Barcelona Travel Guide: LGBTQ+ Nomad Edition (2024)

We turn down an alleyway. On our right, we see an ancient Roman ruin protected by plexiglass. It’s packed between two boutique clothing shops and a coffee shop across from it. The juxtaposition of the warmth of a small business against the ancient stones of Rome is a perfect metaphor for the beauty of Barcelona.

Barcelona by night
Barcelona by night photo Credit: Nerd On The Run

Our reason for visiting was simple, other than wanting to develop this Barcelona travel guide: We made a dear friend in the south of France. He’s an American who has lived in Barcelona for over four years. We wanted to visit him while exploring Spain and Portugal. His advice helped a ton, and I’ll be referencing his brilliance from time to time.

Getting There

We flew the notorious RyanAir from Porto to Barcelona. We had heard horror stories about RyanAir. We were certainly nervous from reading about surprise upcharges and bad customer service experiences over the years. But we had no problems. We checked our bigger luggage from the get-go. The flight was about 2 hours. Tight and quick, we passed the time. We didn’t have any issues with RyanAir.

When we landed, we grabbed an Uber to our Airbnb. We weren’t even halfway when we got a chastising text that we could have saved money by taking the train. These two middle-aged men were tired, and it was our first time in a new city. We regret nothing, ha!

Barcelona, Spain
Photo Credit: Nerd On The Run

We later learned that trains are ubiquitous across Spain. The Barcelona subway system is infamous for its confusing nature. As we explored it, we discovered it was very similar to the trains of New York: You can go anywhere you want, but you really need to know what you are doing. We slowly learned the letters, numbers, and colors over the next six days. I can attest that once you know it, the system is great. 

LGBTQ+ Barcelona Travel Guide:

Where to Stay in Barcelona- Best Neighborhoods

Gothic Quarter

Our Airbnb was in the Gothic Quarter. We loved the gorgeous blend of history. The Gothic Quarter is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the entire city. Some of the structures were built as early as the 13th century. The neighborhood’s history stretches even further back than that. You can discover remnants of Roman walls incorporated into some more modern structures.

Most of the taller apartment buildings date back as early as medieval times. But they were significantly modified in the 17th and 18th centuries to focus on residential housing and workshops. The residential and workshop aspects carry forward today into an artisanal mood. Instead of leather and iron workshops, the first floors of these buildings are replaced with coffee shops, restaurants, and small locally-owned retail stores. 

The sense that you are meandering through a series of medieval workshops is still alive and well. But instead of ancient shopkeepers, you are left with dozens of restaurants to try and shops to browse. You never feel too disconnected from the shop owners and workers there. 

As much of the architecture has kept its original shape, the shops are all very small. You can talk to the shop owner at the back of the store by simply raising your voice at the store entrance. Everywhere we went, shop owners and restaurant owners were warm and welcoming.

Much like the world all over, immigration patterns are present throughout the Gothic district. The neighborhood has a warm Muslim community. You can sometimes hear the faint bells and chants that are common to Muslim neighborhoods. The sounds refer back to the Moors of Spain, hinting at its diverse history. The Muslim culture gave the ancient architecture a melodious, deep undertone that echoed the gravitas of its history.

Eixample Neighborhood

For a more modern experience, I recommend the Eixample neighborhood. Barcelona is famous for creating “super blocks.” These super blocks are massive walkways where streets have been shut down. So instead of driving down 6-lane highways through the middle of the city, you can walk them. Combined with the 5-—to 6-story buildings around you, the super blocks are very relaxing.

Eixample Barcelona
Eixample Barcelona

The super blocks compliment the relaxed Spanish attitude perfectly. As each super block extends across the city, you can walk for miles. You can enjoy city blocks of wine bars, coffee, pastries out the wazoo, whatever you fancy. The one rule is that you have to be relaxed while you do it. Beware Americans, slow down and relax! 

The area also has plenty of high-end retail stores, high-end restaurants, and all the amenities of the modern world. 

Everyday Costs in Barcelona

Uber

When we got in from our plane ride, we were tired, so we took an Uber from the airport instead of the train. The Uber was faster and easier for us, but it cost us more. Our Uber was 15.7 miles (25.2 km), and it cost 35 euros for that ride.

Latte

A latte was 2.5 euros. Now, the lattes are smaller in Europe in general. And Spain was no exception. But that’s still a great price. I’m all about it! 

coffee in Spain

Glass of Wine

I love the Spanish wine prices. A glass of red wine at a really nice restaurant was just 3 euros. You cannot get away with that in the States!

Spanish wine

Places to Eat in Barcelona

I want to spotlight one delicious place in Barcelona in particular. We had some absolutely delicious Dim Sum at Mosquito in the Gothic Quarter. Tasty, tons of food, and mouth-watering. It was a gem in the heart of the twisting streets of the Gothic Quarter. 

Our dinner for two included Bao, Edamame, Wonton, Kimchi, wine and beer. All in, it was only 44 euros. Considering the wonderful atmosphere, tremendous amount of food, and time we spent there; it was well worth it.

food in Barcelona
Healthy eating at FlexBowls on Calle de la Diputacio Photo Credit: Nerd On The Run

Internet Speeds

When we weren’t visiting the art and architecture, we were taking calls from the Airbnb. The internet speeds were excellent for work, so we could take video calls and get all our work done.

Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in staying long-term or even permanently in Spain, be sure to check out our in-depth article on Spain’s digital nomad visa.

Best Things to Do In Barcelona

The Arc de Triomf

One of the highlights of the Exiemple neighborhood is the Arc de Triomf. Like so many beautiful sculptures across the city of Barcelona, this work of art is massive and a sight to see. I loved its scale. You can see it from several streets away.

Arc de Triomf Barcelona
Created for the World Fair of 1888 Photo Credit: Nerd On The Run

It was originally built for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. Most of these arches were built for military wins, but this arch was built for entertainment purposes from day one. It’s hard to imagine world fairs going back all the way back to the 1800s, but the first World Fair was in 1851.

Casa Batllo

If there’s one thing that must go on your bucket list for Barcelona, it’s the architecture of world-renowned Antoni Gaudi. There are actually three famous houses built by Gaudi in Barcelona. We could only visit Casa Batllo, but now the other two are definitely on the list. Casa Batllo was breathtaking. 

roof of Casa Battló
Roof of Casa Battló Photo Credit: Nerd On The Run

Gaudi has taken the time to merge structural innovations of the time with organic and natural forms in this unforgettable house. It was built for Josep Batllo, a wealthy Spanish industrialist and patron of the arts. The colors paint ocean blues across the walls. His use of stained glass to create otherworldly effects feels more like a ride at Disneyworld than a historic home.

Gaudi art BCN
Photo Credit: Nerd On The Run

Sagrada Familia

The crown jewel of Barcelona, the Sagrada Familia, was, hands down, the most beautiful building I’ve ever walked in. As an architectural illiterate, I’m really glad I have my architect husband around to tell me about these brilliant works. Otherwise, I’d just be roaming around, oblivious to the beauty of this world.

Sagrada Familia church Barcelona
Photo Credit: Nerd On The Run

Sagrada Familia is a religious basilica that has been under construction since 1882—that’s right—almost 150 years of construction. And you thought your contractor was slow! However, don’t believe for a second that this monument feels unfinished! Yes, there are construction cranes and large blue tarps blocking your access. But I cannot do justice to the scale and beauty presented, even though the project is unfinished.

Sagrada Familia Barcelona
Photo Credit: Nerd On The Run

The basilica is 558 feet tall (170 meters). As you look into the distance above you, you are swept up in the towering columns made to look like tree trunks. Your eyes carry you to the “tree tops,” gorgeous stained glass windows painted in large sweeping rainbows, that morph and blur the “sky” (the ceiling) as the sun rises and falls throughout the day. Each moment of the day changes the colors. You are left with a feeling of a passing day in a forest of towering trees. Just breathtaking.

Getting Around Barcelona

The Barcelona Metro subway system is well known for causing confusion. Our friend Edgar came along to help us navigate, and we still barely made it through. Credit to the yellow-slickered attendants, who were quick to offer help and even bring us to the correct platform. 

The Metro goes everywhere, and it definitely spans across the city. But you will want a guide or plan a good extra hour to navigate it your first few times. You will save a lot of money by taking the train from the airport to monuments and around the city. But be prepared for a challenge.

LGBTQ+ Attitudes in Barcelona

We felt so welcome as a gay couple in Barcelona! Gay couples were so common. It was refreshing. Barcelona is the 72nd largest metroplex in the world, so it’s no surprise that gay couples are normal. We felt very welcomed. 

Conclusion

The people of Barcelona have such a relaxed, friendly vibe. It’s like the intensity of living in a big city never phases them. They still have time for a coffee in the morning before work and a glass of wine with dinner. They are a wonderful people. It was an honor to spend time there.

Also traveling to Lisbon? Be sure to check out Mark’s LBGTQ+ guide to Lisbon!

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