare system allows passengers to obtain a free transfer from one mean of transport to another within 75 minutes, while various tickets and travel cards are valid throughout the entire network (metro, buses, tram and suburban rail). Choose the one that suits better to your needs, or get a day pass to enjoy complete freedom through Barcelona’s public transport.
For all those who wish to discover Barcelona after dark, the city has anticipated a night bus service from 10.40pm to 6am, with terminal to Plaça de Catalunya. Moreover, the metro and the FGC operate until 2am on Fridays and continuously on Saturdays and evenings before public holidays. Given that, the city seems very well organised when it comes to night living.
If you wish to discover Barcelona from a different, original way, you can do it on a bicycle. The city has fully integrated cycle lanes and boosts an innovative bike borrowing scheme. This rental system though is mainly used by locals, since it’s intended as a public transport service for short term bike journeys of maximum 30 minutes. But besides that, longer term bicycle rental is always available in several places, for those who’d love a ride to the city’s parks and open spaces.
Restaurants & Culinary traditionBarcelona is world famous for its rich culinary culture. Contemporary yet traditional, the city has perfectly integrated the latest trends of the international eating scene, while maintaining its wide range of authentic Catalan delicacies. Galician seafood taverns, Italian trattorias and exquisite Japanese restaurants are all vital parts of Barcelona’s eating landscape.
The city boosts a lively restaurant scene that covers every taste, serving everything from original catalan recipes like Cal Boter in Gracia, to high-end gourmet cuisine like the famous Disfrutar in Eixample. The eating habits here are slightly different than other places in Europe, since lunch and dinner are usually eaten a little bit later. Most restaurants serve lunch from 13:00 to 16:00 and dinner from 20:00 till 23:00 or sometimes even midnight.
Likewise almost everywhere in Spain, tapas is a very important part of culinary tradition in Barcelona. Whether you‘d love to try some Japanese-inspired bites, or you prefer to keep it local and try original Spanish small dishes, the city hosts some exceptional tapas bars. Among the places highly recommend in our selection you’ll find Can Kenji for Japanese fusion tapas, La Flauta for special small sandwiches, Bodega 1900 and El Xampanyet for Iberian cured meats and traditional Spanish specialties.
When in Barcelona, there are so many local goods and recipes to try. The Iberian cured Jamón is surely the first you need to taste if you consider yourself a meat lover. If you wanna have a typical Catalan dinner, you’d probably start with some bread with allioli sauce or Pa Amb Tomaquet (tomato rubbed bread) along with a tasty Escalivada salad. When it’s time for your main course, you could either order a Fideuà, the Catalan version of seafood Paella, or Mongetes amb botifarra (Catalan sausage served with beans).
After your fulfilling meal, it’s time for a delicious dessert. Keep it local and pick an authentic Crema Catalana, or a simple but divine Mel i mató, a special kind of traditional cheese topped with honey. Whatever you choose to eat can match with a regional wine among the 11 varieties Catalonia is producing. The region also makes a sparkling wine called Cava, a must-try for everyone who loves champaign. With so much to explore in the Catalan food world, Barcelona can easily be viewed as a culinary heaven.