This week we have a guest post by Daniel Agnew from easyJet Holidays. Barcelona is one of the most beautiful and most visited cities in Spain, with great restaurants, a full-on nightlife and white sandy beaches. Read what Daniel recommends you check out in 48 hours in Barcelona.
Barcelona is a universal city and one that requires no real introduction. The Queen of the Mediterranean is famous for its Modernisme architecture, artists, revolutionary politics and the most beautiful football team in history. Barca is a truly extraordinary place and on walking along the La Ramblas for the first time, I felt something tangible in the air. Barcelona is not just another ordinary European city with a plaza, cobbled square and a ubiquitous medieval cathedral. Although that’s not to say the Catalan capital doesn’t have any of these classic European features.
Things to See and Do
Few cities in Europe can boast a more stately or enjoyable thorough-fare than the La Ramblas. Lined with cafes, shops, restaurants, and newspaper stalls, it’s the heartbeat of Barcelona, a meeting point for locals and tourists alike. Exotic hanging baskets greet you in every corner and everywhere you look there is a work of art. Walking down the palm aisled street, I watched flamboyant street artists, musicians, and weird human statues in outrageous costumes.
The La Ramblas is also home to swarms of restaurants with napkins, menus and Catalan waiters. It is an intense and deeply pressurised environment, especially at night, where the area is like walking through a lake of food straddled by portly managers thrusting menus instead of oars.
Elsewhere the city is exceedingly romantic and carries a feminine and luxurious charm full of delights. One of the highlights of any trip to Barcelona is climbing up Gaudi’s masterpiece the Sagrada Familia. From a distance the sacred cathedral looks like a gigantic decaying tooth. Gaudi’s work has been influenced nature and this is reflected by the use of twisted iron sculptures and organic-like forms, which are all key traits of Gaudi’s architecture.
Sagrada Familiais the most iconic building in Barcelona and tourists flock around its ornate spires with gaping mouths all year round. Due to be completed in 2026, the centennial of Gaudí’s death, the cathedral is surrounded by terrifying cranes that cling to the spires like enormous stick insects.
After climbing the towering spires, I wanted more Gaudi and took the metro towards Park Güelland fell in love with its wavy stone spheres and fairytale gardens.
If I were brave enough to take a bite, there could well have been chocolate inside the park’s sculptures, mosaics, walkways and insanely pretty tiling.
Surreal and majestically designed, Gaudi’s other masterpieces include the Casa Batlló and La Pedrera. From the outside, the Casa Batllólooks like it has been made out of skulls and bones but once you step inside, the audio guide kindly informs you the “bones” are actually supporting pillars.
His fairytale vision of Barcelona gives the city a fresh and exciting twist and the Catalan capital genuinely is a city apart. And while Gaudi provides his the city with its surreal modernist twists, the city also has a traditional Gothic quarter which is a joy to behold.
The brown medieval centre of the city is a warren of tight lanes, mansions, churches and home to some of Barcelona’s finest museums. The Picasso Museum is located in the gothic quarter and inside some of his finest works are protected by over-zealous security guards dressed up like little blue policeman. The museum is surprisingly conservative and runs in a chronological fashion, beginning with Picasso’s unimaginative earlier paintings and followed his progression until his death in April 1973. Some of his ventriloquist paintings were absolutely stunning and I loved how his voice changed from merely copying his father to developing such a radical and polemical style.
Back outside in the Barri Gotic, the medieval streets inevitably lead you to the city’s enormous Gothic cathedral, La Seu. The universal Catholic super-cathedral is a common feature in all major Spanish cities and towns and Barcelona is no exception. La Seu is one of the greatest gothic buildings in Spain and the rooftop views provide exceptional views of the ornate surrounding Gothic buildings and spires.
Bustling with life and tourists with digital cameras, the Barri Goticis the ultimate place to visit in search of a guided walk. Being the civic and ecclesiastical centre of Barcelona, the city’s pre-modernist heritage makes for essential viewing on holiday. For unless you understand past you cannot grasp the future and away from the city centre is Barcelona’s is the heavenly delights of the Nou Camp stadium.
FC Barcelona is the greatest football team in history and their iconic open air stadium is a magnet for visitors across the world. Hosting up to 90,000 fans on match days, the sublime brilliance of the current side and iconic trio of Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi will see the current side become legends in the years and decades to come. Getting tickets on match days is increasingly difficult nowadays but the stadium tour is freely available throughout the week. Allowing visitors to sit in the dug out, press room and enjoy the club’s stunning museum. The Nou Camp is the heartbeat of Catalan nationalism, and the stadium tour genuinely confirms that FC Barcelona really is more than a club.
Many Barca fans like to unwind and celebrate their team’s victories on the golden sands of Barceloneta Beach. Apart from the obvious pleasures of swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, sunbathing or taking a leisurely stroll along the Passeig Maritim, you’ll find there are always loads to do at Barceloneta Beach.
One of beach’s more eccentric highlights is Rebecca Horn’s ‘Homenatge a la Barceloneta’ sculpture and towards the Olympic Port there’s Frank Gehry’s glittering gold ‘Pescado/Peix/Fish’ monument. On the beach you’ll find people playing volleyball, practicing capeiro, sumo wrestling (with fat suits), playing the bongos, whilst hawkers patrol the sands selling everything from samosas and cervezasto beach towels and sexy massages.
Food and Drink
When you come to Spain you expect Tapas, and expect no different in Barca, a great place to eat some of the finest is Taller de Tapas which is a truly fantastic place to dine. I recommend you tie it in for after you have been to Camp Nou. Ideally located in the Les Corts neighbourhood of Barcelona, they serve sublime tapas with simmering delights of cut beef, sardines and Patatas Bravas. Tapas have a wonderful capacity to make you eat well beyond your means and the Taller de Tapas is a gloriously eclectic fare.
If you’re really after Tapas and you’re not planning on heading to the Nou Camp head to the food market near the top of Las Ramblas and take your pick of some delicious bites!
How to get there
Being a major city Barcelona is easy to get to from London and pretty much all cities in Europe. Most of the big carriers fly into Barcelona from airports across the UK including easyJet. Be aware that Barcelona has a few airports in the region but to get to the heart of the city fast aim for airlines that fly to Barcelona International Airport.
Where to stay
When I visit Barca I’m lucky enough to get digs with family but with Barcelona being such a popular city destination there are plenty of hostels to take your pick from, however beds can sell out quick so make sure you book a bit in advance – it’ll make it cheaper too. It’s worth noting for the same price as some hostels you can you can find yourself a decent 3 star hotel in the heart of the city.
Depending on how far in advance you book accommodation will be the priciest thing you’ll encounter in Barcelona. However there are plenty of good quality hostels dotted around Las Ramblas that are good to the wallet. You can eat and drink as cheap as you need to depending on where you want to eat. Expect to pay a minimum of 10 euros for a meal with a beer. Getting around and attractions is moderately priced but if you get a Barcelona Card you save on journey costs and entrance to some attractions – worth picking one up.
Barcelona is a destination suited to all kinds of trips, whether you want to just stroll the streets in the warm sunshine to take in the sights and architecture or whether you want to sample the city’s lively atmosphere. With plenty of historic sights, unique architecture and the buzzing Las Ramblas, Barca can be as laid back or lively as you like. I always enjoy my time here and thoroughly recommend you visit too.