48 Hours In Barcelona

Above: The Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. Designed by architect Antonio Gaudi, it has been under construction since 1882
Above: The Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona. Designed by architect Antonio Gaudi, it has been under construction since 1882

If you can’t decide between city life and beach life, Barcelona, Spain is the perfect compromise. A short walk will take you from modern city life complete with the best shopping, architecture, and markets to beautiful ocean views, long beaches and some of the best seafood in the world. Most people can agree 48 hours in Barcelona isn’t nearly enough time, but it’s a good place to start. Do yourself a favour and make the most of every second

Where to stay

Thanks to Airbnb, you have a lot more options for accommodations than your typical Hiltons and Four Seasons. If you’re interested in living like a local but still staying close to the biggest tourist destinations, look for a place in El Raval. For a higher end experience, look to one of the many boutique hotels in the Gothic Quarter. Both neighbourhoods border La Rambla, a busy outdoor pedestrian mall that stretches 1.2km from Port Vell to Placa de Catalunya.

There are plenty of hotels, Airbnb options and hostels closer to Barceloneta beach as well including W Barcelona, which is about as close to the ocean as you can possibly get without being in it. Options for accommodations in Barcelona are plentiful considering there are around 75,000 hotel beds plus another 50,000 in legal tourist apartments. Barcelona is also one of the busiest tourist cities in all of Europe, so book early if you’re particular about where you sleep.

What to do

You can’t visit Barcelona without checking out a number of sites designed by famous architect Antoni Gaudi. All his work was influenced by his three passions in life: architecture, nature and religion and he is the best-known practitioner of Catalan Modernism. His works are spread all over the city but the most popular ones include Park Guell, La Padrera, Casa Batllo, and his magnum opus, the Sagrada Familia, which is still under construction.

You can’t go wrong spending some time at Barceloneta beach, walking up La Rambla or exploring the Gothic Quarter. Barcelona is also home to a number of museums including Museu Picasso for art enthusiasts, the FC Barcelona Museum for the football fans and the Museu de la Xocolata and Jamon Experience (a ham museum) for food lovers.

A great place for the best views is Montjuic Castle which you can reach by walking up winding paths, by bus or by cable car. At the top, you’ll get 360-degree views that include the ocean and the entire city. The walk back down is full of near limitless photo ops so take your time and enjoy the weather.

Where to eat

Barcelona is known for a few things food-wise and those things are ham (or jamon), seafood and tapas. The best places to get seafood and paella, a Spanish rice dish are usually near the beach. 7 Portes, at the south end of La Rambla, is famous for their paella Parellada which packs monkfish, mussels, squid, lobster, minced pork, botifarra sausage and rabbit all into one dish.

There are a few different styles of tapas and tons of places to try a variety of different options. The most common dishes are potatoes with spicy brava sauce, croquettes, olives, anchovies and bread topped with tomato and drizzled with olive oil. Avoid the tourist trap restaurants directly on La Rambla and venture into the bordering districts for quality taps for a lower price. One famous place that won’t disappoint is Els Quatre Gats in the Gothic Quarter. Dessert-wise, a churro is never a bad choice.

Barcelona, like any other European country, has plenty of local wines to try, but make it a goal to have at least one glass of Cava, a Spanish style of champagne and one glass of Vermouth (or Vermut).

Where to shop

Les Glories is the main shopping centre in Barcelona if you’re looking for well-known stores and brands. For souvenirs, you can’t go wrong on La Rambla and there are lots of antique flea markets that have everything from old photos and jewellery to antique typewriters, used books and art. If you’re looking for a unique gift for someone, these markets are where you’ll find it.

For food, don’t miss out on the La Boqueria market and smaller versions of the same concept in a few other locations around the city. Here you’ll find everything from fresh seafood and cured meats to vibrantly coloured fruits, vegetables and candies, baked goods and every cheese you could possibly want.

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick

Courtney Hardwick is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on AmongMen.com, 29secrets.com, therichest.com, and ELLECanada.com.  When she isn’t writing about relationships, and the best TV shows and books you should really already know about, she is working on her novel. She hopes to have it published by 2025. You can follow her on Twitter @Courtooo.

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