I have visited Barcelona once before but only as a day trip a fair few years ago so I’ve been desperate to go back and properly explore ever since. Barcelona has a little bit of everything which is why it appealed to me so much, the bustling city atmosphere, the sandy beaches and the grid-like streets concealing the most spectacular architecture. This city is perfect for a long weekend break, it’s not so big that it’s overwhelming while still being full of things to keep you busy throughout your trip.
Getting there: I flew with trusty EasyJet from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Barcelona El Prat airport. My sister was coming from Scotland and her flights with Ryanair and Vueling came to a minuscule total of around £30 overall. It was a little tricky to sort flights as we wanted to find ones which would let us leave and arrive at similar times despite us flying from different places, but good old Skyscanner helped us out as always.
You can easily take a shuttle bus from the airport into the city centre, which we did on the way back for I think 6€ each, but since we arrived late and tired we decided to take a taxi. This was quick, easy and only set us back around 30€ between us.
Getting around: We walked pretty much everywhere during our weekend in Barcelona, mostly because there is so much to see. We constantly stumbled across sweet little shops and cafes which we wouldn’t have done if we had used public transport. Luckily, our trip was in late April so the weather was lovely the majority of the time.
We did use the subway once to go to Parc Güell which is a little further out of the city and it was very simple, you can buy tickets at automated machines for a couple of euros each.
You’ve probably guessed if you’ve read any of my other travel guides, we stayed in an Airbnb.
We stayed in this Airbnb and I can’t recommend it enough, the location and value for money were insane. We were right in the centre of the gothic quarter, an area I would definitely recommend staying in if you’re only in Barcelona for a few days and want to make the most of it.
This is the first time I have ever stayed somewhere the host was currently living and it was far less awkward than you might imagine. Our room was in a separate part of the house so we only saw the owner once or twice in passing, we were in the apartment so little anyway that it didn’t matter.
Things to do
Beach: Being the Scottish people that we are, our first morning in Barcelona we headed straight for the beach. We were most definitely those tourists wearing shorts while the locals were still wearing coats. I am a massive beach fan so we were there more than once. There are multiple bars, stalls and restaurants along the seafront so it’s fun to get yourself a couple of nibbles or a drink and sit in the sun on the sand.
Parc de la Ciutadella: You can’t go wrong with a good park, and this one is a nice little green haven in the centre of the city. There’s a beautiful fountain and grassy areas to sit on, although what I would highly recommend doing is renting a rowing boat on the small lake. It was only 6€ for 30 minutes for the two of us and made for a lot of laughs as we collided with unsuspecting innocents.
Las Ramblas: Las Ramblas is probably the main street in Barcelona. This is where you’ll find multiple stalls, street performers and restaurants. The atmosphere is fantastic, although be sure to watch your bags in the crowds as it has a reputation for being theft central. We lost count of the number of times we were on Las Ramblas, enjoying tapas and cocktails there as well as exploring the main shopping area which is just to the east of the street.
Aquarium: We hadn’t planned on going to the aquarium, but it had great reviews and we were looking for somewhere to take refuge from a windy spell. It was exactly what you’d expect from an aquarium, tanks with fish and other sea creatures in them, along with some rogue penguins. I would recommend this if you’re into sea-life which my sister very much is, maybe avoid going at weekends though as it was hoaching with screaming kids.
Parc Güell: We had a little issue upon arriving at Parc Güell, that being we couldn’t actually get in. Book your tickets before you go because, as we brutally found out, they only let a certain number of people in per day. You can still walk around the edges of the park for free, which is also beautiful, and from some of the higher viewing points you can peek in. That classic tiled balcony where everyone takes their Instagram photos was under renovation when we were there so it’s maybe better that we didn’t spend the money to see it.
Sagrada Familia: If you are visiting Barcelona you obviously have to see the Sagrada Familia and you don’t need me to tell you that. Arguably Gaudí’s most spectacular work, it’s a little walk from the city centre but undoubtedly worth it. We didn’t go inside as the queue was long as we still had a couple of things to fit in that day, but I definitely will next time I’m there. I can’t imagine how stunning it will be when it’s finished if it’s already amazing now.
Gaudí’s Architecture: Speaking of Gaudí, you can spot his architecture all around Barcelona, whether it came from him himself or is simply inspired. One of our favourites was the Casa Batlló which is covered in millions of multicoloured tiles, situated just beyond the top of Las Ramblas.
Food and drink
Oh wow did we eat well on this holiday. There really is something for everyone, and with the vast range of tapas dishes and street-side stalls you’re bound to find something you love.
Brunch and cake: I saw this cafe all over Instagram and the blogosphere before going to Barcelona so I decided we had to try it out. We went on morning one for brunch and had to queue but it was worth the wait. It’s one of those places where everyone can’t help but take photos of the gorgeous plates of healthy food, and I wish I could have tried almost everything on the menu. My sister had a black peanut butter latte and you NEED to try it out.
Sangria: A whole lot of sangria was consumed throughout the weekend. It’s just the perfect drink, fruity and sweet but still refreshing. You can get different types, red, white and cava, and you can bet we tried all three. It’s far better value for money to get a large jug to share as opposed to individual glasses so why the hell not.
La Boqueria: This is a huge food market on Las Ramblas. Even if you’re not hungry it’s worth going for a look around the hustle and bustle. They sell everything from fruit and veg to meat to tapas to fresh fruit juices in ever colour imaginable. We weren’t too hungry when we went so we opted for some little cones of cheese and breadsticks to munch on as we explored.
Tapas: I think our love of tapas was subconsciously the main reason why we chose to go to Barcelona, it had nothing to do with culture. No one does tapas quite like the Spanish and because Barcelona is such a big city there’s such great variety. My sister is vegetarian so it was a little trickier to find places off the bat, but most had at least a couple of options which suited her. Our favourite was by far patatas bravas which is a little different at each place as everyone puts their own twist on it.
L’Orwell: L’Orwell was a hidden gem of a tapas bar right around the corner from our apartment. We had spent all day indulging on sweet treats here and there so were looking for something lighter. This place was perfect and had loads of interesting tapas dishes on offer that we hadn’t seen before. After browsing the menu for ages we went for a goats cheese flavoured hummus with tortillas and, of course, patatas bravas which ended up being the best variation we had on the trip.
Demasié: We walked past this bakery one day and immediately vowed that we would buy breakfast there the next. They serve various cakes and cookies but what really drew us in were the trays of huge cinnamon buns in the window. Flavors ranged from cinnamon and orange to white chocolate and nutella. The caramel one was to die for. My top tip would be to go in the morning so you get to enjoy them warm and straight out of the oven.
Cookona: Do not make the mistake my sister made and think you can take two scoops of cookie dough. You can’t. This place sells cookies in all their glorious forms, cookie pizzas, half baked cookies with gooey middles and, their speciality, cookie dough. It’s good, but incredibly sweet, so much so that we skipped the sugar rush and immediately crashed. Definitely go with an empty stomach and the acceptance that you might have to take some home for later.
Les Dues Sicilies: On our way to the Sagrada Familia we bought huge slices of pizza for breakfast and regretted nothing. They were 2€ each from this tiny store we just happened to stumble across and they were exactly what we needed. We weren’t expecting much but were blown away by both the quality and size of what we got for our money.
If this blog, with its lengthy descriptions of delicious food and stunning sights, doesn’t make you want to visit Barcelona then I don’t know what will. We honestly had an amazing trip and I would jump at the chance to go back even though it has been less than a week since I left.
Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions at all or if you’re looking for any more travel tips, I’d be more than happy to help!
Best wishes from Paris x