Solo Traveller's Guide to Barcelona - Things To Do Alone

By Jess Soler a paddleboarder, yogi, snorkeller and lover of all things outdoors.

Edited by Holly Stark

So, you’re doing Barcelona solo. Let me be the first to congratulate you on your good life decisions, because when it comes to traveling on your own, it doesn’t get better than Barcelona! Here you will have zero difficulty in making friends, but if the vibrant social scene is not what you’re after, not to worry, there is plenty to do solo in the great outdoors or in the historic neighborhoods of Barcelona. When organising a solo Barcelona adventure, naturally the first step is to seek out the best things to do alone in Barcelona – which is where I come in! Whether you’re taking the leap with your first ever Barcelona solo travel or you’re a seasoned independent explorer, my ultimate Barcelona solo travel guide will help you discover the best of what to do in Barcelona alone – encompassing an ideal mix of the city’s quirky neighborhoods, historic churches, great tapas spots and of course – in the sultry atmosphere of this Mediterranean city – tips for traveling the city solo, and the best things to do in Barcelona at night!

More practical tips

I’m putting on my grown-up pants, so buckle in for a quick lecture on safe solo travel in Barcelona. Firstly, you’re in a big, and very busy city with no-one to watch your back (pockets) so practice streetwise behavior at all times – particularly on the train and when visiting tourist attractions. While security in the city is good and you personally will be safe, I cannot say the same for your belongings. Pickpockets are everywhere in Barcelona, and unfortunately, they are particularly fond of preying on tourists. Blend in, don’t carry all your money on you at once and keep your valuables in a secure place on your person – not in your baggy pants pocket! It’s worthwhile to note that credit cards are not frequently accepted in Spain, so carry cash or a debit card with you at all times. Since you’re traveling alone, there is no-one to help you out of a payment pickle; if you forget, it’s dishwashing for you I’m afraid. Lastly, have fun! Barcelona is a playground for solo travelers! Embrace it; visit the beaches and explore the Gothic Quarter, but don’t be afraid to get out of the city for adventures in the nearby regions too! So, now let’s get on to the fun stuff, aka what to do alone in Barcelona.

More practical tips

I’m putting on my grown-up pants, so buckle in for a quick lecture on safe solo travel in Barcelona. Firstly, you’re in a big, and very busy city with no-one to watch your back (pockets) so practice streetwise behavior at all times – particularly on the train and when visiting tourist attractions. While security in the city is good and you personally will be safe, I cannot say the same for your belongings. Pickpockets are everywhere in Barcelona, and unfortunately, they are particularly fond of preying on tourists. Blend in, don’t carry all your money on you at once and keep your valuables in a secure place on your person – not in your baggy pants pocket! It’s worthwhile to note that credit cards are not frequently accepted in Spain, so carry cash or a debit card with you at all times. Since you’re traveling alone, there is no-one to help you out of a payment pickle; if you forget, it’s dishwashing for you I’m afraid. Lastly, have fun! Barcelona is a playground for solo travelers! Embrace it; visit the beaches and explore the Gothic Quarter, but don’t be afraid to get out of the city for adventures in the nearby regions too! So, now let’s get on to the fun stuff, aka what to do alone in Barcelona.

What to expect

Before we get to the good stuff I’ll share some advice – having been here long enough to suss out the good, the bad and the ugly of the city. First up; avoid the tourist traps. Barcelona is exquisitely beautiful, with so much to offer; but there is no reason to shove through crowds to experience it. Before you throw on your swimsuit and hit Barceloneta beach, take a moment to think about the hordes of holidaymakers you are about to compete with for a strip of sandy real estate. Instead, ditch the crowds and head to lesser-known Bogatell Beach for day of sun, sea, beach volleyball and the chance to explore another little known gem – Poblenou. Then there’s Boqueria Market; sure, go on over, take a peek over the heads of tourists, then promptly head to one of the smaller markets (there is one in every neighborhood) for a more authentic experience. When you first step onto the streets and take your initial deep breath of Mediterranean air two things will hit you (hard; in the face); the noise levels and the poignant smell of city drains. Don’t worry, it’s not always this loud and the smell only wafts over to you every now and then), and if it gets too much you can always drown it out with good cava and the ever-addictive bombas - two excellent distractions in my book.

Explore El Born

Located in between the Gothic Quarter and the Ciutadella Park, El Born is one of Barcelona‘s most historic areas, and one of its liveliest. If you’re exploring Barcelona on your own, the trendy El Born neighborhood is a must-do, offering hours of entertainment in the way of exploring the narrow medieval streets lined by cafeś and designer boutiques, as well as night time jaunts featuring sultry samba and cocktails. A popular, vibrant area with some of the oldest buildings in the city, it’s an exciting juxtaposition of old meets new, boasting a bohemian vibe with an artsy edge. The area is popular with the local expat community, who are eager to make the acquaintance of travelers on a solo mission and offer a night of language barrier-free conversation. El born is home to great tapas bars, gothic churches, and interesting museums ideal to frequent when visiting Barcelona alone. A stroll around this area would be part of my ideal day in Barcelona alone, after a morning out on the ocean on a paddleboard. Lunch would be pinchos (a tasty snack which you shouldn’t confuse with tapas) at Bitacora, and then I’d wander through El Born, browsing through the shops, then maybe have some churros and molten chocolate at La Granja.

Get lost in time in Barrio Gòtico

Stepping into the Gothic Quarter is like passing through the veil of time. With ancient architecture, some of which dates back to the Roman period, including castles and the must-see Barcelona Cathedral Barrio Gòticoarea, the area is steeped in history; perfect for the history-buffs or just those visitors who want to lose themselves to another century. It’s an exciting place to explore when doing Barcelona on your own, with each turn in the labyrinthine narrow back streets revealing a mouthwatering eatery serving Catalan food, a trendy bar or an artisanal store trading in leather or jewelry. Typical of the old quarters in Europe, Barrio Gòtico is a blend of the historical and contemporary, with hip and vibey spots waiting to be uncovered in the shadow of beautiful gothic architecture; all spires, arches, bell towers and stonework. For history on the Roman remains of the city visit Museu d'Història de Barcelona. In summer, you can enjoy the outdoor cafés and sample great Barcelona street food on avenue La Rambla and attend a summer concert. When traveling to Barcelona alone, this is one of the natural starting points with much to see and no-one to distract you from taking it in.

Get your art fix in El Poble-sec

Located between the foothills of Montjuïc and the port, Poble-sec is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Barcelona – and nowadays arguably the most vivacious, with a Bohemian vibe that permeates the quirky and creative tapas bars and drinking dens. Historically a relatively poor area, Poble-sec has undergone a rigorous revival and is now home to Barcelona’s most diverse community. Undoubtedly an up-and-coming corner of the city, it boasts a great food scene with a mix of upmarket restaurants, traditional bodegas and tapas bars. Check out hidden gem Quimet y Quimet, tucked away with only a tiny sign to indicate its existence - it is widely regarded by locals as one of the best tapas bars in the city. Eat and meet in this tiny standing bar in the El Poble-sec neighborhood and you’ll be one of only about 15 people happily sipping vermouth and nibbling great Catalan cuisine. Alternatively you could choose to stroll down the theater strip – busy Avinguda Paral lel, which features vintage playhouses hosting musicals and cabaret – or visit the arty Caixa Forum.

 

Eat your way through Bar Bitácora

While eating tends to be a social affair, you don’t need any company to enjoy Bitácora! In fact, being on your own offers the bonus of not having to share a single bite of this delicious food, all based on fresh ingredients and cooked with exceptional flair. Loved by locals, Bar Bitácora is home to delicious tapas at really great prices. For food and drinks, you can hope to never pay more than 20 euros per person. Be sure to try the small dishes; croquettas, chipirones, patatas bravas, tuna tartar, calamares, tortilla (spanish omelette) and the deserts! Always ask for the daily specials; the friendly staff can guide you through the fusion menu. As far as eating alone in Barcelona goes, Bitácora provides an unpretentious, comfortable atmosphere in which to mingle with locals and sample new foods – a good bet for generous portions, a great mix of traditional and contemporary tapas and affordable drinks. Friday nights get extremely busy and while this offers some great entertainment in the form of people watching, it might also be a good idea to book a seat!

Head out for a solo nighttime adventure

After a day of visiting some Barcelona attractions, head out for a night on the town! Learn steamy salsa, grab tapas at one of the bar tables that spill onto the cobbled streets, or spend the night bar hopping and boogying to live music. What you do with your night out in Barcelona is up to you; but make sure you plan accordingly to avoid going out in a ghost town. If you decide to eat your dinner at your usual 7pm, you might wonder where all the people of Barcelona have vanished to, because in Spain dinner before 9pm is probably still considered lunch – just one of the many things you should know before planning your best solo night out in Barcelona. Another vital point to take into consideration is the advent of local holidays; time it right and you might find yourself in the middle of an explosion of color and festivity, with fireworks and dancing as the locals take to the streets for Holy Sant Joan (23 June) or one of the numerous other annual celebrations. Be sure to start your night out with a glorious Catalan sunset, my favorite of which can be witnessed at Carmel Bunkers; relics of Spanish Civil War that offer panoramic views of the city, without the crowds!

Hit the sidewalks for edgy street art

Barcelona has long been known as a mecca for its graffiti and street art pieces into which the heart and soul of the city is poured. The poets, social commentators and artists of Barcelona have long ago turned the streets into a canvas onto which they spray a physical embodiment of the Catalan zeitgeist. Walking or cycling through these colorful streets is not only an exploration of the local point of view, but simply one of the simplest cool things to do in Barcelona on your own, no major pre-planning or payment required! Close to the Cathedral of Barcelona is one of the more famous street artworks named the Kissing Wall – a ginormous effigy of two people kissing, made up from hundreds of tiny photographs. Absolutely thrilling to see, and be able to view close up to see all the tiny details, this is an absolute hidden gem that most visitors overlook. Another great spot to view (and photograph) stunning graffiti is in the world-famous Paral-lel skatepark which is home to an entire wall demarcated as a legal space for street art. If photography is your calling head here to immortalize some truly epic skate moments, perhaps the chance to capture a skateboarder executing the perfect 360 flip in world famous street art.

Soak in the awe-inspiring works of Gaudi

If you know anything about Barcelona, you’ll know that the city is strewn with the fanciful architectural works of the visionary Antoni Gaudí, one of the greatest masterminds of Modernism. Each of his works is reminiscent of something out of Hansel and Gretal, with warped and bubbling masonry, colorful glass windows, and spontaneous smatterings of mosaic. Probably most famous is the church of the Sagrada Família; a multi-towered monolith of whimsy and imagination, but you don’t need to battle swarms of tourists to view the brilliance that is Gaudi. Casa Vicens, located in the relaxing neighborhood of Gràcia, is a piece that exhibits Moorish and eastern influences and has been declared a World Heritage Site. Having only recently opened to the public it is something of a hidden gem, with murals, ceramics and art to enjoy inside and out. While Park Güell – with stone walls that look just like gingerbread, a seemingly oozing white roof and window frames that appear to be made of royal icing – is a widely known attraction, what makes it special to me is the fantastic sunset it offers. Depending on which season you visit the city, 9pm is usually a good bet to head to the park – free of charge – leaving you time to get to the top for magnificent sunset views over the city.

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