People don’t often need much convincing to head to Barcelona, but in case you do…
Barcelona, Spain’s second largest city is home to 1.6 million residents (including Shakira), 68 parks, a world-class football team (hence Shakira), several universities, and ten beaches. That’s right, ten beaches. Barcelona is a hotbed of culture, creativity and sophistication and one visit usually will not suffice. A city that feels like a town, one of its great charms is its sheer energy. This city is one of scrumptious boozy lunches, delayed dinners and even later drinks. Barcelona’s inhabitants coexist somewhat merrily with the numerous weekenders, bachelorette parties, students and travellers that pound the city’s streets and beaches, ensuring that you never lack a compadre to share a cerveza with. Whenever I’m fortunate enough to touch down in this glorious Catalonian city, I devour the eateries, bars and scenic hotspots with incredible fervour. Here are our seven top travel tips for Barcelona.
1. Party with the locals
Barcelona’s social calendar is jam-packed with countless local festivals ranging from the weeklong Festes de la Mercè in September celebrating Catalan culture, to San Joan in June when the beach plays host to a firework filled nightlong party to commemorate the Summer Solstice.
2. Hit the beach
It would be criminal to forgo Barcelona’s 4 miles of decadent coastline. Barceloneta is the city’s most famous beach and a prime spot to sit back, sip a cocktail and people watch. Should you wish to avoid the fanfare and energetic doughnut salesmen on Barceloneta’s sands, head over to Nova Icaria, Bogatell, Mar Bella (the only official nudist beach), Nova Mar Bella, Llevant, Somorrostro, Sant Miguel or Sant Sebastia.
3. Ditch the group bike tour
Long-term residents of this fair Catalonian city are well and truly tired of having to compete with three-deep bike lanes in the narrow streets. If you’d like to be in with a chance of making any local friends, you know what to do.
4. Take a walk
The size of Barcelona is perfect to discover on foot. Pretty much wherever you roam, there’s a stunning vista waiting to be discovered. Since those big group bike tours are essentially persona non grata, stretch your legs on a brisk stroll instead.
5. There’s more to life than Las Ramblas
Las Ramblas (the primary tourist focal point) is rammed with low-cost hostels and hotels, which is the ultimate hunting ground for travellers searching for the fun spots. If Las Ramblas isn’t your scene, however, there are certainly quieter, ritzier establishments slightly off the beaten track. The W Hotel will certainly afford you decadent, cascading views over the cityscape and the Med. My most recent visit to the city was for a friend’s Bachelorette weekend and we got our hands on a plush a pad through MH Apartments in Tetuan, although they have properties splashed all over the city. Gracia is full of postcard-worthy narrow streets, Born is residential and hip and El Raval is perhaps a tad too hip if you get my drift.
6. Do take in the gastronomy
Being spoilt for choice is a gross understatement when it comes to munching in Barcelona. La Boqueria is a public market just off Las Ramblas where you can get impeccably fresh fruit, an affordable lunch snack and of course, all types of Jamon (ham). I had one of the best steaks of my entire life at trés-chic Carpe Diem Lounge Club (unmoved at peak position is the incredible steak experience at Peter Luger in Brooklyn). By no means can you leave the Barca without enjoying Paella or traditional Spanish Tapas. Go to Blai 9 for the prettiest Tapas and Pintxos offerings to pick on. If a quaint café is more your scene, find your way to Brunch & Cake which bears the slogan “in grandmothers we trust”. For the best food recommendations, be sure to check out which restaurants the locals are filling up the seats at. Xiringuito Escribá is one such eatery along Bogatell beach. The beachside bars or ‘Chiringuitos’ also sometimes play host to beach parties – result!
7. Go with the flow
Chances are that if you don’t have fixed plans for any given evening, you’ll find yourself falling into something magical. For a more concrete itinerary, make friends with Time Out Barcelona and or join a Facebook group prior to your arrival. Barcelona Expats – International BCN and Girl Gone International Barcelona will come in particularly handy.
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Rosie Bell is an international travel writer, author of the book “Escape To Self”, and content editor for Club Elsewhere. Follow her on Instagram @TheBeachBell.