There’s hardly a traveler on the planet who hasn’t dreamed of visiting Barcelona. As much as this crazy ol’ Catalonian city has got its fair share of fans, Barcelona isn’t love at first sight for everyone.
Still on the fence about whether to add Barcelona to your Spain itinerary? Check out these reasons why you might want to visit Barcelona (and why you might want to give it a pass)…
Pro: Brilliant architecture
Hey, it’s one of the top destinations in Europe. Yes, that continent with, well, almost all of the world’s loveliest cities. So it’s hardly a surprise that Barcelona, a perpetual entry on nearly every ultimate Europe itinerary, is brimming with eye-popping architecture.
And unlike some other European cities, Barcelona isn’t all about the old stuff. Sure, there’s plenty of that to go around, but it’s the city’s more modern side that really catches the eye.
The most obvious highlight is the work of Antonio Gaudi, a Catalonian architect whose building designs defined the Catalan Modernist architecture style. Barcelona is nothing less than a treasure trove of Gaudi’s work. Many of the most compelling buildings in the city coincide with the best of Gaudi’s repertoire.
Scurry through Barcelona to uncover some of Gaudi’s quirkiest design including Casa Vicens, a late-19th century residence that was the architect’s first major work; La Pedrera, a “residential” building that’s more like a rock carving; Parc Güell, a garden-like complex featuring some of his weirdest work; and La Sagrada Familia, a Roman Catholic church that’s famously still under construction over 90 years after the architect’s death.
Of course, if it’s the classics you’re after, look no further than Ciutat Vella, Barcelona’s old cultural core. The Ciutat Vella’s enchanting Barri Gòtic (Gothic Quarter) is, undoubtedly, the highlight of the city for culture vultures with its trendy cafés, restaurants, and cornucopia of medieval—you guessed it!—Gothic architecture. The Gothic Quarter is also one of the best choices for where to stay in Barcelona, and the perfect place to base yourself for exploring the city’s top sites.
Pro: The food
Like much of Spain, Barcelona is a destination that’s born for foodies. With its coastal location, the specialty in Barcelona is, without a doubt, seafood. As you eat your way through the city you’ll no doubt get your fill of everything from prawns & squid to lobster & octopus.
Use your visit to Barcelona as an opportunity to check two things off your bucket list. Get a taste of the city’s most succulent seafood and chow down on Spain’s most famous dishes by ordering a paella at a popular Barcelona restaurant like Bodega Joan, 7 Portes or Xiringuito Escribà.
Pro: The beaches
With how popular Barcelona is as an urban destination, many travelers forget about its seaside pleasures. While you’ll need to take a short trip outside the city centre, there are plenty of places in and around Barcelona to park your butt on the beach for a little R&R Spanish style.
Barceloneta Beach is one of the closest options to central Barcelona, but is, naturally, one of the more crowded options in the height of the summer high season. To escape the worst of the crowds (as much as it’s possible in a city like Barcelona) head to either Ocata Beach or Caldetes Beach, each a short ride north of the city.
If you really want to escape the crowds, head for quieter beaches further afoot like Tamariu or Platja Fonda, two of the best day trips form Barcelona.
Con: The crowds
As with any popular European destination, Barcelona isn’t a city you’re gonna have all to yourself. Not even close. In fact, the influx of tourists has caused such a steep increase in prices that even locals are getting priced out of their own city!
Needless to say, if you’re sensitive to big crowds of people and hate queuing up at tourist attractions, Barcelona might not be the vacation for you.
That being said, timing your trip outside the high season brings a little relief to the worst of it. Try planning to visit Barcelona in one of the shoulder seasons, particularly April or October when the crowds are (at least a little) thinner and the weather is still relatively mild to warm.
Con: The pickpockets
Along with the crowds of tourists (I’d say because of it), Barcelona’s got a major problem with pickpocketing. Not that you should be overly paranoid about it (we aren’t talking about armed robbery a-la Brazil here), but you’ll want to stay vigilant when your wandering around places where travelers congregate.
It’s not the worst idea to grab a pair of travel pants with security pockets or pick up an anti-theft backpack to keep your belongings safe as you move throughout the city.