City Guide: Barcelona
Languages: Castilian (Spanish), Catalan
Barcelona is divided into 10 barrios: Sarrià-Sant Gervasi, Horta-Guinardó, Nou Barris, Sant Andreu, Gràcia, Les Corts, Eixample, Sant Martí, Ciutat Vella, Sants-Montjuïc.
Eixample and Ciutat Vella are probably the best areas to base yourself. Ciutat Vella is the oldest district of the city and here you'll find the Gothic Quarter, Chinatown (El Raval), and the beach (Barceloneta). Eixample was built in the 18th and 20th centuries and connected the old city (Ciutat Vella) with the surrounding towns that now make up the rest of Barcelona's districts.
If you're looking for somewhere a bit less touristy, I'd recommend Gràcia. Having spent many months living here, you could say I'm biased ;) Gràcia is described as being "one of the hippest, most cosmopolitan areas in the city" and is full of restaurant-lined plazas.
For first-time visitors, I'd suggest staying near Passeig de Gràcia. It's very central, has fantastic transport links, and is home to so many different restaurants. It's also home to three Zara's, so you can tell why I like it so much. If you are interested in staying in this area, the Generator Hostel is a good bet. It's clean, modern, and just up the road as Barcelona's best churros shop!
The easiest way to travel around Barcelona is via the metro. Honestly, it's so easy. Buy the T-10 card - it's just €9.95 - and off you go! The T-10 card gives you 10 trips and is transferrable. Whilst 10 trips might not sound like much, I managed to orchestrate a whole weekend visit for my girlfriends using just a T-10 card each, including to/from the airport. Plus, if you're staying in the centre then most places will be within walking distance!
Throughout the week, the metro runs from 5am to midnight. On Fridays it runs until 2am and on Saturday it runs non-stop.
For getting to and from the airport, I'd go with the R2 train. There are only two an hour but it's fairly reliable and stops at all the main city stations. as of February 2016 there's also a new metro line (L9 Sud) that connects the city to the airport - guess I'll just have to go again to check it out. ;)
Pan amb tomaquet is Catalonia's traditional dish. It's bread with tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. Absolutely delicious and available pretty much everywhere. It actually converted me from 100% anti-tomato to a staunch pro-tomato gal.
Churros may be more Castilian than Catalan, but they are a staple of the Spanish diet. Well, of my Spanish diet anyway. I conveniently lived just down the road from reportedly the best churros shop in the city! Xurreria Trebol can be found on Carrer de Còrsega, just off Diagonal, about 200m from where it's intersected by Passeig de Gràcia. The churros here are stuffed with either chocolate, custard, or a caramel-type filling and are deeeeeeelicious. I am salivating just thinking about them.
100 Montaditos is another favourite of mine. It's the place where I spent practically every Wednesday afternoon . . . A montadito is a little piece of bread with a topping. As the name suggests, the menu has 100 different toppings available, including sweet ones. They're really filling so you'll only need about 3-4 per person. It's also quite a fast-paced place. You get a slip of paper, write down your own order, hand it over and pay, then wait for your name to be called on the loud speaker. The menu is all in Catalan so either brush up on your food vocab or take along Google Translate. The montaditos range from 1€ - 2€ and a large tinto de verano is 1.5€. You can see why I practically lived here.
Gràcia, as I mentioned earlier, is home to many a plaza with many a restaurant. During the summer the plazas are buzzing, so pull up a chair and people watch.
Bun Bo is also a must! It's a quirky Vietnamese restaurant in the Gothic Quarter and the food is so yummy. I want to go back so badly.
Barcelona's beachfront clubs, such as Carpe Diem and Agua, transform into very reasonable restaurants during the day too. Whilst they may be a bit pricey during the summer months, come winter the prices drop. I'd personally recommend Carpe Diem - the interiors are great, the food even better, and it offers fantastic views over the beach.
El Bosc de les Fades - or the fairy forest - is one of my favourite bars in the city. It's not the fanciest, cheapest, or even the best taste-wise, but it is decorated like a forest. There's a big tree in the centre, a little pond with fairy mannequins, and every so often there's a thunderstorm. It's fab.
Eclipse is a must for special occasions or just if you fancy something fancier. It's on the 26th floor of the W Hotel, overlooking the beach. Although it is a bit of a pain to get to with public transport, the views are incredible. Despite there being an Over 23 age policy, we all managed to get in for a friend's 21st!
Barcelona's Ice Bar is also worth a visit just for the novelty. The actual ice room is tiny and I'm sure there are others which are more impressive, but this one is literally on the beach!
Plaza Catalunya + La Rambla
Bunkers del Carmel
Museum of Catalan History
Museum of Barcelona's History