48 Hours in Barcelona
The ultra-cool capital of Catalonia is a perennial favourite for short breaks – and with good reason. Just two hours’ flying time from the UK, Barcelona packs in beaches, art, nightlife and culture, not to mention endless tapas, from the heights of Mount Tibidabo down to the seafront district of Barceloneta.
Here’s how we’d spend a 2-day break in Barcelona.
Barcelona-El Prat Airport has several links directly to the city centre. The Aerobus takes 35 minutes, departing every 10 minutes. The train is the cheapest option and gets you to Plaça de Catalunya (in the centre of the city) in 25 minutes.
Flax and Kale (below) is a favourite brunch spot with locals thanks to its focus on sustainability and healthy options. The restaurant is a short walk from Plaça de Catalunya and the famous La Rambla boulevard, so you can build up an appetite (or work off your breakfast afterwards).
No Barcelona trip would be complete without visiting at least one of Gaudí’s creations. Casa Milà (below, also known as La Pedrera) and Casa Batlló are two of the quirkiest, with the winding stairways and unique architecture synonymous with the artist’s name. Both are on Passeig de Gràcia, which runs northwest from Plaça de Catalunya — you can’t miss them!
For an authentic Barcelona evening, stay in the Gracia neighbourhood and head to Plaça del Sol. This famous city square, surrounded by charming buildings, is a favourite hangout for locals.
There are lots of bars and restaurants to choose from here, but Café del Sol has great cocktails and is the perfect place for people watching.
First night in Barcelona – it has to be tapas. We recommend you head a few blocks south to Cerveceria Catalana (below) on Carrer de Mallorca. Remember though, the Spanish do dinner a little later, so don’t be surprised if you get there at 7pm and find it empty. For more of a buzz, dine around 9pm — make sure you order the crispy camembert and huevos cabreados.
Afterwards take a short taxi ride to Gatsby, an art deco-themed cocktail bar where you can take in a cabaret performance.
For a different view of the city, head down to the port and hop on the Transbordador — one of the city's two cable cars that transports visitors from Barceloneta across the sea to the Torre de Miramar on Montjuïc. It only takes seven minutes but it's worth it for the spectacular views of the city.
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Once at the top, spend the morning discovering the mountain’s Miró Foundation, Montjuïc Castle and botanical gardens.
Back at the beach, in the Barceloneta area, make the most of the seafood restaurants serving up calamari and gambas. La Mar Salada is the place to get paella here. A family-run restaurant, it serves the full range of seafood delights, including confit cod, monkfish stew and arroz negro at around €15.
After filling up on seafood, take a wander along the Barceloneta beachfront and admire the outdoor artwork as you go – the Homenatge a la Barceloneta (below) and Frank Gehry's Peix (fish) structure stand out.
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The Sagrada Família is an absolute must in Barcelona. Construction has been ongoing for over 100 years, yet the epic cathedral is still a work in progress. Explore inside and out and you’ll see why it’s taking so long.
When you’re finished, head a few hundred metres east to the Mercat del Encants on Calle Castillejos. This huge flea market is the place to find antique goods and vintage treasures, many of which are sold in the afternoon auctions. It attracts over 500 vendors with a neverending supply of magical items.
For a quick bite before you return to the airport, head to El Nacional. Located near Plaça de Catalunya, it's a grand room with a variety of different food sections, from cured meats to oysters and cocktails. It's one of the most divine dining experiences in Barcelona, and a great place to finish your trip.
This post was written by guest blogger Vicky Philpott, the travel writer behind VickyFlipFlopTravels.