panoramic view of barcelona

30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time

Barcelona is one of the most visited cities in Spain and Europe, and there’s no doubt why – its beautiful mosaic, colourful and detailed architectural buildings, its rich culture, its pleasant temperatures and gastronomy, make it the perfect destination.

However, if you’re visiting Barcelona for the first time, it’s important you know how to avoid tourist traps, which places you can’t miss, where to stay according to your travel style, where to eat authentic food and how to avoid the crowds.

If you’re ready to have an unforgettable trip, keep reading to discover the best Barcelona tips and tricks for first-timers.

30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time 30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time

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30+ Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time

Avoid visiting Barcelona during the high season

Barcelona is one of the best cities to visit in Spain, however, it can be very crowded and busy, especially during the peak season.

If you don’t like crowds and would like to have a more relaxing experience in Barcelona, then I recommend visiting the city in autumn because there are fewer tourists and the temperatures are still pleasant.

Alternatively, visit Barcelona in early winter. January is the coldest month in Barcelona with temperatures of 15 °C (59 °F) during the day, but if you’re after sightseeing instead of hitting the beach, it’s a great choice.

Barceloneta beach

Pack an adapter

If you come from the United Kingdom or other countries such as Ireland, Malta or Cyprus, you must remember to pack an adapter.

Spain uses the Type C plug (also known as Europlug) which has two round pins. You can easily buy one once you’re in Barcelona, but I wouldn’t recommend getting it from a souvenir shop or convenience store as you’ll pay double for it.

To save money, buy one on Amazon a few weeks before your trip. I have a mix of Spanish and British electronic products, so I got this great multi-adapter from Amazon. If you’re an avid traveller, you’ll probably use it more than once on your trips.

Fly to the right airport

There are 3 airports near Barcelona which may confuse you and let you wonder which one you should fly to.

The 3 airports are Barcelona-El Prat Airport, Girona-Costa Brava Airport and Reus International Airport. If you want to visit Barcelona city, Barcelona-El Prat Airport is the closest to the city centre (at only 15 km).

The other 2 airports aren’t really in Barcelona, but in other Catalonian cities.

Use the Aerobus Express

A great way to get to and from Barcelona airport is taking the Aerobus Express. It’s affordable and very convenient as it runs every 15 minutes from terminals 1 and 2.

The bus stops at several locations in Barcelona city centre, including the famous Plaça de Catalunya and Plaça d’Espanya.

The single ticket costs €5.90 and the return ticket costs €10.20 which is valid for 90 days.

Book attractions in advance

One of my biggest mistakes, when I visited Barcelona for the first time, was to show up with no tickets to places. I thought it would be as easy as getting my tickets at the attractions, but I was completely wrong. Luckily, I’ve visited Barcelona more than once and learnt from this mistake. 

Big attractions such as Sagrada Familia, Park Güell and Casa Batlló are always busy, so go to the attraction websites to book your online tickets a few weeks before your trip to Barcelona. 

No matter how small or less popular the attraction is, book your tickets online to avoid any disappointment!

Also, buying your tickets online will save you money as most attractions have discounted prices on their websites.

Casa Batllo façade

Avoid queues by getting skip the line tickets

If you are spending a weekend in Barcelona, or simply a day, you don’t want to risk spending a few hours queuing to enter an attraction because you don’t have much time in the city.

Even if you’re staying longer, you may want to avoid queues anyway. This is why you want to consider getting skip the line tickets. They are more expensive than regular tickets, but it’s worth spending a bit more to maximize your time in Barcelona.

Stay in the city centre

Accommodation in the city centre tends to be more expensive than in the outskirts of a city. However, you can find beautiful boutique hotels with rooftops in Barcelona as well as budget-friendly hostels or Airbnbs.

Regardless of the type of accommodation you prefer, staying in the city centre will make a difference when you’re visiting Barcelona for the first time. This will allow you to walk to most places, make the most of your time in the city and avoid unnecessary travel.

If you’re looking for a mid-range boutique hotel, I loved staying at H10 Metropolitan, next to Las Ramblas. The location was perfect for me since I could walk anywhere and there were many restaurant and cafe options. 

The hotel was also amazing – the decor, style and room with a balcony where I could enjoy the sunrise.

Don’t expect to see everything on your first visit

It’s absolutely normal to overpack your itinerary when you’ve never been to that destination.

Although you can walk to most places in Barcelona, it doesn’t mean every attraction will be close to you. On top of this, you don’t know how long you’ll have to queue and spend in a place.

Instead of trying to visit most places in Barcelona, make a list of your must-see attractions and visit them well. Don’t rush it! For example, you can’t rush your visit to Sagrada Familia or Park Güell because there are so many things to see.

If you don’t manage to see many of the things you wanted, this is a reason to go back to Barcelona.

Wake up early 

Waking and getting up early does make a difference when you’re travelling, especially in big cities like Barcelona. 

By visiting places early, you can avoid crowds, sometimes have the place to yourself, take all the photos you want, and just enjoy it more in general.

Be aware of pickpockets

Like in most big European cities, you’ll find pickpockets in Barcelona, especially in certain areas like Las Ramblas.

To avoid pickpocketing, keep your belongings close to you, don’t take too much money with you and be aware of your surroundings.

If you’re travelling solo and love taking photos, avoid using your tripod in these busy areas. 

Walk everywhere

If you’re staying in Barcelona city centre, you won’t need to use public transport, you can walk anywhere, especially to the main attractions and museums.

Walking in Barcelona is amazing because you just sometimes need to look up to find incredible architecture and beautiful balconies decorated with plant pots and flowers. It also gives you a vibe of what it is like to live in the city.

In case you don’t have much time, then opt for the underground as it’s the quickest way to move around Barcelona.

30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time 30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time

Wear comfortable shoes

The city centre of Barcelona is very flat and easy to walk, but if you’re going to spend hours and hours sightseeing and exploring the city, make sure to pack some good and comfortable shoes with you.

On top of this, some areas in Barcelona can have a pretty steep climb. For example, Montjüic or Park Güell (depending on the entrance you’re accessing).

Use public transport instead of driving

Renting a car in Barcelona isn’t a good idea – there is lots of traffic and it isn’t a cheap option. Most places are walkable, and if not, public transport is your best friend.

When choosing public transport, the underground is well-connected to all the areas in the city, it’s quick and safe.

If you want to use public transport during your trip to Barcelona, the Hola Barcelona card is perfect for you. You can buy one for 48, 72 hours or more, and it allows you to use it in most public transport across Barcelona (underground, train, bus, etc.) Get yours here.

Avoid taxis

Taxis are often expensive, and there is no need to take one as you can take the bus or the metro which is even better.

Barcelona is a big city, so it’s likely there will be traffic, especially during peak times. Unless you really need to get to a place as soon as possible and there is no other public transport, avoid getting a taxi. 

Mealtimes are different from other European destinations

A tip for travelling to Barcelona that is often forgotten is familiarising with the meal times in Barcelona, and generally, in Spain.

Some restaurants will serve food at almost any time to accommodate tourists, however, lunch and dinner times are completely different from other European destinations such as Berlin or London.

Lunch is often served from 2 pm and dinner from 8 pm. These are the times when you’ll see most locals having their food.

Taste the authentic local cuisine

Are you a foodie? Then you can’t leave Barcelona without trying some of its traditional dishes and desserts.

If you’re looking for authentic Catalonian dishes, you must try the following ones:

  • Fideuà consists of small noodles (fideos) with seafood cooked in a rich fish and vegetable stock.
  • Esqueixada de bacallà, a flaked salt cod salad with spring onions, tomatoes and olives.
  • Pa amb tomàquet consists of toasted bread spread with fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and salt.
  • Canelons are Catalan-style cannelloni filled with meat, fish or vegetables.
  • Escalivada is a vegetarian dish made with roasted vegetables such as aubergine, bell peppers and onion.
  • Crema Catalana, a crème brulée style dessert.
30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time 30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time

Are you wondering why I haven’t mentioned paella? Well, paella is the main traditional dish in Valencia. However, you can find paella anywhere in Spain, including in Barcelona. You can eat delicious paellas in Barcelona, but I just wanted to clarify this dish isn’t from Catalonia.

Don’t eat at Las Ramblas

It isn’t that you can’t eat at Las Ramblas, but the main problem is that many of the restaurants and bars you’ll find in this area target tourists, which means you aren’t probably going to have the most authentic and traditional food in Barcelona.

These restaurants can be a quick option if you’re desperately hungry and need something quick to eat, or you don’t really mind the local cuisine.

However, if you’re a foodie, just like me, you’ll be disappointed eating at Las Ramblas. Apart from the lack of quality of some dishes, you’ll pay more for the location.

Save money on food by trying “Menú del día”

Looking for ways to save money in Barcelona? I’ve got you covered! 

Barcelona is on the top list of most expensive cities in Spain, so don’t be surprised if you end up spending more money than you thought. Many travellers think that Spain is a cheap country to visit, but it depends on the city you visit.

When you’re looking for places to eat, keep an eye on the prices! Check the menus, which are normally visible outside the restaurant or bar, and avoid the main touristy areas where you’ll pay more money for food.

Many traditional bars and restaurants offer “Menú del día” which consists of a set menu for that specific day. This menu often includes a starter, main course and dessert (sometimes even a drink). They’re a good value for money!

Visit Barcelona food market

La Boquería Market, located next to Las Ramblas, is the most popular food market in Barcelona. Here you can enjoy the lively atmosphere, grab some local ingredients, find a souvenir for a foodie or eat some tapas.

It’s here where you’ll also find Vidal Pons Fruits Secs Neus, a lovely food stall with many different types of chocolates.

Boqueria Market

Visit some museums for free

A downside of visiting Barcelona is that there is a fee to enter most museums in comparison to cities like London where you’ll find that many museums are free.

However, you can enter museums for free in Barcelona every Saturday from 3 pm, all day on the first Sunday of each month, the 18th of May, as it’s International Museum Day, and the 11th and 24th of September.

Visit Palau de la Musica Catalana

Palau de la Musica Catalana is gem in Barcelona. This concert hall is so unique that it’s the only concert venue listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Not only does the building have an incredible facade, but the architecture inside is to admire too. Whether you like music or not, the concert hall will amaze you. You can spend hours wandering and contemplating the concert hall and taking photos of the colourful mosaic columns on the balcony. 

During your visit, you’ll also enjoy the music played at this magical venue.

palau de la musica

📌 Related blog post: 22 Most instagrammable Places in Barcelona You Can’t Miss

Discover Gaudí’s lesser-known monuments and buildings

When you mention to someone else that you’re going to visit Barcelona, they’ll think about Sagrada Familia or Park Güell straightway.

There is no doubt why these two Gaudi monuments are so popular among tourists and locals, they’re out of this world. However, Gaudí built many other buildings and monuments that are very beautiful and unique, but they aren’t as popular.

One of these buildings includes Casa Vicens Gaudi, which is a bit hidden in the Gràcia neighbourhood. This colourful building was Gaudí’s first major project, and it is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites you can’t miss in the city.

Another impressive building is Güell Palace, not very far from Las Ramblas. When you go inside this museum, you’ll love every architectural detail on the seven floors of this gem. But it gets even better when you access the rooftop.

On the rooftop, you’ll find chimneys that have been carefully decorated with colourful mosaics. Every chimney has a different shape!

Rooftop of palau guell in Barcelona

Explore Barcelona’s hidden gems

You can’t visit Barcelona without visiting its main attractions because they’re very unique and many of these can’t be compared with other attractions around the world.

However, if you have enough time, it’s worth going off the beaten path and discovering less known areas in Barcelona.

One of my favourite hidden gems is the Parc del Laberint d’Horta, a beautiful park situated on the outskirts of Barcelona, but very easy to access by underground. 

As its name says, it’s a park where you can find a maze or labyrinth. It’s a great place to disconnect from the bustle of the city.

Other hidden gems in Barcelona include the cactus garden, Antic Teatre and Casa Vicens.

casa vicens barcelona

Visit Barcelona’s parks

Barcelona is home to beautiful and unique parks that you want to add to your itinerary. 

The most famous park is Parc Güell because of its outstanding Gaudi architecture and panoramic views of the city. However, Parc de la Ciutadella is another park that you cannot miss. 

Ciutadella park in barcelona

Ciutadella Park is located near the triumphal arch, and it has 70 acres which include Barcelona Zoo, Barcelona’s Parlament, a museum, a small lake with plenty of swans and ducks, and an impressive fountain which is another work of Gaudi.

Most parks in Barcelona have many green spaces where you can soak in the sun and enjoy a picnic or ice cream. 

Discover the beautiful neighbourhood of Gracia

If you’re visiting Barcelona for more than two days, it’s worth visiting some of the beautiful neighbourhoods near the city centre.

Gracia is a very vibrant neighbourhood that represents well the creativity and culture of Barcelona. Here you’ll avoid the crowds and tourists while getting a taste of life in the city.

There are many cafes and restaurants, and it has become a popular area to stay in Barcelona for savvy travellers.

Watch the sunset at the beach

Regardless of the season, you’re visiting Barcelona, watching the sunset at the beach is an incredible thing to do in the city.

Barceloneta beach is the main beach in Barcelona as it’s very close to the city centre. It can get busy, but it’s still worth visiting it. I especially love the area close to the W hotel because you can sit at the beach or walk the bottom part of the promenade. 

Looking for a quiet beach in Barcelona? Nova Icària Beach is the most peaceful beach in the city.

30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time 30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time

Get a panoramic view of Barcelona

One of the best activities to do in Barcelona is enjoying the panoramic views of the city. There are a few viewpoints that you don’t want to miss during your trip to Barcelona. Here is a short list:

  • Bunkers of Carmel
  • Tibidabo
  • Montjuic Castle
  • La Pedrera
  • Las Arenas
30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time 30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time

Go on a day trip from Barcelona

If you have the time and opportunity, Barcelona is surrounded by many beautiful places that are worth visiting, and the good thing is that some of them are relatively close to the city.

The most popular day trip from Barcelona is Montserrat, which is only one hour by train. Montserrat is a beautiful mountain range where you can go on a hike, visit the Montserrat Monastery or go on the cable car. 

Although you can easily visit Montserrat on your own, you may want to check this guided tour which takes you to the best places in Montserrat and offers an optional wine tasting and lunch. 

Other popular day trips from Barcelona are Sitges, Girona, Tarragona and Cadaques.

📌 Are you looking for another getaway in Spain? Check out the best city breaks in Spain.

Attend a festival

No matter which Spanish city you’re visiting, it’s always good to check out if there are any events or festivals happening on the dates you are there.

For this, have a look at the calendar of the Barcelona tourism website or Time Out website.

Don’t expect things to be open on Sundays

If you aren’t from Spain or have never lived in Spain, you may not know that many businesses, apart from hospitality, close on Sundays.

Sundays are days in which locals relax at home or go for a walk with friends or family on a sunny day. During the summer season, everyone will be on the beach on a Sunday.

This is important to know because you may plan to do some shopping or visit a place and then when you get to the place you realise is close. 

30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time 30+ Top Tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time

Wear layers in spring and autumn

The temperature during spring and early autumn is enjoyable, and it can be 17-20 ºC during the day, however, it gets colder in the evening, so packing a small jacket or blazer with you is a good idea.

Remember Barcelona has two official languages

What’s the main language in Barcelona? Well, there are two official languages in Barcelona: Catalan and Spanish, so locals are bilinguals. 

Locals don’t expect international travellers to know Catalan, so if you know a bit of Spanish that’s absolutely fine, they’ll answer in Spanish.

If you’re a Spanish person visiting Barcelona, some people will talk to you in Catalan even if they know you have no clue about Catalan and you reply in Spanish. This has happened to me a few times.

As you’ve read in this Barcelona travel blog, there are many things to consider when visiting Barcelona for the first time. However, don’t worry too much and make the most of your time in the city. Remember you can always go back in the future.

If you have any questions about visiting Barcelona or any other Spanish destination, you can always reach me via email or Instagram. I’m happy to help plan your Barcelona trip!

Did you enjoy reading these top tips for visiting Barcelona for the first time? Do you know any other Barcelona tips? Let me know in the comments.

Safe adventures!

Cristina x

Pin these Barcelona travel tips for later

Top things to do before visiting Barcelona

Frequently asked questions about visiting Barcelona for first-time visitors

What do I need to know before going to Barcelona?

If this is your first time in Barcelona Spain, some of the main things you need to know are:

  • Don’t expect to see everything on your first visit to Barcelona.
  • There is more than Sagrada Familia.
  • Avoid eating at touristy places such as Las Ramblas.
  • Book your attractions in advance.

What should I avoid in Barcelona?

Here is a short list of things you should avoid in Barcelona:

  • Taking a taxi.
  • Eating at touristy places like Las Ramblas.
  • Leaving your belongings unattended to take photos in certain areas.

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  1. Barcelona absolutely astounds me on every visit due to its fantastical architecture. It is a must see city! Great tips.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Same here! It is one of my favourite cities in Spain.

  2. I visited Barcelona almost ten years ago now, so I definitely missed a lot of these things having not done any research. I’m saving this for my trip later this year!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I hope you go back to Barcelona soon 🙂 I had no idea how many things I could see in Barcelona when I visited it for the first time.

  3. I just came back from Barcelona a month ago and I wish I knew this post before! Your tips are great, I can totally agree with everything you suggest here 🙂

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I am happy to hear you agree with these tips!! I wish you came across the blog earlier too 🙂

  4. simplyjolayne says:

    Super tips. One thing my husband and I always try to do is follow the five blocks away rule when eating. Five blocks away from the main tourist areas you will find more authentic restaurants where locals eat.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, I am happy to hear you find them useful. Also, your tip is great! I need to write it down 🙂

  5. Barcelona is an amazing city! I saw a lot of these things on my last visit but may have to go back now!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I totally understand what you mean! I feel like I haven’t seen everything either. I would love to go back soon 🙂

  6. Barcelona is one of my favorite cities in one of my favorite countries! You’ve captured so much about it in one place.
    I strongly second the recommendation to attend a Spanish festival. It’s an experience like no other.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you! I am happy to hear it’s one of your favourite cities.

  7. Sarah Barthet says:

    Such a useful post for anyone travelling to Barcelona! Bookmarked for when I next visit in fact! Gorgeous photography too!!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Sarah! I am glad you found it useful 🙂

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