Travel Guide: A Weekend in Barcelona
Barcelona! Such a unique European city – lively, artistic, vibrant. There are some old, historic corners and some modern, high-rise blocks. And there is LOTS of amazing food.
Okay, pause for one second. Go pull up Ed Sheeran’s song Barcelona to play on repeat while we take a little tour of this vibrant city.
Done? Let’s dive in!
Ben and I spent about four days in Barcelona this May and it was just enough time to scratch the surface. We squeezed in a visit to La Sagrada Familigia, dinner on the Mediterranean, a FC Barcelona game, an audio walking tour of the city, lots of paella, and daily siestas at our AirBnb (a sacred activity when you’re 25 weeks pregnant).
Barcelona was a much larger city than I anticipated. Many of the sites and restaurants are spread out throughout the city and it required a lot of metro trips and miles of walking to cover it all. I tend to be most drawn to the small, quaint European cities where everything is within happy walking distance, metro is optional, and crowds can be avoided. So Barcelona with it’s jam-packed buses and crowded beaches was stretching for me.
But at the same time Barcelona has some real magic. Definitely plan a visit to La Sagrada Familiga – absolutely worth it! Visit a few fun restaurants and coffee shops – a little forethought on where to eat will keep you out of the tourist-trap restaurants and introduce you to the unique, quality dishes of Spain.
We’re not huge on paid, group tours, but we do like to learn a little bit about the history and culture of each city we visit. So we like to download Rick Steve’s podcast walking tour of the city and spend our first morning getting an overview of the city and main sites.
And without further ado, here is a list of some of our favorite spots to visit!
Brunch & Cake by the Sea
Located in a high-tourist area and busy with more tourists than locals…but for good reason. Delicious, colorful, fresh brunch food just blocks from the beach.
Great place to try some authentic, delicious paella! I recommend staying away from the “roasted vegetable” appetizer though – I wasn’t expecting soft, roasted, chilled vegetables!
Such a fun restaurant right on the beach. Go!
A little off the beaten path, but super fun, casual environment with delicious pizza
Okay, word of warning: this place is not for the faint of heart. This sandwich shop packs people in like sardines. But they have cheap sandwiches stuffed with quality meats and a fun sparkling wine. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, unique experience – just be willing to stand and eat shoulder-to-shoulder with others!
We were told it wasn’t worth buying the ticket for this park, but rather to just walk around the free area. Turns out that most of the iconic Gaudi buildings and architecture can only be seen very well from the ticketed area. We thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful gardens and paths throughout the Park, but if you can spare the ticket price, I’d recommend going for it!
You will definitely want a metro pass (which can also be used on buses). We ended up going with the 10-trip pass (technically called the T10 Zone 1 Pass) instead of the Hola BCN 4-day pass. The T10 pass is about $11 per person and can even be shared. We ended up using three 10-trip passes between the two of us – about $33 total. The Hola BCN gives you unlimited trips for the length of time purchased, but it can’t be shared and for the 4-day pass it would have been about $32 per person – $64 total. If keeping track of your trips is stressful and you want to feel free to ride the metro or bus to your heart’s content, the Hola BCN pass could be a great fit! Otherwise, save that cash for some gelato and opt for the 10-trip pass. The Hola BCN pass can be purchased online in advance or at the metro station, but the 10-trip pass can only be purchased in the station at their simple, easy-to-navigate kiosks.
If you’re planning to take the train to or from another city in Spain, I recommend reading this guide all about purchasing train tickets! It helps explain which sites are best to purchase from and what various ticket types mean. Just a word of warning that the earlier you can purchase, the better. We found some great ticket prices over a month before our trip, but I second-guessed and thought maybe they would drop once we got closer. False! The prices only rose and we had to suck it up and pay the higher price at that point. Bummer.
Have you been to Barcelona? Tell me your favorite places or impressions of the city!