13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Reasonable intro, but too introductory and hard to parse listings,
This review is from: Fodor's Barcelona, 3rd Edition: With Highlights of Catalonia & Bilbao (Full-color Travel Guide) (Paperback)
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I read through this guide with an eye to returning to Barcelona, which I last visited in 2002. I found it a good survey, but absent an angle on how to get into the city's vibrant culture (the nightlife and culinary scenes get short shrift), with too many dense detailed listings of hotels and restaurants.
Travel-guides are have become less relevant in the Internet age, and in my mind now need to fill a roll that's not obsoleted by online sources.
For an experienced traveler like me, those roles include analyzing complex information (eg, "How do I experience Spain?"), or providing an insider's view that I might not have without being a resident or spending inordinate amounts of time reading forums (eg, "Where do the young people party, where can I eat as a solo traveler during the day before tapas places are open?", "What's the etiquette on toplessness on the Catalan beaches?"). Also providing travel inspiration, providing starting points for online research, and finally, providing a resource I can take with, since I may not have time to look things up online during travel (or may not have smartphone data coverage). I found this guide did an inadequate job with these categories.
Too many pages are spent on hotel listings; this isn't a backpacker's guide, so you probably did your hotel research at home. Conversely, the restaurant and bar listings are often used during travel, but they need web-style formatting and typefaces, to make them skimmable (the dense paragraphs in this volume make it hard). European cities are complex by American standards, so having small maps in each section placing the various listings would be very helpful. ("Is that near me?")
There's a short translation section that's near useless (too short, too basic, and in too unwieldy a volume if you really do need to look up that "no, gracias" is "no thank you").
On the positive, there is a (too-short) summary of what Barcelona is about. There's a detachable "on the go map" which is a nice touch, most travel companies charge half the price of the book for a decent map. The listings do provide contact information which may be helpful when lost.
I find the Lonely Planet Discover series does most of what I want in a travel guide. While LP doesn't have a Discover Barcelona guide, it may be worth seeking out their Discover Spain Guide instead. That is the one travel series I've found that is still completely relevant in the online age.
Fodor's Barcelona is an adequate introductory guide to Barcelona, but has little meat for those looking to get off the beaten path, follow the current scene, or dig into the heart of the culture. This volume is best suited as a jumping off point for for googling for first-timers to Barcelona. The weak layout makes it not-useful as an on-the-go reference.
Barcelona is a wonderful city, by all means go! But you will want some additional resources beyond this book. Recommended for 1st-time travelers, with reservations.