Discovering Barcelona: A Long Weekend Guide
Got a day or three to spend in Barcelona? Take a look at our guide to exploring the best of the city on your quick city break.
For first time visitors, Barcelona can seem rather overwhelming. There is so much to do and seemingly so little time. That said, Barcelona is considerably smaller and more manageable than other major cities and you can really pack a lot into a short period of time. And thanks to our expert advice here at Plum Guide about all things Barcelona, a long weekend in the city will have you never wanting to leave.
Let’s start with the obvious for your Barcelona long weekend: the Sagrada Familia. Designed by famed Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the large and still unfinished Roman Catholic Church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightfully so. Due to its rather nontraditional design, the church was actually not recognised by the Catholic Church until November 2010. After Gaudí’s unexpected death in 1926, construction plans temporarily halted, which is why certain design elements are visibly missing. As of now, the basilica is estimated to be complete by 2026. If that’s the case—assuming it doesn’t take longer—this means that the Sagrada Familia would have taken 10 times longer to build than the Great pyramids, 50 years more than the Great Wall of China and 123 years longer than the Taj Mahal. As impressive as the basilica’s facade is, make sure to view Gaudí work inside. Due to popularity, we highly suggest you pre-purchase your tickets. That, and opt for some sort of tour (in-person or audio) so you really know what you’re looking at. Worked up an appetite yet? We thought so. La Paradeta is a go-to for fresh seafood while serves up gourmet burgers that are melt-in-your-mouth good. For a vegetarian option, Arco Iris is your best bet.
From there, walk (or hop on the metro) to the Arc de Triomf and connecting Ciudadela Park. Dating back to the 19th century, Ciutadella Park was the earliest green space in the city. It spans 70 acres and while a popular tourist attraction, is big enough that you rarely feel overcrowded. Especially during the summer months, you’ll see plenty of street performers as you walk from the Arc de Triomf to the beautiful fountain featuring large golden hours drawn chariots and steps leading to the top. When the sun dips a little, take a stroll through Born until you reach the neighbouring Gothic quarter. Gothic dates back more than 2,000 years and many parts appear frozen in time. Cobbled streets, hidden alleys and pedestrian-only plazas give visitors a visual of what life was like for residents hundreds of years ago.
Next up is a visit to the Cathedral of Barcelona. Constructed from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, it is truly a work of art. Before going inside the cathedral, take a good look at the facade, most notably the gargoyles of animals—both real and imagined—built into the roof. The cathedral is dedicated to the co-patron saint of Barcelona, Eulalia of Barcelona. You can visit also visit a real Roman Temple (Temple d’August), tucked away on a narrow street behind the cathedral.
While Spain is a very Catholic country, the Gothic quarter has strong connections to the Jewish community as well. El Call, Barcelona’s old Jewish Quarter is considered the most beautiful, what with its super narrow streets and lively tapa culture. It’s also where the old synagogue is located, along with two of the best teahouses in all of Barcelona.
Need a stiff one? We feel you. Pop into Hotel Colon across the street from the Barcelona Cathedral and head to their small, two-level rooftop (open to non-guests). It’s easily one of our favourite views of Barcelona and probably the best view of the cathedral. Plus, the sangrias are top-notch. A couple of minutes walk away is Plaça Reial, which was one of Antonio Gaudi’s first projects in Barcelona. The plaza is lined with restaurants, cafes and a few bars including Pipa Club, which has a loungy, New York feel to it. Come here for a cocktail and stay for the free bowls of popcorn with a curry kick.
Rise and shine to another sunny day in your luxury Plum Guide home in Barcelona; seriously though, it’s almost always stupidly sunny here. If you’re eager to take a dip in the Med, head to Barceloneta first thing. This is one of the most crowded areas of Barcelona, especially during the summer months and at times can become a sensory overload.
Barceloneta is home to an interesting art scene and many sculptures are set along the promenade. The neighbourhood sure has come a long way from its 18th century fisherman village days. The W Hotel is one of the more notable buildings, featuring a transparent glass exterior that reflects the waves. Then there’s the Frank Gehry golden fish sculpture made of gold coloured stainless steel. Hungry yet? Grab a coffee or a quick bite at the very Instagrammable Brunch & Cake. Of course, for fresh seafood, Barceloneta is your oyster (see what we did there?).
After a well-deserved siesta at your Plum Guide Barcelona apartment (hey, you’re in Spain after all) make your way to The Ramblas. While there are a few different rambles throughout the city, this is the most frequented. Stretching from Plaça de Catalunya in Eixample to the port, you’ll find stalls ranging from flower stands to gelato shops along the tree-lined boulevard.
Along the Ramblas, closer to the Plaça de Catalunya side, is the beloved Boqueria market. The market sells everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to meats, seafood and cheese. Either stock up on groceries to bring back to your Plum home or grab a quick bite to tide you over until dinner…which in Spain, is around 10 pm. Unlike the narrow streets in the Gothic quarter, Eixample streets are considerably wider and laid out in a grid formation. It’s also where you’ll find two of Gaudí’s masterpieces: Casa Batlló and Casa Milà. Casa Batlló is a remodel of a previously built house, while Casa Milà is a modernist building and the last private residence Gaudí designed. With the day coming to an end, head to one of Eixample’s rooftops for a glass of bubbly as you toast the sunset. 1898 on the Ramblas (and in neighbouring Raval) is a posh option, but our personal pick is the rooftop at the Mandarin Oriental.
Celebrate your last full day of your Barcelona long weekend with a visit to Gaudí’s peaceful Park Güell. The park is located in La Salut, a neighbourhood in the charming Gracia district. Built from 1900 to 1914, the park you see today features gardens, colourful artwork and unique architectonic elements like stone structures, twisting rock pillars, the Gaudí dragon fountain, not to mention panoramic views of the city.
After exploring Gracia for a little while longer, consider heading back down to Born, which is quite the showstopper architecturally speaking. Take in the facade of the Palau de la Musica Catalana and Santa María del Mar. Visit one of Born’s museums during peak heat and cool off with some culture (literally). If you didn’t know, Pablo Picasso arrived at the Born neighbourhood at the age of 15; today, you can learn more about his work by visiting the Picasso Museum and El Born Cultural Centre. The European Museum of Modern Art is also in the area.
For your last night in Barcelona, take in the epic view from the Carmel Bunkers. Located at the top of Turó de la Rovira in the Carmel neighbourhood, the bunkers are a series of old, underground military bunkers built during the Spanish Civil War in 1937 to defend against attacks. Today, it’s a popular place to drink a beer (or three) and watch the sunset over the city. Not ready to end your night? You party animal, you. Go on a bar crawl through Born and see your city break out in style.