A Backpacker’s Guide to Barcelona

Barcelona is really only now getting its just due as a travel destination.  For years it seems that it has been overshadowed by other regional favourites such as Rome, Paris and even Madrid.  Perhaps it’s the effect the power of the local football club’s strength is having on its global appeal, but people are starting to take real notice of this splendid city.  Barcelona offers plenty of unique experiences, a wealth of activities and on top of it all you’ll gain a firsthand feel for the brilliant Catalonian hospitality.

Time Needed: 3-4 Days
Backpacker’s Budget: 50 Euros a Day

The Beautiful Sagrada Familia Cathedral

Things to Do in Barcelona

The view in Parque Guell

You’ll rarely find yourself short of things to do in Barcelona.  The city teems with life basically 24 hours a day. It is chalk full of some of the world’s most stunning architecture, most of which was brought to life by the brilliant Gaudi.  Moreover, the sport and party scene is out of this world, and if that isn’t what gets you going, there is always time for some R&R on the beach.

  • Wander “La Rambla”: Easily Barcelona’s busiest street, this is a great place to wander.  It is packed with vendors, artists and some good, albeit over-priced, restaurants and bars.
  • Gothic District: In my opinion this is the place that makes you feel most “in Barcelona” if you will. Narrow walkways, the beautiful cathedral and lots of great little art spots and coffee shops.
  • Sagrada Familia: If you’re a photographer, head here first thing in the morning because the light is striking!  Otherwise, exploring perhaps the most beautiful cathedral in the world any time of day is a treat.
  • National Museum of Catalonian Art: In comparison to Madrid, the museum scene in Barcelona is a little bit lacking; that’s fine by me as I’m not much of a museum guy.  However, if you’re itching for a stroll through one, the museum of Catalonian art is likely the best.
  • Parque Guell: In the summer months this park is packed, so come early in the day.  Regardless of the crowds, it’s a beautiful place to wander and easily the best place in town to have a bit of a picnic.  Be sure to check out the impressive escalator system that leads up to the park as well.
  • Waterfront: Wandering the waterfront is just “alright” in my opinion, but don’t miss the chance to check out the aquarium and its amazing “shark tunnel”.
  • The Beach: If you’re itching for a little time on the water there is a decent beach right in town.  However, watch your gear down here.  In the crowds there are loads of thieves keen to take advantage of the lackadaisical and naïve tourists.

Where to Eat in Barcelona

The food scene in Barcelona is decent.  The Catalonians might not serve up as well as the Spaniards in the North or South of the country, but they do ok for themselves.  I’ve heard people call Barcelona a foodie mecca, but personally I felt like there were much better places to eat in Spain.  Eating cheap isn’t too difficult, but if you’re not careful you can also easily be sucked in for a pricey dinner.  The truth is there is really a menu to cater to any budget and taste in the city. Below are some tips for cheaper eating in Barcelona.

  • Menu del Dia: The daily special, especially at lunch, is the way to go.  For about 10 Euros you can usually get a three course meal including a small bottle of wine.
  • Gothic District: Try your best to avoid the Rambla as everything is overpriced.  Instead, the gothic district is chalk full of great little eateries at a fraction of the price.
  • Con Conesa: Best place in town to grab a sandwich and lunch in general if you’re on a budget.  Cheap as they come and delicious!

Where to Stay in Barcelona

While in Barcelona I stayed at the Yellow Nest hostel which was fairly decent.  However, I would have liked to have been a little closer to the action.  I can only go on recommendation, but if I were to do it over again I think I would likely give Alberg Hostal Itaca a shot.

For all the Barcelona hostels check out the Hostelbookers.com page here: http://www.hostelbookers.com/hostels/spain/barcelona/

Getting out of Town

Barcelona is connected to basically the whole of Western Europe.  You can get to Madrid quickly via train, you can also get to Nice, France in a day and Paris quite easily.

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