If there’s a city that has it all, it might just be Barcelona.
Being Europe, you’ll be spoiled for history and architecture but there’s also a beach and plenty of food and nightlife options. Oh, and panoramic views from the mountain tops.
My friend, Rosie (yes, Rose and Rosie, sorry if that’s confusing for you) has lived in Barcelona for the last four years but because over that time I’ve mainly been in Asia and Africa, I haven’t really maximised trips to see her. However, for my birthday this month I spent three nights and days soaking up best friend time and exploring Barcelona with someone who knows it inside out.
The only downside was that my brand new iPhone was stolen on my final morning (sob) meaning I lost a load of photos from the trip. For that reason, some of the ones in this blog are low res from social media or, worse, screenshotted from my Instagram story including locations tags & emojis! I want to share the reality of my travels with you rather than ignore the downsides, so please excuse their quality and embrace their pixellated hues 😉
I’ll be discussing keeping your possessions safe further down but despite this drama, I loved my trip to Barcelona and hope it will be followed by many more. First up, how to spend your time in the city. This is my three-day itinerary:
The Sagrada Familia
Many sights as famous as Gaudi’s unfinished cathedral are overhyped and can be a let-down. Not this one! Honestly, if you do one thing in Barcelona, let it be admiring this absolute beauty from the inside and outside.
I also climbed the Nativity Facade and got some dreamy, early morning views over the city. Read my guide to visiting for fun facts and tips for your visit.
Casa Batlló / Casa Milà
A 15-minute walk from the Sagrada you’ll find two more pieces of Gaudi’s work.
Casa Batlló is the prettier of the two houses from the outside but Casa Milà is meant to be more interesting inside with a cultural centre, Gaudí exhibition and a resorted period apartment (€22 entry). I didn’t go inside but maybe next time.
Lunch at Brunch & Cake
Since discovering Brunch & Cake not only will life never be the same, no other breakfast will ever live up. My friend and I shared the most delicious lobster and prawn benedict on a brioche bun and a stack of chocolate banana pancakes with a pineapple hat on top. We still paid less than €20 each including a bottle of cava as it was my birthday. I don’t know why I’m excusing drinking a bottle of cava – have it whatever day I say.
The veggie burgers on matcha buns also looked fantastic.
Palau de la Música Catalana
This 100-year-old concert hall is one of the most stunning and impressive places I’ve been. Especially because it isn’t as overhyped as the Sagrada it really blew me away.
I wish I could show you a full shot of the stage but unfortunately, that was one of the shots on my stolen phone. At least I have lots of content from the intricate, detailed maze of rooms. I particularly liked sauntering through the elaborate pillars on the balcony as you can tell. Also, how amazing is the orange light piece (below) that hangs above the stage?
Entrance including a guided tour is €20 (or €11 for students).
Rosie took me to the most beautiful spot in the city for a sunset view, the 1881 bar on top of the National History Museum of Catalonia. It was still my birthday so we didn’t mind splashing out on a €30 bottle of wine but ordinarily this place might have been a bit above my budget. The views over the harbour were worth every penny though.
Finally, seek out some tapas and hit the bars like we did. Keep reading for my rundown of your best food and nightlife options.
Grab ya trainers (sneakers, runners, whatever you call them!) for a bit of pavement pounding today.
Wander the Gothic Quarter / La Boqueria market
Wander the Gothic Quarter and snap some photos as you work up an appetite. La Boqueria describes itself as the best market in the world and while they may be biased, I’m inclined to agree. You’ll find so many fresh, delicious ingredients and dishes to try, and while it isn’t very cheap, it IS a must in Barcelona.
Another essential stop on any Barcelona itinerary, entrance to Park Güell is only €8 and you can spend a couple of hours looking around. The most iconic parts are the colourful lizard and the mosaic seating area looking out over the city.
Bunkers del Carmen
See another sunset, this time from the Spanish Civil War bunkers perched on top of a hill. From Park Güell you can walk 20 minutes higher through the park and emerge beside them. Grab a picnic / some beers and admire the sky as it turns pink and orange.
Relax on the beach
After your busy last couple of days, head to Barceloneta for swimming and surfing (and swanky beach bars if you have cash to splash). A few years ago my friends and I chilled – literally – at the ice bar which was a fun experience.
Get high (not like that)
For a panoramic view of the city, I’d recommend heading up one of the following mountains:
Montjuïc – there’s a castle on top of Montjuïc and you’ll get amazing views of the city. In the summer they even put on open-air cinema nights plus fun fact, it’s home to the swimming pool where Kylie Minogue filmed Slow. To get there, catch the Funicular (included in your Metro ticket) or opt for the more touristic cable car (€11), or simply the 150 bus.
Tibidabo – on top of this mountain there’s an amusement park with a giant Ferris wheel. It’s €28 entry but if you don’t want to shell out, you can visit the impressive church, wander the beautiful gardens (bring a picnic!) and check out the pano views. Jump on the T2A bus from Plaça de Catalunya.
Got an extra day to go further afield? Consider one of the following:
Girona – this charming town is a great way to escape the busy city and only takes 40 minutes to reach. Read about how to take the perfect day trip on the Petite Wanderer’s blog.
Monserrat – both times I’ve been to Barcelona I’ve toyed with going to this mountain-top monastery and not had a day to spare. It takes about an hour and a quarter to reach Monistrol de Montserrat (from Plaça de Catalunya catch the R4 underground line to Martorell then the R5 train) and from there you can start the adventure by hopping in a cable car.
Where to stay
If you’re not into the hostel scene, why not use this code to get £25 off your first Airbnb?
There are so many excellent tapas spots and with Rosie as my guide I ate at some of the best including:
- Can Condina – my first tapas of the trip was possibly the best. We had patatas bravas, chorizo, croquettes, cheese, and fried Padron peppers. A good spot for beers in the evenings, too.
- Jai Ca – here I had my first taste of snails which I actually didn’t mind! This cafe always has an authentic, buzzy vibe and a huge variety of affordable dishes. Great for a quick eat.
- Samsara – this restaurant is a tad different: fusion tapas with some dishes you won’t have tried before (like seafood and white chocolate together!). Everything we had was frickin’ delicious especially the bite-sized salmon lasagne and the aubergine, goats cheese and balsamic salad. Even though it felt upmarket, it was still fairly cheap at €25 for five dishes and wine.
Obviously Brunch & Cake steals the show but I would also recommend:
- Granja Petitbo – breakfast here was divine. I can vouch for the eggs benedict which gave my hangover the kick it needed.
- Alsur Cafe – we almost went here before choosing Brunch & Cake instead but the pancakes and waffles looked super tasty.
Despite not looking much from the outside, Xurreria is your authentic stop for takeaway churros (find it at 46 Via Laietana) or head to cute retro cafe, Granja M. Viader (4-6
For a night that’s fun if ever so slightly grimy (in all the right ways) head to Apollo or Razzmatazz, or opt for Bling Bling or Otto Zutz for somewhere slightly fancier. Moog is always a good time and has been serving as a venue for a century.
I purchased a 10-journey Metro ticket on my first day for €10 but ended up only using two as it’s easy to see the city by foot if you don’t mind a walk. In future, I’d pay for the odd one individually as it’s only €2.20 per ride.
Between the airport, take the 30 minute Aerobus to/from Plaça de Catalunya for €6.
Tips for your visit
- Factor in time to get around. Barcelona isn’t a city where all the attractions are right next to each other. In the above itinerary I’ve tried to create sensible routes but sometimes a 20-minute journey between sights can’t be avoided.
- Keep your bag locked AND your eye on it. I can’t stress this enough. My phone was somehow taken from my closed bag on a train, and during my visit in 2014 someone snatched my friend’s bag from under the table where we were having lunch. Neither of these were violent incidents (we didn’t even notice!) and we were in no way hurt or scared – in fact, I always feel safe in Barcelona. But please stay vigilant of your belongings.
Have you been to Barcelona and do you have any other favourite hangouts / attractions? I’ll be adding to this guide whenever I next visit so I’d love to know… Shoot me a message in the comments 🙂
Thanks for reading!
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Travelling around Europe? Check out some of my other posts:
- Tips and tricks for visiting the Sagrada Familia
- 10 things you must do in Dubrovnik
- How I made it around Bosnia and Herzegovina in a day
- A complete guide to Munich
- 8 reasons to take a trip to Lokrum island, Croatia
- How I spent a weekend in Copenhagen
- A complete guide to visiting Nuremberg, Germany
- 12 reasons to make Gdansk, Poland your next city break
See you next time for more adventures,