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Barcelona, Catalonia Travel Guide

Barcelona Summary


  • Spain’s most cosmopolitan and dynamic city
  • Stunning Gothic and Modernist architecture
  • World-class museums, like the MACBA and the Picasso Museum
  • Delicious cuisine, with internationally acclaimed chefs like Ferran Adria (owner of El Bulli) and Sergi Arola
  • Vibrant nightlife -- Barcelona is known as the after-dark capital of Europe
  • Benign Mediterranean climate year-round
  • Great green areas, like Ciutadella and Parc Guell
  • Accommodation options for every taste and budget
  • Excellent subway system (though it’s not 24-hour)
  • Great shopping
  • City beach with a hopping waterfront
  • It's an easy 2.5-hour high-speed train ride to/from Madrid


  • More expensive than the rest of Spain (but cheaper than other European cities like Paris and London)
  • Petty theft in the city center and the tourist areas
  • Crowds
  • Some shops and restaurants close in August
  • Rush-hour traffic jams

What It's Like

Barcelona is Spain’s coolest and most modern city. Tourists pour from every corner of the world to experience the town’s vibrant nightlife, excellent cuisine, beautiful Gothic and one-of-a-kind Modernist architecture, and cutting-edge design scene. This -- and the great Mediterranean climate -- means you might find crowds wherever you go, but it'll be worth it for sites like the bizarre Sagrada Familia cathedral, world-class MACBA museum, hopping Barri Gotic neighborhood, and unusual Parc Guell.

The Catalonia capital is arguably one of the top party destinations in Spain (along with Madrid and Ibiza Island). Dynamic and multicultural, Barcelona also has a mellow feeling to it during the day. The sea breeze sweeps the streets of this thriving city, giving it an unmistakable Mediterranean vibe -- but with the advantages of a modern town. Namely: reliable public transportation, delicious food, wonderful hotels, charming neighborhoods, a quality city beach, and hundreds of cultural activities.

Where to Stay

For easy access to the main tourist sites and shopping area, stay close to the Plaça Catalunya. If you’re looking to party, head north to Gracia neighborhood. You’ll be within blocks of beautiful architecture, mellower bars, great restaurants and good shopping if you stay in Barri Gotic neighborhood, where most of the smaller, cozier boutique hotels are. Business travelers might want to consider the area of Poble Sec or Parallel, close to the Montjuic Convention Center.

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