Barcelona is a beach vacationer's paradise, offering up warm weather long after other countries in Europe have started to turn to fall and winter. If you're coming from Europe, you can often get cheap flights via budget airlines; from anywhere else in the world, you're still likely to find cheap flights to cheap flights especially if you look at having a layover in other major European cities like London or Paris. The city is known for its beaches and culture, and it's a fun and interesting place to visit. Here are the top five places to make sure you see:
1. The Gothic Quarter
Barcelona's Gothic Quarter displays a lot of history in a relatively compact area. The centerpiece is, of course, its cathedral, which was built during the 13th-15th centuries, but there are plenty of other historical places around, including La Plaça Reial which is located right off the main pedestrian street, Las Ramblas. For a look even deeper into history, check out the remains of the Roman Temple of Augustus. Said to be built under the orders of Emperor Tiberius, a few of the columns and other bits of architecture remain today, harkening back to when Barcelona was an imperial colony.
2. The Beach
If you're looking for that perfect summer vacation, Barcelona is definitely your place. In fact, it has been named one of the top beach cities in the world by National Geographic! You'll find plenty of beaches along the perimeter of the city—one of the local favorites is Barceloneta. It gets a bit crowded, especially on weekends, but this means that there are plenty of shops in the area where you can pick up a picnic lunch or some drinks, and if you wander a bit further along the beach towards the harbor (note the giant bronze fish-like sculpture), you're sure to find a spot for yourself. There are a couple of nude beaches in the area as well, but know that these typically cater towards an older crowd.
3. La Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia is an interesting and iconic bit of architecture in Barcelona. It was designed by Antoni Gaudí, as were a handful of places around the city. Unfortunately, the architect died before the project could be completed and the building remains unfinished to this day—but this only adds to the fascination with the structure. In fact, at the time of Gaudí's death, only roughly a quarter of the construction had been completed, although a lot of work has been put into the building since then. If churches aren't your thing or the lines are too long, check out Parc Güell instead, which was also masterminded by Gaudí. You'll find similar displays of modernisme here, all located in a park that you can stroll through and do some people-watching in.
4. La Rambla
La Rambla is the center for everything that's happening in Barcelona, from the clubs and bar crawl (if you're looking for a party, check them out and tell them I sent you!) to restaurants and cultural activities. It's a long stretch of street that's perfect for pedestrians, so you're sure to find a great café offering up tasty sangría and people-watching. It's a bit more touristy than other parts of Barcelona, but it's still a lot of fun, and if you're going to be down in the nearby Gothic Area anyway, it's a great place to hang out for a while.
Although Montserrat is located a little ways outside of Barcelona, it's accessible by public transportation and should definitely make your itinerary of things to do. From here, you'll have great views back over Barcelona, and you'll also be able to see the picturesque monastery at Montserrat. It will probably take you a full day to visit the monastery and return to Barcelona, but it's worth the time. If you're only in Barcelona for a few days, though, check out the view from Montjuïc instead, which you can walk or take a cab to from La Rambla. There are also a lot of cheap tapas restaurants in the area that are well worth checking out—you'll pay a lot less than you would on La Rambla and will often receive better quality food!
Barcelona truly is one of the best cities in Europe, from the architecture to the culture to the food and drink. You're sure to have a lot of fun exploring the city from its historic roots to its modernist architecture of today. Or if you're looking for a vacation just relaxing on a beach, Barcelona is also the place for you. Get ready for this wonderful city; you're guaranteed to not be disappointed!