This month, Chris and I took our first full week off since January. Yep, we hadn’t had much more than long weekends here and there since our big trip to St Lucia at the start of the year. And with Vietnam on hold, due to his Achilles injury this summer, we were dying to getaway. Scouring the internet for cheap deals last Sept, we found flights and hotel in Barcelona for under £280. A complete bargain and somewhere on our travel list, we couldn’t resist a four-day trip.
So many friends had already been to Barcelona, and many had even said it was their favourite city in Europe. I can now definitely see why it’s up there. It’s one truly beautiful city, with so much to see and do. There’s plenty of gothic architecture to seek out. Lots of food stops and more than enough places to grab a glass of sangria. What’s more, although it’s known for it’s pick-pockets, I felt super safe. Ok, my handbag, a small belt bag, was carefully across my body and tucked inside my coat. Not once did I feel uncomfortable. We had a fantastic four days.. here are the highlights for what to see and do in Barcelona.
La Sagrada Familia
This is our top pick because wow.
La Sagrada Familia is a roman catholic basilica which has been designed by Gaudi, and is still under construction. Due to be finished in 2026, the tallest central tower is set to be 175m tall – just under the height of the tallest mountain – as not to surpass the creations of God. It’s already received UNESCO World Heritage status.
The facades (Nativity and Passion) are complete and both extremely detailed, showcasing different aspects of Jesus, Christianity and nature which God created. You can stand there for ages admiring the details, and spotting the different elements. The interior is truly breath-taking too – representing a forest, the columns running through the centre to support the structure represent trees, moving upwards to a canopy.
We paid for the visit with the tower, choosing the nativity tower to go up. This meant we got to take a lift up for unparalleled views over barcelona, and a few close-ups of the architecture on the facade. However, it also allowed us to take an audio tour of the basilica, which gave so much insight and detail on the construction, design and reasoning behind even the smallest detail. It was amazing and we truly learnt so much. We would highly recommend going with this option for both of these reasons. At €32 each, it was priciest experience we did whilst in Barcelona, but really worth it!
Booking?: Book ahead! It can book up at peak times.
Sandemans Walking Tour
Sandemans walking tour is a tip-based walking tour delivered by passionate locals, from students to those who just want to show others the beauties of their city. It was actually recommended to me by Nicola (East London Foodie Girl), and we can’t stop recommending it to everyone else who travels too.
We were hosted by Mariana, who took us around the Gothic Quarter, explaining the background to so many locations and buildings. Our tour was booked for the first night and it really helped us to get our bearings, as well as see and learn so much about the city in such a small space of time. We really did enjoy doing this as a first point of call on our trip.
This incredible structure represents the height of the tallest human pyramid in the competition in Barcelona!
A Gaudi creation whilst he was studying. Love that it was just in the middle of a popular square. I’m not sure this would have been on our list – we would have missed out had we not joined the tour!
People tip what they feel, and there’s no obligation to tip over a certain amount so it’s perfect whatever your budget.
Booking?: I do recommend booking ahead, but I don’t think they over subscribe.
Telefèric de Montjuïc & castle
The Telefèric de Montjuïc is the cable car which goes from Para.Lel up the mountain to Montjuic castle. It’s €12.70 for a return, per adult and well worth the experience and views.
The entrance to the Telefèric de Montjuïc is accessed by funicular at Para.Lel. Just look for the signs in the station. When you get to the top, you’ll clearly see where the Telefèric de Montjuïc is. The cable car takes about 10 minutes or so to relatively slowly move up the mountain. We sat there in awe looking out over the city, trying to spot different landmarks and roughly where we were staying.
At the top, the Montjuic castle is beautiful with its’ flower beds in the moats. From inside it gives further fantastic views, but also a little history lesson. €5 per adult or €3 for a youth (under 30 years), we think it’s a bargain. There’s a little film to watch which showcases the history of the castle up until it opened in 2011. You can then walk the grounds, peeking into the dungeons, looking at the cannons and through the other areas of the castle.
Booking?: You don’t need to book ahead – you can just pay at the ticket office when you want to go up.
La Boqueria Mercat
La Boqueria Mercat is the biggest food market in Barcelona. it’s filled with sellers of fresh fruit, juices, veg and meats (cured too of course), as well as fish bars and stalls selling prepared hot food such as empanadas, pastries and bombas.
We’ll go into the food in my upcoming food edit (keep an eye out for the empanadas!), but it’s still a sight to be seen. The atmosphere is super buzzy, and it’s a great place for a bite or a wander.
Palau de la musica
The Palau de la musica Catalana, is a beautiful concert hall which shows just how seriously they take their arts in Barcelona. The architect won an award in 1909 for the building and in 1997 it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site. We could see why – the exterior is stunning, with so much detail. It’s a truly beautiful building.
Casa Mila is the last private residence which was designed by Gaudi. It’s unique, modernist and beautiful. In 1984, it was declared a UNESCO world heritage site making it a must-see.
Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona
The Arco de Triunfo de Barcelona was built by Josep Vilaseca i Casanovas as the main access gate for the 1888 Barcelona World Fair. It’s located at the northern end of the promenade down to El Parc de la Ciutadella.
It’s one large, seriously impressive, beautiful piece of architecture. A great checkpoint before stroll through the park.
In the Parc de la Cuitadella is the cascada monumental, or the fountains. You can spot the gold top from afar, which sets the scene for how magnificent this is. It’s one striking fountain, with detailed stone scultputres and gold plated birds and horses atop. Definitely a stop to add to your list. It wasn’t the best weather when we visited (very chilly) but still worth it!
There you have it, our top recommendations for what to see/do. As you can see, Barcelona doesn’t do things by halves! You do need plenty of time to see it all, and experience it properly. But you can get it done in 2-3 days easily.
The food edit is coming soon, so keep your eyes open for that one. There will be empanadas, tapas, churros and plenty of sangria.
Have you been to Barcelona? Which was your favourite part?