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48 hours in… Barcelona

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48 hours in… Barcelona

Barcelona local Elizabeth Bennett designs two perfect days in the sunny Spanish city

Elizabeth Bennett

BY Elizabeth Bennett20 June 2024

While the 300 annual days of sunshine and Mediterranean waters are certainly an easy sell, it’s the laid-back atmosphere of Barcelona that has devotees coming back for more. The line-up of stylish hotels, rich culture and history, and, of course, the food and drink, all help too.

Thanks to its compact size, you can pack a surprising amount into 48 hours in Barcelona and easily walk between barrios (neighbourhoods). Here’s how to make the most of your next weekend in the Catalan capital…

FRIDAY: EVENING

Hotel Pulitzer

Start your weekend with a wander through the historic Gothic Quarter, with its winding narrow streets and 15th-century neo-Gothic cathedral. You can take a quick peek at La Rambla, Barcelona’s most famous street, but don’t stick around as it’s a tourist hotspot. Instead, head to Plaça Catalunya at the top of the street for a drink on one of the city’s best rooftops. Hotel Pulitzer’s sixth-floor terrace is loved by locals and visitors on weekends, thanks to its line-up of DJs and local bands.

Neighbouring El Born is a 10-minute walk away, so with a late dinner you’ll have time to squeeze in a quick snoop at some of the city’s loveliest independent shops (check out Chandal, Roüa & Friends and Colmado). By 9pm, you’ll be hungry for tapas and in-sync with the local eating schedule. Hidden down a very narrow street close by, Wittmore Hotel’s Contraban has quietly become an in-the-know dining destination – one you wouldn’t just stumble upon. It’s a romantic spot, where you can enjoy a contemporary Catalan-French take on tapas in the elegant lounge or on the courtyard terrace with its twinkling lights and vertical garden. After dinner, you’ll probably want to stay put as there’s a speakeasy-style bar serving up creative cocktails and DJs spinning disco and soul tunes.

SATURDAY: MORNING

Park Güell

Waking up at Wittmore, you’ll be able to take your morning coffee in bed overlooking the lovely interior courtyard or on the top-floor terrace with a side of sunshine and views of Barcelona’s rooftops all the way out to sea.

If hitting your 10,000 steps sounds like your sort of city break, after breakfast embark on the hour-long walk from the centre to Park Güell, Gaudi’s much-loved urban park. Morning is the best time to visit, with fewer crowds and a lovely light. En route, you will pass the Modernisme buildings of Eixample (the Catalan take on art nouveau) and the picturesque squares of Gracia. If you’re looking for some additional fuel for the hill, stop halfway at Funky Bakers Eatery for almond croissants and cinnamon buns.

Climb first to the very top of the park for a sweeping view of the city and then work your way back down, taking in Gaudi’s mind-bending designs, before finishing with an obligatory snap on the famed mosaic bench.

SATURDAY: AFTERNOON

Casa Vicens

Lunch is calling and back down the hill in Gracia, Fonda Pepa has a sweet shaded patio and serves a mix of Catalan and Latin American flavours. It’s also a short walk from artisanal gelato spot Parallelo, for a post-lunch treat. If you haven’t seen Gaudi’s main (unfinished) masterpiece, the Sagrada Família, then late afternoon – as the sun pours through the Technicolor stained-glass windows – is the time to go. If you have, Casa Vicens, his earliest work and the least visited of his houses, is well worth seeing instead and it’s handily located in Gracia.

SATURDAY: EVENING

Sir Victor

As the sun begins to set, going high is always a good plan for catching those last rays. Continuing on the day’s Gaudí theme, make your way to Sir Victor’s rooftop terrace, which comes with views of one of his most-loved houses, La Pedrera.

For dinner, book in at Ohla’s hot-ticket restaurant Caelis for the tasting-menu feast. The horseshoe-shaped chef’s table is the best seat in the house, where you can watch Romain Fornell, the Michelin-starred master chef, work his magic.

Neighbouring Raval is a great barrio for bar-hopping afterwards. Bar Marsella, once frequented by Picasso and Hemingway, still charms, albeit in a dishevelled way, while Carrer de Joaquín Costa has plenty of drinking holes for weaving in and out of (try Casa Almirall or Bareto Olimpic). If all-night dancing is on the cards, jump in a taxi to Razzmatazz – just make sure you don’t arrive earlier than 1am.

SUNDAY: MORNING

Ohla Barcelona Hotel

Soothe weary heads with Ohla’s extensive breakfast buffet, curated by Romain Fornell himself, before hopping on the Metro or walking to Montjuïc, the sprawling hillside park that hugs the south of the city.

Visit the serene Joan Miró Foundation, a gallery space dedicated to the Catalan artist; and stop at the beautiful architecture pavilion at Fundacio Mies van der Rohe, before stopping by Salts, an outdoor bar perched above the Olympic swimming pool, with one of the best views of the city. Do as the Catalans do and have a pre-Sunday-lunch Vermouth.

SUNDAY: AFTERNOON

Little Beach House

No trip to Barcelona is complete without paella and a late Sunday lunch is when locals get their fix. A beachside chiringuito is your best bet and Can Fisher is excellent for rice dishes. Afterwards, you’re well placed for a walk along the coast or a siesta — the beaches that run in front of the Poblenou area are the best in the city for either. Alternatively, if you fancy a drive, Little Beach House, 45 minutes south of Barcelona, also serves up an excellent paella and the beach at Garraf is one of the loveliest in Catalonia.

SUNDAY: EVENING

Grand Hotel Central

When you’ve worked up a little appetite, it’s time to squeeze in one more rooftop and the last of the tapas. Grand Hotel Central’s eighth-floor terrace is the perfect place, serving up excellent renditions of classics like patatas bravas and ham croquettes, alongside big salads and grilled fish to share.

NEED TO KNOW

Sagrada Família

Transport The Aerobus linking the airport with the city centre is reliable, frequent (every five minutes during the daytime) and as quick as a cab (30 minutes to Plaça Catalunya). Use FreeNow to book the yellow and black metre taxis that operate across the city (Uber is very limited).

When to go Spring and autumn bring the best weather but the biggest crowds, while winter is quieter and often offers wall-to-wall blue skies. Skip August due to the intense heat and humidity.

What to buy Make sure to book tickets for big-hitter sites (especially Sagrada Famillia and Park Güell) in advance online and skip the long queues.

Good to know Lots of restaurants don’t take bookings before 8pm and if they do it’s likely they won’t have the buzz you’re looking for — service charge isn’t included on bills and tips aren’t generally expected. The city’s reputation for pick-pocketing does stand, especially in the most tourist-heavy areas, so guard your valuables carefully in these areas.

Craving some tapas? Browse our full collection of Barcelona hotels or fill another weekend with our guide to 48 hours in Porto.