Visiting Barcelona - tips


I ma visiting Barcelona for a long weekend at the end of June. I will be meeting up with a group of 10-15 friends in the same age range (30s), and am looking for tips - what to do, where to stay, etc. I imagine we’ll want to do some sightseeing during the day and enjoy an active nightlife.

A few are suggesting the W Hotel, which I understand is a beautiful seaside building but perhaps a little off the beaten path. Is there a “downtown” area with places to go at night (nice restaurants, or music, bars, and dance clubs?)

Thanks for any advice!

There was a similar thread here recently. You might search for that. The short answer is “Las Ramblas”; if you get very far from it, I’d be surprised.

All I can say is that I envy you, and you will leave wishing you had more time there.

I loved Barcelona. However, the pickpockets are not to be trifled with. Tom Scud had been relieved of his wallet by the time we made it from the airport to where we were staying. Both of us have traveled all over the world, but that was a first for either of us.

The food in Barcelona is generally pretty awesome. Try to stay away from touristy spots if you can. We rented a room in an apartment and generally got awesome advice on local restaurants from the owners. I could have done nothing but eat seafood the whole time :smiley:

If you like Flamenco guitar, there are remarkably talented street artists in the gothic sector of town (I think it’s a park called Güell, or something like that). You can see some of them on YouTube.


Stayed with Airbnb folks there last summer. Forget the tourist places (the line for sacrada familia was a mile long!) and hang out with the locals. I did find a great jazz venue with live music. Don’t remember the name. I saw it mentioned on a street poster. If you like jazz, ask for it.

Not by the concept of the rest of Spain. There are tons of restaurants through the Eixample and Old Town, there are many clubs, but there isn’t an area where you can go to a club, spend some time, move to another… the clubs tend to be pretty far from each other by our standards (if you want to go from one to another, think cab). A couple that often have some sort of live music or events: Bikini and Razzmatazz. Razz is close to your hotel.

Also, the Spanish concept of “downtown” or el centro is the business district, not the partying district. Be careful with the distinction if you’re going to ask about it.

The area close to Santa María del Mar is full of tapas bars of the tourist trap kind; they’re evenly divided into chains (less dear than the other ones) and “gourmet”, neither particularly good if you ask me but I’m picky. Like I said, very popular with tourists.

The area limited by Plaça de la Catedral, Plaça Catalunya, Plaça de la Universitat and Plaça Urquinaona (uphill from the previous one) has IMO a better combination of old places, places which have been around since forever and which have now put “tapas bar” on the shingle for the tourists but which always served them, ethnic restaurants, fancy ones… This is what I’d recommend, but keep to the bigger streets (

Go further uphill, Rambla Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia, and you get into an area which again tends to be tourist-oriented, and again to be overpriced and not necessarily the best quality. Eva Luna and Tom Scud put up with my babbling in a tapas bar in Rambla Catalunya which turned out to have good food but the worst service I’ve ever seen, it was actually quite amazing.

Do NOT cross over to El Raval, stay in the Barri Gótic. El Raval is to the left of the Ramblas as you look hillwise: while there are very interesting things to see on that side of the Ramblas itself (el Liceu, one of the town’s markets…), the parts further in can be bad for your health. Uphill from Carrer del Carme it’s ok, downhill just don’t.

Zero in Barcelona jography, you. Parc Güell is all the way up in the hills, almost as far from the Old Town as you can get and still be in the same township.

The tablaos tend to be close to Old Town. This is one of several sites where you can buy tickets. Tablaos are cafés with a flamenco show.

harmonicamoon, the longest line I’ve seen for the Sagrada Familia was barely 200m, and I’ve been going there all my life. You scare easily…

The crypt is the area where cult is held, so in theory people aren’t supposed to “tourist in”; if it’s open and you try to walk in, the guards may turn you away. In reality, you’re there in Mass and there’s flashes going off, often from the other people who are taking part in the celebration.

The Red Buses are a good idea if you want to look at buildings, museums, etc. They’re “go on, go off”, you can take them as many times as you want within the ticket’s time.

The best place to get all sorts of information, discount tickets, day passes etc without doing so in advance is the information booth in Plaça Catalunya, directly in front of Corte Inglés. The queue is of the “who is last” type: it tends to get scrunched up, but if you try to just elbow your way to the front you’ll be told to wait your turn.

Those bigger streets which somehow dropped out of the parenthesis: Portaferrisa (from Plaça Catedral to the Ramblas), Jaume I/Ferran (from Plaça Jaume I to the Ramblas). Note that the advice to keep to those is mostly for the night.

I was there in 2004. (Jesus, it was over ten years ago?! I am so old:(). Anyway, I loved pretty much every second of it. The thing that popped into my mind when I saw the thread was a tapas place called Cal Pep. I recall it being small, so maybe not the place to stumble into with 10-15 friends. But, if my old man memory isn’t playing tricks on me, the food was pretty damned awesome.

Also, the Barcelona Card can be a fabulous deal if you intend to do a lot of museum-hopping. (And we had no problem getting into the Sagrada Familia - we went Easter Sunday, even, right after we woke up. But we were staying literally across the street and could easily keep an eye on the lines.)

Don’t let the crowds at *Sagrada Familia *intimidate you. I waited forever for an elevator ride to the top of one of the spires, and it was a spectacular experience. If it weren’t for a bad leg, I could have spent all day in that masterpiece. The spires themselves are parabolas, for god’s sake!

And if you’re a Gaudí junkie like me, Parc Güell is worth visiting . . . things like the mosaic reptile and the “world’s longest bench.” But don’t go for the view over the city, unless it’s a smog-free day.

And don’t get me started on Casa Batlló! A masterpiece in every detail.

Even if you’re not a soccer fan, to watch Barcelona at the Camp Nou would be a memorable experience.

No they’re not! Catenarias at dawn, sir!

(They’re not exactly parabolic; Gaudí obtained them by hanging chains from a base. At the time there wasn’t a method available to calculate in reasonable times the kind of shapes he wanted, so he had to model them. The no-visitors-allowed subterraneum of the SF currently hosts a computational calculation center that would have given Don Antoni an architectgasm or five).

The museum underneath it has some of Gaudi’s models; fascinating.

Moving your thread to IMHO.

We stayed at BarcelonaBB and had a lovely stay. Pretty centrally located as well.

I stayed at the Cristobal Colon, which was lovely, stately, and a bit stiff. We weren’t there long but really loved the location, the view (of the Cathedral from our balcony), and Barcelona in general.

Definitely take the time to see Sagrada Familia.

I’m a fan of cathedrals, so I definitely enjoyed the old Cathedral. YMMV. It’s impressive, in any case.

Before going, my wife showed me pictures of Gaudi architecture and I thought it all looked really silly. Wow, what a huge difference it makes to see it in person! I’m now a huge fan. If you have any interest in art, architecture, or building, definitely see as much Gaudi sites as you can stomach. I particularly enjoyed the little display of Gaudi artifacts in the attic of the Padrera. IIRC, that’s where I saw one of his models, of a church, made with string and little bags of weights, suspended upside down over a mirror. Fascinating, but then, I’m a geek.

Parc Guell is worth visiting even if you’re bored by Gaudi in general. Go when the weather is nice!

I really enjoyed Las Ramblas, as well as the Maritime Museum at the marina at the end of it. Silly me not to have been aware of the huge impact that Barcelona had on nautical history! Full-sized galleon! Lots more. Go alone, if you’re traveling with anyone impatient or uninterested.

Definitely get a ticket for the “get on/off any time” tour busses. IIRC, they were double-decker and open on the top, which is where you want to be. It’s a great way to take your time getting to a wide variety of great places, and also get a bit of background info from the tour guides (might be audio channel, these days). It’s a bargain.

Youngster! I was there in '98, just a little while ago. :wink:

Right you are!

If you suspend a flat heavy bridge from a cable (like a suspension bridge), the cable forms a parabola. If you cut the bridge off, the chain then forms a catenary rather than a parabola. The difference is whether the weight is proportional to the distance along the x axis (parabola) or along the chain itself (catenary), as I learned in High School calc.

The special property of the catenary is that, if only the weight of the catenary itself is involved, all forces are tensile (for a suspended chain) or compressile (for an arch). No transverse forces! Concrete or stacked stone is very strong under compression, but not so good for transverse forces. Using catenaries, Gaudi was able to provide a strong structure with the minimum of support material, allowing huge windows compared to what preceded him. (In addition, Gaudi used lifeforms as models, giving his work an almost sci-fi-alien look.) can be a fabulous deal if you intend to do a lot of museum-hopping. (And we had no problem getting into the Sagrada Familia - we went Easter Sunday, even, right after we woke up. But we were staying literally across the street and could easily keep an eye on the lines.)