FOOD & DRINKS
First of all, I can not stop eating in Barcelona.
Before my latest trip to Barcelona, a lovely gentleman who lived in Spain for a while recommended Can Paixano for tapas and people watching. When I got there, it was just starting to get busy and I was increasingly concerned about the exact etiquette for the place. Do I just loiter around the bar? Can I help myself to more bottomless pink cava? Am I meant to share with my neighbours (even if I don't want to)? Should I practice speaking in Spanish? The answer to all were: yes. No one cares.
After helping myself to five glasses and six croquettes with almost no guilt (for less than four Euros), I decided that I secretly prefer sitting down and eating. So I walked towards Passeig de Gracia and found El Nacional, which has a similar vibe to The Ned in London, where you can sit on a bar stool, eye up all the food you want to try and enjoy more cava and tapas. Very fancy, but not expensive at all.
The sad thing about traveling solo in Barcelona is that most restaurants serve paella for two people, so unless you have a friend, a doggy bag, an unnaturally massive appetite, or are happy to experience severe guilt from wasting a lot of freshly cooked paella, I suggest you go to places like Santa Anna that can be bothered to make small portions of paella (at a price), which is not too far from the infamous Sagrada Familia.
The first time I went to Barcelona, my friend and I went to a club near the beach on La Barceloneta called Opium and quickly realised at 10pm that the party does not start until another two hours in Barcelona. We were surrounded by rich people sitting and consuming too much Shisha for one evening, along with young adults and some teenage boys trying to get with anything that wore a skirt. The drinks and Shisha were very expensive, however we discovered that the Tequila shots were not (hurray).
No doubt, it was a heavy night, and at some point I walked out for fresh air and found myself on the beach, which was actually quite nice, even though they almost didn't let me back in as I didn't have a wrist band. The shore and lights curved around the sea which was pitch black, blending in with the black sky.
Las Ramblas is the obvious choice for tourists to wander around during the day and night time, being the central boulevard at the heart of the city centre. I went there with my friend, alone and with my dad on three different trips and had a great time, every time.
For those who like a bit of luxury, the W hotel has a rooftop bar with some great views, right at the end of the beach. Drinks are not cheap, but it is worth checking the opening days and times (I turned up one afternoon and it was not open until later that evening). It is walking distance from the Gothic quarter, the Picasso museum, several little roads with tapas restaurants and more and there's a nice long walk or cycle ride along the beach to and from the hotel.
If not, then you can hire a bike and take in the city at your own pace. Alternatively, the Metro (underground) is pretty easy and cheap to travel on. Uber is fairly cheap but not available everywhere.
To get to the city centre from the airport, the Airport Bus cost me around 6 Euros and I was in town within an hour with no issues at all. Just follow the signs at the airport and save yourself some cash.
WHERE TO STAY
Save some more cash and consider staying in a hostel (Hostel World can help). I stayed at Primavera Hostel in the Eixample area, an area buzzing with bars, shops, walking distance to all the tourist spots, and it cost me 15 Euros for one night. It was very clean, comfortable and homely (they also have hotel rooms, if sharing a room with strangers is not your cup of tea). I did enjoy being woken up by a musician strumming her guitar and singing something in Spanish... unusual.
Alternatively, most hotels are reasonably priced and have a rooftop pool (good for Summer). As long as you are staying near a Metro station, it will not an issue to get to the main parts of the city or city centre.
It is totally worth learning a bit of Spanish, if not already. Even if the locals look unimpressed when you speak, may not understand what you may be saying, or reply in English, they (usually) appreciate the effort. Having said that, also be prepared for responses in English if a) your Spanish isn't the best (like mine) and/or b) you clearly look like a tourist. Most people in Barcelona seem to speak perfect English anyway.
top 10 things to do (i.m.o.)