In all honesty, I’d heard some pretty mixed reviews before taking my solo trip to Barcelona. However, if you’re used to going it alone in places such as NYC or Paris, then being solo in Barcelona will surely be a breeze. Here’s your ultimate guide to taking a solo sojourn to the Catalonian capital, as well as solo female travel safety tips and things to know before you go!
My most recent visit to the Eastern Spanish city of Barcelona was my third so far, and it’s fair to say it won’t be the last! Home to a foodie scene that leaves you drooling, a plethora of Gaudi architecture you won’t stop dreaming about, and an abundance of history both new and old, Barcelona more than tops most traveller to Europe’s bucket lists.
Is Barcelona good for first-time solo travellers?
If you’re reading this and it’s your first time planning a solo trip anywhere, then congratulations! It means that you’re taking the first steps to planning a visit which will be both richly rewarding, as well as an intense learning curve and the chance to get to know yourself better. When I first pondered the question as to whether or not Barcelona is good for first-time solo visitors, I immediately wanted to say yes, but then felt torn!
On the one hand, public transportation in and out of the city is excellent. Barcelona is served by a handful of nearby International airports which offer budget flights to the rest of Europe and beyond. The metro system is convenient and very affordable and there’s plenty of things to keep even the most discerning of travellers occupied!
With this being said, Barcelona is more like visiting Paris than, say, London or Amsterdam on account of the number of tourist scams, not to mention the intense crowds and the fact that the first language of the region is Castilian Spanish. While I found that most people I met had a good level of either French or English, I still struggled at times!
Things to know before visiting Barcelona for the first time
Of course, thanks to its incredible popularity, Barcelona is now popular all year ’round. With this being said, to maximise your enjoyment of the city (as well as beat the summer heat!), I personally recommend visiting the city in one of the European shoulder seasons, i.e. Spring or Summer.
This way, you’ll get the best deals on accommodation as well as queue for less time at the most popular of hotspots. My most recent solo trip to Barcelona was in September and I couldn’t have been happier with the timing! Otherwise, you should know that you’ll probably need a travel adapter as Barcelona uses EU plugs. Purchase your universal travel adapter here.
Finally, one of my top Barcelona travel tips would be to make sure that you have a little bit of cash on you at all times! There were several coffee shops I frequented that didn’t take card, or only took certain types of debit card. Many places don’t accept credit card, and so be prepared for your visit with multiple payment options. This is also always good practise as a solo traveller as if your card gets lost or swallowed by a machine, then you have backup options!
Things to do in Barcelona on your own
Take a self-guided walking tour of Barcelona
If it’s your first time in Barcelona and you’re looking to familiarise yourself with the city, then my free and self-guided walking tour will help you start your stay the right way! From the mysterious and intimate Gothic Quarter to the 19th-century built Eixample district, this guided walk will take you through time and history to help you discover the best of Barcelona! Simply pack your comfiest walking shoes, download my guide, and you’ll soon be exploring the city like a local.
Seek out Roman Barcelona
You may well not know this, but Barcelona actually started out as the city of Barcino. Much of the former Roman citadel was situated on what is now the Gothic Quarter of the city and today vestiges of the past from millennia ago can be discovered around near enough every corner.
One of the best-preserved Roman ruins is hidden away in a little side street and is known as the Temple of Augustus. Free to visit, these Corinthian columns dominate a small covered space and were rediscovered during the Middle Ages. They are all that remains of a structure which once presided over the rest of Barcino. The rest of the ruins were presumably used to construct nearby walls and fortifications and throughout the Gothic Quarter, parts of the city wall are built with noticeable pieces of Roman stonework.
Enjoy tapas on a Barcelona food tour
Tapas is a meal that’s meant to be shared with friends and family, and so those looking to dine alone in Barcelona may well find that they’re struggling to come up with a way to enjoy tapas without having to order too much food! Luckily, the workaround for this is simple: book a food tour! For example, this food tour
Follow in the footsteps of Gaudi
Of course, the most famous resident of Barcelona is Antoni Gaudi, who constructed some of the top iconic attractions the city has to offer today. With the exception of Parc Güell (the fantastical space that presides on a hill overlooking the rest of the city- purchase your entrance ticket here) and the fountain in Parc Ciutadella (which was one of the iconic architect’s earliest pieces).
My personal favourite Gaudi attraction in Barcelona is that of Casa Battlò. Inspired by natural forms, you’ll want to book your ticket well in advance- check prices and further information here. The most famous of the Gaudi masterpieces in Barcelona are the impressive Sagrada Familia church (buy tickets here) and La Pedrera, a top-floor apartment with a rooftop offering views over the rest of the district (buy tickets here).
Look for hidden gems of Barcelona
Between forgotten churches, little-known Dalí works, and passages that feel akin to stepping back in time, Barcelona has no shortage of off the beaten track destinations worth discovering on your own. And while you’ll soon be marked out as a tourist when visiting the top attractions, seeking out those lesser-known locations will help you see the city in more of a local way.
Some of my very favourite hidden gems in Barcelona include the open-air Roman Tombs of the Sepucral Romana, the Medieval Synagogue of the Gothic Quarter, and Palau Macaya, a fantastic example of Catalan Modernism architecture. Nearby, the green garden space has a plethora of benches and offers unique views onto the Sagrada Familia.
Enjoy the cafe culture scene
If you’re looking for a quiet break from the hustle and bustle of the busy Barcelona streets, then refuge can be found in the form of the many cafés and coffee shops dotted around the Catalonian capital. From unique hotspots to ‘Instagrammable’ interiors, there are even vegan eats and speciality coffee joints.
After visiting more than a handful of cafés as a solo traveller to the city, it’s safe to say that I fell in love with a fair few. However, none caught my eye as much as that of Caelum, a quaint and French-inspired café on an otherwise unremarkable street in the heart of the Gothic Quarter. Serving all sorts of sweet treats and the foamiest cappuccino I’ve ever had, the basement even contains the ruins of some historic women’s bathhouses!
Pick up food at Mercado de La Boqueria
One of the most famous covered food halls in Europe is that of La Boqueria. Boasting a dazzling array of stalls and small shopfronts selling everything from dried fruit and nuts to locally sourced meats. The first attestation of the market dates all the way back to the 13th-century when there is a record of tables being installed close to the city gate to sell meat.
Visit the market today and you’ll discover an entirely different story: from takeaway coffees to freshly caught seafood, there’s a mouthwatering selection of food. While you can opt to eat and drink on-site, there’s always the possibility of taking your food away with you, where you can enjoy it in a nearby green space.
Hang out in adorable bookshops
Between English language bookstores and cosy cafés which are part bookshop, part café, hanging out in the coolest bookshops in Barcelona will soon have you purchasing a title (or two) to take home with you as a souvenir or a guidebook that will reveal even the best-kept secrets of Barcelona.
Visiting bookshops on your own is an easy way to while away the time for several hours, not to mention that it’s the perfect rainy day activity! For those with a serious case of Wanderlust, I recommend none other than visiting Llibreria Altaïr, which sells an expansive selection of travel guides, memoirs, maps, and local guidebooks!
Relax in the Ciutadella Park
Boasting a fountain designed by Gaudi, a maze of pathways zigzagging their way through lush green parkland, and even a secret chapel, Ciutadella Park is the most famous that the city has to offer. Free to visit, it’s even possible to rent a rowboat on the lake or enjoy a picnic on one of the many benches dotted throughout the green space.
Take a day trip from Barcelona
Of course, Barcelona is a beautiful city… But many of the other top things to do in Catalonia are actually to be found outside of the region’s capital city. And thanks to a wealth of great transport links, Barcelona is well-connected to the rest of Spain and beyond, meaning that an excursion couldn’t be easier to take!
Some of my favourite picks for day trips from the city (even if you’re travelling solo) include a visit from Barcelona to Figueres, where the iconic artist Dalí was born, or the picturesque mountainside village and monastery of Montserrat, which are around an hour and a half from Barcelona.
Hands down, my favourite day trip from Barcelona is actually one of the easiest to take. The train from Barcelona to Girona takes just under forty minutes, and once there you’ll soon discover Game of Thrones filming locations, a medieval old town, and even some Roman ruins.
Of course, if you’re looking to meet other people, then the best way to do this is by booking a guided day trip to Figueres like this one, or a guided excursion to Montserrat like this one. Game of Thrones fans will be delighted to discover that it’s even possible to book a TV-inspired day trip from Barcelona like this one.
And finally… Is Barcelona safe for solo female travellers? (As well as safety tips!)
Of course, before visiting Barcelona for the first time, you might be concerned about the potential safety aspects of visiting a large city. The Catalonian capital is generally as safe as back home, though you should take precautions (just like you would if you were back home).
The biggest problem which tourists in the City of Light tend to face is from tourist scams and pickpockets. As such, you’ll want to take precautions: firstly, always make sure that your bags are well fastened/ secured. Next, if you’re travelling with a handbag, then make it a cross-body one. Make sure your bag has a zipper and walk along while holding the fastened bag.
Crossbody bags are not only stylish but they also allow for you to keep an eye on your belongings at all times. Your best bet for avoiding Barcelona pickpockets is to not even open your bag in crowded places, like on the metro or in busy streets such as the world-famous La Rambla.
Spanish wine (and, indeed, Tinto de Verano and Sangria) are all easy to drink, but if you’re on your own, then limit yourself to one or two glasses with your meal. Other safety tips that I personally take when travelling through Spain on my own includes booking my hotel in a more touristic area, checking in with someone back home once every day or two, and dressing as the locals do.
Where to stay in Barcelona as a solo traveller
Last but not least, I wanted to finish on a note about accommodation! Barcelona is an ever-popular city with plenty of places to stay to match every budget. So whether you’re a luxe traveller or budget backpacker, with the right planning it’s easy to enough to find the perfect fit. Firstly, Barcelona, like many cities around the world has Airbnb (sign up here for credit towards your first stay).
When I stayed in Barcelona as a solo traveller, I personally booked a room at the Hotel Catalonia Avinyó and couldn’t have enjoyed it more. Located in the very heart of the Gothic Quarter, the accommodation was just streets away from the city’s Cathedral, as well as close to a handful of well-reviewed restaurants (including my personal favourite La Cerería, which serves vegetarian fare at a reasonable rate- they were also happy enough to accommodate my party of one, which is not always the case in Barcelona restaurants!).
There’s even a rooftop pool which offers views onto the surrounding rooftops! Check prices and availability here. Otherwise, if you’re in search of a more community-led environment at lower prices, then checking into a hostel is always a great idea. I personally always opt for female-only dorms, though this is, of course, a personal preference! Some of the top-rated hostels in Barcelona include this one and this one.