DESTINATION GUIDE TO THE CITY OF COLOURFUL EXUBERANCE
One of the largest cities in Europe, the Catalan capital of Barcelona strikes a delicate balance between the hustle and bustle of a modern-day metropolis and the laid-back, festive atmosphere that Spain is renowned for. Our Finnair travel guide to Barcelona can help you make the most of both worlds. With a history dating back to Roman times, the city is filled to the brim with historic sights for the eager visitor. Barcelona is also, however, a modern urban cityscape with leafy green boulevards mixing with international brands, all tied together by the vibrant people of this Catalan capital on the edge of the Mediterranean.
Barcelona used to be an industrial city unknown to travellers until the 1992 Olympics changed everything. The oceanfront was converted into a huge entertainment district, and this magnificent capital of Catalonia gained the worldwide publicity it truly deserves. Barcelona today is an amazing combination of white sand and Catalonian culture. The Platja Barceloneta signals the start of a sand beach stretching over 10 kilometres, with charming restaurants and cafes. Each art museum is more impressive than the last, and they all boast works of art by masters such as Picasso, Dalí and Miró. Add into the mix the delicacies of the Catalonian cuisine and the tempting shopping streets of Borni, Gràcia and L’Eixample and you'll have a city destination you simply cannot miss.
SIGHTS IN BARCELONA
Sagrada Família - Antoni Gaudí’s crowning achievement, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed masterpiece has been under construction for almost 130 years - and still is today. In spite of the occasional crane, this imposing Roman Catholic church draws millions of admirers a year and is by far the most popular sight in Barcelona. Gaudí’s influence spreads far in Barcelona with his designs peppering the city, such as La Pedrera with its unusual wave-like exterior and the sprawling Parque Güell perched high above the city.
The famous Las Ramblas forms the backbone of any tourist trip to Barcelona and is the epicentre for all activity in the city. Running southeast to the sea, its tall, leafy trees give much-needed shade to the people strolling below, enjoying ice cream and taking in the buzz of this very alive area. The end of Las Ramblas gives a clear view of Montjuïc, the green hill nestled behind the city. The not-so-difficult walk up rewards the brave climber with sweeping views of the city and its interface with the sea. Back in town, you can explore the twisting narrow streets of the Gothic Quarter, full of chattering locals and the sounds of busy cafes and bars. For a welcome green break, push further to Parc de la Ciutadella where locals come to spend a lazy afternoon amid the lush gardens of this former citadel.
THINGS TO SEE AND DO NEAR BARCELONA
- Montserrat – This serrated mountain (from which it takes its name) lies 40km to the northwest of Barcelona. Spain’s first national park, hikers and climbers can find natural beauty here in an easy daytrip from the city.
- Girona – a leisurely hour’s train ride away, this town abounds in medieval architecture. Visit the official Dalí Theatre and Museum for an intimate view of the life of this world-famous surrealista.
- Cava and wine tours – Not 50 km from Barcelona lies the wine-producing region of Penedès. Tour the numerous vineyards and get a taste for the produce of the rich Catalan soils.
- The Costa Brava – Everybody knows La Barceloneta, so why not get away to another beach for some rest and relaxation? To the northeast of Barcelona in Girona you can find the Costa Brava region – a chain of beautiful beaches and towns such as Blanes and the Salvador Dalí triangle.
- The Pyrenees Mountains – with hiking, horse riding, mountain biking and more the Pyrenees are nature’s adventure park. Close enough for a day trip but deserving of at least a few days these scenic peaks call for adventure.
- Sail the Med – being a seaside city, there is no shortage of boats, big and small, ready to take you onto the Mediterranean and get the wind in your hair. Whether for the day or for a longer adventure, many operators are based in Barcelona.
SHOPPING IN BARCELONA
Barcelona’s most famous street, La Rambla with its many side streets is a must-see sight in itself. Around the area, you can shop for souvenirs and stop by in small boutiques selling homegrown and international brands.
- Stroll down to the water and you’ll find Maremagnum, Barcelona’s flagship mall floating on the harbour hosting all the major brands.
- Local markets are scattered throughout the city, especially in the areas of Ciutat Vella and Eixample. The well-known La Boqueria (off Las Ramblas) has everything on offer for both tourists and locals alike while the smaller markets might specialise in a certain product entirely.
- Not surprisingly, there’s a lot of design shops to be found in Barcelona, given its long history of art. Stroll along the city’s main shopping street, the Passeig de Gràcia, for elegant high-fashion boutiques, or head to the area of Gràcia to find the latest and greatest from young designers.
- For a more traditional shopping experience you can seek out El Corte Inglés, Spain’s most well-known chain of department stores. Selling gourmet foods, fashion and everything in between, they’re found throughout the city.
SPANISH FOOD & DRINK IN BARCELONA
Offering a mix of Spanish and Catalan flavours, visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to food & drink in Barcelona. Taking inspiration from the land and sea, Barcelona’s food offerings are diverse and delicious.
- Paella – a rice-based dish served in its cooking pan. Many varieties are available for almost any taste but the most popular is seafood.
- Cava – Made just outside of Barcelona, this refreshing sparkling wine is a must-try.
- Sangria – a Spanish classic, best enjoyed on hot afternoons.
- Pa amb tomàquet – Bread with tomato, a delicious snack found in every restaurant.
- Escudella – Catalan stew consisting of meat, beans, pasta and potatoes.
- Exqueixada – a famous salad with cod, peppers, onions, olives and tomatoes.
- Crema Catalana – a sweet custard-like dessert, similar to a Crème brûlée.
- Mel i mató – Fresh goat’s cheese drizzled with honey.
- Tapas – Found everywhere across the city and enjoyed as a light snack any time of day.
- Melindros – Often served with a mug of thick hot chocolate, these ladyfinger biscuit treats provide a sweet balance to the savoury treats of the city.
TRANSPORT IN BARCELONA
- Metro – 11 lines span the city and serve every major tourist destination. It is comparatively cheap but be mindful of your surroundings as you would in any big-city train system.
- Bus – Public buses can be found running on major streets through the downtown area and out to the suburbs if required.
- Bicycle – Bike paths are becoming more common through Barcelona though riding through the crowded downtown area can be a challenge especially in heavy traffic conditions.
- By foot – Barcelona is a large and sometimes spread out city. Walking is perfect in your area of interest but it’s best to cross larger distances by metro or bus.
- Taxi – Taxis are plentiful and generally safe. Always ask for the meter to be running.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT BARCELONA
- Currency – Euro (€).
- Electricity – 220 volts, 50hz, European type-C plug
- Tips – Not expected but welcomed.
- Payment / card – accepted in most areas, cash may be expected at markets.
- Time zone – CET / UTC+1.
- Water - Safe to drink, bottled water available everywhere.