You may be planning a trip to Spain for any number of reasons including, the art, architecture, the food, the history, or maybe for business. My recent trip to Spain encompassed all of those reasons PLUS I was dying to see my sister who moved there last year. We decided to meet up in Barcelona so my planning began there. Here are a few of my best tips for planning a trip to Barcelona!
Planning How to Get to Barcelona
When you’re looking at flights to Barcelona, depending on when and which airline you’re searching, you may be appalled at the prices! If you fly on a major airline, especially a U.S. airline, prices can be pretty high. This is why I advocate for planning your trip W-A-Y in advance (like a year in advance)! That way you have an opportunity to periodically search for cheap flights and grab one when it becomes available. One really important thing to remember when looking at
In order to find a cheaper flight, look at all of the airlines both domestic and foreign. You may find a great deal on an airline you might not otherwise think of. For example, IcelandAir offers a deal where you can fly into Iceland and lay over for several days before continuing your trip to your ultimate destination. You can explore a little bit of Iceland, a country where you might not schedule a week-long trip but would love to experience their magnificent hot springs or take a tour of Reykjavik. By flying to Spain on ONE flight with a layover, you can save lots of money and get to see TWO countries! That’s a great deal and just requires a little thinking outside the box. It may be a little tricky to find just the right flight but it’s worth it if you actually want to explore a bit of Iceland.
You can also look at prices of flights into other European cities and then use a European budget airline to get to your final destination. Last year I found a super deal out of my airport in Denver flying United Airlines to London, Heathrow Airport for about $500 round trip! Now, since I wanted to fly to Barcelona, I then looked at budget airlines in Europe and decided to fly to Barcelona on RyanAir, for about $100 USD.
Since RyanAir doesn’t fly out of Heathrow, I took an express bus from Heathrow to London Stansted Airport and caught my flight to Barcelona. All I had to do was ask some friendly tour bus folks at Heathrow how to get to Stansted Airport (which is closer to Cambridge, England). They told me to take the express bus directly to the Stansted Airport, which I did with no problem and got to see a little of the English countryside as well. So I got to Barcelona with more money in my pocket than if I would have scheduled a direct flight from the U.S. In fact, my total roundtrip airfare was about $700 USD. I would have paid more than $2600 USD if I have taken a direct flight.
Once you’ve arrived in Barcelona, you may want to take a side trip to another city in Spain. I looked at a side trip to Seville in southern Spain and it would only have cost me $37.50 USD to get there on RyanAir. You can really get around Europe without spending a boatload of money by flying the budget airlines while there. But for now, let’s keep planning a trip to Barcelona. You’ll need a comfortable place to stay while you’re there.
Planning Where to Stay in Barcelona
When you want to explore a large city in order to learn more about the culture and how the locals live, you’ll first want to decide where to stay while you’re there. In my humble opinion, you just can’t see local life from a hotel, especially a BIG hotel. Barcelona has many BIG hotels and many hotel chains that might be familiar to you. If this is your first trip to Europe a familiarity with hotels you know might be a comforting aspect. While I didn’t stay in a hotel while I was there, I have done some research on a few hotels that have good reviews and recommendations. Here are the ones I found that you might want to look into.
Hotels in Barcelona
- El Palace Hotel Barcelona, Gran Via de Les Corts Catalanes 668, 08010 Barcelona; Tel:+34 93 510 11 30. https://www.hotelpalacebarcelona.com/en/ This is a 5-star hotel in the city center, close to La Rambla and other sites. It is a classic Spanish hotel that began as one of the famous Ritz Hotels. Many of the rooms have views across the city or of the beautiful gardens. You’ll be in the lap of luxury in the Mayan-inspired spa. And lounging at the rooftop pool you’ll have amazing views of the surrounding city.
- Gran Hotel La Florida, Carretera Vallvidrera-Tibidabo, 83-93, 08035, Barcelona; Tel:+34 93 259 30 00. https://www.hotelfloridabarcelona.com/en/ This 5-star hotel sits high above the city with magnificent views of the city, mountains, and the Mediterranean. If you’re worried about how to get down to the city itself, the hotel has a free shuttle that will get you there. It runs three times per day and you can take it back to the hotel when you’re ready. This hotel will take you away from the hustle and bustle of the city to a quieter, more serene setting.
- Hotel Nouvel, Carrer de Santa Ana, 18, 08002, Barcelona; Tel: +34 93 301 82 74. https://www.hotelnouvel.es/en/This is a gorgeous 3-star hotel right in the old city, Barri Gotic. It is in the heart of Barcelona close to La Rambla, Plaza de Catalunya, the old Cathedral, and much more! This is a hotel with loads of character, especially in its public spaces. While the rooms may not be as luxurious as the 5-star hotels above, they are far more than just ok. Some of them have balconies overlooking the old city streets. And you can’t beat the price for a hotel in the center of the city.
Other Places to Stay
Now that we’ve covered several hotels, I’ll tell how to get to know some of the locals as well as the culture of Barcelona. RENT AN APARTMENT! There are places like Airbnb and also Spanish rental agencies that offer apartments close to places you want to see.
We rented through Airbnb and were ecstatic about our apartment. We planned ahead about what we wanted to see and found an apartment in a neighborhood where we could easily reach all of our sites. The building we were in had an elevator (very important if you’re located several stories up). The apartment itself had one bedroom, full kitchen, bathroom, large living space with dining table, AND an outdoor terrace overlooking the city. We could not have asked for more! Our apartment was located in the Eixample neighborhood and we loved going to the coffee shop on the corner and the small grocery store a few feet down our street. We went out to eat in the evenings and on our stroll back to the apartment, we passed lovely fountains and statues lit brightly, making the walk very pleasant.
Planning to Get Around in Barcelona
We walked to most places since it was fall and the weather was amazing! There is just nothing like walking to get the know the city a little better. You’ll see statues, plazas, fountains, banks with an ATM you’ll need, department stores, restaurants to check out, and more on your walks. These will become landmarks for you as you begin to get a sense of the city.
When walking to a site is too far, you just can’t beat the Metro for getting around in Barcelona. It’s inexpensive and will take you where you want to go quickly and easily. Maps are posted inside the stations so you can find the closest station to the site you’re traveling to. Tickets are easy to buy and then away you go!
The airport is located far away from the city center so we took the bus to Plaza de Catalunya, which in this case was faster than the Metro. It was pleasant and a great way to see the city. This was the only time we used the bus system because the Metro is so great, but if you like seeing the city as you travel, this is a great option.
Taxis are a super quick way to get around if you’re in a hurry. They’re not that expensive either but do cost more than your other options. Since we were on a leisurely vacation, we didn’t feel the need to use taxis but we knew they were there if we needed them.
You could also rent a car but really, unless you’re planning to travel away from the city, there is no need for that. We did eventually rent a car at the main train station, Sants Estacio because we were going north to explore more of Spain and a small medieval town in southern France. I have to say that getting the car out of Barcelona was the hardest traveling we did. It’s totally unnecessary if you plan to stay in Barcelona.
Barcelona Plans in a Nutshell
There you have it! Barcelona is a glorious city to explore and I’ll tell you all about the best sites in my next travel post. But planning your trip is the most important first step. We’ve talked about searching for reasonable airfare, places to stay while you’re there, and getting around in the city. All of these tips will get you ready to discover Barcelona.
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