Barcelona is the vibrant capital city of Spain’s Catalonia region. Set on the Mediterranean coast of Spain Barcelona has it all, great weather, beaches, shopping, plenty of culture, UNESCO listed architectural works of Antoni Gaudí and great food. If this is what you look for when travelling then a weekend in Barcelona is for you.
Here’s our guide on what you should not miss when planning a city break in Barcelona.
As ever when travelling for just a weekend you are likely to land in Barcelona late in the afternoon. By the time you have checked into your hotel and are ready to head out you may even just have the evening left on your first day. Barcelona has plenty to offer in the evenings though so it’s not really a lost day arriving late.
To get your first taste of Barcelona we recommend you head to La Rambla. This is a huge tree-lined pedestrian street which is almost a mile long cutting through downtown Barcelona. Some may advise to avoid La Rambla, it’s touristy, it’s a rip off etc. etc. However tourists head to La Rambla for a reason – the atmosphere is fantastic here. Yes it can be crowded and yes if you don’t watch your belongings you could fall foul of pick pockets BUT you should still walk La Rambla.
On this huge street you will find lots of bars and restaurants, not the cheapest in the city but there’s some value you get in sitting out on La Rambla people watching – and there are plenty of people to watch. There are a huge number of street entertainers on La Rambla as well as locals enjoying themselves, particularly in the evening. So budget for a couple of over priced drinks at least on your first evening and maybe a quick bite to eat.
Your main day of your weekend in Barcelona! To get your bearings quickly we can recommend the hop on hop off bus in Barcelona. We don’t often use the hop of hop off buses as they can be expensive but in some cities they are worth the cost. In Barcelona the cost of the hop on hop off bus is around £20 and a single journey metro ticket is about £2. The route covered by the hop on hop off bus covers a huge area and there’s likely a stop near your hotel or AirBnB so you can feasibly use the bus as your transport for the entire day.
For a full day in Barcelona we recommend focusing on the UNESCO world heritage listed sites of the works of Antoni Gaudí. There are many throughout Barcelona and they are varied so there should be something to interest everyone in your travel group.
La Sagrada Familia
Arguably the biggest attraction in Barcelona is La Sagrada Familia. Every time I’ve visited Barcelona I like to go and see La Sagrada Familia, it’s different every time as it’s still being built! La Sagrada Familia is a minor catholic basilica designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Antoni Gaudí died well before his masterpiece was finished but it had been started. Building began in 1882 and Gaudí died in 1926. It wasn’t until 2010 that the basilica was finally close enough to being finished that it could be consecrated and religious services could start taking place.
There are various tours of La Sagrada Familia which can be booked in advance from the official website. As it is one of the most popular attractions in Barcelona we would recommend booking your tour ticket in advance and also plan to head there in the morning to have a better chance of it being quieter for you to walk around at your own pace.
The tour we would recommend is the Sagrada Familia with Towers tour which includes an audio guide as well as access to the towers at a cost of about £30. Heading up the towers gives you a spectacular view of the city as well as a close up view of some of Gaudís intricate architectural details which make up this spectacular basilica. For the additional £5 over the cost of the standard audio guide tour we think it’s well worth the price.
Expect to spend at least an hour at La Sagrada Familia, more likely the best part of two hours will be spent here checking out the interior, the towers and the exterior of the basilica.
Another famous site in Barcelona and also designed by Antoni Gaudí is Parc Güell. This is a place to explore but also relax. Consider picking up some food for a picnic to take with you to the park. You will find plenty of places to sit back and relax and you will want to spend a couple of hours here and not only because it costs around £10 to get in.
Parc Güell is unlike any other park we’ve visited, it’s bright and vibrant and seems well respected by locals and visitors a like. It could be because of the paid entry but we didn’t see any rubbish lying around or any vandalism. The mosaic art work is spectacular and there is plenty of it. So head up to Parc Güell on a sunny afternoon and enjoy sitting out in this one of a kind park.
Passeig de Gràcia
Spend some time wandering Passeig de Gràcia where two more works of Antoni Gaudí can be seen. Passeig de Gràcia is a major shopping boulevard in a more business-centred area of the city. This will give you a different feel of Barcelona than La Rambla.
Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, was built between 1906 and 1912, the last private residence designed by Antoni Gaudí. It is situated on Passeig de Gràcia and is easy to spot. The inspiration for this building is supposed to be a mountain.
It’s possible to tour inside of Casa Milà and tickets can be bought on the offical website.
Casa Batlló was originally built in 1877 by Emilio Sala Cortés who taught Gaudí. When new owners bought the building the plan was to demolish it. Antoni Gaudí was appointed as architect and given full creative freedom and decided not to demolish the building. Under the instruction of Antoni Gaudí the building was reformed between 1904 and 1906.
You can book a tour to see inside of Casa Batlló. Tickets can be bought in advance on the offical website.
This is likely to be your last day of your weekend in Barcelona. Make sure to book the latest flight possible back from Barcelona so you can make the most out of this last day.
At the start of this post we mentioned beaches, and Barcelona does have beautiful beaches. Playa de Bogatell is a family friendly beach and will also be popular for anyone who loves getting involved in beach sports. It’s one of the quieter beaches in Barcelona and popular with locals.
If you are planning on visiting the beach we recommend you get there early and get your spot, particularly when travelling during the summer. The bonus of visiting a city beach is that you’re never far away from a good cafe to grab some refreshments. You won’t have to travel far from the beach all day if you don’t want to – but don’t miss your flight!
We hope you find this guide for a weekend in Barcelona useful. Let us know what your favourite sights are in Barcelona in the comments!