We have a couple of friends planning a trip to Spain this year so I’ll start with some information we collected along the way related to the various districts easily accessible by foot, tram or bus from Las Ramblas (inner Barcelona). On both occasions that we’ve visited Barcelona (2011 & 2016) we stayed at a hotel on Las Ramblas – both had good views (especially the hotel last year)…see photo below from Citadines Hotel.
At the moment Citadenes is $300/night for a “studio” (non refundable) – basically a standard but reasonably spacious hotel room with a kitchenette…if booking, check the room has a view as we talked with some other guests who said they were disappointed that their room faced a brick wall. I think our room rate was lower as our room (will note price later), while very clean etc., was quite dated and apparently “next for a refurbishment”.
In 2011 we stayed at Hotel 1898 (see photo above) which can be seen across the road in the 1st photo (to the left). It’s a gorgeous, historic hotel with a beautiful interior (lots of master crafted woodwork + wrought iron). We stayed 4 nights and it was a bit of a splurge at the time – I loved the idea of staying there as it has a stunning indoor pool as well.
We considered staying there again in 2016 but as it was a week long stay this time (in ’11 four nights), we decided on a place with a kitchenette – hence our choice of Citadenes Hotel as some rooms have a kitchenette + small dining space. The main food market is just around the corner and we were even able to invite my Australian friend (living in Spain half the Yr) over for drinks after we had lingered over a late/long lunch at the market (more about that in Food of Barcelona post – to come). The location is great – central to everything; for example, we accompanied my friend to the railway station (a 10 min walk) in the early evening for her return trip to stay with her friends who live an hour or so from Barcelona.
Back to the luxurious Hotel 1898 is currently $400/night for a standard room (non refundable) – check if that includes breakfast – one of the best ever!…if still like 2011.
Other nearby hotels that looked appealing so we checked the prices:
H10 Hotels – there are many throughout Barcelona (with varying guest reviews) but this one in Catalunya Plaza (a few blocks away from Las Ramblas but still very central) caught my eye so I took a photo (below):
Another similar style/location was Hotel Colon (yes Colon!) – close to the interesting El Born district (a v short walk from Las Ramblas – the Picasso Museum is there). More on El Born in another post.
We have friends who stayed in Barcelona with family – they went for Air BnB accommodation (they said it was “great” but comparatively expensive – Barcelona is an expensive city)…it was “a few blocks back from Las Ramblas”. Also our Australian friend who lives half the year in Spain sometimes stays in Pensions – these range from budget to mid range prices I gather.
This article in Traveller.com categorises accommodation – budget; mid-range; luxe; lash out!…we use similar sites when planning our trips & then check review sites + traveller photos etc. to make final choice. We always look at the Traveller room tips on Trip Advisor – we do a quick glance through as some “tips” are just commonsense (or personal preference!) but in Barcelona we got a great tip about Citadenes Hotel. However, even then a person said “our room with a view was too noisy” (I think they were on the lower floors), which was true at times although it seemed to quieten down from 11 pm (or we may have been so tired we didn’t notice!) and the security etc. along Las Ramblas seemed to prevent any noisy disturbances. We liked being able to view the vibrancy of the city with it’s comings and goings. Only 2 nights in 7 did we close the window & turn the air con on in order to sleep without disruption. Our room was on one of the higher floors.
Photo above: Lots of people get about by motor bike & scooter + a few on pushbike (not as popular as in some countries – like Amsterdam!…post to come). We enjoyed taking the trams and viewing some of the modern Architecture along the way as can be seen in this photo.
We mostly used the Metro, trams (photo above) and of course whenever possible we walked; for example, if not too hot, it’s a pleasant 30 min walk (approx) from Las Ramblas to the main port (photos below). The only time we needed a taxi was to/from the railway station and the international airport. In 2011 we travelled from Barcelona to Montpellier, France by train (just 3 hours). So Barcelona is a great place to arrive/depart from!
Getting around continued:
Like most big cities the traffic, especially at certain times of the day, is very heavy so taking a car or even a taxi can be frustrating. We learnt our lesson the hard way in 2011 when we used the Hop on/Hop off Tourist Bus – it just wasn’t reliable and we spent quite a long time waiting at bus stops although I have heard from other friends that the service has greatly improved now?
City centre to Barceloneta Beach & seaside beyond:
You can walk to Colom at the end of Las Ramblas (the Main Street/boulevard in the centre) and it then takes 15 min. (Approx) to the beach. Alternatively, you can take the metro – go to the Barcelona Tourist Guide for great info including maps etc. If visiting from June to September you could try visiting Icaria Beach …the next beach along from Barceloneta as there are often fewer tourists. It’s a very, very long stretch of beach…we walked for about 45 min (from Barceloneta where we alighted from the hop on/off bus) as the weather was so pleasant (just warm & breezy) and we then stopped for lunch (see photo below). Some people choose to stay at a hotel in this area (hotels also listed on the above tourist site). We preferred being closer to the centre with the main food market (La Boqueria), museums, galleries, El Born district etc. nearby plus a larger range of dining options (food post come). Also, be aware that some parts of the beach are for nude bathing (not sure if a tourist map indicates that?); when we were there the water was cold so we didn’t go swimming & we always seek out some shade at other times anyway as I burn easily.
Other neighbourhoods close to the city centre: (ie. short walk from Las Ramblas)
‘The Ciutat Vella, meaning “Old City,” is the oldest, most central and most tourist-visited neighborhood of Barcelona. Some of its famous streets and their attractions are:
* Las Ramblas is the liveliest pedestrian walkway in town and is spelled in the plural because it is actually a series of streets (each one a “rambla”). Though crowded with tourists, Las Ramblas is tree-lined and beautifully laid out. All along the way, you will meet with interesting street performers, some of them doing stunts, some of them costumed and some of them offering to do pencil sketches.
* Placa de Catalunya is a square located in the very center of the city. It is the city’s transport hub and a favorite rendezvous point. The square is famous for its many fountains and statues, and it is lined by shops on every side.
* The Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) is at the very heart of the Ciutat Vella. Here, you can see numerous buildings that date from medieval times as well as a few that go back to the Roman Period.
* In various parts of the Old City, you will find literally miles of beachfront boardwalks. These are worthwhile just to walk along- but you can also get in the water to swim or lay down for a tan on the sand.
* El Portal de L’Angel is a spacious pedestrian walkway lined by some of the most expensive and most in-style shops in all of Barcelona.’ From Wikitravel.
We would also add El Born neighbourhood to the above list – a short walk from Las Ramblas. In this area, near the Picasso museum, there are many small galleries and street shopping along narrow, cobblestone laneways. We enjoyed a morning at the Museum and then browsing around this area afterwards.
Whenever in a big city for the first time, early in our stay, we try to take either a self guided tour (using info from Net etc.) or a guided tour (some cities have a “tours for tips” arrangement…often reviewed on Trip Advisor too). The photo below was from one of our self guided walks through the neighbourhoods of Barcelona. During both the day and the evening, we always felt very safe although we did take the usual precautions with our possessions (kept my small bag to the front of me), ignored scams (often initiated by a stranger approaching you with something to look at/sell etc) – we noticed that there didn’t seem to be as many happening in 2016 as there was in 2011…perhaps the police have been cracking down on them. From our hotel room we were able to observe some of the unofficial street stalls set up/dismantle in Las Ramblas – they seemed to be able to predict when the police would be there!