Five years ago I went to Barcelona for the first time to try out working remotely. Since then, I came back five times. So I might be able to tell you something about this city. This is my ultimate wrap up.
First, watch this video. It gives a quick insight into the feeling I get every time I’m arriving.
This is my favorite city because of the combination of:
- ☀️ Good weather all year round
- 🗣 Great language
- 🏚 Different areas with their own styles
- 🍻 Lot of things to do
- 🚲 Very bike friendly
- ⛪️ Sightseeing paradise
- 🏖 Beach available within the city
- 💃🏻 Many expats from different cultures
- ⚽️ The world’s greatest football club
The city has some cons too, though:
- 💦 In summer it gets too hot with too many tourists, stay away!
- 🤝 People tend to stay for a few years only, so it’s hard to maintain friendships
- 🏚 Housing prices have gone through the roof due to speculation and Airbnb
Barcelona has a mediterranean climate with dry summers and mild winters. It has good weather year round. Only in January and February temperatures get below 10 degrees Celcius. In all the other months you don’t really need a winter coat during the day. The lowest temperature I ever experienced in Barcelona was 5 degrees Celcius.
Summers are too hot though, whereas spring and autumn are more comfortable with degrees between 18 and 22 degress. I’d advise you to go in this months, as these periods also come with a lower number of tourists.
It doesn’t rain a lot, but when it does a it’s very heavy. Average rainfall is between 20 mm in July and 91 mm in October.
I love the Spanish language. It sounds great and it has a lot more of subtlety than my native language.
For example, there are many ways to say “maybe” that all indicate another level of probability. And there is a whole extra grammatical mood called “subjuntivo” to express various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, possibility, judgement, opinion, obligation, or action that has not yet occurred.
In Catalonia the default language is Catalan, though. All names, road signs and menus are in Catalan, for example. But everyone speaks Spanish, too. And you can get along with English.
The city center can be divided into eight main areas, in which you will probably stay when you visit. I’m somehow of a nomad within the city and lived in five areas, so I can form a balanced opinion on it quite well. Every area has its pros and cons.
The Gothic area with the infamous Ramblas, that used to be a meeting point for locals but now is tourists-only, and lots of nightlife. It’s the very old city center that arose in the Roman era, when the city was still called Barcino. The Roman city walls are still visible and you can walk around them. Most tourists stay here, a reason to avoid it.
Next to Gótico you’ll find the Born area, with Parque de la Ciudadela and Arco de Triunfo as the most famous attractions. Beware that this area is full of pick pockets (easy to recognise; wearing a cap, sweat pants and fanny pack). You won’t be the first that gets ripped his phone out of his hands in front of a full terrace, by broad daylight.
Eixample is the biggest area with the most traffic, with hallmarks like Gaudi’s master piece Sagrada Família, Plaza de España and the Torre Agbar. The name means “expansion” as this was the city’s first big expansion from the Ciutat Vella (which contains El Raval, Gótico, El Born and Barceloneta). The grid pattern of urban planner Ildefons Cerdà’s original plan is still there, but many of his ideas were ignored because of speculation.
El Raval is the Babylonian area on the left side of Las Ramblas. It’s very chaotic and a former problematic area with lots of “narcopisos” (apartments to buy and use drugs). It was called Barrio Chino back then. Now it turned into a hipster area, with a population dominated by immigrants from Pakistan and India.
Even more further to the left is the Poble Sec, located against the Olympic mountain. It’s populated by mainly latinos. You’ll find the famous Calle Blai eat street over here, full with pinchos restaurants.
Poblenou, a more quiet and industrial area, is located on the other side of the city. It has the beach nearby, a reason why it’s more expensive. It’s my favorite area
but I never lived here.
Gracia is a former town turned into hipster zone. It has been connected to the old city center after the construction of the big Eixample area in the 19th century. It still has the atmosphere of a small town, but is very crowded with a lot of bars, restaurants and squares.
And finally, there is the Barceloneta area. It’s next to the sea and smells like fish. It has been constructed in the 18th century for the residents who had to be displaced because of the construction of the Parque de la Ciudadella.
For those who like activities there are a lot of things to do. Theaters, cinemas, plenty of bars, 10.000+ restaurants, a beach, sightseeing, museums, shopping, mountains, parks, concerts and football.
In 1990 the municipality of Barcelona decided to start creating bicycle lanes. Right now there is more than 300 km available. This, in combination with the weather, makes a bicycle the best way to move within the city.
From the city center you can go everywhere by bicycle in max 45 minutes. Often that’s less than if you would have used public transport.
Always use the lanes for your own safety. Traffic is rushing by and cars are not used to cyclists on the streets. Better take a detour than take a risk.
If you want to see everything in a day I’d advise to take the sightseeing hop on hop off bus. There are two different companies providing this, I think both are fine. It costs around €30 for one day and takes you everywhere. I never used it myself though as I prefer bicycle.
The highlights that every tourist should see are:
- Arco de Triunfo
- Parque de la Ciudadela
- Sagrada Familia
- The beach
- La Catedral
- Las Ramblas
- Plaza de España
If you have more time, I advise you to rent a bike somewhere, there are plenty of shops. It makes sense to follow the sequence above, starting at the point that’s nearest to you location.
Or you can book a guided bike tour, which includes a bike.
And if you have some more time I’d also go to:
- Plaza de Cataluña
- Camp Nou
- Port Vell (the harbor)
- Torre Agbar
- Parc Guell
- Columbus statue
- Montjuic (the Olympic mountain)
- Paseo de Gracia
Some less famous spots that you can’t find in all tourist guides are La Xampanyería (food), Bunkers del Carmel (lookout), La tasqueta de Blai (pinchos), 1881 per Sagradi (roof terrace at the port) and Barceló Raval (roof terrace).
Barcelona is one of the few big cities in Europe that has a beach available within the city. This is a big plus, you can take your bicycle and be at the beach in 10-15 minutes if you live in the city center, chill an hour and go back to work. At least, that’s what I often do.
The beach is artificial though, it has been created for the 1992 Summer Olympics. This event has been very important for the city in general, transforming a lot of infrastructure. The current beaches were slums before.
The water is not very clean, but warm in summer. It’s also possible to take surf classes, like I did. The problem is there are waves almost never, so I still didn’t learn it.
If you want to expose yourself to other cultures, you should go to Barcelona. There are expats from all over the world, especially Latin-America (because of the language) and Asia, but also a lot Europeans.
In my time in Barcelona I made friends from Poland, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom, Russia, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, Brasil, Peru, United States, Guatemala, Mexico, Turkey and I’m sure I forget some.
And last but not least, “El Barça” (this is the football club, the city is abbreviated “Barna”). One of the world’s main football clubs with Europe’s biggest stadium (Camp Nou).
If you want to see the best player ever in action, you still have a few years.
Tickets prices start from €30, depending on the opponent. For el Clásico against Real Madrid you’ll pay €1.000+.
The best way to buy tickets is via FC Barcelona’s official website. They always pretend like it’s almost sold out, but it’s never. Don’t buy tickets on ticket resellers like Viagogo, it’s a rip-off.
My Barcelona song
I’m choosing one song that represents my memories for each place I stayed. For Barcelona it’s Manu Chao’s Rumbla de Barcelona, off course.