48 hours in Barcelona

April 13, 2013

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Recently we spent 48 hours in Barcelona and discovered that you can see and do a lot in a weekend.

Living in London means that I do a lot of weekend trips.  An abundance of cheap airfares and London being a major transport hub facilitates this process.  In March, Liebling and I found dirt cheap tickets to Barcelona on British Airways (only $160 USD per person round trip) and leapt on the opportunity for a repeat visit to the city. You see, I spent six days in Barcelona on an extreme (and when I say extreme, I mean extreme) budget way back in 2006, so was interested in seeing how older, more financially-blessed Oneika would dig the city. And let’s face it: after trips to Madrid and Pamplona I love Spain.  Arriving late Friday evening and leaving Sunday evening, we were left with the task of re-discovering the highlights in a span of a weekend. I’ve outlined some of the things we got up to during our 48 hours in Barecelona – feel free to use this as a guide!

What we saw

La Sagrada Familia

Excuse the aggressive caps, BUT THIS IS A MUST for any trip to Barcelona (I wasn’t shouting at you, I promise).  When I went to Barcelona in 2006, I was too cheap/poor to enter this yet-unfinished church-turned-basilica; the regular price of admission is a whopping $18 USD. An iconic symbol of Barca, it’s one of the best known works of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, so on this visit I shelled out the cash so I could see it from the inside. I’ve never seen a church interior this grand.  It’s expensive, but pay extra the extra $5 USD to get the audio guide — it’s well worth it so you can get an idea of Gaudi’s intentions and architectural vision.

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Tip: As popular a tourist attraction as this is, the queues to purchase a ticket are long — sometimes hours long.  Avoid the wait by purchasing your ticket online or at the nearest La Caixa bank machine. 

 Park Guell

Yet another work of Gaudi, this park provides another forum to showcase his architecture.  The crowds mean that it’s not particularly relaxing but we did get really good pictures of the surroundings. Because the park is built atop a hill, the views of the city are killer. Best of all, this park is free!
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 La Boqueria

How I love this market so! Easy on the eyes and good for the stomach, this is the place to go for tasty treats and great photos.  This sprawling market is located right off La Rambla and fresh fruit, vegetables, and cuts of meat for sale (or just to gawk at, if you fancy).

Tip: Get yourself a fresh fruit juice here — there are tons of places to choose from. They are yummy, healthy, and, at $1.30 USD, cheap!

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What we did

 

Stroll La Rambla and the Gothic Quarter

One of the joys of travel for me is discovering the areas I find myself in on foot.  Barcelona is a very walkable city, so despite the mostly  gray skies over the weekend we enjoyed meandering about and people watching.  Starting from Placa de Catalunya, the city’s main central square, you can quickly access La Rambla, the bumping pedestrian mall, and the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona’s old town. Both areas are great for getting lost in. Fun and once again, free.

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Barceloneta Beach

Our 48 hours in Barcelona were blustery so I didn’t get to take a dip in the sea. However, a few brave (read: crazy) souls were surfing in the chilly waters .  This postcard perfect beach is still good for posing or a great site for a picnic lunch, no matter what the season.

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Buskers and Street Performers

Who doesn’t love street entertainment, especially when it’s free and, well… there? It may be because Barcelona is such a tourist haven that buskers and the like abound .  Despite the weather, all throughout the center jugglers and bands did their thang in the hopes of getting a little recognition or spare change.

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Where we ate

Cavamar in Barceloneta

Starved after our extensive city wanderings (in truth I was so hungry I was  grouchy), we ducked into this restaurant near the beach. Since I was convinced it was a tourist trap, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised — the food was pretty decent and not terribly expensive, only $45 USD for the two of us.  Considering we had starters, drinks, and two mains including the fish plate you see in the picture, I was impressed.  The service, however, left a lot to be desired.

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Tapas at El Pulpo

Tapas are a staple of Spanish cuisine, so we excitedly ducked into what appeared to be a very tasty and authentic tapas place near the Gothic Quarter on our last day.  While the restaurant was certainly authentic, we were disappointed by the food big time (and the slow service and surly waitress didn’t help matters either).  We don’t mind shelling out $50 or $60 USD for a good meal, but the $40 USD we spent for the small and mediocre tapa portions at this restaurant felt like a rip-off.  Regardless, be sure to have tapas if you find yourself in Barcelona… Just not here.

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Where we stayed

Hotel Primero Primera

Liebling and I were guests of the Hotel Primero Primera and it was a great place to rest our heads for two nights! A 10 minute metro ride + 5 minute brisk walk  from Placa de Catalunya, this very stylish hotel is just far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona’s main attractions without feeling like you’re missing out.  The hotel is in a residential, tree-lined neighbourhood that is decidedly more chill and mature than the noisy party-party accommodation located more centrally — perfect for us, a couple in our 30s(!) who are more interested in quietly enjoying each other’s company in a nice room after a long day of sightseeing. [I must caution, however, that if you're someone interested in bar-hopping in Barca's trendiest spots into the wee hours of the morning that this hotel probably isn't for you -- unless you're willing to spring for a cab to get you back].  One thing that struck us about this hotel was the size of the room. It was only classified as a medium-size room but felt as big as a football field.

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I’m minorly obsessive-compulsive about the bathrooms of the places I stay in, but the facilities here were lovely… So lovely that on our last morning I spent an hour in there surfing the internet.  Liebling was still in bed sleeping and I didn’t want my typing to disturb him.

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Like most of the nicer hotels in Barcelona, this hotel isn’t cheap — rooms are $200+ USD a night–but when most of the best things to do in a city are free we don’t mind splashing out on accommodation.  The thing that I like about this place is that you really get your money’s worth: the rooms are big, the wifi is free (hallelujah!) and works well, and there are complimentary snacks and drinks in the lobby for those late night cravings. Even the non-alcoholic mini bar is free and restocked on request; they don’t skimp here. As I was writing this blog post, Liebling interrupted to tell me that I must absolutely let you all know that he loved the breakfast (which admittedly was amazing). He’s usually quite difficult to impress so his enthusiasm is worth noting.
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What we missed out on but what you should see

Don’t get me wrong, 48 hours in Barcelona is definitely enough time to see all the highlights, but since we had both already been before there were things we didn’t see this time around.  Go take a look-see at the Olympic Stadium and old fortifications atop the hill of Montjuic (when I went to Barca in 2006 I took the cable car there).  While in the area, you should also make it a point to check out the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, which has a light and music performance every evening at 30 minute intervals.

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 Have you ever been to Barcelona or interested in going? Anything I forgot to add?

 

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Monique April 13, 2013 at 8:38 am

I love Barcelona. I would add going toPetritxol for churros and chocolate and a segway tour. I know it sounds kinda cheesy, but it was so much fun! http://www.motravels.com/2012/02/gliding-around-barcelona-on-segway.html
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Juliana April 13, 2013 at 9:02 am

I’ve never been to Barcelona, but now I really want to go!
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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Another destination to add to your list, then. ;-)

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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 4:36 pm

Ooh! Thanks for the recommendation! We didn’t end up having churros at all since we ate so much at breakfast and lunch.

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Cat of Sunshine and Siestas April 13, 2013 at 9:49 am

Having lived in three different cities in Spain, Barcelona has always been a letdown for me – in the four times I’ve been! I wrote my manifesto after a trip with my family over the holidays, and it was one of my most controversial. I’m glad that you’ve been to other places in Spain, though. There’s so much to see in the country and to understand Spain, you need to see so many different regions.
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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Thanks for your comment! I have always been lukewarm about Barcelona (I mentioned in another post that I prefer Madrid by far), but upon visiting it again I have to concede that it’s a nice city. I think that I prefer the layout and grandeur of Madrid far more though.

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Canedolia April 13, 2013 at 10:21 am

We’ve just been to Seville and Granada (I think you would love both those places too!) and I’m feeling the need to get back to Spain sometime soon. It’s good to know that you can see the highlights of Barcelona in a,weekend – I’m tempted!
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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I’ve been to Seville twice actually, but the last time was in 2006. I saw a flamenco show while there and really enjoyed it. Going to Granada in 10 days though, so excited!

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Jay @ From There To Here April 13, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Granada was my favourite Spanish city — I can’t help but be wooed by the Moorish influences!
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Matthew Hirtes April 13, 2013 at 10:24 am

I easily prefer Barcelona to Madrid, but there are cities I’d rank above the Catalan capital. The likes of Bilbao and Seville, for a start.
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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Funnily enough, I prefer Madrid to Barcelona :-). I’ve been to Seville twice, but not sure whether I like it more than Barcelona. Never been to Bilbao, but I’m hoping to go there and to San Sebastian as I’ve heard that the Basque region is super interesting.

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TammyOnTheMove April 13, 2013 at 11:31 am

I went to Barcelona about 15 years ago and it was much much cheaper then from the looks of it. Never the less I think the admission fees are worth it though. Loved the Gaudi park for example.
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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm

Tammy, I was definitely surprised at how expensive it was as well! I always think of Spain as being cheap but in Barcelona that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Then again, since we were there such a short time, we were pretty much limited to the tourist areas, which makes a big difference. I’m off to southern Spain in about 10 days so will report back on the prices!

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Andi April 13, 2013 at 6:42 pm

Barcelona is easily one of my most favorite places! Sadly the couple times I’ve been there, I never made it to the beach. Great shots!!!
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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Thanks lady! When will you be back in Europe? Emily and Kyle are coming in May!

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Monica April 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Wow, looks like you managed to do a lot in 48 hours! I really need to start making the most out of these cheap flights to European cities. There are just so many places to go!

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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 9:58 pm

You really should! Last year I flew to Madrid for 60 quid round trip!

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random00b April 13, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Oh, Oneika, your pictures (Liebling’s pictures?) are so stunning, it’s almost like I’m back in Barcelona myself! I visited last November (Thanksgiving week in the US) and agree with you that everyone must see Segrada Familia before they die. I hope to live long enough to see it completed.

Also recommend the Picasso Walking Tour (which includes entry to Picasso Museum) offered by Barcelona Tourism…and I’m someone who doesn’t like art!

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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 10:00 pm

Thanks!! Nearly all of them were taken by me, on my cam, with a few notable exceptions. :-) Liebling travels with a wide-angle lens and I travel with a portrait and kit lens so between the two of us we get some good shots! Thanks for the suggestion on the walking tour! I went to the PIcasso Museum in 2006 but didn’t go back on this visit.

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Jay @ From There To Here April 13, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Great post Oneika!

We did Barcelona last year and loved it – I thought your tips were spot on! A friend of mine was commenting that she visited Sagrada Familia 10 years ago and was amazed at our photos and the progress that had been made. I think it’s certainly something to go back and see when it’s completed.

(We also preferred to stay a little ways a way from the bustle of the city where we could retreat after a long day. Plus, I’m a sucker for a nice hotel.)
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Oneika April 13, 2013 at 10:02 pm

Thanks Jay! I can’t even think of what the Sagrada Familia would look like without all the scaffolding! As for the hotel, more and more I prefer the quiet and relaxed places, must be a sign of age. ;-)

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Carminelitta April 14, 2013 at 9:01 pm

I look forward to my upcoming trip with the Tribe this summer even more now! I’m sure I’ll love Barcelona as much as you do, but I definitely won’t take such nice pictures :)
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This Battered Suitcase April 15, 2013 at 7:26 am

I loved Barcelona, too! I’m so excited to live in London and be able to take quick trips like this one…
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christine April 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

I love Barcelona and I want to go back again! I took a daytrip to Monserrat and it was gorgeous!
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Erika April 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

You know, Barcelona was my first big vacation-type-trip that I had “planned” on my own, back in 2007. I absolutely had a DREADFUL time and left kind of hating Spain. In the 6(!) years that have passed, however, I now see that it was more that I was poor and just planned HORRIBLY. I learned a lot from that trip and my travels have gotten so much better since then.

Seeing your pictures reminds me of that time. We got to see a lot of the places you highlighted on this post and much, much more by foot (since we had no money and spent all of our time searching for hostels). But your return there makes me curious… perhaps venturing back to Spain with more money and an action plan would be a lot of fun. :)

That hotel looks nice! Sucks about the food, though! Boo!
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Chanelle April 16, 2013 at 2:29 am

Barcelona is definitely on the hit list! I went to Spain for the first time last year visiting Madrid and loved it. But I’ve always been curious about Barcelona for its history and crazy buildings.
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lily April 16, 2013 at 4:27 am

Great post Oneika! I love to read about and see what you ate, where you went, etc…

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Kezia April 16, 2013 at 8:33 pm

I just now started reading, I’m a new reader i Ilike your blog, it’s inspiring and entertaining…

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Deidre April 16, 2013 at 9:21 pm

Your pictures are absolutely GORGEOUS. I’ve never been to Spain at all – but I’d love to go.
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Simon Harris April 17, 2013 at 11:22 am

I think you’ve nailed Oneika … I’ve been living in Barcelona for 25 years so I tend to get bogged down by detail. I found these 48-hour highlights extremely refreshing!
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Oneika April 22, 2013 at 11:47 pm

Thanks, Simon! I’m thinking of doing something similar with a few other destinations on the blog!

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Tisha April 24, 2013 at 12:06 pm

Your pictures are so lovely and that hotel is fabulous! Right up my alley! LOL

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Ella Kaye May 13, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I am traveling to Barcelona, and Milan, in a couple of weeks. I have read a lot about about petty theft and pick pocketing while doing research. Did you experience any issues during your 48 hours? Do you have any BCN specific advice to prevent crimes. I am currently living in Sweden, which has made me a bit careless, so I am trying to prepare for Spain.
Thank you!

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Oneika May 14, 2013 at 1:57 pm

Honestly I didn’t have any issues whatsoever, though I have heard that pickpocketing is a real issue. I can only advise you to remain vigilant, keep your camera and valuables close, and never leave your belongings unattended!

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Joe @ Cosmic Smudge May 14, 2013 at 5:38 pm

Thanks for the terrific report. Barcelona is actually at the top of our list for trips in the fall — mostly because I just finished the trilogy of books by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, so I’ve got Barcelona on the brain!
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Oneika May 15, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Nice! Never heard of that author!

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Pamilla May 16, 2013 at 10:55 am

I haven’t been to Barcelona, not yet. But I definitely keep hearing its a must to visit! Oh there too many beautiful places and things to see in the world. It’s makes you kind if crazy trying to figure where to go next. Thank you for the beautiful pictures and recommendations!

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James May 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

You managed to do a lot in the small amount of time you were here, but missed lots and lots of great places. Gaudi’s Palau Guell for one, a two minute walk from Las Ramblas is the Guell family Palace, Recently refurbished it features a lot of what you would expect from Gaudi. Of course not forgetting Guadi’s other two buildings, located in Psg de Gracia, La Pedrera and Casa Batllo.

Sorry to hear about your dining experiences but there are lots of great places to eat just not around the major tourist areas, you need to go a little further afield.

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Zara Chiron August 20, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I have been to Barcelona a couple of times my stays are often overnight or whole days.
My experience with the restaurant service was only positive. Too bad that you came across the surly types. One waitress was so kind and even gave me a free cup of tea and a biscuit because I was waiting for a friend to arrive after my meal. Another waiter helped me with my Spanish. I think as far as tapas go, I often take advice from locals as they know where to get great tapas at a good price.
By the way, the images of the food are making me hungry – and I just had lunch!!!!!! :)
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Chanel @ La Viajera Morena September 17, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Great post Oneika!
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Laura January 24, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Really good post ! The food looks soooo delicious. I will be in Barcelona in June, We’re also a couple in our 30′s but we’ve booked a really nice appartement with Barcelona point. Seems a good website.
Can’t wait to eat tapas !

Hasta luego

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Pam February 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Hi Oneika,
We travel quite a bit around Spain and are always surprised by how much we see in two days. We’re just back from a weekend in Barcelona and – like you – managed quite a bit. If you are ever back in Barcelona – and we can see you are a bit of a Gaudi fan – you should visit Colonia Guell. You can see how we squeezed it into our short trip here… http://www.totallyspaintravel.com/2014/02/14/barcelona-delivers-differently-what-you-see-and-do-in-less-than-48-hours/
Happy travelling :)
Pam

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Jeff B May 3, 2014 at 8:02 pm

The Parque Guell is one of my all-time favorite spots to be at sunset. Most often an acoustic guitarist will plug in his/her guitar at the top and play calming, romantic music while the people and languages from all over the globe hum. Kids playing. Grandparents slowly walking and smiling. Young couples in love. And the backdrop of Barcelona. It is beautiful global/multinational.
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