Versatility is one of the key reasons for the popularity of Barcelona as a holiday destination. There are countless museums for art lovers, a rich history dating back to Roman times, beaches right next to the city center, numerous beautiful parks, and world-famous festivals & sports events.
The neighborhoods of Barcelona differ greatly between each other, each having its own distinctive characters. There’s a favorite pastime to be found for everyone. Some love the buzz of the lively, narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, while some prefer the spacious avenues of Eixample. Contrarily, many are looking to get away from the city center and relax at the beachfront.
Barcelona is a fantastic destination to combine a city break with a relaxing beach holiday – the choice is yours. All these factors make the city of Gaudí a top candidate for your next holiday destination!
Where to stay
Staying in the right area is a very important holiday decision. Often, you may feel frustrated for having chosen an area far from the key places of interest. Barcelona is a big city, and there are many factors to take into consideration when choosing the right spot for accommodation.
There’s a good chance you’ll find the best compromise between prices and location a bit farther away from the very center. From our where to stay section, you'll find the pros and cons of each neighborhood in central Barcelona.
Slideshow of Barcelona
Attractions and things to do in Barcelona
You won’t run out of things to do in this city, even if you’re planning to stay a bit longer. The parks of central Barcelona are perfect for lovely picnics; especially The Parc de la Ciutadella is like a green mirage in the middle of the city, where both the locals and tourists gather to spend time.
The capital of Catalonia is famous for its attractions. The fabulous buildings such as Sagrada Familia or La Pedrera designed by Gaudí are true masterpieces as such must-see-sights at least from outside. Certain museums are open free of charge on Sundays and museum days, if you want to save money conveniently.
Barcelona has plenty in store for families with children. In addition to its beaches, there’s a zoo, an aquarium, a science center and much more for kids to enjoy.
Should you look for something more ordinary, certain cinemas show films in their original language. And don’t forget about the great experience the open-air movie theaters offer during the summertime.
Find your own favorite activities in the city of Gaudí and check our wider selection of tips at Things to do in Barcelona.
The vast sand stretch offers plenty of beaches for you to discover your favorite spot. There's a versatile selection of beaches ranging from busier beaches to more quiet ones. Find out more information about Barcelona beaches.
Barcelona truly is a shopper’s paradise with one of the lowest price levels in Europe, especially on clothing. While world-famous fashion designers have stores on Passeig de Gracia, less-known local designers have their shops in Born. Ordinary clothing brands are well represented everywhere in the city. Especially Mango stores are in abundance with dozens of stores around the city – no wonder, as Mango originates from Barcelona. There are two big seasonal sales in the city, which is when red percentage tags fill the stores’ display windows.
Popular gifts from Barcelona include local wines, cheese, air-dried ham & sausages and of course F.C. Barcelona items. Catalonia is well-known of its wines. The Penedès wine region, where for instance the Torres wines and brandies come from, is situated just 45 kilometers away from the city.
For more information, read our shopping guide.
Events and holidays
With regards to events, summers are the busiest time of the year in Barcelona. In addition to international music festivals, city districts organize their own festivals in summer. At their best, district festivals are spectacular events, where decorating streets is a matter of honor. Gracia and Sants have the biggest district festivals of the city.
St. George’s Day – The rose and book festival (23rd of April)
Saint George’s Day, named after the patron saint of the city St. Jordi, is also known as The Day of the Rose or The Day of the Book. 23rd of April each year, the city is filled with booths decorated with Catalan flags, where men buy roses for special women in their lives and women buy books in return.
The idea was raised by a Valencian bookseller to commemorate the death of Miguel Cervantes, the national writer of Spain, by a rose and a book. Internationally, the day is known as World Book Day.
However, St. George’s Day is not a national holiday in Barcelona.
F1 Spanish Grand Prix (May 8 – 10)
In the second weekend of May, F1 fans fill the city to witness the F1 Spanish Grand Prix at the Montmeló race track. F1 fans wearing the colors of their favorite racing teams are a common sight in the streets, but the event doesn’t cause any chaos in the city.
However, you should be aware of the weekend, as the hotel prices tend to go up in the whole city during the Grand Prix.
Primavera Sound (June 4 – 6)
Primavera Sound in the beginning of June attracts indie music enthusiasts to the city. This three-day event is one of the biggest festivals of the year in Barcelona.
Sonar (June 18 - 20)
Traditionally, Sonar continues the festival infested June after Primavera. The main focus of Sonar is in electronic music, and it’s been in the city’s festival program since 1994.
Sant Joan (June 23)
Sant Joan in Catalan, or san Juan in Spanish, is a mid-summer festival to celebrate the longest day of the year as well as the birth of John the Baptist.
In Barcelona, celebrations take place on beaches, where especially the youth gathers to have picnic until the dawn. One of the traditions of Sant Joan is to pop firecrackers and to eat stuffed buns, Coca de Sant Joan.
Cruilla (July 7 – 9)
Cruilla is yet another huge music event with both the biggest pop & rock bands as well as smaller genres equally represented. The event is held in the Port Forum area in Poblenou.
Festa Major de Gràcia (August 15 - 21)
For the locals, the Gràcia district festival is one of the most anticipated events of the year. Streets are covered with decorations and art pieces, which really are a matter of honor for the locals. Preparations are commenced way before the actual event. Crafting the art pieces is also a competition, and the winner is awarded at the end of the festival.
During the festival, there are music and art performances in various locations around Gràcia, and in the evenings the atmosphere resembles that of a large open-air music festival. Food and drink booths are an important part of the festival – there’s everything from mojitos to grill food to choose from.
Since the narrow streets of Gràcia are swarming with people and music’s playing loud, you should avoid picking a hotel room from the area during the festival.
Festa Major de Sants (August 20 – 29)
The district festival of Sants is equivalent to that of Gracia. Sants covers a larger area than Gràcia, and therefore the Sants festival is not as congested as the Gràcia festival.
La Diada – National day of Catalonia (September 11)
La Diada, the National Day of Catalonia, is celebrated on September 11 each year. The day originates from the year 1714, when Catalonia was defeated after 14 months of siege by France. As a consequence, Catalonia became a part of France, which at the time was ruled by the Bourbon dynasty.
The national day is a holiday in Catalonia. Traditionally, nationalist Catalonians gather demonstrate for Catalonian independence, which the Spanish central government is not willing to grant to Catalonia.
The demonstrations are mostly peaceful, but the streets are congested in the center.
La Mercè (September 23 – 26)
La Mercè ends the summer festival season. The purpose of this religious festival is to celebrate one of the patron saints of Barcelona, Mare de Déu de la Mercè. Organized by the city of Barcelona, the festival shows loud and clear in the streets of Barcelona for almost two weeks. The actual holiday takes place on 24 September.
During the course of the couple of weeks, there are various types events and concerts. The most characteristic of the celebrations are the giant paper puppets, Gegants, Catalonian local dance, Sardana, human towers, Castellers, and the Correfoc fire run.
Day trips from Barcelona
When you’ve seen enough of the city of Barcelona, don’t hesitate to head outside the city to rural Catalonia. Go visit the natural wonders, such as the Montserrat limestone mountain, or enjoy the natural specialties, such as the products of Penedès wine region.
The train network around Barcelona is extensive with frequent connections, and as such train is a recommendable method of transport for day trips. By train, it’ll only take about an hour to get to one of the largest amusement parks in Europe, PortAventura.
Pick the Montserrat mountain and its monastery as one of the first locations to broaden your horizons in Catalonia. Montserrat, situated 50 kilometers away from Barcelona, is famous for its 1000-year-old monastery and the saw-toothed limestone formation around it.
There are several attractions on the mountain to visit in one day. There’s free access to the Santa Maria de Montserrat basilica. For a fee, you can visit the Montserrat Audiovisual Room introducing the life of Benedictine monks, or the Museum of Montserrat with art pieces from famous artists, such as Picasso, Dali or Chagall, to admire.
How to get there:
There are many different ways to get to the top of Montserrat; via a road, on foot, or using a cogwheel train or a cable car.
The easiest way to get to the mountain is by the local train R5 from Plaça Espanya to Monistrol de Montserrat, where you need to switch to a cogwheel train that takes you up the mountain. A two-way ticket costs about 15 euros, with the local train and the cable car included in the price. You can buy the tickets in one go at Plaça Espanya, or separately: for the R5 at Espanya and for the cogwheel train at Monistrol.
You can also take the local train to the Aeri de Montserrat station, one stop before Monistrol. This route requires you to take the cable car to the top. While this is a bit more expensive, it provides a more unique experience.
Cogwheel train and cable car prices
Vilafranca del Penedès
A day trip to the wine capital of Catalonia, Vilafranca del Penedèsiin, suits everyone from rookie wine enthusiasts to connoisseurs. As the train passes through the urban landscape of Barcelona towards the lush valleys, the buzz of the big city turns into the peace of the countryside.
The distance from Barcelona to Vilafranca del Penedès is 50 kilometers. The area surrounding Vilafranca del Penedès is better known as Penedès, while the village itself is called Vilafranca. Penedès’ wines and Cavas are famous around the world. Torres, the best-known wine family of the area, established their winery in Vilafranca in 1870.
Visit wineries, such as Mascaro or Pinord, at the very center of the wine village, or rent a bicycle and head to Pacs del Penedès three kilometers away, where also the Torres winery is located.
How to get there:
The local train R4 travels from the center of Barcelona to the Vilafranca del Penedès station. Hop on the train from, for instance, the stations of Catalonia Square or Sants. Local train R4 schedules
Sant Sadurni d’Anoia
Just as Penedès is the wine capital of Catalonia, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia is the Cava capital. The village is situated along the same R4 local train connection as Penedès, a couple of stops closer to Barcelona. In fact, it’s easy to combine the Cava and wine themes within a single day trip to Penedès.
The winery of perhaps the most famous Cava producer of the world, Freixenet, is situated next to the Sant Sadurni d’Anoia train station. Other famous Cava producers in the Village are Codorniu and Juvé & Camps.
Other day trip ideas:
· Sitges – a bohemian beach town near Barcelona
· PortAventura – a gigantic water and amusement park
The city is heaven for foodies - sit down to one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants for an unforgettable dinner or enjoy a paella lunch on a sunny outside terrace.
Read more about our favorite restaurants in Barcelona.
Prices of restaurant services in the city are close to the average in the European Union, whereas the hotel prices are somewhat higher.
Below, there are some examples of restaurant and hotel prices in Barcelona. Costs of hotel rooms are median prices at Booking.com.
Pizza in restaurant
33 cl beer in restaurant
Hotel, 3-4 stars (April)
Hotel, 3-4 stars (July)
From the airport to Barcelona
- Airport bus, Aerobús,is the easiest way to get to the city center. The last stop is at the Catalonia Square, in front of the department store El Corte Inglés. It’s the official shuttle bus between the airport El Prat and the Catalonia Square. Different bus lines operate between different airport terminals, so choose either A1 or A2, depending on whether you go to terminal 1 or 2. The destination terminal is indicated in front of the bus (A1 for T1 and A2 for T2).
The ride takes about 35 minutes and buses run frequently, every 5 or 10 minutes. Hence, there’s never a long waiting time.
There are three other stops between the airport and the Catalonia Square, and two when going the opposite direction. The stops, tickets and more information can be found here. There is a luggage rack inside the bus. Local traffic cards are not valid in Aerobús.
- A cheaper option than Aerobús, is the bus line number 46, that goes from terminal 1 and 2 to Plaça Espanya. Check schedules at TMB.cat. Night buses N17 or N18 go to Catalonia Square. There aren't any luggage racks available like in Aerobús. Therefore, if you travel with plenty of luggage, a local bus might be uncomfortable.
- Trains operate from Terminal 2 only. Check schedules at Renfe.com. The train ride takes 20 minutes to the main station Sants, and 27 minutes to the city center (station: Passeig de Gracía). You can buy e.g. a T10 Travel Card at the airport ticket machine; use one trip for this, and you have nine left. T10 card for Zone 1 costs 10.20 euros (it covers the whole city center). Zone 2+ is needed for neighboring towns. Metro Map.
- Metro is also an option. It's more expensive than a normal metro ride, since a special Airport metro ticket is needed. The line L9 doesn't go to the city center, but you can change to other lines closer to the city. There are metro stations in both terminals.
Weather in Barcelona
Winter: The winter months from December to February are often rainy, and average daily high temperatures vary between 5-15°C.
Spring: From March to May, it stops raining and the sun is out often. In March, daily highs climb to 15-20°C, and in May, they hit 20°C.
Summer: From June to August, sunshine is pretty much guaranteed, and daily highs exceed 30°C.
Autumn: September is still a warm month and it’s often beach weather throughout the month. In September, the daily highs stay well above 20 °C. In mid-October, the weather cools down to below 20°C and it starts to rain more often. In November, average daily highs drop to around 10°C.
Text: Ville Ryynänen
Photos: Jussi Ryynänen, Adobe Stock
Video: Jussi Ryynänen
Music of the video: Summer Nights / The 126ers – Audio Library, Youtube
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