Rick Steves Barcelona


By Rick Steves

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Now more than ever, you can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling through Barcelona. Ramble down Las Ramblas, relax on Mediterranean beaches, and marvel at the sweeping curves of Gaudí's architecture with Rick Steves! Inside Rick Steves Barcelona you'll find:

  • Fully updated, comprehensive coverage for spending a week or more exploring Barcelona
  • Rick's strategic advice on how to get the most out of your time and money, with rankings of his must-see favorites
  • Top sights and hidden gems, from Gaudí's mind-bending Sagrada Família and the colorful Picasso museum to cozy bars with vermouth on tap
  • How to connect with local culture: Join hands with locals in a traditional sardana dance, chat with fans about the latest fútbol match, or meander down winding streets in search of the best tapas
  • Beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps with Rick's candid, humorous insight
  • The best places to eat, sleep, and relax with a glass of cava
  • Self-guided walking tours of lively neighborhoods, museums, and cathedrals
  • Detailed neighborhood maps and a fold-out city map for exploring on the go
  • Complete, up-to-date information on Las Ramblas, Barri Gòtic, El Born, Eixample, Montjuïc, and more, as well as day trips to Montserrat, Figueres, Cadaqués, and Sitges
  • Covid-related travel info and resources for a smooth trip
Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves Barcelona.
Spending just a few days in the city? Try Rick Steves Pocket Barcelona.


Welcome to Rick Steves’ Europe

Travel is intensified living—maximum thrills per minute and one of the last great sources of legal adventure. Travel is freedom. It’s recess, and we need it.

I discovered a passion for European travel as a teen and have been sharing it ever since—through my bus tours, public television and radio shows, and travel guidebooks. Over the years, I’ve taught millions of travelers how to best enjoy Europe’s blockbuster sights—and experience “Back Door” discoveries that most tourists miss.

This book offers you a balanced mix of Barcelona’s blockbuster sights and lesser-known gems. It’s selective: Rather than listing dozens of tapas bars, I recommend only the best ones. And it’s in-depth: My self-guided museum tours and city walks provide insight into Barcelona’s vibrant history and today’s living, breathing culture.

I advocate traveling simply and smartly. Take advantage of my money- and time-saving tips on sightseeing, transportation, and more. Try local, characteristic alternatives to expensive hotels and restaurants. In many ways, spending more money only builds a thicker wall between you and what you traveled so far to see.

We visit Barcelona to experience it—to become temporary locals. Thoughtful travel engages us with the world, as we learn to appreciate other cultures and new ways to measure quality of life.

Judging by the positive feedback I receive from readers, this book will help you enjoy a fun, affordable, and rewarding vacation—whether it’s your first trip or your tenth.

Bon viatge! Happy travels!


Barcelona by Neighborhood


Planning and Budgeting




Travel Smart

If you’re in the mood to surrender to a city’s charms, let it be in Barcelona. The capital of Catalunya and Spain’s second city, Barcelona bubbles with life—in its narrow lanes, pedestrian-friendly boulevards, elegant modern uptown, bohemian corners, bustling market halls, and along its long beach promenade spiked with inviting beach bars (chiringuitos).

Like Los Angeles, Barcelona is basically flat, sloping gently from the foothills down to the sea. A large central square, Plaça de Catalunya, divides the older and newer parts of town. Above the square is the modern part called the Eixample. Below the square is the Old City and hilly Montjuïc, overlooking the harbor.

Barcelona is large (1.6 million people), though the Old City feels delightfully small. Its top sights are the cathedral, the Picasso Museum, and the fun-to-explore neighborhood itself. The Old City is made for strolling, from the broad, tree-lined Ramblas boulevard and the winding lanes lined with offbeat shops to the small squares ringed with cafés and dotted with palm trees. Make time to meander without a checklist.

Outside the Old City, the sights are scattered, but with a map and a willingness to figure out public transit (or take taxis), it’s all manageable. And, if you have extra time and interest, consider day trips to Montserrat (for pilgrims), Sitges (sun worshippers), and Figueres and Cadaqués (Salvador Dalí fans).

The region of Catalunya, anchored by Barcelona, is proudly Catalan and culturally different from Spain. You won’t find bullfighting here, where it’s banned—Barcelona turned its bullring into a shopping mall. Though Spanish is widely spoken in Catalunya, the native language is Catalan. This feisty region has chafed under rule by Spain over the years, especially during Francisco Franco’s repressive dictatorship. Today, many Catalan people clamor for increased autonomy while some agitate for independence.

Delightful Modernista architecture, at wavy La Pedrera and the colorful Palace of Catalan Music

In Barcelona, you’ll see the evidence of its long history, from ancient Roman ruins (when the city was named Barcino) to medieval churches, twisty Gothic lanes, and monuments to Columbus and the sea trade. By the late 19th century, Barcelona had boomed into an industrial powerhouse.

This thriving city became a showpiece of innovative art and architecture. Talented Catalan architects, including Antoni Gaudí, forged the Modernista style and remade the city’s skyline with curvy, fanciful buildings such as the dragon-roofed Casa Batlló and wavy La Pedrera, culminating in Gaudí’s Sagrada Família, a gloriously avant-garde church under construction since 1882 (and slated for completion in 2026). Throughout the city, you’ll glimpse Modernista architecture. Rows of ironwork balconies are punctuated with colorful, playful details: bay windows, turrets, hanging lanterns, flower boxes, carved reliefs, and painted tiles.

Pablo Picasso lived in Barcelona as a teenager—just as he was on the verge of reinventing painting. Salvador Dalí and Joan Miró are among the world-changing 20th-century artists with ties to Barcelona. All three artists are represented by dedicated museums in Barcelona or nearby.

The Miró mosaic on the Ramblas; strolling lush Gaudí-designed Park Güell

Perched on the sea, Barcelona itself is a work of art. Find a viewpoint to enjoy it, whether from a cable car, a cathedral rooftop, or Gaudí’s colorful Park Güell.

In this coastal city, seafood is always on the menu, along with Spain’s ever-present ham. Restaurants serve dinner late by our standards. To cope, do as the locals do, and dip into tapas bars in the early evening to enjoy Catalan small plates that can add up to an entertaining meal. Wash it all down with a canya (small beer), crianza (fine aged wine), or cava (sparkling wine). Then spill into the crowded streets to join the paseo when everyone strolls in the cool of the evening.

Today’s Barcelona is as vibrant as ever. Locals still join hands and dance the everyone’s-welcome sardana in front of the cathedral. Neighborhood festivals jam the events calendar. Barcelona’s engaging culture is on an unstoppable roll in Spain’s most cosmopolitan and European corner.

Barcelona by Neighborhood

Barcelona is a big city, but its major sights cluster in convenient zones. Travelers need only focus on a few areas: the Old City, the harbor/Barceloneta, the Eixample, and Montjuïc. Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell is north of the Eixample in the Gràcia district. Grouping your sightseeing, walks, dining, and shopping thoughtfully can save you lots of time and money.

Trendy El Born

Old City (Ciutat Vella)

This is the compact core of Barcelona—ideal for strolling, shopping, and people-watching—where you’ll probably spend most of your time. It’s a labyrinth of narrow streets that once were confined by the medieval walls. The lively pedestrian drag called the Ramblas goes through the heart of the Old City from Plaça de Catalunya to the harbor.

The Old City is divided into thirds by the Ramblas and Via Laietana, a vehicle-heavy thoroughfare running roughly parallel to the Ramblas. Between the Ramblas and Via Laietana is the characteristic Barri Gòtic (BAH-ree GOH-teek), with the cathedral as its navel. Locals call it “El Gòtic” for short. To the east of Via Laietana is the trendy El Born district (a.k.a. “La Ribera”), a shopping, dining, and nightlife mecca centered on the Picasso Museum and the Church of Santa Maria del Mar. To the west of the Ramblas is El Raval (rah-VAHL), enlivened by its university and modern-art museum. While rough-edged in places, it is the emerging foodie zone.


The old harbor, Port Vell, gleams with landmark monuments and new developments. A pedestrian bridge links the Ramblas with the modern Maremagnum shopping/aquarium/entertainment complex. On the peninsula across the quaint sailboat harbor is Barceloneta, a traditional fishing neighborhood with gritty charm and some good seafood restaurants. Beyond Barceloneta, a gorgeous man-made beach several miles long stretches east to the commercial and convention district called the Fòrum.

Ramblas overview, tapas bar; Port Vell waterfront bridge; street performer

Modernista Block of Discord (Eixample); Dalí art (Figueres); Cadaqués beach; Montjuïc towers


Above the Old City, beyond the bustling hub of Plaça de Catalunya, is the elegant Eixample (eye-SHAM-plah) district, its grid plan softened by cutoff corners. Much of Barcelona’s Modernista architecture is found here—especially along the swanky artery Passeig de Gràcia, an area called Quadrat d’Or (Golden Quarter). To the east is the Sagrada Família; to the north is the Gràcia district and Antoni Gaudí’s Park Güell.


The large hill overlooking the city to the southwest is Montjuïc (mohn-jew-EEK), home to a variety of sights, including some excellent museums (Catalan Art, Joan Miró) and the Olympic Stadium. At the base of Montjuïc, stretching toward Plaça d’Espanya, are the former 1929 World Expo Fairgrounds, with additional fine attractions (including the CaixaForum art gallery and the bullring-turned-mall, Las Arenas)

Day Trips

When you’re ready to explore beyond Barcelona, you have good options: Montserrat is Catalunya’s most important pilgrimage site, with a mountaintop Benedictine monastery (accessible by scenic and fun cable car or by rack railway).


Fans of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí can combine these two neighboring towns for a terrific day trip: Figueres, home to the best museum devoted to the artist—the Dalí Theater-Museum, and the beach town of Cadaqués, where the artist lived in the outstanding Salvador Dalí House and Garden.

Sitges, a popular resort and artists’ haunt, boasts a charming Old Town and nine beaches connected by a promenade.

Planning and Budgeting

The best trips start with good planning. Here are ideas to help you decide when to go, design a smart itinerary, set a travel budget, and prepare for your trip. For my best general advice on sightseeing, accommodations, restaurants, and more, see the Practicalities chapter.


As you read this book and learn about your options...

Decide when to go.

Sea breezes off the Mediterranean and a generally warm climate make Barcelona pleasant for much of the year. Late spring and early fall offer the best combination of good weather, somewhat lighter crowds, long days, and plenty of tourist and cultural activities. You’ll encounter hot, humid weather and the biggest crowds in July and August, and some shops and restaurants close down in August. Winter temperatures are far from freezing, but rainfall is abundant.

Work out a day-by-day itinerary.

The following day-plans offer suggestions for how to maximize your sightseeing, depending on how many days you have. You can adapt these itineraries to fit your own interests. To find out what days sights are open, check the “Daily Reminder” in the Orientation chapter. Note major sights where advance reservations are smart or a free Rick Steves audio tour () is available.

Barcelona in One Day

For a relaxing day, stroll the Ramblas, visit the Sagrada Família and Picasso Museum and have dinner in the El Born district. Or, try the following ambitious plan (only possible with advance reservations).

9:00 From Plaça de Catalunya, follow my Barri Gòtic Walk and Barcelona Cathedral Tour. (Or follow my free Barcelona City Walk audio tour.)
11:00 Starting near the cathedral, take my El Born Walk to the Picasso Museum, stopping midway for a quick, early lunch at Santa Caterina Market.
12:30 Take my Picasso Museum Tour.
14:00 Catch a taxi or the Metro to the Sagrada Família.
14:30 Tour the Sagrada Família.
16:30 Hop a taxi or the Metro to the Diagonal Metro stop.
17:00 Take my Eixample Walk to Plaça de Catalunya. (To shorten the walk, stay on Passeig de Gràcia to see the main Modernista sights: La Pedrera and Block of Discord.)
19:00 From Plaça de Catalunya, take my Ramblas Ramble to the harborfront.
Evening From the harborfront (or any point along the Ramblas) take a taxi to a neighborhood with good tapas bars (which open early): Barceloneta (stroll the beach promenade), Barri Gòtic (around the cathedral), or lively El Born. Foodies can walk to nearby El Raval for cheaper, bohemian-chic eateries. Note that restaurants open late, around 21:00.

Barcelona icons: Gaudí’s soaring Sagrada Família and a dish of succulent paella

Cathedral square; Ramblas paseo; street musicians, art shop in Barri Gòtic

Barcelona in Two or More Days

With at least two days, divide and conquer the town geographically: Spend one day in the Old City (Ramblas, Barri Gòtic/cathedral area, Picasso Museum/El Born) and another on the Eixample and Gaudí sights (La Pedrera, Sagrada Família, Park Güell). If you have a third day, visit Montjuïc and/or side-trip to Montserrat.

With extra time, consider taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour for a sightseeing overview (for example, the Bus Turístic blue route links most Gaudí sights and could work well on Day 2).

Day 1: Old City
9:00 Follow my Barri Gòtic Walk and Barcelona Cathedral Tour. (Or follow my free Barcelona City Walk audio tour.)
11:00 Browse the fun shops described in my Barri Gòtic Shopping Walk (see the Shopping chapter).
13:00 Explore El Born, following my El Born Walk, which starts near the cathedral. Drop into Santa Caterina Market for lunch.
15:00 Tour the Picasso Museum.
17:00 Stroll the Ramblas (follow my Ramblas Ramble, or just ramble).
Evening For a tapas-bar dinner, choose among the neighborhoods listed in my one-day plan. Other possibilities include sightseeing (many sights are open late), concerts, or hanging out at a beach bar in Barceloneta.
Day 2: Modernisme
9:00 Take my Eixample Walkc, touring La Pedrera and/or one of the Block of Discord houses—Casa Batlló or Casa Amatller. Have lunch along the way.
12:30 From Plaça de Catalunya, hop a taxi or Metro to the Sagrada Família.
13:00 Tour the Sagrada Família.
15:00 Choose among these options: Taxi to Park Güell for more Gaudí. Or take the bus to Montjuïc (if you’re not going to Montjuïc on Day 3) to enjoy the city view and your pick of sights. Or explore the harborfront La Rambla de Mar, the Old Port, and the beach scene.
Evening Choose among the evening activities listed earlier.
Day 3: Montjuïc and Barceloneta

Tour Montjuïc, stopping at Fundació Joan Miró, Catalan Art Museum, and CaixaForum. Take the scenic cable-car ride down from Montjuïc to the port, and spend the rest of the day at Barceloneta—stroll the promenade, hit the beach, and find your favorite beach bar for dinner.

Day 4

Consider these options: Visit the markets (La Boqueria and Santa Caterina—both closed Sun). Tour more sights (Palau Güell’s Modernista interior, Barcelona History Museum, Frederic Marès Museum, Chocolate Museum, and more). Take a walking tour, bike tour, or cooking class. Relax or rent a rowboat in Citadel Park.

Days 5-7

With more time, choose among several day trips, including the mountaintop monastery of Montserrat, the beach resort town of Sitges, and the Salvador Dalí sights at Figueres and Cadaqués (reserve both in advance; see the Day Trips from Barcelona chapter).

Ham hocks at La Boqueria market; Montjuïc cable car with grand views


Run a reality check on your dream trip. You’ll have major transportation costs in addition to daily expenses.

Flight: A round-trip flight from the US to Barcelona costs about $900-1,500, depending on where you fly from and when.

Public Transportation: For a typical one-week visit, allow about $90 for Metro tickets and a couple of day trips by train. To get between Barcelona and El Prat airport, figure $15-80 round-trip, depending on which option you choose.

Budget Tips: To cut your daily expenses, take advantage of the deals you’ll find in Barcelona and mentioned in this book.

Use the city’s public transportation, and visit sights by neighborhood for efficiency.

Buy an Articket BCN pass and use it wisely (see page TK). Or, visit only the sights you most want to see, and seek out free sights and experiences (people-watching counts).

Some businesses—especially hotels and walking-tour companies—offer discounts to my readers (look for the RS% symbol in the listings in this book).

Reserve your rooms directly with the hotel and book good-value rooms early. Some hotels offer a discount if you pay in cash and/or stay three or more nights (check online or ask). Rooms can cost less outside of peak season (which is summer for cheap hotels, winter for business-class hotels). And even seniors can sleep cheap in hostels (most have private rooms) for about $30 per person. Or check Airbnb-type sites for deals.

It’s no hardship to eat inexpensively in Barcelona. You can get tasty, affordable meals at sandwich shops, kebab stands, tapas bars, pizza shops, and ethnic eateries. Shop the market halls and cultivate the art of picnicking in atmospheric settings.

When you splurge, choose an experience you’ll always remember, such as a concert or a cooking class. Minimize souvenir shopping; focus instead on collecting wonderful memories.

Friendly hotel clerk; easy-to-use Metro system

Detail of Sagrada Família facade


You’ll have a smoother trip if you tackle a few things ahead of time. For more information on these topics, see the Practicalities chapter and RickSteves.com, which has helpful travel tips and talks.

Make sure your travel documents are valid. If your passport is due to expire within six months of your ticketed date of return, you need to renew it. Allow up to six weeks to renew or get a passport (www.travel.state.gov). You may also need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS).

Arrange your transportation. Book your international flights. Overall, Kayak.com is the best place to start searching for flights. If you’re traveling beyond Catalunya, figure out your transportation options. You can buy train tickets as you go, get a rail pass, rent a car, or book a cheap flight. (You can wing it in Europe, but it may cost more.) Drivers: Consider bringing an International Driving Permit (sold at AAA offices in the US, www.aaa.com) along with your license.

Book rooms well in advance, especially if your trip falls during peak season or any major holidays or festivals.

Reserve ahead for key sights. Every visitor wants to see the same sights in Barcelona—the Picasso Museum, La Pedrera (Casa Milà), Sagrada Família church, Casa Batlló, and Park Güell—so it’s essential to book in advance. While technically you can try to buy tickets at these sights, I consider reservations mandatory in Barcelona.

Booking ahead is also a must to tour Barcelona’s Palace of Catalan Music and Casa Museu Amatller, or to visit the Dalí sights in Figueres and/or Cadaqués.

Consider travel insurance. Compare the cost of insurance to the cost of your potential loss. Check whether your existing insurance (health, homeowners, or renters) covers you and your possessions overseas.

Call your bank. Alert your bank that you’ll be using your debit and credit cards in Europe. Ask about transaction fees, and get the PIN number for your credit card. You don’t need to bring euros for your trip; you can withdraw euros from cash machines in Europe.

Use your smartphone smartly. Sign up for an international service plan to reduce your costs, or rely on Wi-Fi in Europe instead. Download any apps you’ll want on the road, such as maps, translators, and Rick Steves Audio Europe (see sidebar).

Pack light. You’ll walk with your luggage more than you think. I travel for weeks with a single carry-on bag and a day pack. Use the packing checklist in the appendix as a guide.


  • "The country's foremost expert in European travel for Americans."—Forbes
  • "Steves is an absolute master at unlocking the hidden gems of the world's greatest cities, towns, and monuments."—USA Today
  • “Every country-specific travel guidebook from the Rick Steves publishing empire can be counted upon for clear organization, specificity and timeliness."—Society of American Travel Writers
  • "Pick the best accommodations and restaurants from Rick Steves…and a traveler searching for good values will seldom go wrong or be blindsided."—NBC News
  • "His guidebooks are approachable, silly, and even subtly provocative in their insistence that Americans show respect for the people and places they are visiting and not the other way around."—The New Yorker
  • "Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury—it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet."—The New York Times Magazine
  • "[Rick Steves] laces his guides with short and vivid histories and a scholar's appreciation for Renaissance art yet knows the best place to start an early tapas crawl in Madrid if you have kids. His clear, hand-drawn maps are Pentagon-worthy; his hints about how to go directly to the best stuff at the Uffizi, avoid the crowds at Versailles and save money everywhere are guilt-free."—TIME Magazine
  • "Steves is a walking, talking European encyclopedia who yearns to inspire Americans to venture 'beyond Orlando.'"—Forbes
  • “…he’s become the unofficial guide for entire generations of North American travelers, beloved for his earnest attitude and dad jeans."—Outside Magazine
  • "His books offer the equivalent of a bus tour without the bus, with boiled-down itineraries and step-by-step instructions on where to go and how to get there, but adding a dash of humor and an element of choice that his travelers find empowering."—The New York Times
  • "His penchant for creating meaningful experiences for travelers to Europe is as passionate as his inclination for making ethical choices his guiding light."—Forbes
  • "[Rick Steves'] neighborhood walks are always fun and informative. His museum guides, complete with commentary about historic sculpture and storied artworks are wonderful and add another dimension to sometimes stodgy, hard-to-comprehend museums."—NBC News

On Sale
Oct 25, 2022
Page Count
336 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

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