Barcelona Travel Guide
James Burn recently traveled to the vibrant city of Barcelona and came back all smiles from his visit to one Europe’s most beautiful cities.
FC Barcelona is one of the biggest brands in World Football; the city attracts thousands of visitors every year looking to see Xavi, Iniesta, Messi & Co at the famous Camp Nou stadium. ISF is ever-improving and we are looking to make La Liga more accessible for fans of the most exciting league in the world.
I have always admired Barcelona from afar, but have never had the privilege of visiting the city. I recently took a trip to this delightful city at the heart of Catalonia for the first time, and immersed myself in all it had to offer.
This is a guide for readers who need tips of what to do, eat, see and where to go when visiting the city. There is also insight for those less confident when travelling abroad on how to get the most out of and stay safe on a trip. Not to mention details of everything you need to engage with FC Barcelona (whether a fan or solely a visitor).
- Take the time admire the view as your plane glides into the coastal town, the views across the city and ocean really give you a flavour of what is to come.
- Upon arrival, the best place to get to your hotel or meeting point is the ‘Aerobus’. This bus makes key stops from the Airport (Terminal 1 or 2) and throughout the city.
- Aerobus Route: Airport – Plaça Espanya – Comte d’Urgell – Plaça Universitat – Plaça de Catalunya
- If you are feeling flush, there are copious amounts of Taxi’s ready to take you to your required destination. The official taxi’s are Black and Yellow and have a green light at the top to indicate they are available.
Spanish (Catalan) Tips
I personally managed to get by very easily using limited Spanish. Guidebooks will give you Catalan phrases to use if you like, but everyone speaks Spanish and the majority also English (particularly in restaurants).
However some key phrases to know:
- Quiero – I want (This is a common phrase and is not rude)
- Gracias/Merci – Thank You
- Que Tal? – How are you?
- Bien, y usted? – Good and you? (instead of ‘Usted’, ‘Tu’ can be used if informal)
- Cerveza – Beer (San Miguel and Estrella are the local tipple)
- Vino – Wine ( For the more cultured amongst you, some very fine Rioja’s to be enjoyed)
- Agua– Water (For the morning after)
Eating and Drinking
The Spanish generally don’t start thinking about dinner before 9pm. Lunch is normally the main meal, followed by a siesta. On a holiday break, I suggest making dinner the main meal. Heading out slightly earlier ensures getting a table and you can watch the streets gradually fill up and come alive midway through your Tapas!
Tapas are the Spanish way of dining, small portions of many different dishes to share, continuously order until satisfied.
The best areas to eat in the evenings are ‘El Born’ which is about a 25 minute walk (south) from ‘Plaça de Catalunya’, situated near ‘La Catedral’. Specifically, the road ‘Argenteria’ has some very nice places to go.
If you are looking for a livelier scene, close to bars and clubs, the beach front has many nice restaurants. It is advisable to get a taxi back late at night, specifically if staying more in the centre of the city.
If you want to stay in the heart of the city, but are looking for a generally tranquil area, ‘Rambla de Catalunya’ is a picturesque road in the heart of the city, it is fairly busy where it reaches the ‘Plaça de Catalunya’, but a 25 minute walk away from the Plaça, it turns into a quieter greener street filled with great little restaurants.
Alternatively there is the famous ‘La Rambla’ which is extremely busy, lively and has many restaurants. Locals say it has been spoilt in recent times due to the crowds, which have also attracted thieves and pickpockets. I tend to agree with this sentiment. It is also more expensive.
- Fish – Being by the sea has great benefits as prawns, anchovies, squid, octopus and fish in general are all very fresh.
- ‘Jamon Iberico’ – If you like meat, you will fall in love with this salted ham. It is delicious and normally eaten with Manchego cheese.
- ‘Escalivada’ – A combination of sweet red peppers and artichoke topped with a small amount of Goat cheese.
- ‘Los pimientos de Padron’ – These small green peppers are a delicacy in Spain and are particularly attributed to the Galician area (northwest Spain). They range in spice, but are normally mild. The best place to find these are at a restaurant in the Les Corts area called, Ria de Barbanza. Ask for the owner Enrique and be prepared for quite a character.
- ‘Banderillas’ – These can vary, but more often than not is anchovies, pickles and olives on a skewer.
Top Restaurant tips
‘Agua’ – This seaside restaurant can be found at the ‘Barceloneta’ beach and takes reservations. One would be advised that it is essential to get a table outside in the lovely courtyard. This ‘sitio’ has fantastic food and the atmosphere is normally lively. Plus, it is just a short walk from bars and clubs further down the beach.
It does come at a price. A good meal for two all in will be around €85.
‘Ceveceria Catalana’ – On the other side of the city, just off ‘Rambla de Catalunya’, is a fantastic restaurant. It does not take bookings, so be prepared to turn up and have to wait up to 45 minutes for a table outside. You can either sit at the bar with a drink, or they are happy to let you go and look round shops while you wait. The service is quick, is always heaving with locals and tourists, and the food is delicious.
My favourite place to eat for lunch or dinner, as even going all out will only cost around €45 (for two).
Sagrada Familia – This awesome Gaudi-designed church is a fantastic example of Gothic Architecture. It still remains incomplete, even after 130 years of building! It has an anticipated finish date in 2026. This is an amazing spectacle from the outside, and if it`s not busy (as it’s not complete) the inside is well worth visiting.
La Catedral Barri Gotic/La Catedral del Mar – These charming cathedrals one in ‘El Born’ and one not far away in Barri Gotic. They are well worth a visit for just €3. Spend time at your leisure to take in the Catalan architecture, stained glass windows, and in the case of the ‘Barri Gotic’ a picturesque garden in the cloister.
Museu Picasso – If you are into art, the early works of this famous artist are displayed here. Like La Cathedral, it is situated in ‘El Born’ so can be visited in the same day.
Estadi Olimpic – The Olympic stadium from Barcelona 1992 is a fantastic sight within the wonderful area of Montjuic. Being sports fans, there is also an Olympic museum which has a great collection of memorabilia (including Ronaldinho and Ronaldo’s boots).
Montjuic – The peaceful green area of the city is situated a walk from the grand Plaça Espanya. It is a huge area containing a castle (reachable by cable car) a majestic Palace, botanical gardens and the Olympic Stadium.
Sitges– This seaside town is 30 minutes out of the city by train, but if you want a nice beach, this is a must. Head to the main road Passeig de Gracia and the station (also called Passeig de Gracia) is just off to the east side. Follow signs to the ‘RENFE’ to obtain train tickets.
Park Guell – Also designed by the famous Antoni Gaudi, and also where he lived, this wonderful park contains fantastic gothic-style but colourful cottages, walls and monuments. There are great views of the city and also an impressive Lizard monument. If travelling at peak time (July, August) it is fearfully busy, so try to avoid.
Cornella-El Prat – Barcelona`s ‘other’ football club, Espanyol, is one that true football fans shouldn`t ignored. While the stadium is not as breathtaking and awe-inspiring as the Camp Nou, and while their gift shop hardly compares with the two-storey shopping mall at the Camp Nou, this state of the art, modern stadium provides an intimate setting, which gives you the sensation that you are actually on the pitch. Cornella-El Prat has everything you need if Barca are on the road, as the two clubs never play at home on the same day, but is a definite must see for any football fan.
Top Sight Seeing Tips
‘Bus Turistic’ – I know the idea of travelling by Bus isn’t the most idyllic, but this tourist bus is well worth using, especially if you are only in the city for a limited time. It has numerous stops at all the best sights in the city, with three routes available to travel (ask any hotel or tourist information booths for a map). You can get on and off as much as you like, and spend as long as you want at different sights.
The busses are very regular, so you are able to see a lot of the city in just one day at a very reasonable price of €23 for a day or €31 for two days.
General Tip – If you are there for any length of time, walk as much as possible! It is a pleasant and not too overwhelming city. You can really get a feel for it when spending time on foot.
FC Barcelona & Camp Nou
Visiting the famous Camp Nou stadium is a great experience (I’m sure I don’t have to sell it to you!).
On this tour, you are able to admire the fantastic history and memorabilia of the club. There are interactive features to see some of the best highlights and moments in the club`s history.
After the opening room, you are able to enter the stadium and take in the massive pitch. This is then followed by a route (taken at your own time) around the changing rooms, interview area, commentary box position and press conference area. The tour comes to a close by being able to walk on to the pitch.
The club shop is a must visit to pick up your club shirt or any momento of your trip.
Travel to Camp Nou
The stadium is best reached by Metro or taxi, as it is too far to walk if you are staying in the centre or coastal area of the city.
The metro stop is ‘Les Corts’ on the green line, which is best picked up at the Plaça de Catalunya.
Once you reach ‘Les Corts’, it is clearly signposted to the stadium. It is a slight hill, so if in doubt, take the 10 minute walk down the slope. For a game day, just follow the crowd!
Tickets and membership
Barcelona have already released tickets for all home games for the 2012-2013 season. Head to the website in order to purchase tickets for all home games, except ‘El Clasico’ tickets, which are only available to members.
If you are a fan from afar and plan on going to a number games, or you just want the chance to go to an ‘El Clasico’, then a membership is required.
The only way to become a member is if you have a family member who is already a member, or you are under 15 years of age (this will allow you to apply for membership). Otherwise, you will have to purchase a commitment card. This card costs €68 and can only be bought in person at the stadium. Once this is purchased, you will have to remain patient for three years before being able to apply for a membership.
When the disappointing day comes when you have to head home, make sure you have already located the nearest Aerobus stop to your residence.
The Aerobus has two buses, A1 and A2, one of which goes to Terminal 1 and the other to Terminal 2. It is vital you plan ahead and know the terminal your flight departs from, as they are around 30 minutes away from each other.
Barcelona is a city full of intrigue and passion with a wonderful culture. The fantastic food, shopping and sights can keep any visitor more than content. In terms of football, we fans hear the countless references to FC Barcelona representing the nation Catalonia, and to feel that passion and excitement cannot be felt through your TV.
A trip to this iconic city is an absolute must. The city lives and breathes football, locals want to talk about their great club and you can feast upon that passion and atmosphere in the incredible Camp Nou.
I hope this guide has given you a flavour and the push you need to experience this city, as well as all the necessary information needed to make the most of your stay.