Our backpacker’s guide to Barcelona runs through the stony streets of the Gothic Quarter and up to the spires of the Sagrada Familia. It’s awesome stuff…
Barcelona tops the bucket lists of many travelers. With its weird and wonderful buildings created by Antoni Gaudi, glimmering Mediterranean beaches, and vibrant entertainment districts like Las Ramblas, it’s not a place where you’ll be twiddling your thumbs for very long. What’s more, there’s a mind-boggling 2,000 years of history beneath the surface, found in the eerie cobbled alleys of the Gothic Quarter and the half-ruined Roman remains.
This ultimate backpacker’s guide to Barcelona aims to help you check off all the chart-topping attractions. Taste the finest Catalan food, and get a feel for the city by the Spanish shore. It’s tailored to backpackers who whiz in and whiz out but still want an action-packed itinerary!
Barcelona Travel Tips: The Bucket List
You shouldn’t have to look too hard to find sights and neighborhoods that will enthrall in Barcelona. There are loads of reasons this coastal Spanish city is up there with the most famous traveler spots in the world, and they come in the form of UNESCO churches and buzzing nightlife strips…
See the stunning Sagrada Familia
Wowza. There’s little that can prepare you for the startling spires and façades of Antoni Gaudi’s great masterpiece. This UNESCO World Heritage Site looms large above its very own plaza in the heart of downtown Barcelona. Mish-mashing the Gothic, the Art Nouveau, the modernist, and the downright strange in one majestic building, it’s considered one of the world’s most iconic pieces of architecture. Look for the elaborate stucco facades of the Nativity and then delve inside, where the stained-glass windows cast ethereal light into the colossal chambers. You won’t forget it.
Get lost in the Gothic Quarter
Ditch the map and dive headfirst into the maze of alleys, streets, and small squares that is the Gothic Quarter. This is the oldest of all Barcelona’s neighborhoods. It even contains traces of the ancient Roman walls of the city. These days, it’s layer upon layer of weathered flagstone thoroughfares and shadowy medieval arcades. One moment you’ll be dodging palm trees on the bustling Placa Reial, the next gawping at the grand Cathedral of Santa Eulalia. Just be sure to have the camera charged and ready as you walk.
Soak up the rays on Barceloneta Beach
The Mediterranean Sea is the good-vibes powerhouse of Barcelona. Just a few stops on the metro, you can trade the bustle of Las Ramblas for a gold sandy beach. Palm-topped promenades run the whole length of the strip at Barceloneta Beach, with cyclists, joggers and cocktail sippers treading their paths. There are volleyball showdowns to join. You’ve got watersports outfitters. Or, simply unfurl the towel and work on that tan.
Strut your stuff down Las Ramblas
If Barcelona had a jugular vein, this would be it. The main drag of the metropolis, Las Ramblas is a buzzy mix of Art Nouveau theater houses, al fresco drinking terraces, and chic boutique shopping. The road runs north-south from the gurgling fountains of Placa de Catalunya to the marina, sprouting leafy plane trees as it goes. Be sure to make a pitstop at Boqueria Market to see stacks of gleaming fruit, local veg, fresh fish, and more being haggled over by the locals.
Guide to Barcelona: All the must-try flavors
Barcelona hurtles into the foodie fray with its medley of rustic Catalan flavors. Taste them in the taverns of the Gothic Quarter, or try the salt-washed bars down by the coast…
Pintxos are the Catalonian version of tapas. The name represents myriad small finger foods and little dishes that are often served when you order a wine or a beer in the bars of Barcelona. You never really know what you’ll get, but you can rest assured it will be tasty. There are cured cheeses, crispy bruschetta topped with salted tomatoes, spicy stuffed peppered from the BBQ, potato croquettes – the list goes on.
Simple but special, Barcelona’s padron peppers are like the freshness and simplicity of Mediterranean food distilled into a single dish. Recipe: Take one plump green pepper, douse it in Spanish olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, then grill until blistered and spotted with charcoal. The result is a bitter and juicy snack that’s moreish in the extreme.
Do not leave this city without having guzzled at least a jug (or 10) of the legendary sangria. It’s the perfect remedy to the scorching summer heat between May and August, mixing sweet Rioja red wine with fruit salad and mixers. The tipple is traditionally served in terracotta jugs with is. It’s surely best drunk on the wide plazas of the Gothic Quarter or down by Barceloneta Beach.
Our Hand-Picked Hostels in Barcelona
We’ve been to Barcelona to curate the finest hostels the city has to offer so you don’t have to worry. Now, it’s just a case of picking the one that suits you. Will it be a wild party spot with sangria-thirsty travelers? Will it be somewhere near the beach and the immersive Gothic Quarter to help you crank up the sightseeing? Join the Europe Pass waitlist to be the first to know when its on sale!
Thinking we’ve missed something? Don’t hesitate! Drop your recommendations in the comments below to help keep expanding our ultimate backpacker’s guide to Barcelona…