Barcelona is a pretty special city because it offers just so many different things and there are so many good places to shop and eat that I’m often overwhelmed by the choices when giving recommendations.
The most famous places, la Sagrada Familia, el Parc Güell, el Museu Picasso etc are nice to see if you are a tourist but I always recommend moving to other neighborhoods to eat and walk around because that’s where the best of Barcelona is. This city guide is full of recommendations but, honestly, the best thing to do most of the times is to wander and try a bit of everything you find interesting.
There are different areas and each has a different vibe so I don’t think I could ever choose a favorite. The city is relatively tiny and you can walk from one place to another or use public buses, metro or trams.
This is one of the old, medieval, parts of Barcelona. There is so much goodness there. Here I recommend…
Starting with a laid back breakfast at El Café del Born with a book. Or buying a mascarpone croissant at Hoffman Bakery (or a healthier pastry at Reykjavik organic bakery) and eating it on the steps of Santa Maria del Mar, which is my favorite cathedral in Barcelona.
Buying some macaroons at Bubö or some chocolates at Demasié to take home and make someone really happy. Visiting the beautiful houses in carrer Montcada and the Santa Caterina Market, which has a rainbow colored mosaic roof (and a great restaurant inside it).
This area was planned and developed after the medieval walls of Barcelona were finally torn down in 1860s. The most significant buildings were designed by modernist architects, being Gaudí just one of the many geniuses of that time. There are two main paral·lel streets, Passeig de Gràcia, where you can find La Pedrera, La casa Batlló and many other modernist buildings (and the floor sidewalk tiles were designed by Gaudí); and Rambla Catalunya, which is calm, with outdoor terraces and a fewer cars. Here I recommend….
Visiting La Pedrera. (If you don’t have enough time, I would do this instead of La Sagrada Familia.) Lunch at Mordisco, which is very nice, makes wonderful food of all kinds and has the best carrot cake. Or at Mauri for old fashioned tapas and cheese croissants. Shopping in Rambla Catalunya and Passeig de Gràcia (those streets are very nice but some of the best shops are in the streets that connect the two main ones, so don’t forget to wander around a bit.)
This is another medieval part of Barcelona to spend a wonderful morning or afternoon just wandering. Here I recommend…
Stopping at the Sant Felip Neri square, just because it’s beautiful. Walking in the little soap, paper, bike or book shops all over the tiny streets.
Having a great breakfast or afternoon merienda at Dulcinea, for the best and most authentic hot chocolate and melindros (cakey, soft cookies). Or at Caleum, which is much more like a tea room and usually smells amazing. Visiting random art galleries and small museums. And, if you like ancient stuff, the History Museum of the City literally has a real Roman city in the basement. Those ruins always impressed me so much as a kid.
If you go to Barcelona you’ll end up in las Ramblas because that’s where every tourist ends up. It’s not one of the best parts of the city, but there are a few places that will help you survive the chaotic Rambla experience, especially if you move West, towards the Raval neighborhood… Here I recommend…
Bar Lobo for tapas, where you should try to sit outside. Escribà, which is one of the oldest patisseries and offers very tiny portions of hot chocolate, if you just want something warm and delicious but have eaten too much already.
A fabulous gelato in Sant Agustí square. (Unfortunately, that place has no name and after talking to the owners I learned that they are still thinking about it. The ice cream is wonderful though!) Looking at the skaters at MACBA, the Museum of Contemporary Art. And then eating empanadillas or pizza at Mucci’s.
This is not one of the first places I would take someone visiting for a few days, but it’s one of the nicest areas (not the neighborhood, but the beach itself) to simply chill out. They’ve recently restored the space near the new, super fancy W hotel with many restaurants and I’d really recommend it, if you are in the mood for paella. If you want something cheap to eat by the sand instead, Woki market for noodles or Buenas Migas for focaccia are my most favorite.
*Featured image by Jsome1