Barcelona is Spain’s second city, the capital of the country’s Catalonia region, and is one of the most picturesque and popular tourist destinations in Europe – and a firm favorite with travelers in the United States. Estimated to welcome more than nine million tourists a year, the city boasts stunning marinas, early-20th-century architecture and an endless shopping scene that you won’t find anywhere else. The truth is that many of Barcelona’s beauties must be seen to be believed, and so below, we’ve put together some things to consider before you book a vacation and head to the region. After all, preparation is the key to a good city break!
#1. Travel Right
Once you’ve decided that you want to visit Barcelona, we recommend getting your flights and accommodation in order as soon as possible to save money. There are a number of non-stop flights from the United States to Barcelona Airport (El Prat), with four per day from New York City, and one each from Los Angles, Boston, Miami, and Atlanta. Choose the right airline and, if you want to get the most bang for your buck, use your air miles to upgrade to Business or First. The good news is that Spain part of the Schengen Agreement, meaning U.S. citizens can visit for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa, although we always recommend travel insurance and an international credit card.
#2. Book Activities Early
There is so much to see and do in Barcelona that it can often feel overwhelming on your first visit, so we recommend booking activities early to avoid disappointment. Iconic attractions like the La Sagrada Familia can attract huge queues, but booking online allows you to buy a queue-skipping pass and enter into the unfinished Roman Catholic church without having to stand for hours. In short, be realistic with your plans and accept that you might not be able to see everything in one visit, especially if you’re only staying for a couple of days. It’s better to enjoy a stress-free break than plan to do too much and feel like you’re frantically catching up.
#3. Going Off the Beaten Track
Although Maremagnum mall, Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s Aquarium, Casa Batlló, Park Güell, and Barcelona City History Museum are all must-dos when you visit Barcelona, you should also think about going off the beaten track and discovering the real Catalan. There are a number of guided tours in Barcelona that afford you the luxury of seeing the side streets and villages of Barcelona, away from the hustle and bustle of tourists. Again, we recommend you book a tour early to avoid disappointment if you want to see the real, authentic Barcelona.
#4. Packing What You Need
When packing your suitcase for your trip to Barcelona, we recommend buying a lock for your backpack, so that your personal possessions are hidden from looters. Comfortable shoes are also a must – you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so it makes sense to wear something that will see you through the whole day. Depending on the time of year you’re planning to visit, you should think about packing an umbrella, and when it comes to fashion, choose subdued colors rather than bright colors and tye dyes, as you’ll stand out – and not in a good way!
#5. Pick Up The Language
Whilst you can certainly get by speaking English, it’s always a good idea to get to grips with the language and pick up some basics before you head off to a new city. What’s tricky about Barcelona, however, is that they speak both Spanish and Catalonian, so deciding which to swat up on depends on your mission. If you want to really embrace and immerse yourself into Catalan culture, then Catalan is the language for you, but for most people, Spanish will be enough. Phrases like Hola, Buenos días, Estela, Cómo estás?, gracias, lo siento, adiós, ¡Salud!, and Con permiso will go a long way when you’re in the city – do some research on the plane journey and involve the whole family to create a fun, educational activity.
Planning your visit to Barcelona might take time, but will afford you the luxury of being able to enjoy a relaxing, stress-free European city break. Whatever you get up to when you get there, we wish you the very best of luck and wish you a safe and enjoyable trip!