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