I loved visiting Barcelona as part of my solo female traveler adventures! The city of Gaudi, Catalan cuisine, and the Spanish seaside, Barcelona is easy to fall in love with.
A visit to this Spanish metropolis can open your eyes to art, city planning and the unforgettable delicacies of Spain. Whether you’re traveling solo, with your besties, or your Mom, seize every opportunity to visit this incredible city!
Is a Solo Trip to Barcelona a Good Idea?
Are you debating a solo trip to Barcelona? If so, I’ve got good news. Barcelona is a great place for solo travelers!
What makes Spain as a whole so great for solo travel is its food culture. I’ve got a few other resources to help you make the most of your Spanish culinary adventures so be sure to check those out and plan your Barcelona food tour. You’re guaranteed to meet others on a tapas crawl through the city!
With so much to do here and so many great day trip options, I would spend at least 4+ days exploring Barcelona, but if you have less time, it’s still well worth the visit.
Is Barcelona Safe for Solo Travelers?
Yes, of course, Barcelona is safe for solo travelers! Barcelona is like any other big city. Be careful where you go and don’t go for long strolls in the middle of the night and you’ll have nothing to worry about. A solo trip to Barcelona is an easy and worry-free experience. I found everyone in Spain to be incredibly kind and helpful.
What You Should Know: Barcelona, Spain
All Things Food
Bienvenida to Spain! Foodies take note: Spain’s restaurants do not follow the same operating hours as the rest of the world. This makes planning even more essential for a trip to this culturally rich country. Breakfast spots open around 9 am, lunch is from 1:30-3:30 pm and dinner spots don’t open until 8:30 pm. Read on for plenty more Barcelona food tips, and check out the Foodie Guide to Spain for even more information like how tax and tipping works.
The Spanish love bread. It’s often brought out at a restaurant as soon as you’re seated and could be accompanied by other tapas. Keep in mind that these aren’t free. You’ll only pay for what you eat so feel free to turn them away.
Okay, solo travelers, listen up. This one’s important: most paella spots don’t offer single servings. It comes in one big pot priced for multiple people. A market is the best place to search for single servings of authentic paella. But should you really order paella in Barcelona? What about sangria? Read on to find out!
Did you know that Spanish isn’t the only language spoken in Spain? Catalan is actually the main language in this region, but in Barcelona, you’ll hear plenty Spanish, Catalan and English.
It may surprise you to learn that Catalan is closer to French and Italian than to Spanish and Portuguese. While Catalonia is an autonomous region within Spain, some Catalans would prefer it be a separate entity from the rest of the country. They are extremely devoted to their heritage and identity, a passion that was only strengthened after years of oppression by the dictator Franco.
To learn more, visit the Museum of Catalan History in Barceloneta, and read on for more details.
Catalan people take great pride in their fierce, passionate, independent spirit. One of the most unique components of Catalan culture, and a very fun spectacle to behold, is what they call castells. Castell, meaning human tower in English, is, well, a human tower. If you get a chance to watch Catalonians complete this impressive feat during a festival, don’t pass it up.
When to Visit Barcelona, Spain
Let’s face it: Barcelona is pretty fabulous year round. That’s why tourists flock to this destination no matter the season.
- Summer: If you’re a fan of festivals like Primavera Sound or Barcelona Pride, June is the best time to visit this lively city. If you’re visiting in the summer months, be prepared for humidity and high heat.
- Early Spring: While spring may have its draws, April is said to be filled with rainy days.
- Late Spring/Early Fall: As with most locations, the shoulder season of May-June and September-October are real sweet spots.
- Winter: Winters in Barcelona are mild and prices are low.
A Brief History of Barcelona, Spain
The city of Barcelona (formerly Barcino) was first settled by the Romans. If you know anything about the history of its neighboring cities, this should come as no surprise. The area was briefly under Moorish rule until a son of Emporer Charlemagne seized this territory along with the Pyrenean valleys. This region became known as Catalonia, a distinct territory separate from the Christian regions of western Spain that later gave birth to kingdoms like Castile and Aragon.
Barcelona, Spain Neighborhoods
Let’s start with the Gothic Quarter or Barri Gòtic. This is the beautiful historic center of Barcelona, featuring old buildings of the neo-Gothic style. The Gothic Quarter is within walking distance from most tourist attractions and has some pretty lively nightlife. (This is Barcelona, after all!)
A trendy neighborhood filled with bars, cool speakeasies, art galleries, and restaurants throughout its narrow streets. One of the oldest neighborhoods in Barcelona, this is where you’ll find the Modernist marvel Palace of Catalan Music. Check out Passeig del Born, a street lined with bars, perfect for a cocktail or vermouth.
Another trendy neighborhood near Gaudi’s famed Park Guell, Gracia has plenty of international cuisine, and lovely plazas. It’s a great place to get a taste of local life in the evening.
Home to designer shops and two of Gaudi’s most famous works, Casa Battlo and Casa Mila, the real crown jewel of this neighborhood is the Sagrada Familia. Head to the lower west side for party vibes and LGBTQ-centric hotels.
A compact, decidedly less touristy neighborhood. Make sure you check out Carrer Blai, a street filled with Basque pintxos bars.
A busy multicultural neighborhood, El Raval is home to the lively Las Ramblas, Mercat de la Boqueria and Barcelona’s Contemporary Art Museum.
An up-and-coming neighborhood (particularly the section near Torre Glòries) is popular with start-ups with old warehouses turned into creative workspaces, craft breweries and coffee shops. See you there?
Barceloneta, which means “Little Barcelona” in Catalan is perfect for a day of sunbathing at the beach or enjoying some fresh seafood and sangria. (And if you’re looking for authentic paella, this place has plenty!)
What to See in Barcelona, Spain
Sagrada Familia may be Barcelona’s biggest draw and is certainly one of the most fascinating monuments in the city, if not the whole country. (It’s actually the most visited tourist attraction in the world!) Art lovers will be blown away by the beauty and grandeur of this multi-century project still in the works.
Sagrada Familia is said to be a unique and different experience at every minute of the day given the nature of its stained glass windows and the way the light, color and shadows change as the day goes on. I was truly moved by the cross-generational efforts that came together to bring this church to life. Even if you only have one day in Barcelona, Sagrada Familia should be at the top of your list.
I highly recommend booking a guided tour of Sagrada Familia. There are too many cool details and stories you won’t learn by visiting on your own!
A unique experience perfect for fans of architecture, a trip to Barcelona must include a stop at the infamous Park Guell. Originally designed to be part of a larger community that never came to fruition, this park is, of course, another creation of Barcelona’s most well-known Modernist architect, Anton Gaudi. Though smaller than I expected, and generally a quick visit, Park Guell is certainly a spot I’d return to. Skip the tour and purchase your timed entry tickets here.
Bunkers del Carmen
One of the most scenic viewpoints in Barcelona, Bunkers del Carmen is located near Park Guell. Originally built as anti-aircraft fortifications in 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, these bunkers were built to protect and defend the city from further bombing. Renovated in the early 2000s, they offer an incredible bird’s-eye view of Barcelona.
Houses of Gaudi
Get ready for plenty of Gaudi. You are in Barcelona, after all! There are three main Gaudi buildings that visitors flock to. Perhaps the most popular is Casa Battlo in Gracia. With a small visitable interior and recently added immersive (but in my opinion unrelated) art experiences, I ultimately decided to skip this spot in favor of Gaudi’s first building Casa Vicens, a colorful, Moorish-inspired marvel. As a fan of both styles of architecture, I was eager to see the way modernist and Moorish blended together. Last but certainly not least is Casa Mila or La Pedrera, a still-occupied apartment building in Gracia. Here, you can visit an apartment and see how it was styled many decades ago.
- Purchase skip-the-line tickets to Casa Mila.
- Check out Casa Mila’s evening rooftop experience.
- If you’re short on time, you can visit Sagrada Familia, Park Guell and Casa Battlo on one tour.
Palace of Catalan Music
Another architectural gem, this concert venue was built in the Catalonian Art Nouveau fashion. A stunning place to see a performance, it’s still worth the visit if only to walk around. Be sure to visit the patios for a look at their Instagram famous columns. Grab your tickets or book a tour.
Arc de Triomf
Like many European marvels, Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf was constructed with a global fair in mind. The Arc de Triomf was built in 1888 as the gateway to Parc de la Ciutadella which would host the Universal Exhibition. This beautiful arch was constructed with the neo-Muj style in mind. Look out for the various symbols the monument is adorned with like the shields of the 49 Spanish provinces which are presided over by Barcelona’s coat of arms.
Park de la Ciutadella
The only park in the city of Barcelona, Park de la Ciutadella is the perfect oasis for a quick escape from the bustling city. Here you can visit the Barcelona Zoo or admire the many sculptures nestled among its old trees. It’s also known for La Cascada, a gorgeous fountain surrounded by a lake. Built by Josep Fontsére, many associate this marvel with Gaudi since he was the architect’s apprentice at the time. See if you can spot the resemblance to Rome’s Trevi Fountain, the inspiration for La Cascada!
What to Do in Barcelona, Spain
Explore the Gothic Quarter
Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter cannot be missed. A beautiful labyrinth of winding streets, old buildings, and Catalan restaurants, this is the historic center of the city. It’s the perfect place to try some famed Barcelona vermouth before dining nearby. Make sure to check out the Barcelona Cathedral and Basílica de Santa Maria del Pi. (Psst: Just a few steps away from the Cathedral is where you’ll find the photography hotspot Pont del Bisbe.)
Gaudi Architectural Tour
I booked this renowned Gaudi architectural tour for my second visit to Barcelona. I fell in love with the city and the work of its most cherished architect on my first trip and knew I had to take this tour. Barcelona was where I was first introduced to the concept of city planning (I’d never stopped to think about how our cities come to be!) and was amazed at the thought put into each street and city square. Coming from America’s somewhat bland architectural approach, Barcelona and Gaudi blew me away.
If you exit the Gothic Quarter, heading westward, you’ll stumble upon Las Ramblas, a boulevard that runs through the city center. This is where you can really feel the multicultural, cosmopolitan nature of Barcelona. I remember walking along this street, hearing different languages spoken in every direction I turned. While here, you’ll want to visit Mercat de la Boqueria, a large covered market filled with foodie treasures. (More on that below!)
Shop the Spanish Food Markets
Spain is known for its authentic food markets where locals and tourists alike can purchase fresh, quality food and ingredients. In Barcelona, there are 38 of these markets so you can’t miss them! The most famous market is La Boqueria, but since it’s usually packed with tourists, you should also check out Santa Caterina Market just north of El Born for a more local feel.
Barcelona Food Tour
I could never write about Spain without practically begging you to take a food tour or tapas crawl. (Or even better, do both!) Spanish food is seriously some of the best food out there, and their social culture surrounding it makes it twice as enjoyable.
Spain’s culinary scene is like none other and the reason this country is so perfect for solo travelers. It’s not just that their food is crafted from high-quality local ingredients and their dishes are magnificently simple yet still bold and delicious. There’s something unique about the experience of sharing a meal with others in Spain. You never walk away as strangers.
My absolute favorite food tours are run by Devour Tours. You can find all their Barcelona tours here. These guys are serious foodies with a lot of culinary wisdom to bestow. I take one of their tours every chance I get! On my last visit, I tried the Tastes and Traditions of Barcelona Food Tour where I learned all about navigating a Spanish market, tried yummy treats like cava and paella, and got the lowdown on a little Catalonian history.
Carrer Blai Tapas crawl
After some great recs from my tour guide, I decided to do a Carrer Blai Tapas Crawl on my last night in Barcelona, and omg was it a good idea. I even gave this special street the attention it deserves in its very own guide.
See the Sardana Dance
An important Catalonian tradition, the Sardana is simply beautiful to watch. Like the Catalan language, this dance was outlawed by Franco which ultimately led it to become a symbol of Catalan unity and pride. Made of people who have joined hands, they will proceed to dance in circles with small, precise steps. Slowly, the circle goes around while others join. When one circle gets too big, they split off and form a new circle. The best time to see a Sardana is in the early evening of summer. Your best bets are Plaza Jaume I on Sunday evenings and near the Barcelona Cathedral on Saturday evenings.
Flamenco is a Spanish art form made up of three parts: guitar playing, singing, and dancing. Flamenco dancers express their deepest emotions by using body movements and facial expressions. Even though flamenco originally began in Andalusia, many extraordinary artists perform in Barcelona.
Couples and groups who only want a one-hour show can grab tickets to a performance at Barcelona’s iconic City Hall Theater.
If you’re traveling solo, these small group tours are perfect for making friends over tapas before enjoying a performance together:
Art fans will want to spend an afternoon admiring the large Picasso collection here. With over 4,000 works and photographs from the artist’s early life, the Picasso Museum offers an in-depth look at the artist and his work. Explore the intense relationship Picasso had with Barcelona and see how this thriving Catalonian metropolis became his muse. Book a tour here or combine your museum visit with tapas and a walking tour.
Visit Barceloneta Beach
Barceloneta used to be a fisherman’s village, but today it is a gorgeous seaside neighborhood filled with beautiful spots where you can enjoy authentic paella, vermouth and Catalan cuisine. This lively neighborhood comes alive in the early evenings. Soak in the sights and sounds of Barcelona along Placa de la Barceloneta and Carrer de la Maquinista.
Comprised of four different beaches, it’s impossible to miss the sailboat-shaped W hotel that presides over the skyline. Come to Barceloneta for a beach day, admire yachts at Port Vell or stroll the promenade before you grab a cable car to Montjuic.
Start your experience off with a unique aerial view of Barcelona as you take the cable car up this scenic hill. There’s so much to see up here. You could spend a whole day exploring the National Museum of Catalan Art and the Poble Espanyol, a mock-Spanish village built to showcase the many different regional architectural styles. Don’t forget to admire the magic fountain’s water show complete with music.
Day Trip to Montserrat
A trip to the Montserrat mountains and monastery is one of the most popular day trips from Barcelona. Montserrat is a rocky mountain range in Catalonia with a unique and beautiful jagged, sawtooth appearance where the stone mixes with lush greenery. Many come to visit the Abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat, a Benedictine monastery that houses a statute of one of the few Black Madonnas of Europe. Enjoy a scenic cable car ride to the top of Montserrat, take short hikes through the mountain peaks, and take a funicular even higher up the mountain for incredible views of Catalonia.
Combine your day trip with a variety of other experiences like:
- Montserrat Half-Day Wine and Tapas Trip
- Montserrat Monastery Tour and Natural Park Hike
- Montserrat and Sitges Day Trip
Day Trip to Medieval Catalan Villages
There are dozens of small, medieval Catalan villages where visitors can learn more about the customs, traditions and history of this storied region. A cluster of picturesque villages can be found nestled in the hills west of Figueres about an hour and a half from Barcelona. The best way to see these villages is on a day trip with a tour company.
There are so many amazing places to see near Barcelona. Be sure to check out the Best Day Trips from Barcelona to plan your excursions.
What to Eat in Barcelona
Catalan dishes are known for combining meat (like pork or chicken) with seafood as well as a mixture of sweet and savory elements. They focus on high-quality ingredients and use lots of locally grown products like tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, peppers, artichokes, mushrooms, beans, chickpeas, and calçots.
PS: Don’t miss my full guide to all the best Spanish food!
Catalonia is an influential part of Spain. It’s a unique region that has fought to maintain its independent identity for centuries. It would be all too easy for travelers to visit Barcelona and miss out on true Catalan cuisine, not knowing there’s more to Spain than paella and sangria. (Like I did on my first trip here!) While you can certainly find delicious paella and sangria in Barcelona (I’ll tell you where below!), you can’t leave Catalonia without trying some of the region’s specialties!
Here are a few traditional Catalan dishes:
- Alioli: The Catalan version of garlic aioli, allioli is made from pounding garlic and salt in a ceramic mortar before adding olive oil drop by drop, creating a perfect emulsion. You’ll want to eat this with just about everything.
- Bocadillo Botifarra: Catalan is well-known for its pork and cured meats. This simple breakfast sandwich is everywhere in the region.
- Crema Catalana: The Spanish version of creme brulee. The Catalan version is thickened with milk, egg yolks, and starch instead of whole eggs and cream.
- Arròs Negre amb Allioli: This yummy, soupy rice and seafood dish features squid or cuttlefish ink alongside that scrumptious garlicky allioli I mentioned above.
- Mongetes amb Botifarra: Many Catalans will tell you that this dish of white beans and sausage is their national dish!
- Pollastre amb Llagosta: Chicken and lobster together? This is an essential type of Catalan dish which locals refer to as mar i muntanya, meaning surf and turf!
- Esqueixada de Bacallà: Cod (bacallà) is everywhere in Spain and Portugal. This dish features shredded fish paired with olives, tomatoes, and onions. Give it a shot!
Would you believe that Spain has over 70 recognized wine regions? Loco. Spanish wine may not be quite as hyped worldwide as wine from France or Italy, but trust me when I tell you that it is just as good. The Catalan region is where 90% of Cava (Spanish sparkling wine is produced) and has 7 wine regions in the area alone.
Most Catalan varieties skip the tempranillo grape in favor of Garnacha and carignan grapes. This produces fine dry reds and whites with a fuller body and higher alcohol content than other Spanish varietals. Spaniards love to drink local wine so you’ll find plenty of bottles from nearby regions like Penedes, Montsant, and Priorat.
You have to try vermouth while visiting the vermouth capital of the word! Catalonia is an important region for the production of this Spanish aperitif so you’ll find plenty of options in Barcelona. Vermouth is the perfect pre-lunch or dinner drink, thought to aid in appetite and digestion. Locals drink vermouth from bodegas, local wine, and tapas shops. I’ve listed a few authentic options below.
Think you know what vermouth is? Think again. Spain does things a bit differently. Sweet, red vermouth (vermút Rojo) is the go-to for most locals. While this drink begins as white wine, vermouth earns a dark color when fortified with spirits and infused with caramel and other botanicals. Expect flavors like cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, a bit like a cold mulled wine! Take your vermouth straight, on the rocks (with a slice of lemon or orange), or with a bit of sifón (Spain’s club soda) to heighten the aromatic flavors. Enjoy your vermouth with a traditional tapa to feel like the most Spanish version of yourself. Salud!
Where to Eat in Barcelona
You may be on a solo trip to Barcelona, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat dinner alone every night. It’s easy to make friends at hostels and on tours. If you’re brave enough to take yourself out on a solo date, you may even make friends while dining. I find it easiest to meet other travelers while visiting quality restaurants that attract other tourists. Restaurante Martinez and La Vinya del Senyor are both good options for that as their near tourist attractions, but aren’t tourist traps!
Below, I’ve divided restaurant recommendations into several categories below to help narrow down your choice of establishment:
- Mercat de Boqueria: Perhaps the most famous market in Barcelona, Boqueria is located on Las Ramblas. Wander the stalls and try fresh juices and massive oysters that will change your life.
- Santa Caterina Market: A vibrant and colorful market located in the heart of the city’s historic district. If you want to visit a market geared more towards locals, this is your best bet.
Traditional Spanish & Catalan Cuisine
- Restaurante Martinez (Montjuic): The perfect option for those seeking authentic paella, Restaurante Martinez is perched on the side of Montjuic and offers a stunning panoramic view of Barcelona.
- Can Culleretes (Eixample): Founded in 1876, head to this storied spot for traditional Catalan comfort food and typical Spanish stews.
- Can Fisher (Barceloneta): Enjoy some seaside dining at this popular spot on Bogatelle Beach. Tourists and locals alike love this spot known for its fresh and delicious seafood.
- Can Ramonet: Not far from the Gothic Quarter, this spot serves traditional Spanish and Catalan cuisine. The best “La Bomba” I had was from here!
Fine Dining & Michelin Stars
- 7 Portes (Gothic Quarter): Head here for a special night filled with piano music and fine dining in one of Barcelona’s most beautiful settings. Their fideu (a Catalonian take on paella) comes highly recommended.
- Disfrutar (Eixample): For a meal packed with Spanish flavor, head to this spot with two Michelin stars. They have tasting menus that start around $100, but you can still find glasses of wine for a little over $10.
- Bar Canete (El Raval): Popular with tourists and locals alike, this is a must-visit tapas bar.
- Xampañería Can Paixano (Barceloneta): The perfect spot for cava and tapas, this is a standing-room-only establishment and it’s usually pretty packed.
- Morro Fi (Eixample & Gracia): Homemade vermouth and traditional tapas with an updated, modern feel. Morro Fi is an excellent choice for a pre-lunch or dinner aperitif.
Vermouth, Wine & Cava
- La Vinya del Senyor (Gothic Quarter): One of the best Cava bars in Barcelona, La Vinya del Senyor boasts an especially long wine list and has a gorgeous terrace with views of Santa Maria del Mar
- Bodega Fermin (Barceloneta): Though this bodega is small, their homemade vermouth is mighty! Run by a local couple, they offer a variety of local wines, plentiful homemade delicacies and other gourmet Spanish food.
- Bodega Maestrazgo (Born): Connect with experts and locals alike at this wine cellar with a small bar in the back. You can stop by for a tasting and pick out a bottle to take home and share with friends and family.
- Monvinic (Eixample): Monivinic (meaning world of wine) is said to be one of the most famous wine bars in the world. Stop by for a blind tasting and ignite your senses.
- Bar Electricitat (Barceloneta): This old-fashioned neighborhood vermouth bar has earned legendary status in Barcelona. They’re known to leave the wine and vermouth bottles on your table. When you leave, you’ll tell them how many glasses you poured. Better be careful here!
How to Get Around Barcelona
Barcelona is a very walkable city which is convenient for solo travelers who can’t always split an Uber with a friend. However, in the summer it can get very hot and very humid, so be ready to sweat. The metro is the next easiest (and fastest!) way to navigate the city. One-way tickets are around $1.50. There are also plenty of trains that go directly to day trip destinations like Sitges.
Aerobus is a convenient way to get from the airport to central Barcelona with a bus running every 5 minutes from terminals 1 and 2. For around $5 a ticket, you can head straight to one of its three central dropoff points: Placa Espana, Placa Catalunya, and Sepulveda-Urgell.
Where to next?
The good thing about Barcelona is that it’s close to so many amazing places worth discovering. The bad thing is that it means you’ll have to leave Barcelona to do so! If you can bring yourself to leave, there are tons of great solo travel destinations nearby. I highly recommend exploring flamenco and Moorish architecture in Seville or going on a foodie-inspired solo adventure in Madrid. If you’re ready to check off another country, Portugal is also full of amazing destinations. And if you’re feeling adventurous, Morocco isn’t too far away! No matter where you go next, your memories of Barcelona will stay with you forever.