A Beginner’s Guide To Barcelona (+Photos)

Alright folks, let me tell you about Barcelona, a city I’ve grown to love beyond its tapas and medieval streets. I now call this city home but it took some time to figure out its kinks and quirks as, like any big city, it can be a bit overwhelming for newbies.

But you probably don’t have any time to spare so let me be your guide to navigating this amazing city! I’ll tell you where to go, how to avoid scams, and where to find the coldest beer!

Neighborhoods: Your Barcelona Starter Kit


First things first, let’s talk about neighborhoods. Barri Gòtic, or the Gothic Quarter, is where you’ll find the city’s ancient roots, with winding medieval streets, hidden squares, and stunning gothic architecture. If you’re into history, this is a must-visit. Next door there’s El Born, a fashionable district filled with boutiques, art galleries, and the Picasso Museum.

Just around the corner is El Raval, a neighborhood that’s transformed from its gritty past into a multicultural hub. Here, you’ll find awesome street art, trendy bars, and the MACBA, Barcelona’s contemporary art museum. But, some areas remain a bit shady so have your wits about you!

Moving on, we have L’Eixample, a neighborhood famous for its modernist architecture. This is where you’ll find some of Gaudí’s most famous works, like the Sagrada Familia and Casa Batlló. If you’re a fan of unique buildings, this is the place to be.


Gràcia, once a separate village, still feels like its own little world, with charming plazas, independent shops, and a lively atmosphere. Don’t miss Park Güell, another Gaudí gem, located here.

Las Ramblas: Skip It and See the Real Barcelona

Las Ramblas

Now, let’s talk about Las Ramblas, that famous (or infamous) pedestrian street that cuts through the heart of Barcelona. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful promenade with trees, street performers, and historic buildings. But honestly, I think it’s a bit of a tourist trap.

It’s crowded, overpriced, and the food is dreadfully mediocre. My advice? Skip Las Ramblas and head to some of the smaller, less crowded streets in the surrounding neighborhoods. You’ll find much better food, shops, and overall atmosphere. Plus, you’ll get a more authentic Barcelona experience.


The street is unavoidable though. It is the main thoroughfare from Placa Catalunya down to the port and makes for a convenient stroll if you are in a hurry. But steer well clear of the giant cocktails and cooked-from-frozen paella. You might as well sit at McDonalds which has exactly the same view!

Chow Down: Tapas, Pinchos, and Tinto de Verano


Let’s talk about food, because let’s face it, that’s half the reason we travel, right? Barcelona is a foodie paradise, especially if you love tapas. But first, let’s clear something up: tapas and pinchos are not the same thing. Tapas are small plates meant for sharing, while pinchos are bite-sized snacks, usually served on a piece of bread with a toothpick.

For an authentic pinchos experience, head to Carrer de Blai, a street lined with pinchos bars. It’s a fun and affordable way to try a variety of flavors. Just grab a plate, help yourself to the pinchos that catch your eye, and keep the toothpicks. The staff will count your toothpicks at the end to calculate your bill.

For tapas, the best bars are often hidden in the streets of El Born and Eixample. Look for places with a lively atmosphere and locals enjoying themselves. Always try the patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers), pan con tomate (bread with tomato), and some jamón (cured ham).

These are staples you’ll find everywhere. And for drinks, skip the sangria and order a tinto de verano instead. It’s a refreshing mix of red wine and lemon soda, perfect for a warm evening.

Getting Around: Public Transit and Airport Transfers Made Easy

Barcelona Metro

Getting around Barcelona is a breeze thanks to its fantastic public transportation system. The metro, buses, and trams will get you pretty much anywhere you need to go. I recommend buying a T-Casual ticket, which gives you 10 rides and can be used by multiple people.

If you plan on using public transport a lot while you’re there, consider the Hola Barcelona Travel Card, which offers unlimited travel for 2-5 days and includes airport transfers.

Speaking of airport transfers, the Aerobús is the easiest way to get from the airport to the city center and it comes in at under €6 for a one-way ticket. It’s a direct bus service with stops at Plaça Catalunya and Plaça Espanya, two major hubs in the city. I frequent the metro for this journey but it takes an hour and includes a transfer, which doesn’t make it the most convenient way.

Hit the Beach: Sun, Sand, and a Bit of Barcelona’s Free Spirit

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona’s beaches are a bit of a sore point, but hey, it’s still the Mediterranean, so they’re worth checking out if you need to cool down or just want to feel the sand between your toes. The beaches here are artificial, created back in the 1990s for the Olympics, so don’t expect a tropical paradise.

The most popular beaches are Barceloneta and Sant Sebastià, which tend to get pretty crowded, especially in summer. If you want something quieter, head north to Bogatell or Mar Bella. And if you’re feeling adventurous, check out the nudist section at the southern end of Mar Bella. Yes, that’s right, Barcelona is pretty open-minded when it comes to swimwear (or lack thereof)!

Public Pool

If you really want to cool off, pay a visit to the public pool at the top of Montjuic. Piscina Municipal de Montjuïc costs about €7 to enter and you can also rent a sun chair. The views from here are nothing short of spectacular! So insane, in fact, that Dua Lipa recently shot a music video in this pool!


There is also a bar with food at the top of the facility called Saltz, perfect for if you simply want the views but also want to keep your feet dry.

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