Clued In Barcelona: The Concise and Opinionated Guide to the City
IMPORTANT: For those “re-entering” the USA in the coming weeks- July/August 2021
If you’re a Covid vaccinated or antibodied American citizen and you go overseas, please know that you must still prove you are “virus free” in order to be allowed back into the United States. This can be done by showing proof of a negative Covid test that was taken within 48 hours of your departure flight home. If your test turns out to be positive for any reason (including test malfunction etc.) be prepared to quarantine in the country you were trying to leave until you test negative. (For some folks this might mean bringing a larger quantity of prescription medication, just in case!)
We are mentioning this because it is in effect now (July 2021) and few travelers seem to know about it. More information can be found on the government’s CDC website here. Look for the paragraph, “Before You Arrive in the United States”
Luckily, the Covid test is now quite easy to find at most pharmacies in Europe (not sure about elsewhere) but is not given for free to foreign travelers. You will have to pay for the test which currently ranges from around 29 euros to 47 euros. We hope this changes soon because it is clearly an overreach. American citizens should always be allowed to return home.
Summer Happenings – July 2021
After a very long eighteen months of pandemic, Barcelona’s Theatre season has finally been announced. The magnificent Palau de la Música is simply bursting with a calendar of upcoming performances that range from flamenco to Bach to Spanish Guitar. If you are in Catalunya or will be soon, be sure to snag a ticket to one of these. And since the Palau is also a UNESCO Heritage Site, it’s a definite win-win. The city’s opera house, Gran Teatre del Liceu has also resumed its performances. So fun!
In Focus: Brunch & Cake/ June 2021
Our first “City Extras” feature for post-pandemic Barcelona has to be a recommendation for an unusual café in the vibrant Eixample neighborhood, though they have recently opened a second location next to the Port Vell yacht harbor. Brunch & Cake is a place we’ve been dying to tell you about, so here goes… this adorable café features much more than brunch items and cakes as you’ll see. Their sandwiches, salads, veggie bowls, and the like are a bit different than at other cafés so it’s difficult to describe. Let’s just say it’s like “Grandma food” made on a day when Grandma went a bit cray-cray. And that’s a good thing! The fare makes you feel like it’s summertime no matter when you visit.
We’re back! May 2021
Clued In cities all over the place are beginning to come back to life. Because of all the recent positive changes, we have just updated our travel books to be current for summer 2021. We will continue to update them as things change further. In anticipation of future travel, we welcome you back to Barcelona and to the world!
(Included info could potentially be affected by the pandemic)
Taxi Clues for Barcelona – March 2020
Since some travelers are looking to avoid crowds and mass transit this spring, we’re providing at-a-glace info regarding official taxi cabs in Barcelona. While not as inexpensive, a taxi will make you feel more confident and get you where you’re going in style. And if your party is more than a single rider, it can be a great value. We always budget it in!
- Only hire the city’s official, metered, black and yellow taxis. You can hail a taxi from any Barcelona curbside, as long as it’s not too near an official taxi queue. They must be “available” of course, with their green roof light lit up. Don’t worry about the numbers 1 or 2 being lit up as this does not pertain to anything that waiting passengers need to know.
- Most taxi fares within central Barcelona range between €5 to €10 and tipping is not necessary. They do take credit cards, but always have cash on you in case their credit machine isn’t functioning or can’t find a signal.
- Most of the city’s cab drivers resist speaking in English or Spanish, and will express in Catalan that they do not understand the address you’re giving them. Be ready to show them a printed address, either on your phone or on a piece of paper. The meter is already running while you have this often confusing discussion, even though the taxi has not moved.
- Do not play with your smart phone while inside a taxi, unless you’re on Google Maps watching the progress of your ride. If you don’t pay attention, many drivers will complete a long, circular route before finally taking you to your destination and you’ll never even know it. They count on you not seeing the same buildings passing by a second time. They may also try to take a longer route than was needed so be aware.
- Do not expect cab drivers to change a €50 or €100 note; they are not required to, and the more dishonest ones will give you back €20 notes that are merely color copies of euros. These fake bills will not have the required foil strip running through them but you won’t notice when you’re busy getting out of the back of a dark taxi at night.
- If a taxi is called to your hotel or restaurant, it will already have its meter running from when it started to come get you. Don’t be alarmed by this as it’s completely legal and is the norm.
- Official taxi queues can be found near main plazas or sights, so note where they are in your area is case you need one quickly at some point.
- Supplements are imposed on top of the timed fare, such as late night fees, weekend fees, etc. Watch out for meters that seem suspicious in their pricing. For instance, the meter should never show a large supplement fee of €10. See below for specific pricing at the time of publishing. If there’s any confusion regarding your fare, remember that the current rates and surcharges are clearly displayed on window stickers at the back of every cab.
- All of the problems mentioned above can be avoided by telling the cab driver when you first enter his/her taxi that you’ll need a paper machine receipt at the end of the ride. Make sure the driver acknowledges this and does not indicate that the printer is broken. If so, exit the taxi and find another. Keep this receipt in case you have a problem; it identifies the cab and the driver and is in place to actually help keep them honest.
The initial minimum fare is €2.15, plus the price per kilometer as follows:
€1.13 Workdays: Monday to Friday from 8am and 8pm / €1.34 Overnight: Monday to Friday from 8pm and 8am / €1.40 Weekend: Saturdays, Sundays, & public holidays / €2 Wee hours: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays & holidays from midnight to 6am / €22.10 is the standard one hour “waiting time” fee.
There are no fixed rates to and from the BCN Airport but there will be minimum of €20 for these rides.
Supplemental fees: €1 each for luggage, €2.10 to and from the BCN Airport, Sants Railway Station, the cruise port, or any trade fair
Our Barcelona NTK – February 2020
Every so often, we like to add a Need-to-Know for our favorite cities. With a new year and new decade upon us, it’s time to mention where to find some of Barcelona’s best concerts. For us that means the incredibly gorgeous (and declared UNESCO world heritage site) Palau de la Musica which translates simply to “palace of music.” Built in 1905, this theatre near the Gothic Quarter has a handy calendar on its website that makes it easy to see performance offerings for the exact dates of your visit. Since Catalans eat dinner very late at night, this is the prefect city for attending a concert and then dining afterwards. Boasting everything from Flamenco performances to Spanish guitar or even classical ensembles, there’s usually something for everyone. And if you don’t happen to speak Catalan, a musical performance is definitely the way to go . Full disclosure: we don’t much care what the performance is because we just love being inside this wonderful space! Note that there are currently several offerings of Beethoven music because this year is his 250th birthday. Check out the Palau de la Musica here.
Explore your own artistic talent in Barcelona – January 2020
In a city where modern art is so important, it seems very apropos to take an art class. Discover your talent in a fun one-day intensive held by La Terraza Atico Art School. It includes all the materials you’ll need as well as a catered picnic lunch with wine for the participants. Taught by English-speaking, professional artist Paul, beginners and experts alike will enjoy this highly creative plein-air watercolors workshop. Create your own masterpiece of a Barcelona view in this informative, three hour experience. Okay all you artistic-types, let’s do this!
Where to enjoy an amazing holiday dinner – December 2019
We love having a meal with a festive menu at holiday time, and in Barcelona that means Botafumeiro restaurant north of the old town in the Gracia neighborhood. They serve up impressive fish and meat offerings, and are known for fresh seafood platters that will knock your socks off. You can enjoy a meal on Christmas Eve if you don’t mind dining in the afternoon, and are open late on Christmas Day and on New Year’s Eve. This is our idea of ringing in the new year right!
Enjoy great mixology in the El Born neighborhood – November 2019
Whether you’ll be staying in the city center or not, a visit to the quaint streets of El Born is totally worth your time. Already our favorite area, we now have a new reason to go there. The Collage Art & Social Club bar has some of the best and most unique cocktails in town and its colorful decor will list your spirits as nothing else can. Check it out at the website above, or click here to see some of their amazing creations. These might just be the best cocktails in Spain!
Try to escape from the Ouija Room – October 2019
Our recommendations for Barcelona in the fall usually include gallery openings or new restaurants, but our new series of “Bored In” travel books have inspired us to go in a spookier direction this year. Below is one of the creepy places you can visit that will be included in the upcoming Bored in Barcelona –Awesome Experiences for the Repeat Visitor:
If you like to be terrified and have never tried an Escape Room before, you’re in for a treat. The city’s most admired (and challenging) one is called the Jigsaw Horror Box, located just a stone’s throw away from the famous Sagrada Familia cathedral. They offer several different experiences, but their Ouija Room is getting a lot of attention by escape room devotees. There, two to six players will be locked inside rooms that feature spirits, exorcism, occultism, black magic, and voodoo. Be careful not to open doors that you might not be able to close! Check out their website for more info here.
It’s the start of the social season in Barcelona/ September 2019
There’s a lot going on in the Catalonian capital so if you’re planning to visit during the fall season, snag a ticket to a flamenco performance or jazz concert because this city has it all. September also means it’s time for the city-wide celebration of La Mercè. Held from September 20-24, 2019, it’s in honor of Barcelona’s patron saint and boasts human towers as well as giants, dragons, and big-headed, papier-mâché creatures in the Plaça Sant Jaume. The Saturday night of the event is the biggest celebration of all and will feature fireworks. The final parade in the Barri Gòtic is popular so plan ahead if you want a good spot.
Reflect on this for awhile/ August 2019
We’re not sure what to bring to your attention, Hotel Ohla’s incredible rooftop restaurant and infinity pool, or the accommodations. And wow, what a location! It is truly situated in the exact nexus of four amazing (and important) neighborhoods. You can walk to nearly everything from there. Of course, with a pool like that you might not want to leave the place. Check it out.
Update: July 2019 – Happenings
Barcelona in July is jammed-packed with music festivals and other cultural events! At the fortress high above the beach (known as Montjuic Castle) there will be three Sunday evening concerts aptly called the Vespres de Juliol. These begin promptly at 7pm on July 14, 21, & 28. July is also the month of the famous Festa Major del Raval, a street festival that features the multiculturalism of the Raval neighborhood. The best days to go are Friday and Saturday, July 12 & 13 though it does continue through the 14th. This festival features a parade of Catalan “giants” made of paper mache. Also, starting on July 26 for a week, is the annual Festa Major del Poble Sec. There you will gasp at the incredible Castellers who make human towers with their bodies. In addition is the correfoc, a fire-run which is never for the faint of heart. Your hotel concierge will let you know the best times and streets in which to experience it.
Where to enjoy a picnic in Barcelona– June 2019
Now that summer has arrived you may want to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors rather than be inside a cramped restaurant. Between all the pintxos and tapas bars, its super easy to put together a finger-food feast here. Heck, give us a bottle of wine, a bag of sliced jamon, and some Spanish asiago cheese and we’re good. (Don’t forget the plastic cups.) But if you want an effortless picnic, perhaps in the city’s beautiful Ciutadella Park, just “click” one together at Picnic! Picnic! a full-service picnic caterer. Their picnicking selections include delicious food, drinks, large tablecloth, and all necessary utensils in order for you to enjoy a magnificent picnic. It’s delivered to you and everything is for you to keep! As they say in Catalonia, Bon profit!
Festival in Barceloneta, May 2019
Barcelona’s festival called the Cors Muts (mute chorus) will be in full swing with a parade through the streets of the waterfront Barceloneta neighborhood from 8am to noon on Saturday, May 19. Humorous groups in costume carrying excessively large objects will take to dancing in the streets. Confetti adds a festive atmosphere and special events will continue through the weekend.
In Focus: Where to brunch in Barcelona / April 2019
April and May bring amazing weather and moderate temperatures to the Catalonian capital so why not make a celebration of it by enjoying a really delicious brunch… in Barcelona that means a leisurely couple of hours with friends and loved ones at Elsa y Fred. This charming gastrobar, with its cozy leather couches and mid-century details, makes you feel like you’re in someone’s home. The food is remarkable and is served up daily. To try their lovely brunch menu, you must book a table on a Saturday or Sunday between 9am to 4pm. Their spectacular tapas and creative egg dishes combine to create a memorable meal with which to start or end a fun weekend.
In Focus: Museu Taurino de la Monumental/ March 2019
This month we’re featuring local sights that are lesser-known but which are a must-see in our very opinionated view. In Barcelona, that means the old Monumental bullfighting ring at Plaza de Toros. Now before you get upset, please know that the Catalonia region outlawed bullfighting in 2012 so this sight is now a museum dedicated to a sport that was part of the culture here for more than three-hundred years. The city boasted two major rings, one of which is now a circular, covered shopping mall. Ugh. The other, called La Monumental, has been preserved as an almost-living museum. It looks the same today as when the bullfighting ended. (Today the place is sometimes used for concerts.)
Visitors who want to learn more about the sport of bullfighting can enter for a small fee and roam around the place at their own pace. You’re allowed to stand right in the middle of the ring and get the Matador’s perspective, so to speak. There are also a few exhibit rooms of bullfighters’ gear and hats, vintage posters, and even some actual Matador and Toreador costumes dating back to 1693. Go on a weekday and you might just have the entire place to yourself. For hours and info, check out our listing in Clued In Barcelona.
Update – February 2019
If you’ve never tried a free walking tour and are curious about Barcelona’s enigmatic Gothic Quarter, why not combine the two? February, with its uncrowded streets, presents the best time of year to enjoy a leisurely stroll. How can it be free? Well, local freelance guides take pre-booked groups through the medieval section and share the stories of its past. You will see the Roman ruins as well, a more than a few surprises. At the end of the tour, simply tip the guide what you feel it was worth. That’s it! No judgments. Click here to reserve a spot or get more information: Tour Info
In Focus: Where to shop the sales/ January 2019
Like many stores in the U.S., Spain puts its best designer items on sale after the holidays. If you’re visiting Barcelona in January and have the urge to do some shopping (or just want to come home with one really special item) now is the time. The most famous shopping street in Barcelona is Passeig de Gràcia, also referred to as Paseo de Gràcia, which runs sort of north/south through the Eixample neighborhood. For those who are unfamiliar with Barcelona, this means that the best shopping can be found smack-dab in the city center, just north of the famed Gothic Quarter. This may be helpful to know even if you don’t plan on hitting the boutiques… being aware of this type of location also tells you precisely where a city’s most desirable neighborhood is. That’s usually where you’ll also find some of the best hotels, and some top-notch restaurants too.
In Focus: New Year’s Eve Barcelona-style
If you plan on being in Barcelona over the New Year then you’d better start making plans now. The main clubs like Shoko, Opium, or Pacha are situated right on the beach and pump the music on the dancefloor until the wee hours of January 1st. Tickets can be purchased online through their websites. If you’re looking for something just as festive but not as fancy (or expensive) join the locals at either Plaça Catalunya or Plaça d’Espanya. The former is a beautiful, large square where many folks will smash their Cava bottles in the center of it at midnight. We recommend you do not situate yourself in the center! The latter will have a better view of the official fireworks, along with the dancing waters of the Magic Fountain, “Font Màgica.” Either way, be sure to take a bunch of grapes with you. (In Spain it’s considered bad luck if you don’t eat twelve grapes at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Everyone does it.) If you don’t bring your own and then have a sudden feeling of fear and superstition, you’ll be forced to buy them from private vendors on the street for an inflated price!
In Focus: Brunch & Cake/ December 2018
Our first “City Extra” for Barcelona has to be our recommendation for an unusual cafe in the vibrant Eixample neighborhood, though they have also recently opened a second location next to the Port Vell yacht harbor. Brunch & Cake is a place we’ve been dying to tell you about, so here goes… This adorable cafe features more than brunch items and cakes –as you will see. Their sandwiches, salads, bowls, and the like are a bit different than at other cafes however, and we hardly know how to describe it all. Let’s just say it’s like Grandma food made on a day when Grandma went a bit cray-cray. And that’s a good thing! The fare will make you feel like it’s summer again, even in the middle of winter.