You know Barcelona perhaps for its pristine beaches and rambunctious party scene.
Maybe you know it as the home of one of the top football clubs in the world; FC Barcelona, a basecamp for world-class players like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta. Or perhaps you’re an architecture connoisseur who loves the works of Antoni Gaudí, who designed the world-famous La Sagrada Familia and Parc Guell. Wherever or however you know it (whether it’s mainstream Ed Sheeran songs or low-key beats by George Ezra), Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, is one of the most beautiful, lively, and vibrant places in not just Europe, but the world. Walking through its streets is to be washed over in a sea of color, mouthwatering aromas of seafood and tapas, and serenaded by the melodies of Catalan as you walk past its cathedrals, boutiques, and bars. Barcelona, for all its beauty in the aquatic shades of blue, turquoise, and green, isn’t without a storied past and current strife. Its role as the capital of Catalonia puts it in an important position regarding the future of Spain, as a current movement seeks independence from Spain. The modern independence movement began in 2006, and though the Catalan independence referendum on October 1, 2017 resulted in maintaining a united Spain, there is no doubt that tensions are still prevalent within the region. In this vein, Barcelona is a city full of people proud of their unique culture—a mixture of Spanish and Catalan traditions. Maybe you’ll pick up some of this pride during your visit to Barcelona as you watch the sun set with panoramic views sitting on the Bunkers of Carmel or relaxing on Plaça del Sol with a few estrallas or embracing the coastal breeze that fills Barcelona’s lungs with enough air to laugh, scream, and enjoy life.
Barcelona is a sprawling city with a vast number of diverse neighborhoods that each bring their own character to the city. Noteworthy areas include Las Ramblas, which starts by the harbor at the Plaça Portal de la Pau and continues north to Plaça de Catalunya. This is the most central part of the city, complete with metro and bus connections to the airport, bus, and train stations. To the north of Las Ramblas lies El Raval to the left and the Gothic Quarter to the right. Continuing past the Gothic Quarter is La Ribera, which includes the trendy El Born neighborhood that houses many boutiques and restaurants. South of that is Barceloneta, the triangular-shaped neighborhood located next to the beach. Passeig de Gracia is a main street that leads north close to La Sagrada Familia past the quirky, more suburban district of Gracia to Park Güell. The mountain of Montjuic is to the southwest, past the neighborhood of Poble Sec.
Aeroport del Prat de Llobregat (El Prat Airport) has international and domestic flights with two different terminals. There is a free bus shuttle between the terminals. To travel to the city from the airport, there are a few options. The Aérobus service is an express bus from Pl. Catalunya to both Terminals 1 and 2 that comes every 5min. and takes about 35min. (single ticket €5.90, €10.20 round trip). Buses take 40min. (single ticket €2.15, €4.30 round trip). You can also take the metro directly from El Prat airport to Estació Sants, Pg. De Gràcia, or El Clot for €4.50 and it takes about 40min. The train only departs from Terminal 1, but there is an overpass to access it from Terminal 2. Estacío Barcelona-Sants serves the most domestic and international traffic while Estació de França serves mostly regional destinations. RENFE (www.renfe.es) runs to Bilbao, Madrid, Sevilla, and Valencia. The main bus terminal is Estació d’Autobusos Barcelona Nord (www.barcelonanord.com), located close to Arc de Triomph. Buses also depart from Estacío Barcelona-Sants and the airport. ALSA (www.alsa.es) is Spain’s main bus line.
The fastest way to get around the city is by metro (single ticket €2.15, €9.90 T-10 Zone 1 ticket). The latter gives you ten journeys on the metro. Metro rides have free transfers and work for all forms of transport, including the three-different metro/tram/train companies and buses. Metro lines are identified with an L and tram lines with a T. Metros and trains run M-Th 5am-midnight, F 5am-2am, Sa 24hr, Su 5am-midnight. The bus, however, offers a more scenic journey and also travels to more remote places than the metro. The most important bus is the NitBus, which runs all night after the metro closes. In the neighborhoods far from the center, the tiny BarriBus that has only 10 seats takes people through narrow streets.
Tourist Offices: Plaça de Catalunya (Pl. De Catalunya; 17 932 85 38 34; www.barcelonaturisme.com; open 8:30am-9pm daily).
Banks/ATMs/Currency Exchange: Deutsche Bank Filliale (Pg. de Gràcia, 112; 934 04 21 02; open M-F 8:30am-2pm). Currency Exchange Ria—La Rambla (La Rambla, 56. 933 02 86 96; M-F 9am-10pm, Sa-Su 10am-10pm).
Post Offices: Correos (Pl. Antonio López; 93 486 83 02; www.correos.es; open M-F 8:30am-9:30pm, Sa 8:30am-2pm).
Internet: There is free public Wi-Fi at over 500 locations, including museums, parks, and beaches. Everywhere you see the blue “Barcelona WiFi” symbol on a sign, you can use it for free after accepting the terms and conditions through your browser.
BGLTQ+ Resources: Gay Barcelona (www.gaybarcelona.com) has up-do-date tips for BGLTQ+ restaurants, bars, and publications. Casal Lambda is a non-profit association in Spain offering a community space for socializing, center for information and documentation, as well as counseling (Callis, 10, Verdaguer; 933 195 550).
Emergency Number: 112
Police: National Police: 091 (V. Laietana, 43. 932 903 000).
US Embassy: There is a US Consulate in Barcelona (Pg. de la Reina Elisenda de Montcada, 23; 932 80 22 27; open M-F 9am-1pm).
Rape Crisis Center: The Center for Assistance to Victims of Sexual Assault (CAVAS) (C. Alcalá, 124, Madrid; 91 574 01 10). CAVAS has a branch in Barcelona that can be reached via the Madrid branch.
Hospitals: Hospital Clínic i Provincial (C. Villarroel, 170; 932 27 54 00)
Pharmacies: Farmacia Bonanova (P. Bonanova, 6; 934 178 032; open daily 24hr)