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Barcelona

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Barcelona Itineraries

Barcelona in 4 Days

The cosmopolitan capital of Catalonia that rarely (if ever) sleeps

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Barcelona has it all and has something for everyone: Gaudi, festivals, museums, beaches, perfect weather, cobblestone streets, vineyards, Michelin star restaurants, world class shopping, F1 racing. Above all, this colorful, cosmopolitan capital city of Catalonia in North East Spain exudes life and living. At the center of the Costa Brava area, Barcelona is, unsurprisingly, one of the most visited cities in Europe.

Tracing its roots to Roman times, the city thrived through the medieval period and later as a commercial and cultural center. Antoni Gaudí’s omnipresent fantastical architecture includes the world famous Sagrada Família church, which reflects Barcelona’s spirit.


Barcelona Neighborhoods (Barrios)

You could spend an entire day in many Barcelona neighborhoods. Start with these:

Barceloneta, a popular beach area, is closest to the city center and full of visitors and families; area restaurants cater to both groups.

El Born is close to the beach and well known for bars and restaurants. Walk the cobblestone streets to admire architecture and drink in the culture.

Gothic Quarter, the original part of the city, boasts medieval architecture and a labyrinth of cobblestone streets. It’s packed of shops, cafés, restaurants and museums.

La Rambla (or Las Ramblas), while not a neighborhood, is one of the most popular tourist areas in Barcelona. It is also popular with pick-pockets, so be careful. The street serves to divide the Gótic and El Raval neighborhoods.

El Raval is the more ‘shady’ or darker part of the city center. However, it’s always bustling throughout the day because of it budget shops. It’s not the cleanest part of the city, but don’t avoid or overlook Ravel.


Barcelona Areas Beyond the City Center

Eixample District, known for its lively nightlife and trendy bars and restaurants, also boasts the best shopping in Barcelona. You’ll also find Sagrada Famila, La Pedera, and Gaudí’s Casa Batlló here.

Plaça Espanya is home to the Magic Fountain and Museum of Catalan Art.

Montjuïc offers stunning city and ocean views atop the ‘mountain’ (which is more like a big hill). Take the cable car for a birds-eye view, and stay for the museums and beautiful architecture.

Grácia , which became part of the city in the late 19th century, is trendy. Locals spend the entire year preparing for their week-long festival in August.

Bogatell and Ciutadella, a short metro ride from the city center, offer great access to Port Olympic area and Bogatell Beach.

Port Olympic, the gateway to Barcelona’s beaches and with a great boardwalk, has plenty of recommended restaurants too.

Les Corts, the financial and business district, is well beyond tourist areas, but offers many shopping, hotel, and restaurant options.

Poble Sec and Sants are more residential but they do offer less expensive hotels and easy access to the city center and beaches.


Barcelona Beaches

Barcelona, with a coastline that stretches 4.5km, has several beaches, or beach areas. From the tranquil Caldetes to the (nudist) Mar Bella and the busiest Barceloneta. There is also Nova Icaria beach, Sant Sebastiá, Playa del Bogatell.


Barcelona Wine

Most people assume they must travel deep into the countryside to visit vineyards. But you’ll find several within ninety-minutes of Barcelona. One is only twenty-minutes by car; others are accessible via public transportation. Local and regional wine tastings is also available throughout the city.


When To Go

Many people want to know when is the best time to go to Barcelona. That is not an easy question to answer because everyone likes and dislikes different things.

Summer months are hot and humid. In August, a lot of businesses close as locals leave the city to go on vacation for the entire month. Winter is not very cold, so it is great for those who do not like the summer heat; but not warm enough to enjoy the beach.

How Much Time To Spend

Barcelona is an amazing city with a never-ending list of things to do. I would recommend spending as much time as possible in the city and some in the surrounding areas. However, if all the time you have is 24-hours or a weekend, still go it is definitely worth a trip.

High and Low Season

Barcelona doesn’t really have a low season. It is more of a peak and high season. The city is always busy.

June, July, and August are peak months with travelers coming from all over the world to enjoy summer vacations.

September, October, and November are slower months. However, travelers who enjoy the cooler weather and with a long list of conferences and conventions the city is still very busy.

December and January get back into peak season with the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Easter is also a peak time of the year in the city.

February to May are the same as the fall months, with the exception of Easter being peak.

Weather and Climate

Barcelona weather is very mild compared to many other countries. It gets hot in the summer months, but not very cold in the winter months.

For current weather conditions click here.

The average temperatures for Barcelona in the winter months is around 8°C.

The spring months average 16°C

The summer months 26°C (but can reach 30’s°C and it is humid)

The fall cools off to average 17°C

Please keep in mind these are averages of the daily average. Therefore a single day can be dramatically hotter or cooler.

Events and Holidays

Festivals and celebrations that have official public holidays in Barcelona during 2017

01 January New Year’s Day.

06 January Epiphany (Three Kings Day. Note however the 3 Kings arrival parade takes place on the evening of 05 January).

14 April Good Friday.

17 April Easter Monday.

01 May Labour Day.

05 June Whit Monday.

24 June St. John’s Day festival – Otherwise known as Sant Joan – fireworks, bonfires and beach parties are the order of the day.

15 August Assumption Day.

11 September National day of Catalonia.

25 September La Mercè festival – The biggest, most colourful and wild festival in Barcelona – make sure you are in a party mood!

12 October Columbus Day.

01 November  All Saints Day

06 December Constitution Day.

08 December Day of the Immaculate Conception.

25 December Christmas Day.

26 December Boxing Day / Saint Stephen’s Day.

This list does not include any festivals and events that are happening throughout the city. As an example there are festivals and events taking place almost everyday throughout June, July, and August. There are just too many to post here.

Time Zone

Barcelona is the Central European Time Zone UTC: +01:00

Click here for current Barcelona time.

What To Pack and Wear

What you need to pack and wear really depends on the time of year you are going to Barcelona and what activities you plan on participating in.

Comfortable walking shoes are an absolute must no matter when you are going. The cobblestone streets are uneven and you will be walking more than you plan, so be comfortable.

The summer months bring very light clothes and swimsuits. Also, bring something warm in case the nights get cool or it may be a rainy day.

In the winter months, you want to bring warm sweaters and a jacket. Remember something light as well. You may have a really warm day.

What it Costs

For a large city, Barcelona is not at all expensive – expect to pay much the same as, or even less, than you would elsewhere and certainly much less than in some other comparable destinations. Admission to sites of interest is often surprisingly cheap and eating out, while not exactly inexpensive, is normally very good value for money.

What you can expect is value for money wherever you go. For food shopping, try the Sant Antoni market, held Mon- Sat (Carrer del Comte) and La Boqueria held Mon-Sat (off Rambla). These are not necessarily cheaper than shops but the produce is guaranteed to be local and fresh.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality, and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in €.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person

Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double

Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double

Eat
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person

Currency Converter

It is always to have a few days worth of Euro with you when you arrive in Barcelona. This allows you to pay cash for things until you get settled and find the nearest bank to exchange money are use the machine to get more. Moat places accept credit cards, but it is always a good idea to have some cash in case there is a problem with the machine….. technology is not always working perfectly.

For current exchange rates click here.

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies 

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2,  British Airways, and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.

Have Car, Will Travel

Barcelona has a superb local transport system with local trains, buses, and metro so you don’t need a car in the City itself. Note: At busy times pickpockets are active particularly on the metro so always guard your valuables.

If you decide to travel outside the City, Zipcar Barcelona is another choice for rentals. Zipcar is a great alternative for super-short term rentals. Picture this scenario: you are in a big city with terrific public transport, so you don’t need a car. But then you hear about an amazing restaurant 20 miles away in the suburbs. You can’t go home without trying it. A taxi would cost a fortune. You’d have to wait a long time to get a return taxi. Download the Zipcar app; search for a nearby Zipcar locale. Memberships cost about €8/£6 a month; rentals are about €8-13.50/£6-10 per hour; fuel and insurance are included.

Ride-sharing companies, such as Uber, are also ubiquitous in major cities. Through a smartphone app, you can line up rides all over town. It’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be.

All the major car rental companies such as Avis, Sixt, Hertz and Europcar operate throughout Europe.  It is not normally possible to rent in the UK and take the vehicle to mainland Europe or vice versa.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to (or within) Europe goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation
— About 40 percent of all claims are in this category.

Medical — Travellers within Europe from European Union member states should obtain an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card. It entitles them to healthcare on the same terms as the citizens in the country they are visiting. This is a reciprocal agreement. It means, for example, that EEA visitors to the UK will receive free care in NHS hospitals in the same way that UK residents do.  Some countries (e.g. France) make a charge known as a patient contribution for GP visits or stays in hospitals for both their own citizens and visitors from the EEA. Even so, travelers are well advised to have additional medical insurance to cover other costs. For example, the cost of repatriation, mountain rescue in ski resorts and other emergencies.

For travelers from outside the European Union the cost of health services in Europe, while not as high as in the US for example, can be relatively expensive for the uninsured. For this reason, it is essential to consider purchasing medical insurance. If you have a Health Care Plan back home it may cover you for most situations which arise abroad. You need to verify your coverage and possibly get additional medical travel insurance cover you for private health care or other expenses.

Some countries outside the European Union have a reciprocal agreement for healthcare with certain European countries.  For example Switzerland has an agreement with all European Union countries and Australia has agreements with the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and others. It pays to check before leaving home.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay
— Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travellers.

Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip is expensive it’s essential and even if it isn’t it’s certainly a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Your English or other European language skills are also crucial because insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

In Europe the largest insurers are Allianz, Axa and Zurich but there are many smaller providers such as insureandgo and Direct Line.

Pre-existing health conditions
— Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition or charge an additional premium related to the condition.  Some companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

Exchange Rates and Currency

The main currency of Spain is the Euro which is currently used in 25 countries a few of which are not even EU members. Some countries within the European Union have retained their original currency including the UK (Pound), Denmark (Kroner) and Poland (Zloty). Most non-EU countries such as Switzerland (Swiss Franc) and Turkey (Lira) continue to use their own currency. All are decimalised and have 100 ‘pennies’ in each main unit.

Euros come in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes. They vary in size, from 120mm x 62mm (€5) to 160mm x 82mm (500), and color, so it is easy to differentiate between them. All feature European architecture throughout the ages. (Smaller businesses may not accept the larger notes, so plan to have €20s or smaller notes in hand)

There are eight denominations of euro coin: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent plus a €1 and €2 coin. All have a common side and a national side. Remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!

Many travelers like to have a small amount of local currency when they arrive in a country but this is becoming less and less important as ATMs and Bureaux de Change appear everywhere especially in transport terminals.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs
If you get money from an ATM machine abroad you will usually incur charges (typically 1.5 or 2% per transaction)

Credit Cards
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout Europe.

Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card — which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.

Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

The good news for travelers in Europe is that you don’t need to get stressed about tipping – you don’t have to do it and when you do it really should reflect good or excellent service rather than be something you are expected to do. On the whole workers in tourism are reasonably well paid and don’t depend on tips to make up their wages. In some cases, over-tipping can be embarrassing for all concerned.

Restaurants
Many restaurants include a ‘service’ charge in the price so check and, if it isn’t mentioned, then a tip of between 5 – 10% is quite enough. Even where it is included but you feel that you’ve had really excellent service then the same amount is adequate but ensure that your server receives this by handing it directly to them.
Other methods are to add a euro/pound for each member of the party or round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 euros.
In the UK many restaurants add an ‘optional’ amount to the bill when you are paying with plastic, but in many cases, the servers don’t receive any of this and it simply becomes an extra profit for the owner. The server won’t mind if you decline to do this!

Taxis
With taxis, just round up to the next euro or pound for a short journey or, for a long ride, to the nearest ten. Again 10% is the maximum you should consider unless of course, the driver carries your bags into the hotel or airport when a little more will be appreciated.

Hotels
You may wish to give the porter a euro for each bag he carries but, while it will be appreciated, it is not normally expected. Similarly, you may wish to leave a small tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have been particularly helpful, but this is completely up to you.

Transportation

The transportation system in and around Barcelona is excellent. Taxis are readily available throughout the city. The buses and metro station will take you everywhere in and out of the city. If traveling in the city, buy the 10-pass metro ticket instead of single tickets. It can be used by any number of people and reduces the price of a one-way trip to almost half.

Many people will rent bikes and ride throughout the city. It is a great way to go farther distances and still enjoy the outdoors. Walking is one of the best ways to get around the city. It allows you to enjoy the wonderful weather, energy, and little pockets that can be easily overlooked.

Getting There

Barcelona is an easy city to get to. Most airlines fly there or have affiliate partners who fly to the international airport.

If you are in Europe you can take one of many trains that arrive in the city daily.

Alternately, to can arrive by boat. Barcelona is a major port for large cruise ships. It also has a very large marina for personal yachts. Additionally, you can take a ferry to and from several destinations.

Getting Around

The transportation system in and around Barcelona is excellent. Taxis are readily available throughout the city. The buses and metro station will take you everywhere in and out of the city. If traveling in the city, buy the 10-pass metro ticket instead of single tickets. It can be used by any number of people and reduces the price of a one-way trip to almost half.

Many people will rent bikes and ride throughout the city. It is a great way to go farther distances and still enjoy the outdoors. Walking is one of the best ways to get around the city. It allows you to enjoy the wonderful weather, energy, and little pockets that can be easily overlooked.

Transportation Hubs

Barcelona’s (BCN) El Prat Airport is located 12km from the city center.

Barcelona Sants Train station (Sants Estación) is one of the busiest stations in Spain.

Port Vell is used for ferries, cruises, and commercial business. For more information check out their website.

Background

The history of the Barcelona area is long. Early settlement ruins in the neighborhood of El Raval dating back to pre-5000 BC have been excavated. There have been many governing powers and wars over thousands of years. One thing that is well known and noticeable today is the Catalan people wanting independence from the rest of Spain.

History

The settlement of what we now call Barcelona started in the 2nd century BC. The village of Barcino was the largest known Roman village outside Rome. Remains of this time can still be found in the Gothic area. Over the centuries, it was ruled by the Visigoths, the Moors, and the Franks.

In 988 the independence of Barcelona begins. Economic expansion and territorial expansion continued for over 500 years. This included the construction of the Cathedral, which lasted over 400 years.

The Reapers’ War (Guerra dels Segadors) began in 1640 and lasted 19-years. From 1701-1714 was the Spanish war of succession. Less than 100-years later, from 1808 – 1814 was the Spanish War of Independence. Thus, resulted in the loss of special rights and self-government of the Catalonian people.

Barcelona has become the most important industrial city in Spain by the middle of the 19th-century. It is host to the first World Exhibition in 1888 and the second in 1929. The Spanish civil war starts in 1936 and ends three years later with Catalan independence. However, this does not last. That same year, the President is executed by Franco and the Catalan language and way of life is abolished.

On 11 September 1977, the largest (peaceful) demonstration Europe had ever seen took place. 1.5 million people in Barcelona demonstrated against the centralized government for Catalan independence.

In 1986 Spain became a member of the European Union and then hosted the 1992 Olympic Summer Games.

On Sept. 25th, 2011, the last bull was killed at a traditional bullfight in Catalonia; it had been banned. The inauguration of the Sagrada Familia by Pope Benedict XVI to place on November 7th, 2010. The church building is now a Basilica.

Again on Nov. 9th, 2012 approximately 1.5 million people demonstrate for Catalan independence. The quest for independence and maintaining their own cultural identity does not seem to diminish over time.

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