Spain has always been on my list of places to visit. Funny, I always thought I’d get to know Madrid first. When Thiago said that he had a vacation to take away until the end of the year, we thought about visiting my sister in Paris again (doing another tour in France). It happened that she already had a scheduled trip to the south of Spain and we thought it would be amazing to meet her there. I do not remember exactly why, but we decided to start the trip around Barcelona. I had no expectations about the city, and I got completely delighted. It was three days and a half super well spent. Barcelona is beautiful and charming, and I will share with you all our tips.
First of all, I must warn you that the saying, “the shoemaker’s son always goes barefoot” applies to this trip. As we decided everything kind of last minute, there was little time left to dig deep into this destination. A friend of a friend of mine had already lived in Barcelona and ended up sharing some local tips with us. I also watched Julia Faria’s video about Barcelona and received many tips from my followers on Instagram. Although we could not plan everything, it was a wonderful trip. Barcelona certainly won a place in my heart.
I’ll start the story by talking about our hotel, the Jazz Hotel. It is located in a very central area and, sincerely, our stay was perfect. Everything started when we booked the place: we got a great rate – €63 a night – on a Black Friday deal on the hotel’s website. The room – with a king bed – was super spacious as was the bathroom (with shampoo, conditioner, soap and hair dryer). The hotel’s internet was excellent – which is atypical, we know! Our daily rate did not include breakfast – but we tried it one day, and it was impressive: a super complete buffet with different kind of bread, cakes, yogurts, fruits and lunch meats. The Jazz Hotel is close to two subway stations and has several shops and restaurants nearby. I would definitely stay there again.
We arrived in Barcelona on a Monday, on a direct flight from Newark operated by United. We landed around 9 am. It was the first week of December, and it was cold in the morning – around 4º C – but it warmed up, reaching the 13º C. Immigration was smooth, and after we got our luggage, we took the Aerobus to go to our Hotel. The Aerobus is the official shuttle that connects the airport to some points of the city. You can click here and check the routes. As the Hotel Jazz is near Pl. Universitat, the bus would be advantageous to us. We left the landing area and headed to the departure area of the bus – here is a video showing how to locate it. The ticket costs € 5.90 per person, per portion. You can buy it in the machine, by credit card, or directly with the driver, in cash (they do not accept bills over € 20). There’s room in the bus for baggage. The trip lasted about 25 minutes, and you can always follow the next stop on a monitor.
By the time we got to the hotel, it was not even 11 am in the morning. I had called a few days before to ask how the early check-in worked – I knew we would get super tired, after all, Barcelona is 6 hours ahead of NY in the time zone. I was informed that early check-in would be possible in case of room availability. To our relief, there was a room available when we arrived, and we were able to get a room right away – without paying anything more for it – take a shower and rest. Around three o’clock in the afternoon, with the batteries recharged, we went out to explore the city.
Our first stop was La Boqueria, a public market in the city. In addition to restaurants, there are vendors to buy fruits, meats, pastries, etc. Not every restaurant there has a place to sit – I also would not say it’s the most comfortable place to eat, but anyways. We ordered a beer and a mix of seafood platter at the Bar Central. It was tasty, but nothing outstanding. We left the market on La Rambla, a super tourist street in the city, with a lot of people. I had already researched the place and knew that we would have to keep the eyes open (there are plenty of pickpockets in town, especially on La Rambla). I also read that it is not recommended to eat anything there, mostly tourist traps. The street is very busy and also has many shops.
Walking to the end of Las Ramblas we find the Christopher Columbus Monument, in honor of his first trip to the Americas. At this point, we were not too far from the beach, so we decided to walk to Barceloneta, the city’s famous beach. Although the weather at this time was not the most suitable, it was a little cold, a lot of people were there. It is a delight to enjoy the sunset there – the light is uniquely beautiful, and the beach conveys a sense of peace. I loved that place! I wonder how busy it must be in the summer…
We ended our first day in Barcelona eating tapas, of course! For those unfamiliar, tapas are classics of Spanish cuisine. I think I would translate tapas as a tasting of appetizers. The idea is to order several “tapas” for the table and share them. Our choice was a restaurant called Tapas 24 (tapas from €3). The restaurant decoration is super simple, there are tables inside and outside, but the tapas are divine! We ordered wine and beer to accompany and returned super happy to the hotel after our first day in Barcelona.
We start our second day with a visit to the Basílica de la Sagrada Família. Designed by the famous architect Antonio Gaudí, its construction began in 1882 and – amazingly, I did not know it – it is not finished yet! The work is expected to be completed in 2026. The Basílica is undoubtedly one of the most impressive things I have ever seen in my life. The richness of details and meanings is impressive – and the touch of Gaudí is unique. My tips are: buy your ticket online, in advance and preferably choose one of the first available times in the morning- the ticket costs € 15. I’ve heard that the line to buy on site can be crazy. Include, with your ticket, the rental of the audio guide – a total of € 22 per ticket. It was essential to help us enjoy and learn more about the Basílica. End to end, I think we took about an hour there. Oh, I recommend passing through the Plaza de Gaudí too – it’s the perfect spot to take a picture with the Sagrada Família in the background.
Here, it’s worth to make a note: we went by subway to the Basílica. You could walk, but as we were late, we used the subway. Barcelona has a nice subway system. You can buy a single ticket for €2.15 and also a package with 10 for €9.95 – we ended up buying the later. There are also packages for 2, 3, 4 or 5 days for unlimited rides. Remember that tickets can also be used for buses and they make connections – if you get off the bus and go to the subway or vice versa, it will not charge you twice.
After we finished our visit to the Sagrada Familia, we walked to Casa Milà and Casa Batlló, two other Gaudí’s masterpieces. It was not a long walk and, we got to know some of Barcelona’s most charming streets. It is possible to get inside and get to know the two buildings, but we end up just enjoying them from the outside. I was hoping to come back later to check inside, but we did not have time. At this point, after a long morning, we were hungry, and we went, also walking, to the restaurant we picked for that day, Restaurante Envalira, to eat, of course, the famous paella! We ordered the traditional and the black rice one. It cost, on average, €14 each, and the portions were huge. Probably just one would have been enough for the two of us.
We took the subway and headed to Montjuic. It is a hill in Barcelona, and at the top, there is a castle (it was a military fort). To get there, we stopped at the Parallel station, end of Barcelona’s subway L2 to take the Funicular. However, the Funicular was not working that day, and we followed the instructions to take a bus from outside of the station, which left us close to the Teleferico de Barcelona, a cable car. We paid € 12.50 per person (for both ways). The box office of the castle was closed, so we were not able to visit it. Sincerely, if you do not enter the castle, do not even get off of the cable car. We could not find any point with a great view of the city up there from outside the castle. But the cable car was well worth it. The view of the city is impressive. After that, we went down and took a bus to the National Art Museum of Catalonia (which has an incredible architecture) and also to see the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc in the same area. From there, you have a lovely view of the Plaça d’Espanya. The Magic Fountain of Montjuic has dancing water show. They say it’s beautiful – but, unfortunately, I could not check it out, since this time of year they only have it on Thursdays and Fridays. To see the calendar, just click here.
Our last appointment of the day was to see a Barcelona match! As soon as we booked the trip, Thiago already researched and found a Champions League match in the city during our time. It was Barcelona versus Sporting Lisbon. It was my first time at a soccer game, do you believe it? Amazing! We got there by bus and found everything very organized. We ended up leaving a little bit before the end of the game to avoid the crowd.
The third day in Barcelona started early. My sister had suggested that we go to Montserrat, a mountain outside the city. As we had little time in town, I originally discarded such a tour and did not give much attention. But, when I arrived and asked on Instagram what to do in Barcelona, many people reinforced my sister’s recommendation, and we were then convinced and planned our trip there. Montserrat is a multi-peaked rocky range located 50 kilometers from Barcelona. Almost at the top, it is the Montserrat Monastery. Montserrat is a meaningful reference point in the culture of Catalonia and is called “la muntanya sagrada”, the sacred mountain. It is a revered place with special meaning for Catalonia and many Catalans. I took the explanation from the blog Passaporte BCN, which has a super complete blog post about the place and that was very useful for us. To get to Montserrat from Barcelona, you can go by train, which leaves Plaça d’Espanya. It was not difficult: we followed the signs in the station and arrived at the machine to buy the tickets. You can choose the complete package. Explain: the train goes to the bottom of the mountain, say so. To climb the mountain, you can use a rack train or the cable car. We chose the rack train and already bought everything on this machine (about € 26 per person, round trip). I highly recommend reading the full Passaporte BCN article, as they explain everything in details. The tour was amazing. The climbing to the mountain left us speechless. Once at the top, you can visit the church, museums, and walk the trails. Two rack railways provide rides with incredible views. We did not spend all day there because we had a tight agenda for that day, but there is a lot to see! We had lunch in the Montserrat Self-Service Restaurant, which has an incredible buffet that costs €15 per person (with drinks (beer and wine at will) and dessert included!).
The reason we did not spend all day in Montserrat was the visit to Parc Guell, another fantastic work signed by Gaudí, a famous Barcelona’s postcard. We bought the ticket online – and you have to pick a time (it is possible to enter up to 30 minutes before or after the time). It cost € 7 per person. Despite being a beautiful place, I confess I was a bit disappointed with the park. It was small and crowded too. I did not regret going there, but I was expecting more. Our last night in Barcelona was eating tapas, of course. We met a couple of Brazilian friends who live in the city, and they took us to a restaurant called Ciudad Condal. It has an incredible atmosphere, always crowded, and the tapas are delicious.
On Thursday, we had a lighter day. We went to a laundromat (our trip would have taken 13 days in total, so it was necessary) and I also took the opportunity to explore Zara and her sisters – Bershka and Stradivarius, who have much better prices. Even Zara is cheaper in Europe than in the US. At lunchtime, looking for a healthier option, we found the restaurant Teresa Carles, with vegetarian and vegan cuisine and it was a delightful surprise. The atmosphere was super cute and the lunch with appetizer, main course and dessert cost €13 per person. There are lots of options, and the dishes were delicious! When we left, there was a line of people waiting to have lunch there. We returned to the hotel and stayed at the front desk waiting until it was time to go to the airport. We used the Aerobus again – since the buses leave every 5 minutes from Plaça Catalunya, very close to our hotel.
My final review? I loved Barcelona. The city fascinated me, and I feel that I couldn’t get enough of it. Who knows, someday we’ll come back…
On the map below, you can check all the spots mentioned in this article (and some extras).
Laura Peruchi is a Brazilian blogger, author, and entrepreneur. She has lived in Manhattan with her husband since 2014. Since then, she has shared on her blog varied content about the Big Apple. From travel tips, including unusual things to do, shopping tips, etiquette, restaurants, and a lot more, her blog has become a reference in Portuguese (also available in English) for anyone planning a trip to New York City.