A two-day travel guide to Barcelona
It’s easy to see why Barcelona has so much appeal. Whether you’re admiring works of art and design, swimming in the warm Mediterranean or tasting delectable flavours on a tapas walk, this seaside city pulses both day and night. It gets under your skin in the best way imaginable. Here’s our two-day guide to making the most of this metro-beach destination.
The Sagrada Família Basilica – famous Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí’s Modernist masterpiece – is synonymous with Barcelona. Gaudí took over as architect of this monumental edifice in 1883 and worked on it until his death in 1926. A visit to this church is a must. Outside, the detailed stonework beggars belief, with intricate symbol-filled carvings, fantastical towers and turrets, and bright colours garnering attention.
Once inside, the masses of crowds are more manageable thanks to the vast interior. It is different to any other basilica you’re likely to have experienced: columns grow tree-like to support the ceiling, which is up to 75m high. Looking up, the columns appear almost anemone-like, as if you’re peering into an underwater world. Then there are the stained-glass windows – blue tones on the eastern side to ensure the morning sun is cool, while oranges and yellows flood the space with warm hues in the afternoon. Even if you’re not religious, the space is profoundly moving.
For exceptional city views, you can take a lift up one of the towers. (Do note, however, that children under six or those with vertigo or impaired mobility are not allowed, as you will need to climb downstairs after visiting the top.) To skip the long queue and ensure only a short waiting time for your entry slot, buy a ticket online at sagradafamilia.org.
Once you’ve taken in all the awe-inspiring architecture you can manage for the day, head to the beach to unwind. Barcelona boasts at least nine easily accessible beaches that are right next to one another, and there are many more if you venture further along the coast.
A dazzling starting point is Port Olímpic marina, with its 52m-long metallic sculpture ‘El Peix d’Or’ (The Golden Fish) designed by American architect Frank Gehry for the 1992 Summer Olympics. To the north lies Nova Icària Beach, a quieter stretch of sand that boasts loads of facilities such as ping-pong tables and volleyball courts, as well as a good selection of bars and restaurants.
If you head southwards, you’ll discover Somorrostro, a charming little bay that abuts Barceloneta, the most popular of the city’s beaches. And while it’s rather narrow, it’s a great place to people-watch. Here the sand is rougher and often pebbly as you enter the sea, but you can spend hours bobbing, splashing and swimming about in the azure Mediterranean water. For dinner, stop by a chiringuito and savour a cocktail and some seafood while you soak up the chilled vibes.
Exploring modern art
A hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus is a brilliant way to get to the Fundació Joan Miró museum of modern art, where you can easily while away a morning. Located on Montjuïc hill, it’s a heavenly spot dedicated to a comprehensive collection of work by Barcelona-born Joan Miró, showcasing art from his entire career and exploring key concepts of his evolution as an artist, including Surrealist pieces and fascinating three-dimensional triptych works.
Miró’s good friend, architect Josep Lluís Sert, designed the space in a rationalist style with Mediterranean features. The building is as fascinating as the artworks it displays. It features double-spaced rooms, quiet courtyards, wonderful natural light, and delightful gardens and terraces, which offer expansive vistas of Barcelona and the Montserrat mountains in the distance.
About 20 minutes away from the museum you’ll find La Rambla, the tree-lined pedestrian boulevard that cuts through the heart of the city centre. If you’re strolling down towards the sea, turn left at the Christopher Columbus monument to pass Port Vell waterfront harbour, and be sure to look out for Roy Lichtenstein’s sculpture ‘El Cap de Barcelona’ (The Head). You can hardly miss it as it stands over 15m tall. Also created for the 1992 Summer Olympics, this statue of a three-dimensional woman’s face is designed in Liechtenstein’s famous Pop Art technique with red Ben-Day dots. The inclusion of mosaics acts as a nod to Barcelona’s trademark use of ceramics.
When it comes to food, Spain’s tapas culture is a wonderful way of eating, whether it’s vermouth time (an actual time of day referring to when you drink the aperitif) or whether you’re enjoying these snack-sized dishes closer to midnight.
But choosing where to go and what to sample can be daunting, so why not opt for a tapas tour? Devour Barcelona Food Tours offers fun and informative trips for a perfect dinner excursion. The tapas and wine tour includes three venues: first is a traditional wine bar to savour tapas such as gooey cheese-and-ham croquettes and spicy patatas bravas, paired with small-batch vermouth. Next is the latest trendy tapas spot, with Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and white wine, served with seafood paella and earthy spinach fritters. The last stop is at a private tasting room for cold meats, cheeses and olives accompanied by red and fortified wines. The guide is a qualified foodie, brimming with knowledge and enthusiasm – and smaller groups make for a great dynamic, too.
Whether you have a weekend, a month, or just a few days, it’s possible to drink in the essence of this vibrant city and indulge in the good life, Catalan-style. Barcelona ticks all the boxes.
Discover our top travel tips on exploring Barcelona here.