My first trip to Barcelona was many years ago and for me was intended as just the location where I would embark on a Mediterranean cruise. I planned just one night in the city before the cruise and fell in love. There is a heartbeat to Barcelona that is so similar to New York City to me, crowded and busy with a vibrant multicultural feel . It’s not the Spain you see in the movies with bright colors, bull fighting, flamenco dancers – it’s a very sophisticated city with a blend of many cultures.
There are many historic and beautiful things to see and do in Barcelona, but for me just wandering through the neighborhoods or a local market is a great day.
Getting There: The main airport is El Prat (BCN) and it’s about 20 minute ride to the La Rambla area, around $20-$25 Euros and in my opinion the fastest and easiest way to get to your hotel. Barcelona is a lot like Paris and Rome when it comes to hotels, they can be hard to find and or distinguish as your hotel so door to door taxi service is your best bet, especially on your first visit.
Where to Stay: There are endless options, you can stay in near the Sagrada Familia which I have done before. I found it to be a bit quieter and more residential, but also very easy to get transportation to other parts of the city. We stayed at the Hispanos 7 Suiza, which is an apartment style hotel with small kitchen and washer/dryer. They can easily accommodate our family of 5 and the nearby market was great for making meals/snacks. If it’s your first time staying in Barcelona I would recommend staying near La Rambla, it’s like staying in Times Square if you are in NYC, right at the heart of the city with all the action and bustle. I have stayed at Casa Camper, Hotel 1898, and Hotel Gaudi. They are all excellent!
Things to Do: The list is long, but to get a good feel for the city one of the many hop on/hop off tour buses is a great way to get acclimated. It is touristy, but the information is great (free wifi on most buses along with headphones to listen to the narration) and it gives you a feel for the different areas of Barcelona.
Sagrada Familia: As you see Barcelona you can’t deny the genius of Antoni Guadi and the Sagrada is unlike any cathedral I have every seen and a must see in my opinion. I do recommend purchasing tickets in advance, and if you can book a tour guide that can show you all the secrets of this amazing structure.
Casa Battlo, Parc Guell, Casa Mila, Palau Guell: These are several of the famous and major works by Gaudi, it’s hard to say that one is more important than the other. If you are a huge art and architecture fan you will want to see them all!
Torre Agbar: While you can’t tour this building it’s a great view and place to walk around late afternoon or in the evening when it’s all lit up.