After ten years, I finally found myself back in Barcelona! Spain was the first European country I ever visited and now that I’m a bit more well-traveled, I have a newfound appreciation for the city. For one, it’s home to the works of my favorite architect, Antoni Gaudí! And if that’s not enough of a reason to visit, the delicious tapas sure are. Here’s a quick guide to having the perfect weekend in Barcelona!
What to Do
Casa Milà (popularly known as La Pedrera)
Casa Milà is the last residence that Gaudí designed and is best known for the unique chimneys on the roof. Each visit is accompanied by a free audio guide that’ll sense your location (though not always accurately) and provide facts about the details of the building (with some intense background music to boot). The tour starts at the rooftop, then the attic, and ends at the apartment. I love Gaudí because every detail of the building is extremely thought out – look through one of the rooftop archways and you’ll even see the Sagrada Família!
TIP: Purchase tickets online to skip the queue and avoid the €3 fee. I would recommend getting the La Pedrera by day ticket and booking it for 9am to avoid the crowds.
Casa Batlló is the most memorable of Gaudí’s buildings! The “skull” balconies have stayed with me since my first visit in 2009. The facade was unfortunately under renovation this time around but it’s still worth the look!
TIP: Visit Casa Batlló with the Be the First! ticket option – what better way to avoid the crowds than to go before it opens!
Passeig de Gràcia
Passeig de Gràcia is the Champs-Élysées of Barcelona – the best spot for luxury shopping! And if that isn’t enough, this tree-lined street is also home to some of the most remarkable architecture in the city. Casa Milà and Casa Batlló are just two that call this street home.
TIP: If you plan on shopping, go on Saturday because most stores are closed on Sunday.
La Boqueria is a popular food market that sells everything from fresh fruit to seafood. I loved wandering down the rows of stalls and picking up small bites, like empanadas, along the way. A must-get is definitely the fresh fruit juices! There are plenty of stands that sell them and you can get a cup for as cheap as €1.
TIP: La Boqueria is also closed on Sunday so make sure to go on Saturday!
As an FYI, don’t eat lunch at Pinotxo Bar. This tapas spot may be on must-eat lists but I found it to be an overpriced tourist trap. Instead of a menu, the server asked us what we liked and then brought food over. I didn’t even know we were ordering! Without a menu, they can really charge any price they want and at €49 for 3 small plates, it’s really not worth it.
The Gothic Quarter is a great spot to wander around for an afternoon. I just love the narrow alleyways and the greenery on all the balconies! The best part is stumbling on cute shops like La Nostra Ciutat on the way to the Cathedral of Barcelona. If you’re in the mood for a snack, I would recommend grabbing churros with chocolate at Xurreria.
El Born Centre Cultural
This old market turned cultural center was a random surprise on our trip. It is free to enter and it houses excavated city ruins from the 1700s!
No trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to the Sagrada Família! There is no other basilica in the world that compares to Gaudí’s last work. And like all of his work, you can see the thought and consideration that went into every detail. Here are just some of my favorite facts from the audio guide:
- The height of the tallest tower will fall short of the Montjuïc’s because Gaudí believed that a man’s work should never surpass that of God’s.
- The interior is supposed to look like a forest with sunlight streaming through the trees.
- The stained-glass windows on the Nativity side have blue hues for the sunrise while the windows on the Passion side have brighter hues for the sunset.
- The columns within are made of different material and vary based on the amount of weight its meant to be supporting.
- Gaudí is buried in the crypt of the basilica.
Until the construction is complete in 2026, a visit to the towers is not a must. The towers are a great way to see the details of the basilica, but it can only be seen through various slits and windows as you walk down a narrow, dark, and spiraled staircase. Since the center towers are under construction, the only thing to see at the bridge on top is scaffolding. With that said, if you are purchasing tickets with the tower experience, make sure to choose the Nativity Towers (vs the Passion Towers) because the Nativity facade was completed by Gaudí.
TIP: Be inside the basilica at sunset to see the sunlight shine through the stained-glass windows on the Passion side. It’s incredible!
The most instagrammable spot in Barcelona has to be Park Güell, the park designed by Gaudí. The park covers 42 acres of space but most come to visit the Monumental Core (think the mosaic salamander, beautiful columns, and the serpentine bench that just keeps going). There is a fee to visit this popular section of the park but the rest is free to visit. Don’t forget to explore the other areas of the park because there’s more to see and beautiful views that are not to be missed!
TIP: Book the 8:30am time slot for your visit – it’s early but it’s so worth it! And when you arrive, do two things immediately: take a photo with “el drac” (the mosaic salamander) and take a photo with the serpentine bench.
This was the first house Gaudí designed and is best known for the ceramic tiles that line the exterior of the house. It’s worth a look even if you skip the interior!
La Rambla is the most iconic street in Barcelona, lined with souvenir stands, street performers, and many alfresco cafes. During our visit, we even saw dogs protesting! It is also on this street that you’ll find the Font de Canaletes, the famous drinking fountain. Legend has it that if you drink from it, you will return to Barcelona one day. I don’t know if it’s true but I did drink from it in 2009 (proof below) and now I’m back!
And at the very end, you’ll reach the newest addition, Rambla de Mar. Rambla de Mar is a wooden walkway that connects the boulevard to Maremagnum Shopping Center. If you’re in the mood to shop on a Sunday, this is where you can go to find open stores.
Where to Eat
This tapas bar was so good that we came here twice in one weekend! The best tapas on the menu is definitely the Sirloin Beef Carpaccio with Caramelized Onions, Shaving Foie Gras, and Pomegranates. It is a life changing bite! I would also recommend trying one of the pepitas (the restaurant’s twist on a pepito). For a delicious bite topped with grilled foie, get The Golden Pepita! And for a drink at the bar, check out the sister restaurant La Cava just a few doors down.
This casual spot is a great place to go for paella. We ordered the Seafood Paella and it just felt like home in a bite! The paella does take a long time to prepare so make sure not to arrive hangry. If you do, order the Bomba Picante to soothe the beast.
This is a favorite amongst tourists! I say this because most of the people in the restaurant were Asian. Here we had a “Flauta” and a “Pito”, both consists of crispy baguettes with meat in between. The highlight of the meal was the Spanish Omelette. Even my cousin, who doesn’t really like eggs, liked this dish!
TIP: To get the full tapas menu, make sure to sit in the dining area in the back and not the bar seats at the front.
- Quimet i Quimet – for small bites and vermouth
- Cal Pep – for tapas
- Foc i Oli – for sandwiches (get the El Chivito)
- El Nacional – for the ambiance and architecture
Where to Stay
Hotel Well and Come
This boutique hotel had me gushing the moment I walked in. I love the interior design and was obsessed with the painting of Casa Batlló (first picture in the post – that’s how much I love it) at the front desk. Fun fact, the artist is the owner herself! The room was clean and had everything we needed for our weekend stay. Plus, it was a short walk to the main attractions. Did I mention that the really charming (and attractive) host downstairs had the best restaurant recommendations? Needless to say, I will definitely be staying here again and you should too!
Other Helpful Tips
- Use the mytaxi app to call a taxi – it works just like Uber, but for taxis
- A souvenir to bring back home is turrón (nougat). Vicens was my favorite!