[from my Barcelona forum tip]
- When you arrive and check in your hotel, try to get some initial food and necessities for the first few days until you get to know where to go. An initial one stop place is El Corte Ingles department store at Plaza Catalunya. There's a cafeteria at the top floor with good views. At the bottom level there is a gourmet grocery store.
- Also in Plaza Catalunya is the Tourist Info office.
- There are 2 competing touristic bus offerings in Plaza Catalunya. I did the Bus Turistic bus tour. I think it's good to do at arrival day or the next day if you're still jetlagged. You can just ride the routes to get a feel of the places you'll go to or may want to add, and judge distances between attractions. The Blue and Red routes takes about 1 and a half hours, while the Green route takes about 45 minutes.
- Avoid the crowds at La Pedrera and Casa Batllo typically between 11a till 3p. Go straight to the rooftops then work your way down. Get to La Pedrera by 10:30a (the tourist buses stop there so it'll be crowded from 11:30a till about 3:30p then stroll along or have tapas at one of the places going south along Passeig Gracia. 3 blocks later you're at Casa Batllo.
- La Sagrada Familia - be there lined up by opening or go late afternoon. I was there at opening then headed straight to the elevator lifts to go to the towers. Less people jockeying in narrow spaces and more time to enjoy the views from the towers.
- The T10 subway tickets is a 10 journey ticket that is SHAREABLE and good for subway and bus. This is what I used.
- If you're on Twitter, follow @SuiteLifeBCN and @Somniosays. They give timely info on events going on in the city.
SuiteLifeBCN has free ebooks called the Barcelona Bible on an insider's guide to Barcelona. Somnio has a pdf detailing a route to see all the places you see in the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
- If you take the tram to Montjuic, take note of what time the tram stops running. When I was there, it stopped at 7:00pm. So I had to walk all the way down to the Parallel metro stop.
- If you're there on a Sunday, try to see the people dancing the Sardana, the Catalan national dance. Try near the Cathedral. When I saw people doing the Sardana it was in the afternoon in the park across from La Sagrada Familia.
- Try to catch one of the neighborhood festivals spread out throughout the city in the summer. They really do it up. I saw one being setup in Barceloneta. I wish I could have stayed in the evening but it was my last night in BCN. [from my Barcelona forum tip]
I was in Barcelona last month for 6 days and wishing I was still there!
I stayed at Hotel Marvi (www.hotelmarvi.com) and Hostal Hostemplo (www.hostemplo.com) all booked through www.booking.com
I looked at reviews at Booking.com and TripAdvisor.com
Stayed 3 nights in each as it was difficult to get all nights in one place since trip was kind of a last minute thing. Of the 2, Hotel Marvi is better location wise since it is close to Metro Universitat and 5 minute walk to Plaza Catalunya and Las Ramblas. If you do book hotels, if you prefer balcony (view but noisier) as opposed to inner courtyard (no view, quieter) do state your preference before hand so hotel can accomodate you.
For other apartment rental options, there is Suite Life (www.suitelife.es). They offer apt rentals and have free Barcelona Bible e-books to offer suggestions on being an "insider".
I wanted to stay in one of the private rooms at Somnio Hostels (www.somniohostels.com). It's primarily a hostel (dorm style beds with shared bathrooms) with a few private rooms with bathroom ensuite but I'll plan better next time. It's in a good location a few blocks from Plza Catalunya but quiet and close to great tapas bars. The advantage of staying in hostels is instant social environment so it's easy to find people to do stuff with.
Another idea to easily find people to do stuff with is find the Travel Bar (www.travelbar.com/travelbar) off of Las Ramblas. They offer free walking tours and they also set up bike tours, pub crawls, etc
Beaches - Barceloneta beach is closest to tourist area, eat & drink places; while Mar Bella / Nova Mar Bella are where locals tend to go. There are boardwalk / walkways connecting the beaches.