“Allow me to state here how much I love Barcelona, an admirable city, a city full of life, intense, a port open to the past and future.” - Le Corbusier
Going to Barcelona is more than just enjoying a bit of sun, sea, and sand, it’s also an opportunity to discover tonnes of art, history, and cultural heritage. The Catalan capital is Spain’s second-largest city and the country’s most popular in terms of tourism.
This beautiful Catalan city has a lot to offer. Whether you’re going on a last-minute trip or planning to spend your family holiday there, we recommend planning as much as you can in order to enjoy everything the city has to offer.
So before you go to Barcelona, here’s what you need to know.
Just follow our guide and you’ll be fine!
Barcelona at a Glance
Life is so good in Barcelona that you'll always feel a bit like you’re on holiday even if you live there. The capital of Spain’s autonomous region of Catalonia has 4 kilometres of beaches, too.
In Barcelona, the two main languages are Catalan and Spanish. It should be noted that while Catalan is arguably the first language of many Catalans, English and Spanish are also widely spoken, especially with tourists.
Barcelona is an international and metropolitan city, after all, and it’s used to welcoming tourists from all over the world, too, so you’ll not have too many problems with the language barrier.
Barcelona is also a gateway to the Balearic Islands. Majorca, Menorca, and Ibiza are popular destinations for those wanting to get out of Barcelona for the weekend.
The old parts of the city tell the city’s story with remnants dating back to the Roman colony of Barcino and between the 13th and 15th centuries, Barcelona was a powerful commercial hub due to the port on the Mediterranean Sea.
In the 15th century, power was transferred to Madrid and it wouldn’t be until the Catalan renaissance of the 19th century that Barcelona would become a social, economic, and cultural powerhouse.
Barcelona and Catalonia welcomed the world with its Universal Exposition in 1888, but under Franco’s dictatorship in Spain, Catalan culture was heavily suppressed. During the 1950s and 60s, in particular, Catalans regularly fought against the Madrid-based dictatorship.
In 1979, Barcelona’s local authority was reestablished alongside Spain’s democracy and in 1992, Barcelona hosted the Summer Olympic Games, where it used the opportunity to rejuvenate the seafront and the local infrastructure.
Nowadays, Barcelona is a popular tourist destination, especially for European tourists.
Barcelona’s rich history can be seen in every one of its neighbourhoods. Here’s a list of some of the most important ones:
- Barcelona City Centre
- Las Ramblas
- The Gothic Quarter
- La Barceloneta
- El Raval
- El Born
Have a look at the different neighbourhoods when choosing where to stay in the city. Nowadays, the football team, FC Barcelona or Barça, is one of the city’s most popular exports.
You’ve probably heard of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, the avant-gardist that helped shape Barcelona’s aesthetic identity.
You can’t visit Barcelona without seeing one of his buildings as his style essentially defined Barcelona in the 19th century. His work is very reminiscent of nature with rounded edges, lush colours, ceramic tiles and mosaics and is very impressive.
It's a symbol of the city and of all the tourist attractions in Barcelona, the Gaudi works are among the most popular. Casa Batlló and Casa Milà are two fine examples of his work and you'll undoubtedly find their curved decorative structures inspiring.
Make sure that you visit:
- The Sagrada Familia
- Casa Batlló
- Casa Milà
- Casa Vicens
- Güell Balconies
- Palau Güell
- Parc Güell
- Santa Teresa School
- The Miralles Gateway
- The Bellesguard Tower
Outside of Barcelona, you can also visit:
- The Colonia Güell Crypt
- The Mataro Cooperative
- The Bodegas Güell
Almost every Gaudi building is a popular tourist destination so expect queues when you visit. It might be worthwhile investing in a City Pass or Barcelona Card as you can enjoy discounts to a lot of these destinations and they also offer queue-jump tickets.
Ready to visit Barcelona?
Why Is Barcelona So Popular?
Between the coastline and Montjuïc mountain, Barcelona is in an ideal location. The weather in Barcelona is also nice most of the year, allowing tourists and locals alike to enjoy the ten beaches most of the year.
Barcelona is also a modern and cosmopolitan city and its diverse culture can be seen in every neighbourhood. There are examples of its history through its architectural wonders from the churches to the Gothic Quarter’s Medieval alleys. Barcelona’s diversity is its strength.
For those looking for some fun, the nightlife in Barcelona is also incredibly lively. Whether you’re looking for a full-on party or just a drink in a local bar, you’ll find something to your taste.
“Barcelona didn’t try to live at the same pace as other global cities. It moved to the ticking of its own clock and everyone accepted it.” - Sarah Dayan
The nice thing about Barcelona is that it has almost everything. Full-on fiestas and culture live side-by-side and the city is also home to many museums including:
- MACBA, the city’s contemporary art museum.
- The Picasso Museum
- The Joan Miró Foundation
- National Museum of Art (MNAC)
- The Maritime Museum
- The CosmoCaixa Science Museum
- The Barcelona History Museum
Food and cuisine are also an important part of Barcelona and the Boqueria market is a great place to find local produce.
If you love shopping, you’ll also love Barcelona. From the Passeig de Gracia to the Portal de l’Àngel, there’s something for all budgets in Barcelona.
No matter what you want to do, you can find it in Barcelona. You can visit cultural attractions, enjoy Catalan music, and take in spectacular views over the city.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Visit to Barcelona
There are so many things to do in Barcelona that you should plan to make sure you get the most out of it.
An itinerary is probably the best way to make sure that you don’t miss anything. This will also help you work out what you will and won’t be able to do when you’re there.
We’ve put together a list of things to visit. In addition to the Gaudi monuments and buildings, you should also visit:
- The Arc de Triomf
- Barcelona Zoo
- Plaça Catalunya
- Las Ramblas
- The Columbus Monument
- Barcelona Port
- The Tibidabo Funicular Railway
- The Montjuïc Cable Car
- Parc de Ciutadella
- The Camp Nou
The quickest and easiest way to get to Barcelona is by plane. Not only is it the fastest way, but it’s usually the cheapest. You’ll land at the airport in El Prat de Llobregat.
As for accommodation, you’ll probably want to look for something in the city centre. After all, it’s much better being able to walk to most of the important sights. Fortunately, much of Barcelona is quite flat so you can walk around it. That said, the public transport is good. You can use taxis, bikes, the metro, or trains to get around.
Barcelona diversity is its greatest strength and there’s something for everyone, just don’t try to do it all in one visit. It takes several trips to see Barcelona.
For your first trip, you should prioritise.
Whether you love food, history, architecture, or football, you’ll love Barcelona.
Enjoy your trip!
Before you go to Barcelona, you might want to learn some more Spanish or Catalan from one of the many talented and experienced tutors on Superprof. You can get language tutorials face-to-face, online, or in groups and since each type of tutoring comes with its pros and cons, you'll want to think carefully about which is right for you and your budget.
Group tutorials are great for those on a tight budget as you can share the cost of the tutor's time and expertise with the other students. However, you won't get to enjoy tutorials that are fully tailored to you and what you want to learn.
Face-to-face tutorials, on the other hand, allow the tutor to adapt every lesson to the student and their learning objectives. Generally, these tend to cost more than other types of private tutoring but they're also very cost-effective as every minute you pay for is spent teaching you.
If you can't find any private tutors where you live, you can always opt for online tutors. As they don't have to travel to their students, they tend to charge less than face-to-face tutoring and when it comes to language tutoring, online tutoring can be just as effective as any other type of tutoring.