Barcelona is magical in the summer.

There’s a reason why it’s the third happiest city in the world. With its clear blue skies, mountains, the sea on the horizon, and the summer sun kissing your skin, you can’t help but unconsciously break into a smile whilst walking down the streets.

It is also one of the most diverse cities in Europe. Apart from people from other parts of Spain who have settled in Barcelona, you’ll also see Chinese, Filipinos, Pakistanis and more. This city has an unexplainable ability to make one feel accepted. During my 10 days there, I did not once encounter any discrimination. People have been nothing but kind, gracious, and warm towards me.

Case in point: After a torturous five-hour flight delay in London, I finally arrived in Barcelona at 4am, and my Couchsurfing host patiently waited up for me and picked me up from the bus stop. When I woke at noon, he made me a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, took me for a walk around his neighbourhood, then made tapas for me when we got back to his place.

The tapas that my CS host invented. They were simple yet tasty. Nothing beats food made with the hands of a warm, sincere person.
The tapas that my CS host, Jose, invented. They were simple yet tasty. Nothing beats food made with the hands of a warm, sincere person.

I’ve been shown so much more kindness in other instances there, but that’s a story for another day. If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona, summer is undeniably the best time––whether you’re up for partying or soaking up the art, architecture, and culture there, you’ll never run out of options. You must already know the usual spots such as the Boqueria market and Barceloneta Beach, so here a list of some of the essential sights, eats, and activities to ease you into your virgin trip to this vibrant city.

Once a military outpost, Montjuic has gone through a major facelift. Montjuic Mountain now houses the Magic Fountain, Montjuic Castle, Montjuic Olympic Ring, Museo Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, Joan Miro Foundation, and the Botanic Garden.

Botanic Garden
Botanic Garden

There is also a spectacular Roman amphitheatre in the middle of the Botanic Garden where concerts and parties are frequently held. I haven’t seen it myself but I’ve heard that the Magic Fountain is spectacular at night with light and water shows. Climb up to the top for a bird’s eye view of the city,

Even though this is a popular tourist sight, you can’t miss seeing UNESCO World Heritage Site by famed Catalan architect Gaudi. I was lucky to have visited it before they imposed an €8 entry fee, but I can guarantee you it’s worth paying for. For more of Gaudi’s art, head to Casa Battlo and the famous Sagrada Familia, which began construction in 1882, and is currently still incomplete.

Casa Battlo
Casa Battlo
Sagrada Familia. Many have said the it's spectacular inside.
Sagrada Familia. Many have said the it’s spectacular inside.

When most people think of cities with a fantastic nightlife, Berlin, London, NYC, and Amsterdam usually come to mind. But Barcelona is a strong contender for the top nightlife spot in the world, with a number of underground clubs scattered around the city. During the second week of June, dance music fans from all over the world travel to this city for Sonar, one of the biggest music festivals in Europe. Sonar Off Week happens for five days and nights – concurrently with Sonar – with club venues around the city providing alternative party options for those who choose not to attend Sonar Official.

One of the Off Week open air events at Plaza Mayor in Poble Espanol.
One of the Off Week open air events at Plaza Mayor in Poble Espanol.

Pro-tip: If you’re here to party, check Facebook/Resident Advisor (RA) for all the parties that will be happening. Buy your tickets in advance on RA to avoid paying full price on the door. While partying with friends is always fun, I suggest going to one or two parties alone with an open heart and mind. You’ll never know what kind of amazing people you’ll meet.

There’s more to Spanish food than Paella and Tapas. You’ll never imagine it, but you can find some of the best sandwiches/burgers in the world, right here at Can Paixano in Barcelona. It’s a small standing sandwich bar and it gets crowded during peak meal times. Order your sandwiches and plates of appetisers over the counter and you’ll get your food freshly made in less than 10 minutes.

Appetisers of fish, pickles, and cheese.
Appetisers of fish, pickles, and cheese.

The sandwich buns here are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I had a foie gras bacon sandwich which was rich, indulgent, sinful, artery clogging and utterly delicious. Each sandwich costs just a little over €3, pretty damn affordable, I must say.

Foie gras bacon sandwich
Foie gras bacon sandwich

Address: Carrer de la Reina Cristina, 7, 08003 Barcelona – Spain
Pro-tip: Come between 3 to 4pm to avoid the lunch and dinner crowds. Even then, it already gets pretty crowded off peak. Order a glass of Cabat, a sparkling red wine. It’s fruity, refreshing, and pairs perfectly with the sandwiches.

If you’re into beer, head to ABirraDero, a brewpub that serves 40 craft beers on tap. If you’re not exactly sure what you want, tell the waitress your preferences: if you’d like to start with a light or dark beer, if you prefer it to be bitter or not, and she’ll know what to bring you.


Having a limited food menu here that doesn’t change also means that they’ve cooked the same dishes over and over again, to the point where they do it well. We had big grilled prawns; baked leg of lamb which had a thin crispy layer of skin and juicy meat cooked over a low heat; and Pyrenean veal and Iberian feather loin served sizzling on a rectangular bar of hot stone.

Baked leg of lamb served with artichoke and potatoes in “enchanted” beer.

Address: C / Vila i Vilà, 77 08004 Barcelona

Cindy Tan

about Cindy

Cindy heads Departure’s Curator section. She is an avid traveller and night owl, known for her contrarian stance on a number of issues. She has criticised such public and generally popular figures as Mother Teresa, Taylor Swift and Pope Benedict XVI.

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