My Barcelona travel guide has some great recommendations on where to stay in Barcelona, and the top things to do in Barcelona, as well as some top tips for shopping and dining.
It’s no surpise that Barcelona is one of the world’s best city break destinations. It’s got amazing architecture, mouthwatering cuisine, buzzing nightlife and excellent shopping, And of course, lets not forget its location on the Mediterranean Sea. But a question I am often asked is where to stay in Barcelona?
Should you choose the city centre or a beach side location, apartment or hotel? My travel guide to Barcelona has listed the top things to do as well as the best places to stay in Barcelona to suit all tastes and budgets.
Barcelona is a wonderfully easy city to navigate on foot. It is possible to wander down Las Ramblas, stroll through the Gothic Quarter, and make your way to the beach, all in one morning.
I usually recommend taking a hop on hop off bus tour when you visit a new city for the first time to get your bearings, and Barcelona is no exception. It is a handy way to see some of the top things to do in Barcelona, and visit places outside the main city centre that you may not get to on foot. You can see more about the bus tour here.
Top things to do in Barcelona:
La Sagrada Familia
You can not go to Barcelona without visiting the works of the Spanish artist Gaudi. La Sagrada Familia is his most famous work, as well as being Spain’s most visited landmark – and once you see it you will know why.
It is also known as the world’s largest unfinished church – would you believe building commenced here in 1882? We now have an anticipated completion date of 2026, although construction has been delayed over the last 18 months, so this date now looks improbable.
I visited Barcelona on a few occasions, and always marvelled at the exterior of La Sagrada Familia, although never found it particularly attractive. However, I finally got around to booking a tour of the inside of the Basilica on my last visit, and was truly amazed at its beauty.
The tree-trunk-like columns, amazing mosaics, and the way the sun beams through the stained glass windows is astonishing. The interior of the Sagrada Familia is stunning and I would highly recommend a visit – but make sure you pre-book tickets in advance.
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Casa Batlló is another one of Gaudi’s masterpieces. Gaudi was influenced by nature, and believed that there are no straight lines in nature – hence there are no straight lines in this building. You will notice this common theme throughout many buildings and that is one of the reasons his work is easily recognisable.
Casa Batlló is a marvellous structure, covered in stained glass with blue and green hues that shimmer in the sunlight. This Unesco World Heritage Site is another must visit, both inside and outside.
Las Ramblas is Barcelona’s most famous street and is almost 1.5km long. It is a pedestrianised boulevard, full of street artists and vendors, and no visit to Barcelona would be complete without soaking up the city’s atmosphere on this iconic street. Don’t miss La Boqueria, Barcelona’s oldest market – see more on this below.
However, it is important to note that Las Ramblas can be very busy and tends to attract pickpockets, so keep valuables close to hand.
Barri Gòtic / Gothic Quarter
Close to Las Ramblas is the Gothic Quarter. This is centre of the old city, where you will find a maze of narrow streets, and where the Roman influence can still be seen to this day. As well as cobblestoned streets and atmospheric alleyways, it is also home to some delightful boutique shops and cafés.
The seaside neighbourhood of La Barceloneta is where locals like to hangout during the summer. The beach may not be one of Spain’s best beaches, but it certainly the Barcelona’s most popular hot-spots. This lively beach is popular with swimming, surfing, and sunbathing, and is thronged with tapas bars and seafood restaurants.
Even if you don’t fancy a swim, there is plenty to do in La Barceloneta. Enjoy a walk along the tree lined promenade to the marina, or take the cable car to Montjuïc Hill for panoramic views over the harbour.
The Magic Fountain
The Mountain Fountain is one of Barcelona’s top attractions. The water fountain has moving water jets dancing to music and is illuminated with over 50 different shades of lights. The shows are currently cancelled but you can check the show times here. Make sure to get there early for the best view. This is one of the most popular things to do in Barcelona with kids.
If you want to take a break from the bustling city centre, Park Güell is the ideal place to visit. This is located a short bus or train ride from the city centre, and is one of the largest green spaces in Barcelona. You could easily spend a few hours wandering through the park, taking in the views and the incredible works of art.
This Unesco World Heritage Site was designed by architects Güell and Gaudī, and is home to some of Gaudi’s best works such as the Dragon Stairs, the Guardian house, the Hypostyle Hall, the Austrian Gardens and lots more.
The Serpentine Bench is a well known mosaic tile bench that winds its way along the terrace around Park Güell. El, Drac, the mosaic salamander statue that resides at the gates of Park Güell acts as the symbol of Barcelona.
Shopping in Barcelona:
Barcelona is one of Europe’s top cities for fashion and you can find most of the high-street and designer stores here. Zara, Mango, Stradivarius, Bershka and Pull & Bear are Spanish stores, and you can shop them at about 20% less than prices you will find at home. The best shopping areas in Barcelona are Passeig de Gracia and the Barri Gòtic streets.
Make sure you visit Desigual and Custo Barcelona too, these colourful clothing brands were born in Barcelona, and are now in many countries around the world. On Las Ramblas you will find lots of kiosks and souvenir shops, along with some high-street stores, but make sure you pop into the Gothic Quarter to visit some exclusive Spanish boutiques.
Dining in Barcelona:
Bar Cañete is ‘The’ tapas bar you have to visit when in Barcelona, but I can personally vouch for Ciudad Condal. We had some gorgeous tapas here during our last visit, not to mention this amazing paella!
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For the best views head for Mood Rooftop Bar and Restaurant. This is located at the One Barcelona Hotel, and offers views of the Sagrada Família. I’m told the food is pretty good here too.
Restaurant Escriba should not be missed on a sunny day. This great beachfront restaurant specialises in tapas, seafood and cocktails.
Food lovers will be in heaven at La Boqueria, Barcelona’s oldest market, that dates back to 1217. It is located in the heart of the city on Las Ramblas. There are over 200 stands as well as bars and restaurants, who prepare all their food with the products from the market. You will also be offered samples of food when you visit the stalls.
If you are looking for fine dining, then the two-Michelin started Disfrutar js a must – but make sure you book well in advance.
Visiting Barcelona with kids:
If you are travelling to Barcelona with kids you might consider a visit to Tibidado Amusement Park, one of the world’s oldest theme parks. The park is very retro, having been built in 1899 and opened in 1905, and is home to a very large ferris wheel.
The park is located in the Collserola Ridge mountain range in Barcelona, and you can take the Tramvia Blau, followed by the Funicular to get to the top of the mountain. When you get to the summit you can also visit the church the Iglesia del Sagrat Cor.
If time is not an issue, I can highly recommend PortAventura World near Salou. PortAventura World is one of Europe’s largest theme parks. It boasts the tallest and fastest coaster in Europe, superb attractions, as well as shows and parades for children of all ages.
There are a choice of hotels onsite and some good restaurants – something that is not always available in theme parks. Why not combine an overnight stay in PortAventura for the ultimate family trip to Barcelona.
A visit to the Camp Nou, home of FC Barcelona is a must for any football fan, young or old. The huge stadium holds almost 100,000 people and is the biggest in Europe. Tours of the stadium and museum operate daily and advance purchase of tickets is advised.
Depending on the time of your visit, you may also be able to take in a match. Now that Messi has departed Barcelona, it is anyone’s guess who their next big star attraction will be, but don’t let that put you off a visit.
And finally, don’t forget to visit the Magic Fountain, (see under top things to do in Barcelona above). This is one of the top attractions in Barcelona with kids.
Top Tip when visiting Barcelona:
Barcelona is a Catalan city, and therefore Spanish is not its first language. Locals love it if you have a few words of Catalan, such as:
- Good Morning = Bon Dia
- Good Night = Bona Nit
- Please = Si us Plau
You can find some more local phrases here.
Where to stay in Barcelona:
From self catering apartments, to luxury hotels with rooftop bars, I’ve picked some top recommendations on where to stay in Barcelona to suit all tastes and budgets.
5-star hotels in Barcelona:
The One Hotel has been on my own wish list for many years – I have yet to stay there, but hope to soon! Located next to Gaudi’s La Pedrera and the Paseo de Gracia shopping area, with a cool rooftop bar and restaurant, this is the place to be seen in Barcelona.
The rooftop also boasts a plunge pool and sun terrance with city views, and it’s Despacio Spa has an indoor experience pool, a Finnish sauna and a range treatments available.
The stylish boutique Hotel Almanac is superbly located close to the fashionable Paseo de Gracia shopping district and offers panoramic views from its rooftop bar and terrance. Food lovers will be glad to know that the superb plant-based restaurant Virens, is located here. The hotel also has a swimming pool, fitness and wellness area and a treatment rooms
Located right next to La Rambla, the beautifully restored Sonder DO Placa Reial Hotel was originally built in 1856, and maintains many of its original features. Enjoy a swim in its rooftop pool and watch the crowds walk through the Gothic Quarter from its terrace bar.
Considering it is one of the most highly rated 5-star hotels in Barcelona on TripAdvisor, it is surprisingly well priced. If you ware wondering where to stay in Barcelona, and want a five-star hotel that won’t break the bank, look no further.
4-star hotels in Barcelona
Hotel Barcelona Universal is one of the best value 4-star hotels in Barcelona. It boasts a rooftop pool with city views and it is located just 600 metres from Las Ramblas.
I’m often asked where to stay in Barcelona, and I usually suggest El Avenida Palace. It is one of those rare finds that is equally suitable for couples or families. This traditional hotel in an excellent location on Barcelona’s Gran Via. Its staircase is an Instagram favourite, and many celebrities have stayed here including the Beatles in 1965.
The hotel’s panoramic rooftop terrace is guests favourite, offering city views, a sun deck and a swimming pool. Interconnecting family rooms are also available.
The Hotel Barcelona 1882 is one of the most popular four-star hotels in Barcelona. It has an outdoor pool, fitness centre and a terrace with views of La Sagrada Familia.
3-star hotels in Barcelona
Located in the heart of the old town, just 200 metres from Las Ramblas, and boasting a rooftop terrace and outdoor pool, the Leonardo Hotel Barcelona Las Ramblas must one of the best value hotels in Barcelona.
The Ciutat de Barcelona is located in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, just minutes from Las Ramblas. It has an outdoor rooftop pool, a tapas-style restaurant, and a popular bar.
Family Self catering options in Barcelona
Families often ask where to stay in Barcelona and I usually recommend apartments. City breaks can be tiring for kids, and are so many things to do in Barcelona, so it is nice to come home in the evening and relax in a spacious apartment.
The Apartments Barcelona & Home Deco Eixample are stylish apartments within 10 minutes’ walk of Las Ramblas. They are ideal for families looking for spacious accommodation in the heart of the city.
The Mayerling Abamita Apartments offer great value self-catering accommodation in Barcelona. Centrally located, just 600 metres from Plaza Catalunya this is the perfect choice for a family friendly stay in the city.
I hope my travel guide to Barcelona and my top tips on where to stay in Barcelona will help you plan a trip there soon. Note some of the hotel facilities and attractions are subject to change, so always confirm before booking. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links where I receive a commission if a booking is made, but at no additional cost to you.