Barcelona, the cradle of Catalan culture and one of the oldest cities of Spain, has so much to offer even for the most demanding and sophisticated traveller. Year-round cultural events, rich history, unique architecture and mouth-watering cuisine make Barcelona the perfect weekend break destination. Our guest writers Illia and Nastia of Crazzzy Travel share their tips on what you should see, experience and eat for an unforgettable weekend in Barcelona.
Sightseeing in Barcelona
Barcelona’s museums and cathedrals have existed for hundreds of years, so one short weekend is definitely not enough to see all of them. Nevertheless, why not to give it a try? Here is the itinerary we suggest for two-day stay in Barcelona.
Day 1 in Barcelona
Start your day in the Gothic Quarter in the heart of the Ciutat Vella. This district gets too overcrowded by 11 am, so it makes sense to start your day early. Visit the Barcelona Cathedral for morning mass to listen to the organ and beautiful choral music.
Roam the narrow Medieval streets until you arrive at the harbour boardwalk. Here you have a couple of options: you can walk to the Columbus monument or rent a speedboat to explore the harbour.
Either way, you will end up at Las Ramblas, one of the most beautiful walking streets of Europe. This is the perfect place to go souvenir shopping or just to have a cup of the afternoon coffee.
Las Ramblas will eventually lead to Placa de Catalunya, a magnificent round square with the giant fountain in the middle. This is the great place to take taxi, subway, or even a tuk-tuk to your next destination: the National Art Museum of Catalonia.
Visiting the National Art Museum of Catalonia
National Art Museum of Catalonia is located in the National Palace on Montjuic hill. Surrounded by cascade fountains and botanical gardens, this place is worth a visit even for those who don’t normally warm to classical art. Here you can enjoy the rare collections of Romanesque and Gothic art, paintings by Thyssen Bornemisza and Diego Velázquez, as well as exceptional examples of modernist sculpture.
End your day in the Botanical Garden in Barcelona
End your day in the serene shadows of the Botanical garden, situated right behind the National Art Museum. Here you will find the species of trees and flowers, typical for Catalan region. Numerous flowers attract butterflies totally fearless of humans. Don’t miss your chance to take the breathtaking pictures of Barcelona sunset from Montjuic hill.
Read more: A day out in Barcelona for the family
Day 2 in Barcelona
It’s time for Gaudi sightseeing! Antoni Gaudi was one of the innovative, non-conformist and extraordinary architects of the 20th century. He constructed multiple buildings in Barcelona, which still attract tourists from all over the world. The most famous of his creations is Sagrada Familia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The construction of this giant cathedral has started a century ago and it is still not finished! Of course, the queues to this destination are pretty big too, so it’s recommended to arrive later in the day and book tickets online.
Take a cab or just walk to Finca Güell, a beautiful residential complex, designed by Gaudi. The complex consists of two houses covered with eye-catching orange bricks. The most interesting feature of Finca Güell is the iron gate with the dragon, made by the locksmiths Vallet i Piquer.
The next stop is La Pedrera. This is the Gaudi’s main residential building in Barcelona and once of the most innovative houses in the history of architecture. La Pedrera was recognized as UNESCO World Heritage in 1984 and nowadays serves as a museum. You can visit a variety of things inside, including the rooms once occupied by Gaudi himself. There is also a really nice Gaudi-themed souvenir shop on the first floor.
In the afternoon head to Parc Güell, the masterpiece of Gaudi architecture. The park features buildings covered with colourful ceramic tiles, scenic walk, and serpentine-shaped colonnaded halls and terraces to hide from Barcelona heat. This is a great place to enjoy the breathtaking views of the city while listening to the guitars of the street performers.
Culture in Barcelona
Barcelona rightfully holds the name of the cultural capital of Spain. Everyday hundreds of events attract spectators from all over the world. The best way to keep track of upcoming concerts and festivals on the weekend you choose to visit the city is to subscribe to one of multiple online event boards, such as Metropolitan Barcelona or Barcelona Yellow.
Nevertheless, there are several special events you might want to plan ahead to visit;
La Mercè is held on September 24 every year. This is the traditional Barcelona festival dating back to the 17th Century and commemorating the Catholic feast day of Our Lady of Mercy. Probably the most important festival event is the parade of gigantic papier maché figures. Another site worth visiting is the competition of ‘castellers’ forming human towers. Make sure to check out the fireworks, magic fountain, and live music events at the Montjuic hill.
Cavalcada de Reis is held on January 5. This is the float parade, commemorating the Three Wise Men. As soon as the sun goes down, colourful decorated floats fill in the harbor, bringing joy to the last Christmas festivities.
Primavera Sound – Primavera is one of the largest music festivals in Europe, held every year in early June. Even though you can follow the live streaming of all concerts online, there is nothing like enjoying the spirit of Primavera in person. The wide choice of scenes and performers guarantees the unique experience for any music lover.
Food in Barcelona
Barcelona is one of the top destinations for true mouth-watering experiences. There are many companies offering food and drink tours, but the plethora of restaurants and markets allows anyone explore the Catalan food on their own.
One of the top food places to visit is La Boqueria, a market near Las Ramblas, where the locals come to buy fresh seafood and vegetables. This is the great place to try some original paella (rice with seafood) and arros negre (black rice colored with squid ink). Don’t be deceived by La Boqueria’s market image: there are plenty of tables like any regular open air restaurant.
Check out tapas restaurants at Las Ramblas! Tapas is a small snack, which can be anything ranging from a regular sandwich to high cuisine octopus sautee. This is the great option for those too tired to walk, but not hungry enough to have a regular meal. Tapas restaurants also serve the best beer in town, so they are also a good place to stop on your night out.
For true local experience go to Carrer de Blai. This is the street in Poble Sec, known for its pintxos, a traditional Basque snack bars, very similar to tapas. Here you will be able to try local seafood specials, accompanied by the Spanish wine. The snacks are very popular and not too expensive. One piece of pintxos is just 1-1.50 Euro, so this is a great place for bar hopping.
Read more: Where to find truly great tapas in Barcelona
Where to stay in Barcelona
There are plenty of accommodation options in Barcelona, ranging from private apartments to luxury hotels. While choosing where to stay in Barcelona it is important to keep several things in mind:
- staying close to Las Ramblas will save you lots of travelling time as it is so central
- booking in advance will provide you with the biggest range of options
- requesting rooms that face the internal courtyard will keep you away from street noise
Here are a few of the boutique hotels and apartments in Barcelona we recommend:
Rambla 102 apartments are located in the heart of the city centre, next to the famous La Boqueria market and Columbus monument. Renting a whole apartment not only allows you to experience Barcelona like a local, but also to have access to your own terrace, kitchen, and unique view of Barcelona. Each apartment’s capacity is 4 people, so you will have plenty of space for yourself and those traveling with you. Superb clients reviews and a great location make this place one of the top to check out before travelling to Barcelona.
Rambla 102 apartments website | Check prices and book for Rambla 102 apartments
Andante Hotel is a excellent option for those wishing to combine the cultural experience of the old town with the proximity to the beach. The property is particularly favoured by couples, but most rooms are also equipped for those travelling with children. The hotel is famous for its buffet breakfast with show cooking, a feature that will motivate you to start the day earlier.
Andante Hotel website | Check prices and book for Andante Hotel
My Address in Barcelona is the modernist apartment complex, featuring high ceilings, art deco balconies, and colourful stained-glass windows. The place is located in the city centre, really close to the Parc de Ciutadella, the favorite place for evening walks among city locals. This property is rated for the best value in Barcelona: an excellent combination of luxurious accommodation and reasonable price.
My Address in Barcelona website | Check prices and book for My address in Barcelona
No matter where you stay, Barcelona weekend will provide you with unforgettable memories and a wave of inspiration that will last long after your leave the Catalan capital. Rich culture and history, combined with modern events and cuisine, guarantee the extraordinary fusion of experiences you can totally pack into just two days!
Need a travel guide for Barcelona? We recommend the Top 10 Barcelona DK Eyewitness guide
Do you have any questions about Barcelona weekend tips? Ask us!
About the authors: Illia and Nastia are passionate about each other, traveling around the world and sharing their experiences at crazzzytravel.com, a blog where you can find plenty of budget travel tips as well as practical information about numerous destinations. They have visited 50 countries across 5 continents, and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Visit their website to learn more about traveling as a couple! You can also find them on Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest
Photo Credits: Photos by Crazzzytravel.com and Heatheronhertravels.com. Barcelona Tapas by Matt Stabile, hotel photos from hotel websites.