Barcelona lives and breathes the cosmopolitan culture behind Spain's second largest city. A playground for architecture fanatics, the city serves as a walk-in museum for some of the world's greatest, most iconic and most innovative creations. Sun-seeking beach lovers will also love the city, as its position on the north-eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula and shores of the ever-delightful Mediterranean mean that it is doused in warm sunshine and comfortable temperatures of around 24°c.
Staying in Barcelona
Unfortunately, due to Barcelona's tourism trade rise since 1992, the year they hosted the Olympics and the year they subsequently became one of the world's most desirable holiday destinations, cheap accommodation is near impossible to find. It is possible, however, to find somewhere decent that offers you an affordable price. There are several options which can give you cheaper prices than a hotel might, such as holiday apartments, aparthotels and hostels.
Holiday apartments never seem like a viable option for tourists who plan on staying less than two weeks and on a budget, but who would rather not pay less for somewhere that resembles a little closer to home? If you're planning on visiting Barcelona as part of a group, staying in an apartment often works out cheaper than a hotel stay. Lodging Apartments near the Sagrada Familia offer prices ranging from ‚€16 per person per night, which is much better value than most hotels.
Aparthotels are a relatively new development within the city. A small apartment within a hotel - hence the name - they offer cost-effective alternatives for those on a budget. They usually come with an en-suite kitchen with a cooker and a fridge that enables you to prepare and store food. Aparthotel Atena offers tourists rooms from ‚€60 a night, and is located near the University of Barcelona.
Hostels, such as Hostal Campi also offer you cheaper prices than those offered by the more mainstream tourist hotels. Hostal Campi is a charming hostel located just off The Ramblas, and is a few blocks down from Catalunya Square and its metro stop, ensuring that you awake in the heart of all the action. Although there is no kitchen amenities, a Carrefour supermarket is only three minutes' walk away. Rooms range from ‚€50 a night.
How do you get around in Barcelona?
Barcelona has a very efficient and affordable public transport system which links all of the city's tourist sites - and more - that you might want to visit.
Bus: The hop-on/hop-off system lets you embark and dismount risk-free at any particular point, with a running commentary through offered earphones as the bus travels throughout the city. Ideal for tourists who want to pack as much into the day as possible.
Metro: Like most cities, the metro can take you to many places you're likely to want to visit. A one-way journey costs ‚€2, but it's often cheaper to buy in bulk and get a 2-5 day public transport ticket, or a monthly-ride ticket, all of which are available on every form of public transport within the city.
Bike: The city's bike share system 'Bicing' is not available to tourists, so you could consider walking or rent from any other bicycle company (there are loads available throughout the city) in order to see the sights. Bike rental can cost from between ‚€20 to ‚€40.
Car: Parking around most of Barcelona's famous sites are hugely expensive, the paces are difficult to navigate and there are complicated rules for each class of public parking spaces. Massive traffic jams and narrow streets similar to other major European cities mean that driving in Barcelona is definitely not ideal. Public transport can get you to all major areas quickly and easily.
The Barcelona Card features unlimited free travel on public transport networks and free admission and discounts at around 100 visitor attraction. You can purchase it for periods of between 2 days (‚€37) and 5 days (‚€62). If you book a card online you'll also get a 10% discount, and if you don't plan on seeing a lot of museums or tourist sites in one day - it's cheaper to buy transport-only tickets.
Where is the best place to eat?
As Barcelona is the capital city of the Spanish community of Catalonia, it has its own cuisine and customs which all tourists should try. Due to its location on the coast, seafood dishes are abundant and vegetables such as beefy tomatoes, red peppers, aubergines, mushrooms and artichokes are available around every corner- and add incredible fresh flavour to each dish.
If you want a real taste of the Catalan culture, try the popular 'escalivada' - a warm side-dish of grilled vegetables (normally aubergines, red peppers, tomatoes and onions) which have been skinned, de-seeded and served with olive oil. Or, if you want something a bit more filling, try 'escudellla', a Catalan stew made with pieces of meat (usually beef or chicken), beans, potatoes, cabbage and occasionally pasta.
For Latin cuisine and cocktails: The Box
The Box is a small bar in the centre of Barcelona. The staff are renowned for being friendly, and the place itself is known for it's hotdogs, nachos and incredible mojitos (‚€5 each) for reasonable prices. If you're feeling adventurous and don't mind parting with your money, try experimenting with some of the weirder creations the bar staff can make.
For empanadas (Spanish dough pastry pockets), sandwiches and coffee: aQistoi
Service here is friendly and quick, bringing warm empandads, sandwiches, hot drinks and salads to your table efficiently. A laid-back café vibe is what to expect here, along with the reasonable prices - expect to pay between the equivalent of £4 and £9 for a decent bite to eat.
For a great burger: Anauco
Ranked amongst both locals and visitors as the best place to eat in Barcelona, and heralded as the home of the best hamburger ever (for many), Anauco offers meals for prices around the £9 mark. For that, you get a taste sensation presented in a sesame bun made with fresh ingredients and the option of fresh fruit juice, hot beverages and great appetizers too.
For somewhere which caters to all diets: Copasetic Barcelona
Hidden from the main path of most tourists, this restaurant is a favourite with locals. Perfect for those with a gluten intolerance, Copasetic offers patrons gluten-free and lactose-free burgers, crepes, muffins, cakes, salads, coffee, drinks and other meal deals. Good, cheap, wholesome food and good value for reasonable prices.
What entertainment is in Barcelona?
If you're planning to visit Barcelona, you won't get far without encountering some of Antoni Gaudi's famous architecture. His quirky works, such as the architecturally stunning Sagrada Familia, have become iconic symbols of the city and provide an alternative perspective onto the city. Park Guell is famous for its tiled mosaics and colourful lizard and walls. Wander round and admire the various points; the Doric Temple is a forest of 88 stone columns, or lay down on the Banc de Trencadis, a tiled bench curving around the perimeter. Although the entrance fee isn't heavily priced up, it's worth booking in advance as the park only lets in a certain amount of people at a time, and the park itself gets millions of visitors through the gates each year.
La Sagrada Familia inspires awe from not it's exterior but also inside. If you only get time to see one thing - this should be it. Gaudi's impressive way with architectural design has made this one of the most unique buildings in Europe. Originally designed to be a temple, Gaudi's design still isn't complete, but offers tourists a glimpse of what the designer had in mind. Inside, pillars soar towards the ceiling and create a canopy effect and create an impressive view for any tourist's eye.
Montserrat Mountain, a multi-peaked mountain which has become a symbol of the Catalan community is also a recommended spot for travellers. Travel to the top via the cable car, and visit the castle that bears down on the city below. Well worth the trek up on the cable car as many leave pleasantly surprised at the experience.
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