Travel Review of Barcelona

Boyd Lemon By Boyd Lemon, 11th Jan 2011 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>Spain>Barcelona & Around

This is a review of my trip to Barcelona, Spain in November 2010, including recommendations for hotel, restaurant and sites to visit.

Barcelona Travel Review

If you plan on traveling to Barcelona, this review is to help you get there and get around once you're there, recommend an inexpensive hotel, a good restaurant and some sites to visit. You’ll want about three full days in Barcelona if you’re going to include any down time at all, and, if you have read any of my travel reviews, you know I recommend down time to allow you to appreciate and reflect on what you have seen.

How To Get There.

I arrived by the high speed train from Paris, which is the best way to get to Barcelona if you’re coming from Europe. It is an eight to nine hour trip from Paris through some pretty French countryside and, of course, the Pyrenees, which, unfortunately, I didn’t see because it was dark. Of course, if you’re coming from elsewhere, air or ship is your logical option. If you go during one of the “shoulder” months–April, May, October or November, the weather is still good–we were still dining outdoors–and the flights are much less expensive than during summer. indicated roundtrips around $800 from Los Angeles and $600 from New York in November.

Where to Sleep.

I can highly recommend the little bed and breakfast where I stayed, Casa Maca Guest House, 146 Rua Bruc. The location is very convenient–100 yards from the Verdaguer Metro Stop (on the Yellow Line, L4, if you arrive at the Franca train station), or if you arrive differently, Carla will be happy to direct you when you make your reservation. It is a block from the main street that runs through Barcelona, Diagonal, and only a few Metro stops from all of the attractions of Barcelona at a price much less than central city lodging. For Spain, Barcelona is an expensive city. I made reservations through and got a rate of 41 Euros or about $65 per night, including breakfast. The accommodations were perfectly clean. The room was large and airy (even had a parlor adjacent to the bedroom), but this room did not include a private bathroom. I had no problem using a shared bathroom down the hall. A room with a private bathroom, of course, would cost more. Breakfast is serve-yourself; you have free reign of the kitchen that is stocked with more than enough food for a good breakfast. And you have access to the kitchen at any time. The staff is nice and friendly and English speaking. Free wireless internet is included. Their website is Email is Phone from the U.S. is 001-34-690-393-593.
Where to Eat.

The best restaurant I found in Barcelona with reasonable prices and great tapas is a few doors down Bruc from Casa Maca on the same side of the street, called De Tapa Madre. The tapa places I ate at in the Gothic Quarter were good, but not as good as De Tapa Madre. Be sure you have Barcelona’s famous Paella at least once. I had it three times, and it was always good. I can’t recommend one restaurant over another. It is good all over town.

One of the most famous restaurants in Barcelona, because Picasso frequented it, is Els Quatre Gats in the Gothic quarter on Montsio, 3 bis. It is worth a meal–good Catalan cuisine at reasonable prices and lots of art nouveau ambiance. In Barceloneta there are a string of beautiful restaurants on the beach, with beautiful ocean views, but expensive, mediocre food. You’re better off eating in the small tapa bars either in the Gothic Quarter or around a boulevard called Passeo Gracia. Another good option is in the Las Ramblas area, which I will talk about below.

What To Do.

Barcelona is too big to say accurately that it is a walkable city. You need to use the Metro, buses or taxis. I recommend the Metro (See my blog posts on how to use subway systems, if you are not used to traveling by subway). The Barcelona Metro is fast, modern and goes everywhere. You still must be careful with your valuables though–not in your pockets (See my blog posts on subway safety). It is no different in Barcelona than in New York, Paris or any other big city.

Though, as I said, the whole city is not walkable, there are a number of interesting neighborhoods that you can get to by the Metro that are great places to walk and gawk. As in all big cities, first get maps of the city and the Metro lines from your hotel (Casa Maca has them). Walk around your own neighborhood first. If you stay at Casa Maca, a good place to start is Diagonal, the wide street you saw from the Verlaguer Metro Stop. Walk for a while toward the central city at least to Passeo Gracia, another nice neighborhood to walk in and gawk at the architecture. You’ll get a flavor for the beautiful and varied architecture of the Barcelona buildings. But the best way to see the most architecture is to take the hop-on-hop-off tour bus $18 for seniors, $22 for other adults), which you can pick up by the pride of Barcelona, the statue of Christopher Columbus (who was from Barcelona) by the port, called El Mirador de Colom (the Spanish name for Columbus). Look it up on your maps and take the Metro.

Just off the square by the statue is Las Ramblas, a must walk, where you’ll see mimes and performers of various kinds, cafes and shops. It is always a lively area, especially at night. It is safe, but keep your valuables hidden and out of your pockets when it is crowded.
To the south of Las Ramblas is the most interesting area of Barcelona, the oldest, the Gothic area, where you’ll see quintessential Gothic architecture, high end and middle end shops and galleries–a delightful walk. At the south end is the Picasso Museum, a must visit for at least two hours–over 1,000 of his works, including some of his earliest, even drawings he made as a child. It is fascinating to follow his developments as a painter from childhood through his early 20’s.

The Gothic Cathedral is definitely worth a visit too. Then treat yourself to a coffee and a postre or a beer or wine and relax in the Gothic Quarter.

On another day visit the famous cathedral, Sagrada Familia. The outside of it alone is worth a visit. The sculptural detail is astounding. To go inside you pay 12 Euros. Unless you’re a serious Catholic, it probably isn’t worth it. I didn’t go in, so I can’t tell you about it.

As always in Spanish towns, the public market is worth a visit.

Although I wouldn’t eat dinner in the restaurants on the beach in Barceloneta, wander down there (south of the Barceloneta Metro Stop) around sunset and have a three Euro glass of wine in one of the cheap places on the sand, maybe even dip a toe or two in the Mediterranean.

If you’re a sports fan a visit to the Olympic Stadium up on the hill, site of the track and field events and the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1992 Olympics may interest you, and the views are lovely even for the non-sports fans.

A gondola sky ride across the harbor, which provides a magnificent view of the city is another possibility.

Cataluna has a fascinating history. If you’re a history buff, the Cataluna Museum of History should be of interest.

All in all, Barcelona is a great place to spend three days and then go on by train to San Sebastian and/or Bilbao.This is the first in a series of reviews of northern Spain and Lisbon, Portugal for baby boomers, seniors and everyone. It is truly unique, and if you have been to southern Spain, you will find the north quite different.


Spain Tour, Spain Travel, Spain Trip, Spain Vacation, Travel By Train, Travel Destination, Travel Guide, Travel Tips

Meet the author

author avatar Boyd Lemon
I write fiction, memoir and essays, as well as a travel blog. I'm a retired lawyer originally from California, now living in Paris. I love writing, reading, travel and good food and wine.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
12th Jan 2011 (#)

I love travel guides! You just need to EDIT and use SECTIONS so you can have all the pictures - I sent publication notes explaining more.

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14th Jan 2011 (#)

Thanks for your writeup on Barcelona.It was pretty interesting,indeed.

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