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Your complete Barcelona travel guide! Top travel tips + 9 fun activities to add to your itinerary

This is everything you need to know before you travel to Spain’s most-visited city, Barcelona

Barcelona is the cosmopolitan capital of Spain’s Catalonia region. This enchanting seaside city is most famous for its energetic art scene, the iconic architecture, and the fantastical Sagrada Familia church amongst other modernist landmarks designed by Antoni Gaudí.

How to get to Barcelona from Dubai

Emirates offers 2 direct flights daily from DXB to BCN* (Barcelona-El Prat Airport) and vice versa.

Flight duration: 7h 10m (DXB-BCN), 6h 50m (BCN-DXB)
Ticket price: AED 3,000 ($800) onwards for a round-trip in economy class
Travel tip: You will save 30% on air fare if you take a connecting flight

*BCN is the airport code for the international airport that serves Barcelona

The city’s origins are Roman, and its long history and economic dynamism have made Barcelona a cultural city

How to apply for Spain’s Tourism Visa

Spain comes under the Schengen zone.

If you don’t have a Schengen visa and/or your passport does not qualify for visa on arrival, you have to apply for the Spanish visa. The agency accepts applications 90 days prior to the travel date.

From Dubai:

The current agency that processes Spain’s visa applications from Dubai is BLS International Spain Visa Application Center in iRise Tower, Barsha Heights (Tecom).

The processing period for the visa is 3 weeks (21 calendar days). 

For more information on how to apply, click here.

Selecting your accommodation

From a tourist’s perspective, Passeig de Gràcia is the best area to stay in.

Timeless glamour – Passeig de Gràcia

(+) ranks highest in safety
(+) one of the major avenues in Barcelona
(+) most important shopping and business area

(-) most expensive street in Barcelona and Spain

Where we stayed
As we were a group of 7, we opted to stay in a serviced apartment as it was more feasible in comparison to a hotel stay.

Our accommodation – Habitat Apartments Lauria

Habitat Apartments Lauria (5 mins/400m walk from Passeig de Gràcia)
Carrer de Roger de Llúria, 40, 08009 Barcelona, Spain
Nights stayed:
Avg. price per night for each guest: €30/AED130
What I liked about this accommodation: location
What I did not like about this accommodation: infrequent turndown service
Travel tip: Booking directly from their website is cheaper than booking via Booking.com 

Airport Transfer

The best way to get from the international airport to central Barcelona is by using the official city taxis available at the exit. 

Cost: €40/AED 170 (from BCN to Habitat Apartments Lauria)
Taxi ride duration: 20 minutes
Taxi stand location: The taxi line is at the exit after baggage claim

Transportation System

The best way to navigate Barcelona is by:

  1. Foot – Barcelona is a pedestrian-friendly city. As long as you have access to Google Maps, you will be fine.
  2. Barcelona Metro – The railway system of Barcelona is well-connected and operates until at least 2AM everyday. A single trip to any station costs €2/AED10.
  3. Cab – If you are a group of more than 3 people traveling within 3 kms, it’s more economical to hire a taxi instead of single subway trips. 
  4. Private taxi apps – companies such as Uber and Cabify are popular means of transportation in Barcelona. Due to lack of cars, Uber almost always had a minimum waiting time of at least 20 minutes. 
  5. Cycling – Taking a spin around a city as bustling as Barcelona can be intimidating, but most of the stretches are equipped with a designated bike lane.

Top 9 things to do in Barcelona

1. Immerse yourself in Gaudí’s architecture

One of Antoni Gaudí’s masterpieces – Casa Batlló (right)

Gaudí’s work is admired by architects around the world as being one of the most unique and distinctive architectural styles. His work has greatly influenced the face of Barcelona architecture and you will see stunning examples of Gaudí’s work all around the city center.

Most famous buildings: Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Batlló

2. Visit the home stadium of the world’s fourth most valuable sports team

Lionel Messi takes a corner at the Camp Nou

Worth $3.56 billion as of 2017, FC Barcelona is a professional football club based in Barcelona.

Enjoy the excitement of discovering the different spaces in the Camp Nou and the Museum, which reveals the effort, respect, ambition, team-work, and humility that has been displayed by Barça footballers.

3. Find the taste of Spain in tapas and paellas

Paella – fluffy yellow rice dish served at Spanish restaurants all over the world

Tapas are snacks, canapés, or small plates that originated in Spain.

Tapas are served day in and day out in bars and cafés, and these are the ones you must try:

  • Pan con Tomate: bread rubbed with tomato and drizzled in oil and salt
  • Patatas Bravas: the french fries of Spain
  • Croquettes: small breadcrumbed fried rolls containing chicken/potatoes/ham
  • Fried Padron Peppers: Spanish style blistered peppers
  • Tortilla Espanola: Egg & potato omelette
  • Gambas Al Ajillo: Spicy garlic prawns

The best paella in Barcelona at El Nacional

On the other hand, Paella is a hearty Spanish rice dish that hails from the Valencian region of Spain. Cooked in a large shallow pan, it consists of saffron-scented rice cooked with some sort of protein, beans, and a mix of aromatic spices.
Best paella: La Llotja, El Nacional

4. Experience a party storm in the liveliest nightclubs of the world

If you’re looking for Barcelona’s rich & famous, then check out Bling Bling

Barcelona is one of the party capitals of the globe, so be prepared to party the night away from dusk to dawn!

Here are some tips before you plan a night out:

  • Clubs don’t get busy until 1AM so take advantage of the siesta culture or stick to bars before that
  • Many stay open until 6AM, giving you plenty of time to check out a few
  • Unless your name is on the guest list, most require an entrance fee so be prepared to pay at the door. However, these will often include a free drink so don’t throw your ticket away once you’re in

Recommended clubs: Opium, Pacha, Bling Bling

5. Sing and dance at a Flamenco show

Explore the essence of this soulful dance from southern Spain

The city’s flamenco scene is booming. Barcelona is full of bars, restaurants, tablaos, dance schools and every kind of event at which flamenco takes centre stage.

Prepare to be thoroughly entertained as you enjoy a thrilling dance performance  accompanied by live musicians and cantaores (singers).

Tip: book your flamenco show on Viator

6. Brunch at a food market

La Boqueria is the most famous food market in the city

Food is an integral part of Catalan culture and Barcelona is the perfect example of this, with its 39 food markets spread throughout the city.

Recommended market: La Boquería in La Rambla
What to have: I enjoyed the fresh juices and fruits selection
Tip: Chok – The Chocolate Kitchen is just around the corner

7. Shop till you drop 

Multi-floored Zara shops are a common sight in Barcelona

The best shopping areas in central Barcelona are Passeig de Gracia and Plaça de Catalunya.

Spanish brands such as Mango, Zara, Bershka, and Massimo Dutti are so much cheaper in Spain, so make sure to travel with empty suitcases!

Tip: If you spend more than €90 in any store, you qualify for 10% VAT refund at the airport

8. Go on a wine-and-cheese tasting tour

This can be you!

Sip a selection of fine wines from Spain’s Catalan region on a wine-tasting tour.

If you book a tour, you can sample hand-picked wines paired with light Spanish tapas under the guidance of an expert sommelier.

Tip: book your wine tour on Viator

9. Dine at the finest restaurants in Europe

Feroz is one of the city’s trendiest spots right now

Barcelona’s restaurant scene is lit up by a constellation of Michelin stars. The range of restaurants boasted by the Catalan capital is simply incredible, with something to suit everyone.

Must-visit restaurants: Feroz, CDLC, Ikibana, Cachitos