If I had to pick one word to describe Barcelona, it would be vibrant. Everything from the fresh food, to the energetic people, and the colorful architecture will send you into sensory overload. It’s no surprise that Barcelona is such a popular European weekend destination. While 48 hours might not sound like a lot, I managed to squeeze in quite a bit this past summer without becoming completely overwhelmed. After all, you need to leave yourself wanting more! Any excuse to return, right? Here are my top picks for spending an unforgettable weekend exploring the captivating city of Barcelona…. Enjoy!
#1 Explore Park Güell and the Gaudí House Museum
It’s impossible to spend more than an hour walking around Barcelona without noticing Antoni Gaudí’s architectural influence. For about 12 euros (7 for the park, 5.50 for the house), you can dive right into the world of Gaudí by exploring Park Güell which he designed in the early 20th century. Here you’ll find gorgeous mosaic work on the terraces, ceilings, rooftops, and even on a famous salamander that tourists just love posing with! His house, which he lived in for 20 years, is located within the park which you can walk through and admire some incredible pieces of furniture. But in my opinion, the best part about Güell Park are the views of Barcleona! I’d highly recommend purchasing tickets ahead of time online and going as early as you can to beat the crowds. Once you’re inside, you can stay as long as you want.
#2 Eat traditional paella!
Although Valencia is the official “birthplace” of paella, don’t skip out on trying this traditional Spanish dish while you’re in Barcelona. There are so many tourist trap restaurants throughout the city with pushy waiters thrusting menus in your faces as you walk by, hoping you’ll stop in and order their bright yellow, flavorless paella. Luckily, we met a friendly local who suggested Restaurante Siete Puertas for some of the best seafood paella in the city. If you’re not a fan of seafood, they have a few other options for paella so don’t worry! This restaurant has been around for 175 years and famous names such as Orson Welles, Federico García Lorca and Picasso have visited its dining rooms. Everything from the service, to the ambience, and of course, the food, are impeccable and surprisingly reasonable! Their paella dishes range from about 18-22 euros but are meant to be shared between 2-3 people. Of course I was too excited to eat the paella that I forgot to snap a photo but there will be plenty of food pictures coming up so don’t you worry!
#3 Ride the Telefèric de Montjuïc Cable Car
For about 11 euros (roundtrip ticket), you can hop on a cable car that climbs up to Montjuïc Castle while overlooking Barcelona. I’m a sucker for a good panoramic view and I was not disappointed with the absolutely breathtaking views from the Telefèric de Montjuïc cable cars! The ride is only a few minutes up to the castle but that’s plenty of time to snap a few photos. The views only get better when you’ve reached the top. I didn’t have time to visit the castle but for those interested, it’s an old military fortress dating back to 1640. Admission is 5 euros, less for students and seniors, and free on Sunday’s after 3 PM!
#4 Sign up for a Spanish cooking class!
I’ll be honest, I’m a pretty terrible cook. However, after thoroughly enjoying my first ever cooking class in London last year, I decided to step out of my comfort zone once again. After a quick Google search, I found Barcelona Cooking, read their wonderful reviews, and before I knew it, I was signed up for a four hour class where I would help prepare a four course meal!
The moment we arrived, Chef Javier welcomed us in with wine, an apron, and a wonderful introduction into what we’d be making that evening. Barcelona Cooking frequently updates their menu to include local and seasonal ingredients. On the menu that night was a starter soup of strawberry gazpacho, tortilla (Spanish style – similar to an omelette!), classic seafood paella, and crema Catalan for dessert. Our small group of four worked together to create each course and, thankfully, Chef Javier was there to guide us… and keep the wine flowing! I learned so much that evening about Spanish food and really enjoyed the hands-on experience in a fun, social setting. Their Spanish Cooking Class is 65 euros and offered any weeknight starting at 6 PM. I’d highly recommend this class to anyone interested in learning about Spanish food and culture – novice and accomplished cooks are welcome! If I can do it, so can you!
#1 La Sagrada Familia
If there’s one attraction you must see in Barcelona, it would be La Sagrada Familia. This incredibly unique Catholic Church is one of Gaudí’s most famous works which he began working on in 1883, and it’s still not completed! It’s safe to say that Gaudí’s vision for this church was ambitious and beyond what most people could ever imagine. The combination of Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau architectural style, along with Gaudí’s wonderful imagination, creates one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen. Stepping inside, with my audio guide in hand, I almost felt like I had entered into a different world. That is the only way I can accurately describe what it felt like to me – otherworldly. Pictures will never, ever do it justice.
The expected completion date is 2026, the centenary of Gaudí’s death. Tickets start at 15 euros, but I’d highly recommend paying more for a tour guide, or at least an audio guide. I don’t know if you’re sensing a pattern by now, but please do yourself a favor and book ahead online! It will save you a lot of time as the lines tend to grow very long throughout the day.
#2 Take a food tour!
If you’ve read my blog before, I’m sure it’s no surprise that I’m recommending a food tour. I try to take one whenever I’m exploring a new city, as I feel like it’s one of the best ways to really get to know a place. Food tours allow you to see a city through a local’s eyes and our Tapas Walking Tour with Barcelona Cooking certainly did just that. They were kind enough to offer us this tour, along with their cooking class, and my stomach was very grateful. In a little under four hours, we explored the Gothic District and visited 4 sit down tapas restaurants, as well as a few artisan food shops for some delicious samples.
You will not leave hungry by the end of the night… or 100% sober. Wine was served at every restaurant and we ended the night with a glass of champagne! Throughout the whole night, we must have had about 10-12 tapas dishes from a variety of unique, local restaurants that I never would’ve found on my own. At 80 euros, I realize this is quite an expensive evening. I’d recommend this to anyone who’s visiting Barcelona for the first time and is an enthusiastic foodie and history buff! If you don’t enjoy wine, then you might feel as if you’re not getting your money’s worth so keep that in mind. All in all, it was a memorable experience and I walked away knowing so much more about the city and where to eat on my next visit!
I hope this guide is helpful to anyone looking to visit Barcelona for a weekend. 48 hours is definitely not enough time in this beautiful city but you can still accomplish a lot! I’m already looking forward to returning in May. Have any of you visited Barcelona before? I’d love to know in the comments below.
*Note: I did receive a complimentary cooking class and tapas tour with Barcelona Cooking. However, opinions are entirely my own. I would only ever recommend something that I actually enjoyed and support!