Rick Steves Pocket Barcelona


By Rick Steves

With Gene Openshaw

With Cameron Hewitt

Formats and Prices




$19.99 CAD


Trade Paperback


Trade Paperback $14.99 $19.99 CAD

Make the most of every day and every dollar with Rick Steves! This colorful, compact guidebook is perfect for spending a week or less in Barcelona:
  • City walks and tours: Six detailed tours and walks showcase Barcelona's essential sights, including Las Ramblas, Sagrada Familia, the Picasso Museum, the Barri Gòtic, and more
  • Rick's strategic advice on what experiences are worth your time and money
  • What to eat and where to stay: Sample authentic pintxos at a tapas bar, drink cava with friendly locals, and sip café con leche in a cozy coffee shop
  • Day-by-day itineraries to help you prioritize your time
  • A detailed, detachable fold-out map, plus museum and city maps throughout
  • Full-color, portable, and slim for exploring on-the-go
  • Trip-planning practicalities like when to go, how to get around, basic Spanish and Catalan phrases, and more
Lightweight yet packed with valuable insight into Barcelona's history and culture, Rick Steves Pocket Barcelona truly is a tour guide in your pocket.

Expanding your trip? Try Rick Steves Spain!



Map: Barcelona

About this Book

Key to this Book

Map: Barcelona Neighborhoods

Barcelona by Neighborhood

Cultural Orientation to Catalunya

Daily Reminder

Planning Your Time

Barcelona at a Glance

As Spain’s second city and the capital of the Catalan people, Barcelona bubbles with life. It’s a city of distinct neighborhoods, from the tangled lanes of the Barri Gòtic to the trendy boulevards of the Eixample. It has its own unmistakable “look”—ironwork balconies, flower boxes, sidewalk mosaics, and the fanciful curves of Modernista masters like Antoni Gaudí. There’s groundbreaking art from Barcelona’s own Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. The cafés are filled by day, and people crowd the streets at night, popping into tapas bars for a drink and a perfectly composed bite of seafood.

Simply put, Barcelona is unique, with a language, history, and culture separate from the rest of Spain and found nowhere else. If you’re in the mood to surrender to a city’s charms, let it be Barcelona.

About This Book

With this book, I’ve selected only the best of Barcelona—admittedly, a tough call. The core of the book is six self-guided walks and tours that zero in on Barcelona’s greatest sights and neighborhoods.

My Ramblas Ramble introduces you to this lively city with a walk down one of Europe’s great people-watching boulevards. The Barri Gòtic Walk and Cathedral of Barcelona Tour lay the historical groundwork for your exploration of the area’s atmospheric lanes and courtyards. At the Picasso Museum, you can see how the artist’s formative years in Barcelona shaped his illustrious career. The Eixample Walk focuses on the city’s colorful legacy of Modernisme, while showing off the upscale side of Barcelona. Finally, there’s the epic unfinished church begun by Gaudí—Sagrada Família, whose prickly spires have become a symbol of the city.

The rest of the book is a traveler’s tool kit. You’ll find plenty more about Barcelona’s attractions, from shopping to nightlife to enjoying Barcelona’s tapas bars. And there are helpful hints on saving money, avoiding crowds, getting around town, enjoying a great meal, and more.

Barcelona by Neighborhood

The city of Barcelona slopes gently down a hillside to the sea. In the center sits Plaça de Catalunya, a large square that divides Barcelona into the Old City (south of the square) and new (north). Barcelona is huge and sprawling (1.6 million people), but—thanks to its walkable historic core and good public transit—all is manageable.

Think of Barcelona as a series of neighborhoods cradling major landmarks:

Plaça de Catalunya and the Ramblas: The huge, modern, central square—where all Catalunya gathers for major demonstrations—is home to big department stores, tourist services, public transportation, and convenient hotels. From here, the lively pedestrian drag called the Ramblas runs down to the harbor, past a colorful market, shops, restaurants, and street performers. To the west of the Ramblas lies the (unimportant-to-tourists) Raval neighborhood. To the east is the...

Barri Gòtic: With the cathedral as its navel, the Barri Gòtic (BAH-ree GOH-teek, Gothic Quarter) is the historic core of the Old City. It’s a labyrinth of narrow streets that’s ideal for strolling, shopping, dining on a pleasant square, and people-watching.

El Born: Farther east (across Via Laietana) is this rough-but-gentrifying district of shops, bistros, and nightlife, anchored by the Picasso Museum and Church of Santa Maria del Mar.

Harborfront: The old harbor, Port Vell, gleams with landmark monuments and new developments. Farther afield is the quaint neighborhood of Barceloneta (with great seafood restaurants) and a gorgeous man-made beach.

Eixample: Above Plaça de Catalunya, the elegant Eixample (eye-SHAM-plah) district has a grid street-plan of wide boulevards lined with chic tapas bars. Along its main axis, Passeig de Gràcia, are two Modernista highlights: the “Block of Discord” and La Pedrera.

Montjuïc: The large hill overlooking the harbor to the southwest is Montjuïc (mohn-jew-EEK). Its park-like setting is home to a panoramic castle, some excellent museums (Catalan Art, Joan Miró), and the Olympic Stadium. At the base of Montjuïc, stretching toward Plaça d’Espanya, is a complex of buildings, fountains, and vistas that showcase Barcelona today.

North of the Center: Beyond walking distance (but easily accessible by taxi, bus, or Metro) are Gaudí’s Sagrada Família and Park Güell, the viewpoint hill of Tibidabo, and the artsy Gràcia district (north of Avenue Diagonal).

Cultural Orientation to Catalunya

Besides getting oriented geographically, it’s wise to acquaint yourself with Barcelona’s cultural landscape. Though part of Spain politically, the city and its region (Catalunya, or Cataluña) have a different language, heritage, and outlook.

All Barcelonans speak Spanish, but three-quarters prefer the local language, Catalan. If you know Spanish, by all means use it, but try to learn at least a handful of Catalan phrases: Please (Si us plau; see oos plow), thank you (gracies, GRAH-see-es), and more ( see here).

Culturally, Catalunya is not the land of bullfighting, flamenco, and other Spanish clichés. It has its own calendar of local festivals, and its music, cuisine, and culture are more Mediterranean, European, and modern than they are traditionally Spanish.

Historically, Catalunya has run a parallel, independent course to the rest of Spain. Founded as a Roman retirement colony, it grew into a maritime power in the Middle Ages. These were its glory days, when the kingdom of Catalunya dominated the Mediterranean, and its unique culture was established. Then—when the rest of Spain discovered new trade routes to the Americas and entered its Golden Age—Catalunya declined. For centuries, it languished under the thumb of the central Spanish government in Madrid, which suppressed its language, government, and culture. In the 19th century, Catalunya had a rebirth (Renaixença), fueled by Industrial Age factories and creative geniuses like Gaudí who redesigned the city in Modernista style.

Today Catalunya cobbles together all these elements into a one-of-a-kind culture. On patriotic holidays, Catalunyans proudly take to the streets in the hundreds of thousands to demand greater autonomy from Madrid. You’ll see Catalan symbolism in its red-and-gold-striped flag and images of the region’s patron saint, the dragon-slaying St. George (“Jordi”). And citizens still gather in front of the cathedral to join hands and dance the local folk dance, the sardana.

Planning Your Time

Barcelona is big, so plan your time carefully, carving up the metropolis into manageable sightseeing neighborhoods. These day plans give a sense of how much an energetic traveler can see in a few days:

Day 1: In the cool of the morning, follow my Barri Gòtic Walk and Cathedral of Barcelona Tour. Do my Ramblas Ramble, and then grab lunch in El Born or the Barri Gòtic. In the afternoon, tour the Palace of Catalan Music in El Born (advance reservation required). Trace my El Born walk, stopping off to do the Picasso Museum Tour. For dinner, either wait to dine at a restaurant when locals do (around 21:00) or bar-hop for tapas in El Born.

Day 2: This is Modernisme Day. Start with my Eixample Walk, touring La Pedrera, Casa Lleó Morera (reservation required), and/or Casa Batlló. Eat an early lunch, and then take a taxi or bus to the Sagrada Família. In the later afternoon, visit either Park Güell or sights near the waterfront (Columbus Monument, mall, boat ride, Maritime Museum). In the evening, visit a sight that’s open late (for a list, see above), take in a concert, or watch the illuminated Magic Fountains at Plaça de Espanya.

Day 3 and Beyond: Tour Montjuïc from top to bottom, stopping at the Catalan Art Museum, CaixaForum art gallery, and/or Fundació Joan Miró. If the weather is good, take the scenic cable-car ride from Montjuïc to the port, and spend the rest of the day at Barceloneta—stroll the promenade, hit the beach, and find your favorite chiringuito (beach bar) for dinner.

If you have more days, there are several tempting day trips, including the mountaintop monastery of Montserrat, the beach resort town of Sitges, and the Salvador Dalí sights at Figueres and Cadaqués ( see here).

These are busy day-plans, so be sure to schedule in slack time for shopping, laundry, people-watching, leisurely dinners, and recharging your touristic batteries. Slow down and be open to unexpected experiences and the hospitality of the Catalunyan people.

Quick Tips: Reservations are required at the Palace of Catalan Music and Casa Lleó Morera. Avoid lines at a few key sights (Picasso Museum, Sagrada Família, Casa Batlló, La Pedrera, Palau Güell, and Park Güell’s Monumental Zone) by buying advance tickets or a sightseeing pass ( see here for details). Learn to navigate Barcelona by Metro, taxi, or bus (including the hop-on, hop-off Tourist Bus). Adapt to the Spanish eating schedule (late lunch, late dinner) or fill the gap with tapas. Barcelona stays up late, so consider an afternoon siesta to maximize energy for after dark.

Finally, remember that Barcelona itself is a great sight. Make time to wander, shop, and simply be.

I hope you have a great trip! Traveling like a temporary local and taking advantage of the information here, you’ll enjoy the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and euro. I’m happy that you’ll be visiting places I know and love, and meeting some of my favorite Spanish/Catalunyan people.

Happy travels! Buen viaje!

The Ramblas Ramble



1 Plaça de Catalunya

Map: Ramblas Ramble

2 Fountain of Canaletes

3 Rambla of the Little Birds

4 Betlem Church

5 Rambla of Flowers

6 La Boqueria Market

7 Heart of the Ramblas (Liceu)

8 Plaça Reial

9 Raval Neighborhood

10 Columbus Monument

11 Waterfront

From Plaça de Catalunya to the Waterfront

For more than a century, this walk down Barcelona’s main boulevard has drawn locals and visitors alike. While its former elegance has been tackified somewhat by tourist shops and fast-food joints, this promenade still has the best people-watching in town. Walk the Ramblas at least once to get the lay of the land, then venture farther afield. It’s a one-hour, level stroll, with an easy return by Metro.

On this pedestrian-only Champs-Elysées, you’ll raft the river of Barcelonese life, passing a grand opera house, elegant cafés, flower stands, retread prostitutes, brazen pickpockets, power-dressing con men, artists, street mimes, and people looking to charge more for a shoeshine than what you paid for the shoes.


Length of This Walk: Allow at least an hour. With limited time, focus on the first stretch, from Plaça de Catalunya to Liceu.

When to Go: It’s always lively. By day, you get the best of La Boqueria Market. At night, you have all of Barcelona on parade.

Getting There: The walk begins at Plaça de Catalunya, across the square from El Corte Inglés department store (Metro: Plaça de Catalunya).

La Boqueria Market: Free, Mon-Sat 8:00-20:00, best mornings after 9:00, closed Sun, Rambla 91, Metro: Liceu, tel. 933-192-584, www.boqueria.info.

Columbus Monument: Elevator-€4.50, daily 8:30-20:30, Plaça del Portal de la Pau, Metro: Drassanes, tel. 933-025-224.

Eating: Touristy places are the norm here, but see here for recommendations.

The Ramblas: The word “Ramblas” is plural; the street is actually a succession of five separately named segments. But street signs and addresses treat it as a single long street—“La Rambla,” singular.

La Boqueria Market on the Ramblas

Plaça de Catalunya, the Tourist Bus hub


Start on Plaça de Catalunya, at the top of the Ramblas.

1 Plaça de Catalunya M

Dotted with fountains, statues, and pigeons, and ringed by grand Art Deco buildings, this plaza is Barcelona’s center. The square’s stern, straight lines are a reaction to the curves of Modernisme (which predominates in the Eixample district, just above the square). Plaça de Catalunya is the hub for the Metro, bus, airport shuttle, and Tourist Bus. It’s where Barcelona congregates to watch soccer matches on the big screen, to demonstrate, to celebrate, and to enjoy outdoor concerts and festivals. More than half of the eight million Catalans live in greater Barcelona, and for the inhabitants of this proud nation, this is their Times Square.

Geographically and historically, the 12-acre square links the narrow streets of old Barcelona with the broad boulevards of the newer city. In the 1850s, when Barcelona tore down its medieval walls to expand the city, this square on the edge of the walls was one of the first places to be developed.

Four great thoroughfares radiate from here. The Ramblas is the popular pedestrian promenade. Passeig de Gràcia has fashionable shops and cafés (and noisy traffic). Rambla de Catalunya is equally fashionable but cozier and more pedestrian-friendly. Avinguda del Portal de l’Angel (shopper-friendly and traffic-free) leads to the Barri Gòtic.

At the Ramblas end of the square, the inverted-staircase monument represents the shape of Catalunya and honors one of its former presidents, Francesc Macià i Llussà, who declared independence for the breakaway region in 1931. (It didn’t quite stick.) Sculptor Josep Maria Subirachs, whose work you’ll see at the Sagrada Família ( see here), designed this memorial.

Plaça de Catalunya—heart of the region

Proud monument to a Catalunyan president

Map Key: Ramblas Ramble

1 Plaça de Catalunya

2 Fountain of Canaletes

3 Rambla of the Little Birds

4 Betlem Church

5 Rambla of Flowers

6 La Boqueria Market

7 Heart of the Ramblas (Liceu)

8 Plaça Reial

9 Raval Neighborhood

10 Columbus Monument

11 Waterfront

The venerable Café Zürich, just across the street from the monument, is a popular downtown rendezvous spot for locals. Homesick Americans might prefer the nearby Hard Rock Café. The giant El Corte Inglés department store towering above the square (on the northeast side) has just about anything you might need.


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On Sale
Aug 8, 2023
Page Count
200 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

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