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What to See
One of Antoni Gaudi's masterpieces sits on top of el Carmel. You will recognize the park as soon as you see the mosaic iguana fountain, the mandatory photo everyone takes here. It's nice to stroll around the park and admire the gardens and architecture, but what I enjoyed most were the live music performances under the terrace. Oftentimes, the performers are street musicians but good nonetheless.
What to Do
Renting bikes is a common tourist move, sure. But travelers should be well-informed on how bike-friendly a town truly is. For example, London- bad idea; horrible drivers, skinny streets and crowded side walks. Barcelona, however, is PERFECT; cars seldom grace the streets of the majestic El Born. It's easy to get lost in this area of Barca, then haphazardly stumble upon the beautiful Park Ciutadella. Take a picture in front of the "Cascada" Fountain and find a cozy, grassy spot of shade to basque in the eclectic beauty of the town. Just south, Port Olimpica's sidewalks along the coastline invite your way to Barceloneta. Take snapshots at the iconic W Hotel (with the crystal blue coastline backdrop), ride north to grab the most fresh, cheap sandwich you'll ever taste at Bo De Bi. "Get lost" a smidgen more among the dark, medieval, windy streets of the Gothic Quarter until you find yourself, eventually, at the Bike Rental Shop. A simplistic way to explore the city for less than 10 euro.
What to Eat
On a small street called Carrer de la Reina Maria Christina, near the barceloneta area, there is a small delightful little tapas place called La Champaneria. It's standing-only, and always crowded with locals. They have excellent chorizo, amazon sandwiches (hamburgers, pork/pate/ham, chorizo, and more). Everything is delicious! They close early, at 10pm, so go for lunch or an early dinner. Most sandwiches or plates are under 3 euros, and you can get a bottle of champagne for 4 euros before 7pm, after which they sell the champagne by the glass for about 1 euro each.
Where to Party
Drinking / Bars / Happy Hours
If you are hanging around on le rambla after dinner deciding what club to go to, look for the guys selling beer out of a plastic bag. You can get a beer from them for 1€ or 2€. In the clubs it will be around 5€. Some nights when I was really low on cash I would just go in and out of the club and sit with the beer guys and drink. They were all really nice, but I was always with at least one other friend just in case.
I tried 3 nights in a row to make it to the sunrise, to watch it on the beach. Harder than you think, the sun doesn't rise until 7:30 in October! If you can make it, do it- but bring blankets to the beach, it gets cold & windy.
go to to the Champagneria- all they serve is pink champagne and tapas... recipe for a good night.
The Chupito shot bar off the beach is worth it too- 2E or 2.50E shots (try the Monica Lewinsky if you have an open mind- involves sex toys, whipped cream, and a lot of work). Most of delicious and reasonably priced for the show- small place, gets packed. The bartender is a sweetheart, especially if you know some Spanish.
Two things to look for: Dog poop (look down but don't miss the sights!) and pickpocketers. I recommend keeping your valuables in your front pocket or zipped bag. It's not like Disney World, if someone comes up to you dressed like Mini-mouse don't stop for a picture- she's probably going to rob you.
Siesta is a wonderful invention but it means that sometimes restaurants are only serving drinks till 1:30, no food.
Get a T-10 subway pass- especially if your hostal is a bit out of the way. The subway is closed from midnight to 5am (might be open till a bit later on the weekends), so stay out until that first morning subway back in order to save on cab fare! I know you can manage ;).
What to Avoid
Scams & Petty Theft
I was in Barcelona a few days ago, and having read up on the scams that are aplenty in this city, I can say that is true. I was in a cafe (just opposite Jaume I Metro Station) and stopped for tea with two friends. I left my phone on the table and got up to pay for the bill; in retrospect, I think I let my guard down because the counter was less than three steps away, so I thought not much could happen. By a stroke of luck, I turned around and out of nowhere, this lady appeared by our table (possibly by a side entrance), asking for change with one hand, and the other holding a paper with words my friends and I couldn't decipher, her hand 'strategically' placed over my phone. It only took a few seconds for my friend to reach over and crumple the piece of paper, exposing her trick and she left soon after. I think what made her stall was because my phone was connected to a bulky power bank leading into my bag, otherwise she would have made it out with it. Coincidentally, a friend of mine who travelled to Barcelona last year wasn't too lucky, as his got stolen from him with the same tactic in the Burger King near Sagrada Familia.
After watching a student's purse get picked up right in front her and carried off (don't worry, one of our crew ran and stopped the guy), it's no wonder the beach is a major theft zone. Just be aware of your things. If you're with friends and going swimming, have one friend stay with everyone's stuff. Don't leave your bags behind you, keep them in front, in sight. If you're on your own and want to jump in, leave your stuff with another tourist party on the beach. It's usually the roaming souls offering services or items for sale that try to make off with your belongings. Again, just be aware so you can enjoy the beach and avoid having a bummer story to tell later.
It is getting rather ridiculous now. The amount of tourists scammed each year is only increasing. There is now a TV show about it on in the UK and also a book actually named "Barcelona Scams" is out telling people all the scams and how to try and avoid them.
I want to go through one scam today which happened to one of my friends a couple of months ago. They (a couple) were sitting on the grass in Ciutadella park which is located in the city. Around 6 young Spanish children came up to them asking for them to sign a partition for a school project. After about two minutes, and being surrounded for as long, the children took the signatures and then quickly ran away laughing. They had stolen both my friends wallet and his girlfriends smartphone.
The fact that now you have to be careful of even 12 year old children must mean Barcelona could be heading down hill.
My point: Don't just look out for the dodgy looking drug dealers. It will be more unexpected than that!
It's the most famous street in Barcelona and highly populated by tourists which makes it a great place for pick-pockets to do their work. Las Ramblas is filled with street performers along the entire stretch, and although there are some really great performances, be cautious of your valuables while watching because it doesn't take long for a wallet or phone disappear from your pockets. There are a few bars to go to but walking along Las Ramblas after dark means you will be hassled to buy drugs or cervezas and maybe even a prostitute. It's good to take a nice stroll along the street during the day but not too much time is needed here as there are many other things to do in Barcelona.
What To Do For The Day
Start the day off at La Farga cafe on Diagonal with a chocolate croissant and a freshly squeezed orange juice.Then to Av. Sarria to spend the morning shopping in the little designers shops. Once you're ready for lunch go to Bar Mandri on C/ Mandri for some authentic tapas. Make sure you book a table, especially on a Saturday because this is a popular place with locals! Spend the afternoon visiting the Pedralbes monastery, which is one of the best examples of Catalan Gothic architecture. After that go for a leisurely stroll around Parc de l'Oreneta which overlooks the city. For dinner go to La Venta restaurant in Tibidabo. As the sun goes down, head to Mirabe on Avenida Tibidabo where you can see the whole city light up from an incredible glass balcony.