5 things you have to see if it’s your first time in Barcelona

This article was created for The Travel Project by Samantha Reynolds, who enjoys exploring countries and cities from every corner of the globe.

Barcelona doesn’t stop for a breath. It is a vibrant city bustling with life and energy, which can sometimes make it overwhelming for newbies to this cultural hub.

Don't know where to start? Kick off your trip by making sure you see these 5 things...

Explore the Gothic Quarter

The El Raval, El Barri Gotic and La Ribera areas sit side by side and in many ways showcase the true magic of Barcelona. The quintessential labyrinth of cobbled backstreets lined with shops, bars and restaurants, intricate Catalan gothic architecture and a rich history.

In La Ribera you will find a little of everything including high-end shopping but be sure not to miss the Modernista concert hall Palau de la Música Catalana – the colourful curved stain glass ceiling is truly stunning and shouldn’t be missed! When wandering through El Raval be sure to make a stop at Chök for a sweet treat, their chocolate covered and filled cookies (piruchöks) were beyond delicious.


Stroll down Las Ramblas

Barcelona’s most famous street is an open-air boulevard set between two narrow roads flanked by trees that create a leafy canopy above.The street is lined with stalls selling everything from souvenirs, jewellery, clothing, flowers and naughty vegetable seeds alongside streets performers and buskers.

I found myself returning to this street almost every day, splitting up the middle of Barcelona means you can’t help but continually come across it. While you are in the area be sure to step off the street and into Plaça Reial. To me, this square was almost like a slice of Cuba in Barcelona with stunning 19th Century neoclassical architecture, palm trees and of course of touch of Gaudi with his lampposts.


Get to grips with Gaudi

Very few cities are so greatly defined by their architecture as what Barcelona is, especially from just one man: Antoni Gaudí. His most famous icon, the Sagrada Familia is one of the most unusual churches I have ever seen. On the inside the intricate and multi-coloured stain glass windows floods colour and light through the entire church.

Next stop, Casa Batllo. A residential building known as the House of the Dragon or House of Bones due to its façade which is covered in a mosaic of blues, greens and purples and boney curved balconies. On a sunny day, the shimmer on the tiles makes the building appear to be a breathing beast.


Unearth the Northern side

On the northern side of the city you will find L’Eixample and Gràcia, a middle ground linking the old city and the suburbs. This area is the home to youthful bohemians, artists and young families so wandering the streets here you will find more of a village feeling and far fewer tourists.

Discover well-worn cafes, bars and local and multicultural eateries in small squares or narrow back streets which are perfect for a lunchtime stop off before hiking up to Park Güell – an intricately detailed playground, where the imagination can run wild. There are multiple areas to cover off so be prepared for a long but beautiful walk through the Monumental Zone and the many different styles of architecture and landscaping the area has to offer.


Get some downtime at the beach

Wander through Port Vell and La Barceloneta and spend some time soaking up the Barcelonan beach culture. Here you will find a mix of bohemian beach babes riding their skateboards to the locals riding their bikes and muscle men showing off their skills on the outdoor gym equipment. It’s like the Venice Beach of Spain.

Enjoy a few drinks on the beach, swim, sun bake, walk the boardwalk and if your heart desires even get into a game of volleyball. Stop in for a bite to eat at my favourite burger place on the beach front, Bacoa.

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