Check out the Destination Details on Barcelona I wrote for DIWYY: Do it While You´re Young in 2009.
For good reason, a lot of people have asked me ¨What should I do with X number of days in Barcelona?¨ Over the last few years, I´ve compiled a list of my BCN musts. Here they are in reader-friendly blog form:
Transportation: From the airport: you’re going to want to follow the signs (literally a picture/icon of a train) to the train station. All of the trains from BCN airport lead to the city center, so hop on one if it is there waiting. Trains come about once every 20 minutes, so you might have some waiting to do. Then, you’re going to want to get off at either Sants Estacio/Barna Sants station or Passeig de Gracia, depending on which of those stations is closer to where you are staying. You can get on the metro at either of these stops, take it however many stops, and then find your hotel. The metro is really easy to use, clean, and in my experience safe. I’d recommend buying a T-10 metro pass, it’s 7.85 euro currently and you can share it between people. It’s 10 rides and you can easily buy another pass if you need one.
- Las Ramblas. This is touristy, but you have to do it. It’s sort of like Santa Monica’s 3rd street Promenade, with lots of street artists and vendors. About half-way down when you’re walking toward the water is Barcelona’s famous market, La Boqueria. Pop in there and buy some packaged fruit for a euro or a smoothie, and take a look at the rabbits and pigs sold in the meat stands. You´ll also notice the famous opera house, a Joan Miró mosaic, and numerous flower and pet shop stand lining the pedestrian walkway. Las Ramblas is different at different times during the day, but be cautious at night, it’s where a lot of people get robbed. If you’re a girl, make sure you are wearing a purse around your body and not a clutch or a wristlet. I never got robbed in Barça but most everyone else I know did (I did, however, get slapped by a prostitute on my most recent stay, that was an experience).
- Parc Guell. This is Gaudí’s famous park and it is unreal. It sort of feels a little bit like Disneyland – you will see Gaudí´s multi-colored mosaic and ergonomic bench with the best view of the city, his nature-inspire caves (previously made famous on America´s Next Top Model) as well as his gingerbread house-style cottages. Truly must be seen to be believed.
- La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi´s monumental church has been under construction for over 100 years, and the gains made in the last two years are mind-blowing. It´s worth the wait and the price of admission to enter (your 12 euros or so go toward contuining construction). The insanely ornate mosaiced spires, references to nature, and sheer whimsy totally explain why this is the number 1 most visited sight in Spain.
- Other bits of Modernisme. If you find yourself digging Gaudí, check out his Casa Battló and La Pedrera on Passeig de Gracia. The rooftop of La Pedrera especially is pretty breath-taking, and do-able on a short trip.
- Also make sure you check out FC Barcelona´s stadium, Camp Nou, if you have time, as well as the 1992 Olympic stadium on Mont Juic. I can also recommend the Picasso Museum in the Gothic Quarter and the Magic Fountain show at Plaça d´Espanya held on weekend nights around 8 pm. On my most recent trip, I learned that the bull ring at Plaça d´Espanya is now a shopping mall, with an awesome pedestrian walkway on the top – a great place for pictures of the city from a cool vantage point.
- Barrios. Regardless of where you´re staying, you´ll have an easy time of getting to know the different areas. Make sure you dabble in Barceloneta and the Port Olympic, Gothic Quarter and El Born, L´Eixample, El Raval, and the city center area of Las Ramblas and Plaça Catalunya.
- La Rita. If you eat one meal in Barcelona, eat it here. Located in the L’Eixample region at C/ Aragó, 279, it´s become popular (I spotted a reference to it in a recent Rick Steves book – but my parents and I went in March 2009 off a tripadvisor review that was insanely positive). Delicious entrees (and inexpensive!) and cheap wine. If you´re feeling adventurous, order the duck. And dessert.
- Txirimiri. Located on C/Princesa, 11, this is a place with tapas that you select yourself in the typical Basque fashion – you pay at the end based on the number of toothpicks left on your plate! Who doens´t love the honor system? Surprisingly good – it rivals some of the best pintxos I´ve had in the Basque region.
- Divan. If you go to Europe, you will eat a kebab. Try diagramming that sentence, all you previous LSAT-takers. The kebab is Europe´s answer to the burrito, and while different, definitely scrumptious. I´ve had my fair share of kebabs in Madrid and have a favorite place in my neighborhood in MAD, but this is by far the best one I´ve had – not to mention the owner bears a somewhat appreciable resemblance to George Clooney. This place is right off Las Ramblas, on C/ Bonsucces, 8. It´s located steps away from one of my favorite bars, La Oveja Negra, so make sure to stop in there for sangria or beer afterward. At Divan, order a durum kebab or doner kebab, with chicken or ¨mixto.¨ Add hummus for 50 cents. So worth it.
- Bo de B. One of my best friends from college, Lily, studied abroad in Barça the spring I was in Madrid, and I was able to see her in BCN on her last full day in the city. She took us to Bo de B and it is amazing – huge sandwiches made to order and a delicious spin on patatas bravas. Absolutely worth the wait, and totally not Spanish food at all, but that´s okay now and again. Located on c/ Fustería, cross street is C/ Merçe, 35. Right next to the big post office.
- L´Ovella Negra (or La Oveja Negra in Spanish… it´s the The Black Sheep in plain English). This is probably my favorite bar, and although there are two locations my favorite is located right off of Las Ramblas. When you’re walking down Las Ramblas from Placa Catalunya, you’re going to take a right on the first street there is, and then the first left off of that street, C/ Sitges. It’s about half-way down the street on the right, and they have AMAZING Sangria – pitchers are 10-12 euro depending on time of day, and their beer’s not bad too. Nice blend of locals and tourists and just a fun, laid-back vibe.
- Espit Chupitos. This is a shots bar where every shot is 2 euros. They have all these crazy shots that are lit on fire and stuff – definitely try the Harry Potter, Finding Nemo, Acido, the green one you slurp up with a straw…it’s often crowded so don’t go on a Friday or Saturday night, but it’s pretty fun! Located on C/ Aribau.
- Dow Jones. 97 Bruc, between Valencia and Aragó, Girona or Verdeguer metro stops. This bar is really cool – the prices of the drinks rise and fall like the stock market. The cheapest beer is like 2 to 2.5 euro, mixed drinks are 4 to 6 euro. It’s really cool, prices will fall and an alarm will sound, and everyone will race to the bar to get the lower price. Definitely worth checking out if you have the time.
- Clubs. If nightclubs are at all up your alley, go. My favorites are Opium Mar (located at the Olympic Port area) and Razzmatazz on C/ Almogadavers off the Marina metro stop. I´ve also had a lot of fun at Catwalk, Otto Zutz, Sutton, and Shoko, but on a shorter trip definitely aim to hit up Opium and Razz.