Discover all the must-dos, must-sees and must-eats Barcelona has to offer with help from my What to Do and See in Barcelona travel guide.
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I’ve been back from my honeymoon for a little over a week, and I’ll be the first to admit, settling back into normalcy has been tough. Real life is hard. Can’t I just always be on vacation exploring new cities and Mediterranean islands? Maybe I should turn this food and fitness blog into a travel blog so I can get paid to do just that. Sound good? Cool.
I do love to travel and love sharing my tips on what to do and eat in each place I visit (check out some of those posts here and here), so of course I’m going to do a few honeymoon highlight posts for each of the cities Will and I visited. Fair warning: I tend to enjoy ACTIVE vacations vs. laying around on a beach, so my guides tend to be jam packed with site seeing and active adventures.
Let’s start with our first stop on the honeymoon tour: Barcelona!
I’d been to Barcelona once before during my study-abroad days, but I was a broke college student looking to explore the city on the cheap. It was a fun whirlwind, but I was looking forward to going back and seeing the city from a new perspective. First and foremost, I was excited to stay at a hotel vs. a hostel.
WHERE TO STAY
We stayed at the We Boutique Hotel in the Born neighborhood. Not only is this neighborhood pretty centrally located to all the major sites in Barcelona, it’s also filled with cool, not-too-touristy restaurants. In fact, the few locals we met while touring around the city recommended we go to the Born neighborhood for food and drinks, but more on that later!
The hotel was lovely. They had water and snacks available in the lobby at all times and breakfast each morning at the restaurant below the hotel. They were even kind enough to have gluten free options available for me every day. If you’re looking for a good hotel option, I can’t recommend this hotel enough. If you can’t get into this hotel (they only have six rooms), I’d suggest another one in the Born neighborhood (near the Arc de Triomf).
WHAT TO DO AND SEE
Will and I like taking our first day in a new place to just wander around, explore and get a sense of our new surroundings. The Arc de Triomf was right around the corner from our hotel, so we walked there first to snag some pictures before heading to Passeig de Gracia, one of the main shopping streets in Barcelona and home to some famous buildings.
If you’re in Barcelona, make sure to see some of the brilliant buildings created by one of (in my opinion) the coolest architects of all time, Antoni Gaudí. His designs are unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, and two of his most famous buildings are on Passeig de Gracia: Casa Batllo and Casa Mila.
You can purchase tickets to go inside both buildings, but I’d read mixed reviews about whether or not the ticket prices were worth it. We opted to simply admire them from the outside.
We also wandered around and found the Barcelona Cathedral and some murals by Pablo Picasso.
The next day, we did this bike tour of the city. Barcelona is incredibly bike-friendly, and designated bike lanes make it easy to ride along the busy city streets.
We started at the Arc de Triomf, and even though we’d already seen it, we got to learn more about its history. Then we rode into Parc de la Ciutadella. We stopped by a few cool buildings, but my favorite stop in the park was the Cascada Fountain.
Then we rode down to the beach. Did you know the Barcelona beaches are completely man made? They were built for the 1992 Olympics, and all the sand came from Egypt.
Our tour took us along the beach, through the cool beachy neighborhood of Barceloneta and over to an area owned by the W hotel that looks right out over the water and has this cool sculpture:
After riding around the city and learning all about its history, Will and I made our way to arguably the most well-known site in Barcelona: La Sagrada Familia.
That architect I mentioned, Antoni Guadí started building this cathedral in 1883 after taking over for another architect. Unfortunately, he died before it’s completion, and today it’s still in the works. You can go inside, but a good chunk (a majority, actually) is still under construction. It’s supposed to be finished in 2026. Because he died before finishing, the two façades of the cathedral are drastically different. It’s really neat to see.
You can’t go to Barcelona without visiting this church, and although tickets are pricey, I recommend purchasing them so you can go inside. There are quite a few ticket options. I think entry with an audio guide is your best bet. Will and I also paid to go up one of the two open towers, but in my option the extra price isn’t worth it. I don’t think you’ll be missing much by not going up the towers, but you should absolutely see the interior. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen or will ever see again. Photos don’t do it justice.
BONUS TIP: Purchase your tickets ahead of time to avoid lines. I can’t stress this enough. You’ll get a time slot to go visit, so if you show up at your designated time, you’ll be able to walk right in. Otherwise, you’ll face lines that are apparently hours long.
Will and I had such a great time riding around during our bike tour that we decided to rent bikes the next day to get around the city. Barcelona does have public transportation, but according to Google Maps, it’d be faster to cycle everywhere, so that’s what we did.
We rode up to Park Guell. Well, we rode as far up as we could before the streets got too steep. Then we docked our bikes and walked. Park Guell is a beautiful park built by, you guessed it, Antoni Gaudí. A small portion of the park filled with beautiful mosaic art work has an entrance fee, but a majority of the park is free to enter. Since we were pressed for time, we only did the free portion. There were so many different twists and turns in the park, we could have stayed for hours.
Then we rode back into the city and all the way across to Montjuic. We had lunch reservations up there (more on that in the eats section) and also wanted to see the beautiful views.
After lunch, we planned on going up to Montjuic Castle at the top of the mountain. After riding and walking around for about an hour because apparently Will doesn’t understand how maps work on mountains, I took control as map-expert and got us to the top. At that point, we were too exhausted to explore the castle, so we simply admired the views and then made the long way back down.
I wish we had gone into the castle, though. 1) We’d made it all the way up there (It’s a HIKE, but there are cable cars. I honestly don’t know why we didn’t take the cable cars.) and 2) It’s supposed to have beautiful gardens and views. Oh well. We hoped back on our bikes, rode back (stopping quickly at Boqueria Market in Las Ramblas, a famous outdoor market), and immediately collapsed for a nap.
OVERVIEW OF PLACES TO EXPLORE IN BARCELONA:
- Arc de Triomf & the Gothic Quarter
- Parc de la Ciutadella & Cascada fountain
- Passeig de Gracia
- Casa Batllo (get tickets online ahead of time if you want to go inside)
- Casa Mila (get tickets online ahead of time if you want to go inside)
- La Sagrada Famila (get tickets online ahead of time)
- Park Guell (get tickets online ahead of time if you want to see more than the free part)
- Boqueria Market/Las Ramblas
- Places we didn’t get to but may be worth visiting: The Picasso Museum, Torre Bellesguar, Parc del Laberint, The Barcelona Pavillion, Palace of Catalan Music
WHERE TO EAT
I received a number of recommendations from my co-worker, a Barcelona native (thanks, Tony), and it turned out quite a few of the restaurants were in the Born neighborhood near our hotel. We ended up going to:
Bormuth – Tapas restaurant in the Born neighborhood. We thought they didn’t take reservations, but it turns out they did. We waited about an hour, but we didn’t mind waiting outside on a beautiful night. One of the first things we ate was a Spanish Omelet, which was delicious! It was made of eggs, potato and onion. We ended up having it again almost every day we were there. I’m hoping to recreate it at home. Stay tuned!
Cal Pep – I was told this place is a must and to get there early. We did just that and ended up being able to grab a seat right away. They only have bar seating for groups of 3 or less. If you have a larger group, you’ll have hard time getting in. They have tables in the back, and I believe you can make reservations for parties of four or more, but I can’t tell you how far in advance you need to make reservations. They don’t show you a menu. Instead, they bring out whatever tapas dishes they’re making that day. I loved the whole experience. We ate SO MUCH good food, including mussels, octopus, cuddle fish and more. It was pricey, but it was worth it.
Martinez – The beautiful restaurant we went to on Montjuic. We’d made reservations for lunch and feasted on tuna tartar and a Spanish lobster casserole, which is nothing like an American casserole, while looking out at the mountain and the ocean.
Elsa y Fred – Another delicious tapas restaurant in the Born neighborhood. They also take reservations, which I suggest making.
TIPS FOR EATING IN BARCELONA
- People eat LATE in Barcelona. If you go to dinner at 7pm, you’ll be early. Some places aren’t even open for dinner that early.
- Most restaurants are open for lunch between 12pm and 3pm and then close until dinner, reopening around 7:30 or 8pm.
- The most popular times for dinner are 8-10pm, though you’ll still see restaurants packed until midnight or even past midnight.
- People take their time eating in Barcelona (like in many parts of Europe). Expect to spend over and hour and half at dinner, and expect service to be slower than you’re used to.
- Tipping for meals is not a thing in Barcelona (or in many parts of Europe). Of course, tip if you like, but it’s not expected.
- Trip Advisor and Yelp said a lot of places didn’t take reservations when they did, so I suggest calling to find out.
- I found the city to be extremely allergy-friendly. Many places label both gluten and vegan options, and if they don’t label, many have alternate options. Don’t be afraid to ask for them if you need.
Overall, the first stop on our honeymoon tour was incredible. Will and I both fell in love with Barcelona with its charming alleys, rich history and delicious food. I hope we’ll both get the chance to go back one day!
What adventures have you been on lately? Share them along with all your healthy living tips and tricks in today’s Wild Workout Wednesday Link Up!
Have you ever been to Barcelona?