By The Scoop Staff
Barcelona, home to 1.5 million people, is a relatively small city to explore because it’s sequestered by a semi-circle of mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. The top sights are mostly in walking distance from one another, and if not, just a short bus ride away. In a few days you can cover a lot of ground and get to know the metropolis, but what’s the best way to do so? We recommend a combo of transportation and tour options to maximize your time in one of Europe’s most vibrant hubs.
Take a tour bus…Really!
There are several hop-on hop-off buses that whisk visitors around the city, but we like Bus Turístic, the only one we’ve personally tried. Maybe you’re worried about looking like a dumb tourist? Get over it. These buses offer the best overview of the city without any of the hassle of grabbing the metro and trying to figure out bus lines. The main stops are important tourist destinations that you will want to see. We especially like the bus for getting to harder to reach areas of the city, like seeing the Olympic Stadium and Park Güell. But, we do offer this caveat: start early to make the most of your ticket.
If you only have a few days in Barcelona, stay centrally and walk around the Gothic Quarter, La Rambla, and El Raval. You can even walk down to the beach, which is at the end of La Rambla. Your own two feet are the only way to see most of the Gothic area, which is closed to car traffic. Get lost down alleyways and winding lanes. Keep an eye out for ancient Roman architecture. Make the experience even better by hiring a savvy guide to lead you through the history of these fascinating barrios (we like – http://www.ciempiesjuan.com/).
Rent a bicycle.
Bicycle hire in Barcelona gives you the freedom to zip through the Gothic Quarter, the Born, through La Ciutadella Park, and then down to the beach where a long boardwalk designated for cyclists awaits. Donkey Bike is one option for grabbing wheels, and offers a 24/7 service activated by your smartphone – think Car2Go but for bikes. You might notice lots of bicycle racks around the city offering little red bikes and be tempted. Those bikes are just for Barcelona residents (part of a bike share program), but Donkey Bike is the next best option. Rates start at about $15 a day.
Go on a gourmet tour.
A highlight in the numerous tours we have taken in Barcelona over the years was a cooking class that included a food tour to La Boqueria Market. After the guided walk we all went back to a well-equipped kitchen and learned to make paella, crema Catalana, and other wonderful side dishes. A smart way to see the city, learn about the culture, meet other travelers, and have a really tasty lunch. (We spent the morning cooking with Cook&Taste – http://www.cookandtaste.net/.)
The ideal amount of time to see most of Barcelona is a week. Try a different tour or approach to exploring every day to make the most of your visit.