Top Spots in Barcelona

Top Spots in Barcelona

Mike Cowlishaw / 6 min Read

Barcelona the Gandys way

We’ve all heard about stag and hen dos, pickpockets on the Ramblas and overpriced FC Barca Shirts, but when it comes to visiting a city, we like to go a bit deeper and find out what really makes it tick. We took our Gandys bags and checked out Barcelona from seaside to mountaintop.


At the Beach

Barcelona beaches are buzzing with bodybuilders, sun-tanners and promenaders, fringed with cool restaurants and bars and just a short walk from the iconic Old Town and Gothic Quarter. The Sonar and Primavera Sound festivals rock one end of the city’s central sandy seaside, while the striking W Hotel and superyacht marina marks the other. If you like it hot and frenetic, then fill your flip flops!

Tip from the locals:


It can be fun to party on with everyone else in the centre, but head a bit further up past the two towers (including the trendy Arts Hotel) and things start to chill out a bit. You won’t mind paying a bit more for a drink at a Chiringuito on the beach while you watch the gorgeous and golden gadding about with volleyballs.


Continue past the three-chimneyed power station and the Marina de Badalona marks the beginning of a strip of sand with a very different personality. It’s up and coming and offers beaches and cafes either side of the train tracks that hug the coast. Jump aboard and you’ll find sleepy fishing villages and marinas, and have the beach to yourself.


Head in the other direction and another great beach starts at the airport and takes you along the sleepy beach front to Gavà and Castelldefels where cafes and restaurants wait for weary wanderers. Keep going and the trail hits the cliffs 15km later.


The only way to go further is by car or train, but it’s worth it. The views are fun, especially if you get a double-decker carriage. You can jump off at Garraf and hobnob with the Soho House crowd or carry on to Sitges – the town which really knows how to lay on golden sands, a promenade and top notch entertainment (more about this in a future blog!)

Out in Town


Barcelona is a city for wandering. The traffic can be bad but is never really ‘London bad’. You can take the tourist buses to get your bearings, or maybe rent a Ferrari down in Barceloneta, but the best way to explore is on foot, or on a rental bicycle, scooter, motor trike, Segway or the other various and ever-changing options.


Taxis are plentiful and cheap, but public transport is really good too, with trams, trains and buses aplenty. Passes are cheap – you can buy a T-Casual in any station and it gets the holder 10 journeys and shows you how many you have left.


Tip from the locals:


The touristy bits of town are popular with good reason, but there are a surprising amount of authentically local barrios in Barcelona. Strangely you might feel safer off the beaten track as long as you don’t wave your maps and Rolexes, flash the cash or hand your iPhone to a stranger to take a snap. But you shouldn’t do that anywhere anyway!


If you take a wander into areas like Paral-lel, Hostafrancs and the less well-trodden areas of Gràcia then you’ll find hidden gems and MUCH better value. Wander up through Tres Torres to Sarrià and beyond – it’s posh but gives you a new perspective on the city.


Also, remember that Barcelona is a Catalan city. While Duo Lingo Spanish will be appreciated, take a few key Catalan phrases along too. Try asking for a cafè amb llet instead of a café con leche and you might discover that the Catalans aren’t nearly as grumpy as their reputation suggests.

Up the Hill


Every city has a high point, and these can be very handy to get your bearings, map your troublesome route from the airport and declare, ‘I can see my hotel from up here!’


Barcelona has a rich selection of high points, including the cable car that rattles across the harbour from Barceloneta, and its hillside destination on Montjuïc, the city’s Olympic hill and scene of the iconic diving shots of ‘92. Check out the Jewish cemetery, grab a coffee with great views across town and climb up to the castle for some memorable shots of the container port!


But Barcelona’s highest high point is Tibidabo, the mountaintop visible from everywhere, with its funfair and church-on-a-church, topped by Jesus who surveys all below with arms outstretched. You can do the same from the lookout point which has breathtaking panoramic views and is accessible via the touristy Tramvia Blau and a shiny new funicular railway.


Tips from the locals: Before or after you take the funicular up to Tibidabo, check out the bars and restaurants around the base station in Plaça del Doctor Andreu – great for cocktails as the sun goes down and the view is still fantastic.


Maybe take a wander along the Carretera de les Aigües – a nice flat trail that hugs the contours of the hills for 17km and beyond. It’s an integral city-facing part of the Parc Natural de la Serra de Collserola, a vast expanse of more than 8,000 hectares of trails, trees and nature. It’s the world’s biggest metropolitan park, 8 times bigger than the Bois de Boulogne in Paris. Just watch out for wild boar and speeding cyclists.


If you fancy some exercise but not the full climb, there’s another funicular that takes you up to the settlement of Vallvidrera, from which you can mount your own assault on the summit and earn your picnic at the top. It’s a cool route as you pass the monstrously beautiful communications tower, a Norman Foster original built for the Olympics.

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