Barcelona Walking Tour with Map for First Time Visitors
If you know me, you know I’m madly in love with Spain! I’ve lived there twice – once as study abroad student and again as an English teacher – and traveled back many times. The other day, I came up with the idea to write a ‘Spain Bucket List’ series. Over the next two weeks, I will share 10 posts highlighting the best that Spain has to offer for first-time visitors. Barcelona is the most visited city in Spain so I figured I’d start with it. This self-guided walking tour of Barcelona with a map to introduce you to the city. This Barcelona walking tour will guide you to some of the must-see spots in the city, from the Gothic Quarter to the Gaudi architecture.
This is the first post in the Spain Bucketlist series. Here’s the complete 10-part series:
Spain Bucket List Series
Culture: 9 Experiences You Must Have in Spain
Off the beaten path: 8 Underrated Cities You Need To Visit in Spain
Barcelona: A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Barcelona
A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Barcelona
Before we dive into the walking tour, I need to throw in my two cents. I’ve visited Barcelona twice. Get ready for a shocker….
I think Barcelona is waaay overhyped!
What? I know I’m in the minority. Everyone raves about Barcelona, but to me, it’s like a giant theme park with a Spanish flair. It caters so much to tourists that I can’t quite pinpoint its personality. There’s a somewhat laid-back vibe, but overall it just feels like another big city with lots of concrete. Just being honest. I should also note that I had really high expectations so that’s probably another reason why I was underwhelmed.
So why am I writing this post if I don’t care for Barcelona? One word: Gaudi. You’ve probably heard of him. Touring the architecture of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi is the reason to visit Barcelona. Also, I know most first-time visitors to Spain will want to visit Barcelona, and I think they should. Go with no expectations and see for yourself. I’d recommend you stay 3-4 days in Barcelona and then head to Granada, which is, in my humble opinion, the greatest city in Spain.
Besides Gaudi’s art, there are different neighborhoods and attractions to explore. Barcelona is a walkable city with a few hilly areas. A walking tour is one of the best ways to explore the neighborhoods and attractions. I will show you a route to visit 10 of Barcelona’s must-see spots. Here we go.
The time required for the walking tour
2 hrs 58 minutes if you follow the route without stopping. I’d recommend you reserve a half day for this tour so you can really get to know the city. You can also break it into two tours over two days to reduce the walking.
Items to pack
- Comfortable shoes – preferably running shoes since there are some hills to climb.
- Portable WiFi – having access to WiFi at your fingertips makes travel so much easier. I’ve been using the Tep Wireless ‘Teppy’ device to access wifi – it’s convenient and reliable. Use the code ‘somtoseeks’ at checkout. You can read my full review of Tep Wireless to see the pros and cons of the device. And for a limited time, you can use the code Givethanks to save 20% off your order! This offer ends on December 2, 2019.
- Water – stay hydrated, my friends!
- Map or GPS – Google maps, Apple maps, the Moovit app, a physical map, whatever works best for you.
- Camera – you can use your phone camera, but a DSLR will capture those Gaudi buildings so much better! I always recommend the Nikon D3400 for beginners.
- Snacks – if you get hungry easily like me then pack some granola bars.
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A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Barcelona
1. Gothic Quarter
First stop: the Gothic Quarter. It is one of the coolest areas in Barcelona. As the name suggests, it is home to Gothic architecture dating back 2,000 years! The Romans built the structures. The Gothic Quarter is essentially the old part of the city so there’s a lot of history there. Explore the Gothic Cathedral, King’s Square (beautiful!), the narrow streets, and the tapas bars (locals say it has the best tapas in the city.) The Gothic Quarter is a nice place to just meander and get lost for a while.
2. Parc de la Ciutadella
Next on the tour is this gorgeous park designed by none other than Gaudi. Actually, the entire park wasn’t designed by Gaudi – just the waterfall below, known as the Cascada Monumental. It is actually the only natural environment in the entire city! Go for a stroll and sit back for a moment. You will need the rest to take on the climbs coming up. Fun fact: in the 18th century, this park was used as a prison.
3. La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia (Church of the Holy Family) is probably the most famous and impressive of all of Gaudi’s works. You just have to see the inside! The intricacy of the designs left me thinking ‘How did this man come up with this stuff?” Interestingly enough, the church was never actually finished. It is still under construction and is slated for completion in 2028. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you want to experience La Sagrada Familia, you need to go on a guided tour and also avoid these 5 mistakes! I’d recommend the Get Your Guide La Sagrada Familia guided tour with access to both the interior and the Nativity towers above. I’ve been doing Get Your Guide tours for years across Europe. Love the convenience of skipping lines and the top-notch guides!
Buying tickets – people used to show up at the entrance and buy a ticket. Nowadays, the church has become so popular that you need to buy a ticket online. You can go to the Sagrada Familia website to purchase your ticket at least a couple of days in advance. The earlier the better. They sell out fast. That said, I’d recommend a private La Sagrada tour with Get Your Guide for the convenience of skipping the (ridiculously long) lines and getting a more personalized experience.
4. Bunkers del Carmel
This is one of the best places to get a good view of the entire city. There is a bit of a climb to get to the top of the bunker, but the views are so worth it! If you like, you can take snacks and a blanket with you so you can it and relax while admiring the view. Also, this is a great place to watch the sunset.
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5. Park Guell
This quirky park looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. It is probably the most whimsical and colorful of Gaudi’s works in Barcelona. You’ll find a couple of gingerbread-looking houses and modern designs with pillars. Parc Guell is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As with Bunkers del Carmel, you also need to climb up a hill to get here. Definitely, buy tickets online as it gets busy. If you’d like to skip the lines and get a personalized tour, then consider the Park Guell Tour Guided Walking Tour by Get Your Guide. You’ll stroll around the park with a live guide and discover the story behind the quirky structures.
6. La Gracia Neighborhood
This neighborhood, where Park Guell is located, attracts artists and hipsters. You could say it’s the trendy district of Barcelona. On Verdi Street, you’ll find lots of boutique shops and cuisines from around the world. If you visit in August, there’s a huge festival called Festa Major de Gracia.
7. Casa Mila
Also known as La Pedrera, this Gaudi creation is a somewhat puzzling complex made of stone. Built in 1910, it is a residential building with a wiggly shape and has some of the elements of Park Guell. When Gaudi completed this building, people thought it was hideous! That’s how it earned the unsavory nickname, La Pedrera, or ‘Quarry House.’ That’s how it got the nickname ‘La Pedrera’ which translates to ‘the Quarry House.’ The best way to experience Casa Mila is to do a tour with an audio guide. With this tour, you get to skip the line and also view the house from the rooftop. The vantage point from the rooftop is really something special!
8. Casa Batllo
Also by Gaudi, Casa Batllo is similar in shape to Casa Mila, but the outside is far more colorful and vibrant. Unlike Casa Mila, Gaudi didn’t build Casa Batllo from scratch. The wealthy Batllo family, the owners of the home, commissioned Gaudi to demolish their existing home and build a new one. Instead, Gaudi simply refurbished it and added his signature waves on the exterior. The best way to see Casa Batllo is to do a guided tour with an interactive video guide. You can skip the lines and explore all of the building at your own pace.
9. Palace of Catalan Music
This is a concert hall and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with exquisite design and decor! The venue hosts performers from all around Spain and the world – Flamenco dancers, opera singers, pianists, and more. Check their website to see upcoming shows or you can just go take a look at the beautiful interior.
10. La Boqueria
After doing all that walking, it’s time for some food. La Boqueria is a busy market along Las Ramblas, the main pedestrian street in Barcelona. It seems like a tourist trap at first glance, and you’ll find travelers who say you should avoid this place. I disagree. I think La Boqueria is worth a visit. It is a little pricey though so I wouldn’t go here more than once. Try the sepia (cuttlefish). If you’re not into seafood, no worries. This place is packed with all types of food, from typical ones like Paella to Catalan favorites.
There you have it – your very own self-guided tour of Barcelona! Which of these spots are you most excited to see? Comment below.
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