Barcelona has a very special place in my heart. Not only is it rich in culture, food and architecture, but I spent one of the most incredible summers of my life there, living it up in all its' glory. I did my absolute best to take in every inch of the city; spent my days working and seeing the sights, spent my nights drinking sangria and watching the sunrise on the beach too many times to count. By the end of my time there, I was speaking Spanish fluently and even got mistaken for a local more than a handful of times - LEGIT the best feeling as an American in a European city.
Before we get into all the juicy details, here's some tips I picked up during my time in Spain. Not only will you look like less of an "ignorant American", but you'll get the most of your time in this gem of a city!
TAKE PUBLIC TRANSIT | Barcelona has one of the best transportation systems I've come across in Europe. There are maps, there's an app and the locals speak English (usually) and are incredibly nice when you look like a lost puppy. Also, don't cab it from the airport - take the Aerobus, it drops you off right in the heart of the city, where all the train lines meet.
WATCH YOUR WALLET | Unfortunately, pick-pocketing is huge in Barcelona, I rarely felt unsafe (even at night), but always be aware of your belongings. Also, be wary of the cute little kids that try and talk to you, chances are they won't be as adorable a few moments later.
Spaniards move at a snails pace | And it's a good thing! Don't get frustrated when you're done with dinner and your server hasn't brought your check. In Spain, everyone enjoys every second of down time, meals can last hours, and go from lunch right on through dinner. Ask for "la cuenta", or don't, and enjoy the Spanish way of life. Also, tipping isn't necessary, 10% or less is more than reasonable for great service.
Sangria de Cava | If you take away anything from this post, it should be this... If you have the option to order Sangria de Cava, versus the typical red wine sangria, do it! It's lighter and you're in for less of a hangover the next day. Cava is the Spanish version of champagne, and you know ammeetspm's love of bubbles, #champagnecampaign.
Late night eats are not a thing | Near Plaça Catalunya, long after dark, there are empanada salesmen wandering around that will for realz make your night. Buy an empanada (or 3!) you'll feel like a million euros in the AM.
Get connected | There's free wifi all over the city. It's usually pretty reliable, but if I was ever in a real bind, I'd make my way to the Apple Store in Plaça Cataluyna and connect fo' free! (P.S. I do this in every European city)
Book tickets to sights in advance | Don't waste your time in this incredible city waiting in line! I'm all about "getting lost" and not making plans when I travel, but do some research and book anything you can ahead of time. Most places give you an "appointment time" so you can get in, see it and move on to the next swoon-worthy place on your itinerary.
Barcelona is not like the rest of Spain | And they're proud of it. There's somewhat of a rivalry between Spain & Catalonia. The language is different, the people are different and you usually won't get a free tapa (snack) when you order a drink like the rest of the country, so don't ask.
See & Do
Anything & everything Gaudi - This guy is Barcelona's claim to fame. So even if you can't hit all the hotspots, be sure to see a few for sure. One of the easiest (and cheesiest) ways to see them is to hop on one of those sightseeing busses in Plaça Catalunya and you'll see all the major one's from the street. But if I had to pick one to actually explore, I'd go with La Sagrada Familia. You'll walk around this beast of a church with your mouth wide open in awe - it's HUGE and the detail is out of this world.
Park Guell | Another one of Gaudi's creations, but with amazing views of the city. If you can give yourself a few hours to wander around, this is well worth it.
The Fountain at Montjuic | Every night during the summer and various other times throughout the year, this massive fountain at Montjuic offers an incredible light and water show that goes along with music. It's easy entertainment, especially with a bottle of wine and a montadito.
The Beach | Spain has some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. If you can't jetset to Ibiza for weekend (but do it if you can, #yolo!), another great option is Castelldefels or Sitges. Don't go to the Barceloneta if you can avoid it, it's crowded and touristy and so many beautiful beaches along the Costa Brava are only a train ride away.
Shopping | Barcelona has some of the best shopping in the world and even some of our faves with US brick and mortar's (I'm talking about you, Zara!) have WAY better selection and prices abroad.
Camp Nou | This is home to the FC Barcelona soccer team and probably one of the most important facets of Spanish culture, so do yourself a favor, and go to a game.
Barri Gotic | Barcelona is split into different areas, or Barrios. Barri Gotic is my absolute fave. Think cobblestone streets, alleys to get lost in (you don't have to try, believe me it'll happen), and adorable boutiques to do your souvenir shopping.
Pablo Picasso Museum | They have about 4,000 pieces in their collection by this iconic artist. How could you not resist checking this out? And definitely book this one in advance as the lines can get crazy long.
Razzmatazz | Favorite club in Barcelona for one (or five) reasons. There are 5 floors, each with a different genre of music. So if you're not in the mood or don't like a particular song that's playing, channel your inner Jay-Z and on to the next one.
Elrow | Literally the craziest club I've ever been to. It's out by the airport, but there's a bus from Plaça Catalunya that takes you to and from. All I can say is you'll feel way too old the next day, but put your party pants on and go, you'll have stories for years!
Eat & Drink
Ciudad Condal | An absolutely incredible tapas restaurant in the Eixample barrio. They are always busy, but it's so worth the wait. Order a liter of Sangria de Cava (duh!) and all the typical Spanish tapas - patatas bravas, montaditos (little sandwiches), ham croquettes, fried peppers & order the Crema Catalan for dessert... and now I'm officially starving.
Cerveceria Catalana | Yet another AAAAMAZING tapas place. You really can't go wrong with anything on the menu.
7 Portes | One word - PAELLA.
Cachitos | Spain does this amazing thing called the "menu del dia" where they offer a three-course lunch menu for a set price, normally around 15-25 euros. Cachitos, in Eixample, has an awesome one with a focus on seafood, and is perfect for a nice lunch outside.
Bo D Be | It's basically a gourmet Subway, located in the Barri Gotic, in that you can create the sandwich of your dreams, that's also conveniently the size of your head. There's a 100% chance that there will be a line, but that says it all! Pro tip: get all of the sauces and a side of patatas bravas.
Milk | Missing brunch during your travels? I know I did! This place serves up a mean eggs benny and one of the best burgers I've ever had, no joke.
La Boqueria - This is the main outdoor market located right off Las Ramblas. It's full of a variety of stalls and has some of the most incredible food in the city. Wander aimlessly and get bites of anything that looks appealing! Whether it be fresh juices, jamón ibérico or a crepe, there's no way you can go wrong here.
Cafe Roslin | Not sure if I'm biased, because I worked around the corner and they helped me survive many a rough morning, but I swear they have the best coffee in Barcelona.
La Oveja Negra | My favorite bar... by far! Located in an alley right off Plaça Catalunya, it feels like you're in a cave. They have free popcorn and and you can order a 5-liter tower of Sangria #dangerous, but you HAVE to order a liter of the Panther's Milk - don't think, just do it!
Espit Chupitos | If you're from the US, then this is your dream bar. Spaniards don't "pregame" so we'll call this a tourist trap, but this bar is a blast no matter what it's called. There are hundreds of different mixed shots and a perfect place to go before going out on the cheap. And order the Boy Scout shot & the Pringles shot for sure!