Make the Most of Two Days in One of the Most Vibrant Cities in Europe
Barcelona is a brilliant choice for a weekend with your friends, or for a stop off on your InterRailing trip. In my opinion it’s way better than Spain’s capital, Madrid, and as the capital of the northern region of Catalonia there’s loads to do and see.
The best way to get from Barcelona-El Prat Airport to the action is to take the Aerobus (about €10). Although if you’re on a mega budget the train (about €2) isn’t a bad option, it’s just a little confusing and jam-packed.
If you’re coming into the train station chances are it’ll be Barcelona Sants – from here you can jump on the Metro system to get anywhere, cheaply and easily.
Café con leche – or coffee with milk – is super cheap in Barcelona. You can pop into any pavement café and expect to pay about a euro for the pleasure. If you’re after something a little fancier for your breakfast tryFlax and Kale – it’s a favourite brunch spot for locals thanks to the sustainable, innovative and healthy food on offer.
Flax and Kale is right near Placa Catalunya so you can browse the main street of Las Ramblas and the neighbouring Raval to build up an appetite. While you’re there make sure to pop into La Boquiera Market to see all the local produce for sale under the old iron roof. It’s known as one of the best markets in the world!
No Barcelona trip would be complete without visiting at least one of Gaudi’s creations. Casa Mila and Casa Batllo are awesome – all winding stairways and quirky corners, which make for excellent photos. If you have time, Park Guell is pretty cool too.
Once you’ve wandered through the wonderland of Gaudi, keep walking up Passeig de Gracia (like the Oxford Street of Barcelona) towards the Gracia neighbourhood. Narrow streets and terracotta terraces; this is where many locals live and, while you’ll almost certainly get lost, finding the hidden boutiques and tucked-away galleries make it all worth it.
For an authentic Barcelona evening, stay in the Gracia neighbourhood and head to Placa del Sol. This is the heart of Gracia and is a famous city square adorned by charming buildings and often accompanied by the strums of a guitar.
A bustling placa, you’ll find kids and dogs, grannies and students all in the area for an evening of typical Spanish socialising. When Spanish people prepare to go out they drink Kalimotxo – a delicious mix of red wine and coke. Join them!
The Spanish do dinner a little later, so don’t be surprised if you head for dinner before 9pm and find no one there. I’d recommend going for tapas at Cerveceria Catalana just off Rambla de Catalunya for around 9:30/10pm and making the most of the treat size pinchos, and the Sangria.
After, if you’ve got the cash, check out Gatsby, an art deco themed cocktail bar with cabaret performances. Or for something a little cheaper and more authentically Catalonian head to Bar Mingus on Las Ramblas. They’ve got a good selection of beers on tap and a fun atmosphere.
More? Head to Magic Club in Born. An awesome rock ‘n’ roll club that attracts the coolest people, although they are generally hipsters. If you want something a little more mainstream, go for La Terrrazza.
Time to get up! Take in a different view of the city and hop on the Transbordador. This is the older yet more romantic of BCN’s two cable cars that transports visitors from Barceloneta to the Torre de Miramar on Montjuïc. Taking seven minutes and crossing the sea (not for the faint-hearted) the ride offers the most spectacular views of the city (about €11).
Just go to the beach. You’ll find the most famous one in the Barceloneta area, surrounded by seafood restaurants serving up calamari and gambas. They’re fun, but pretty pricey and something tells me you will have blown the budget last night on drinks and fun times. Just grab yourself a bocadillo (sandwich) from a local shop and enjoy biting into it while looking out to sea.
If you’ve got the energy and reserve take a wander along the Barceloneta beachfront to admire the oddly placed architecture as you go. The Homenatge and Frank Gehry's Peix are the ones to spot.
The Sagrada Familia cannot be missed on a Barcelona trip. In its 134th year of construction, the epic cathedral is not quite finished but is still spectacular to see. Whether you go in (around €20) or not, the effort and architectural skill that has gone into this is incredible to imagine. The best (free) views are in the park opposite the Birth façade.
For a quick bite before it’s back to the airport or the train station, pop into one of the cafes in Barcelona’s Sant Antoni district. This is the Shoreditch / Williamsburg of Barcelona and the clientele are as cool as you could imagine. My favourite spots to eat here are Café Cometa and Babelia Books and Coffee – a library-turned-bookshop. You’re just a few minutes walk from Sant Antoni Station here, which will take you wherever you need to go.