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Sergio

Traveler and museum lover

How to Get the Best out of Your Trip to Barcelona

Things you need to know planning your trip to Barcelona

About this guide

We are a team of professional travelers and travel writers. We know Barcelona like the palms of our hands. That is why we made an ultimate guide for those planning a trip to the Catalan capital. Here, you will find some tips on where to stay, what to remember, and how to move around while you are in the city. We also added links to some of our guides and the most useful resources (like booking platforms). It is all essential things for you to come prepared and get the best out of your time in the Catalan capital.

When is the best time to go?

🧳 High season and why you shouldn't go in August
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The high season in Barcelona begins in May and ends in December. That is the warmest time, great for swimming in the sea and enjoying the beach. But expect to see crowds of tourists and long lines to the most popular attractions.

The worst time to visit Barcelona is August. The thing is that a lot of locals take vacations in that month: people close their businesses and travel somewhere else. That is why in August you will see the same crowds as in July or September, but fewer restaurants and other places open. So, the lines are the worst. It is also the hottest month, with an average temperature of around 30° C. So, especially if you go for the first time, it is better to avoid August.

We recommend visiting the city in May when the tourist season only warms up or at the beginning of October when there are fewer crowds, but the sea is still warm enough to swim. Plus, consider visiting Barcelona in December, around Christmas: it is much cheaper, and you will have a chance to become a part of all the quirky Catalan Christmas traditions.

Where to stay?

🛎️ Why you shouldn't stay in Gothic Quarter
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The Old Town, or the historic center of Barcelona, consists of three neighborhoods: Gothic Quarter, El Raval, and El Born. All three are not the best to stay. Yes, you will be close to all the historic attractions and will get an exclusive chance to soak up the atmosphere of the historic city. However, that part of the city has narrow, tangled streets, which are very easy to get lost in. Houses standing so close to each other often don’t get enough sunlight, making the streets a bit gloomy and cold. Plus, lots of commerce and crowds of tourists make staying in the Old Town a bit tiring.

Barceloneta is a neighborhood right at the waterfront with lots of stylish hotels and fancy bars. It is very close to the beach. But from June through August, Barceloneta Beach is very crowded, so it is not the chill paradisiacal type of beach you imagine. Plus, beware of pickpockets. It is very common to get robbed on the beach. Barceloneta is the best if you come for the nightlife. Bars, nightclubs, and round-the-clock parties with folks from all over the world promise great fun and unique experiences. But if it is not what you are looking for, you will find Barceloneta loud and a bit too much.

That is why the best neighborhoods to stay in are Eixample and Gràcia, especially if you visit Barcelona for the first time. These parts of the city are close enough to the major attractions for you not to worry about transportation. Here, you will find a relaxed atmosphere, the best restaurants, interesting boutiques, and plenty of opportunities to interact with locals and get a glimpse of what it is really like living in Barcelona.

Another good place to stay is Poblenou district. It is a little farther from touristy attractions, but still well connected. Poblenou also has a great vibe and tons of trendy restaurants and cafes to explore. Plus, it is not far from the beach.

For specific recommendations, have a look at our accommodation guides in Barcelona. We have one dedicated to cool hostels, one to budget hotels, and more.

How to plan the day?

💃 Spanish siesta and Sundays off
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Things to take into consideration:

Remember about the Spanish ritual of siesta. Many restaurants and shops close from around 2 till 4 pm (Some from 1 to 3 pm, others from 2 to 5 pm — check your desired place's opening time before going). This rule does not apply to large shopping centers but affects a lot of small businesses.

Also, keep in mind that many businesses are closed on Sundays or open only until 2 pm or so. And the situation is even worse in small towns in Catalonia.

Because of the heat, meal times in Spain differ from the rest of the world. Breakfast here is usually light, and dinner is heavy and much later than most of us are used to. That is just how it works in here. For breakfast, most Spaniards have just a cup of coffee and some pastry like a croissant or a light sandwich. And that is it. However, for tourists who like to stock calories in the morning, there are plenty of brunch restaurants in Barcelona. At the same time, dinner starts later than in most countries. Many restaurants serving dinner don’t even open until 6-7 pm. So, if you don’t want to miss the opportunities to explore the culinary scene, get used to this “Spanish” way of living.

To sum it up, mornings are for the museum and city tours. In the afternoon you chill in the hotel or on the beach. Evenings are best for a night out and partying.

How to move around?

🚇 A few words about the public transportation
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Public transportation is great in Barcelona. It is the cheapest and one of the most convenient ways to move around the city. Subway, trams, buses, suburban trains: the system is very well developed.

The subway works till midnight. However, on Saturdays, it is open all night long. A one-ride ticket costs 2.4 Euros. You can always buy one using the ticket machines you will find at the entrance to every station. Pay with a credit card or cash (but better have small bills prepared). Ticket machines do not accept Apple Pay.

You can also buy a T-casual card for 10 trips. It will save you some money. Prices differ depending on the zones. But all of the central part of the city, including Eixample and Gràcia, is in zone 1. Or you can also buy a Barcelona card with unlimited rides and free admission to many museums. But this card is created specifically for tourists and is valid only for 2 to 5 days.

One last thing: line L9, which connects the city to the airport, has a separate ticket which costs 4.5 Euros. The journey will take you just some 30 minutes. Trains go every 7 minutes. So, no need to check the schedule.

Book your tickets in advance

👉 Most important rule
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Book tickets to all popular attractions you want to visit at least a couple of weeks in advance. Barcelona has so many tourists that it is practically impossible to buy tickets on the spot. The crowds won’t give you a chance or it will cost a small fortune. That is why don't risk ruining your holiday and book everything in advance. Especially tickets to the famous Antoni Gaudí’s constructions like Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, and Casa Batlló. Same for the Picasso Museum. It will help you avoid disappointment and stress.

See our Sagrada Familia guide to better plan your visit to the world-famous basilica.

Get out of the city

🏞️ Don't miss the chance to see Catalonia
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When you plan your trip, dedicate at least one day to get out of the city and see one of the surrounding towns. Barcelona is great, but you will miss a lot if you are going to stay in the city the whole time. One-day trips are the best to learn about the history of the region, explore its exuberant nature, and discover its unique traditions. Picturesque beach towns, historic fortresses, ancient monasteries, wineries, mountain trails: the opportunities are limitless.

Check out our guide with some of the best ideas for a day trip from Barcelona.

Also, see our list of the best cava wineries you should visit.

Get to know Catalan culture

☀️ Sardana, castellers, cava, and pa amb tomàquet
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Last but not least, keep in mind that Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain with its own independent culture and distinct traditions. Be prepared to see some of the signs in Catalan instead of Spanish. This language is similar to Spanish but has plenty of differences, which sometimes makes it close to French. Be open to exploring the culture of Catalonia, and you will discover amazing things.

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