So you want to travel to Barcelona?
There are plenty of travel guides out there telling you what to see, where to eat and stay, what to be careful of, so I won't go through everything, but I will put out my own tips based off my somewhat limited experiences from my visit last year and this year.
- Logistic/Travel Tips: for me, things such as knowing how to get from the airport or train station to the center of the city is one of the most important things. With some prior research, I always save time and a little bit of money rather than wandering around the airport terminals trying to figure out what to do. The transport system in Barcelona is pretty fantastic and straightforward. After traveling to so many cities, I always find it interesting to see how each metro system runs and the types of tickets available (is that a weird thing to be interested in?)
- Although it's possible to reach the city from the airport by bus, I've always just taken the train as I can use it with a regular metro ticket rather than buying additional bus fair for the shuttles. The Renfe regional train goes to three stops (Sants, Passeig de Gracia, and El Clot) in the city, all of which are conveniently located.
- Speaking of metro tickets, if you are going to be there for a few days, I highly recommend the 10-trip ticket. It's €10,30, which is about the price of 5 individual journeys if you didn't use the 10 trip ticket (each individual ticket costs €2,15) and it is transferable, so if you are traveling with multiple people, you can all use it at once. This is extremely useful as it will take you where you need to go when you aren't walking (see below). Each journey is also valid for one hour and 15 minutes, meaning you can make as many transfers as you need (including bus) with that journey, and it will still count as a journey. This is extremely convenient because it isn't always like this (I'm looking at you, Washington, DC).
- Walk everywhere when possible - Although Barcelona has a great metro system that is fast (my favorite part was that it told you minutes AND seconds to the next train), walk whenever you can! Most of the major sights are within walking distance if you have some comfortable shoes. Two metro stops will sometimes be within a ten minutes walk from each other! Taking the metro is obviously faster, but central Barcelona is manageable by foot, and it is so beautiful and relaxing to walk through the streets. Barcelona is a beautiful city - take advantage of it! I also found that by walking, I got to know the city much better.
- Buy tickets for the big sights in advance whenever possible. I can't even tell you how much time this saved me. I bought tickets just two nights in advance for La Sagrada Familia, and saved what looked like at least an hour's wait. I talked more about that in my La Sagrada Familia post here. And although I didn't visit it, I also hear similar things for Casa Battlo.
- Don't be so worried about having a set schedule. Yes, there is a lot to see in Barcelona, but you will drive yourself crazy if you try to see everything in a few days. Unless you spend approximately 20 minute at each place, it's really not possible. Instead, pick what you really want to see, and spend some quality time there. This could apply to all cities/tourist destination/vacation spots, but for Barcelona especially, getting lost (or trying to get lost) could mean finding some great hidden stories within the many streets of Barcelona.
- Try to speak Catalan, or at least Spanish - Although almost everyone in the main tourist areas speak English, people appreciate it if you don't automatically start speaking English. This seems like common sense, but where ever I go, I always see somebody assume that everyone speaks English and become surprised when they don't receive the most friendly service. You don't have to become an expert in Spanish by any means, but just a friendly greeting and some basic phrases will grant you some warmer conversations!
- On top of this, be aware of your surroundings. I know, I know - things you hear where ever you travel, but I have heard of countless cases of pickpocketing in Barcelona, especially when large groups travel together and get distracted. I wasn't exactly clutching my purse every minute, but I just made sure not to get too distracted by what was around me.
Again, while some of these tips are common sense, these were things that I constantly have been told and experienced on my own. I don't consider myself an expert on Barcelona by any means, but I hope this helps any of you who want to travel to Barcelona anytime soon!