The city of Barcelona and the surrounding area is very different from the rest of the Spain – in passion, style and even language. Not that we’re hating on Madrid or other major Spanish cities, but Barcelona is something special. It also has much more to offer than urban than high rises. On the winding streets, you’ll find treasures of tapas, incredible artworks and lots of little surprises that keeps you guessing. In fact, you might want to find a monthly rental in Barcelona, as there’s so much to experience during your time there.
Try a Little Barca Architecture
You might have traveling pals who roll their eyes at boring buildings, but the cultural offerings in Barcelona are often one of a kind. Many of the architectural wonders were created by Antonio Gaudi, who had a flair for color and whimsy. You’ll look in awe at the swirly topped smokestacks, winding staircases, rainbow walls and more in his most famous creations.
Of course, his biggest masterpiece, the Segrada Familia, cannot be missed. It’s a large, unfinished minor basilica in the city that’s been dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage site. But feel free to marvel at its exterior, skip the long lines to go inside, and try a few other treats instead.
For instance, the Casa Batlló is a private home full of wonder. It has an interesting wavy façade which leads into mosaic-tiled elevators, bumpy ceilings, and endless white arched hallways. It’s definitely a highlight of your visit to Barcelona, and one of the ‘sleeper’ spots to see Gaudi’s work up close. Don’t forget to also take a stroll around Parc Guell – one of Gaudi’s outdoor parks. See the artist’s home and then explore the distinct style seen in funky park benches, overhangs, installations and statues made of bulky ceramic pieces.
There are other beautiful examples of Barcelona architecture not by Gaudi of course. The grand Monestir de Pedralbes was once home to blue-blooded nuns and now is an interesting museum. The opera house, or Gran Teatre del Liceu, has history dating to the 19th history and offers tours outside of performances.
Have you ever ordered crapshoot dinner in a strange city in a new language, hoping your meal with be edible and something you’ll like? This might still happen in Barcelona – but the good thing is portions come in small, bite-sized orders. You can try a bunch of different things and find your favorite without much going to waste. Our crew especially enjoyed “croquetas” (little fried breaded nuggets) or “patatas bravas”, which are basically cubed French fries paired with a tangy sauce.
Keep an eye out for paella’s cousin called fideuá. It’s made of buckwheat noodles and lots of fresh seafood. You may find some French influence too due it’s close proximity to France, in the form of flaky croissants and creamy cheeses.
If traveling with kiddos, you can bring them to Semproniana on Saturdays. They have cooking classes for ages four through 10 called Patacutxi that’s a real hands-on experience in Spanish and Mediterranean dishes. Or, Head to La Nena, perfect for rainy days and antsy kids. They have baked goods, light bites, and sandwiches for everyone to love, plus a play area. When the sun shines, try El Jardi for its lively eating terrace and tasty tapas menu.
There might be nothing better than a city located on the ocean, as it gives opportunities to explore both urban landscapes and a beachy escape. The quickest way to get your toes in the sand is to venture to Barceloneta right by the center of the city. But there’s a couple of miles to explore each way for a more tranquil experience. Over by the Olympic village, there are some sandy spots to relax and a few climbing ropes too.. Do note that some beaches welcome clothing-optional sun bathers if that’s of concern to you! But when in Rome, right?
Want to learn more about Barcelona and things to do in the city? Here’s our 48-hour guide to make sure you experience a little of everything!