Barcelona: A Weekend City Break Guide
Barcelona is the bustling beachside city with endless cultural heritage, architecture, food, drink and arts to delve into. There's definitely more to see here than you can fit into one weekend, however, its charm, modernist buildings and sub-tropical climate makes it a place to visit again and again.
For a short weekend city break to Barcelona, simply take your time to relax and enjoy just a small portion of this cosmopolitan destination, all with the help of Stylecamp's handy itinerary that takes in some of the best things the city has to offer.
1. SEE SOME SIGHTS
With so many famous heritage sites and cultutal hotspots in just one great city, it's impossible to visit them all one weekend, so for a relaxed weekend away, pick one or two and simply take your time to enjoy.
Tip: Since entry to some of the most popular places, including the awe-inspiring Sagrada Familia, is now limited, you'll find it necessary to pre-book online in most cases, though this is often more cost-effective.
Try an early start to see the undulating forms of La Pedrera Casa Milà, one of Antoni Gaudí's finest architectural masterpieces, of which there are many in Barcelona. Pick a slot first thing in the morning and head straight up to the rooftop avoiding the crowds for an undisturbed view over the city amongst the ornamental mosaiced chimneys.
2. TAKE IN THE BEAUTY
Barcelona is possibly one of the most aesthetically pleasing cities you'll ever visit, with the perfect blend of old, new and the unusual, stemming from the medieval Gothic quarter to the modernist styles of the newer Eixample neighbourhood. The city is littered with amazing examples of Art Nouveau architecture and tiled facades that really encourages the visitor to #lookup.
El Born is a real favourite to wander through, with its cafe culture atmosphere and trendy, fashion vibe with independent shops and restaurants dotted amongst the historical buildings. Further up the city, near park Güell, lies Gràcia which has a more local and bohemian vibe with trendy shops, art galleries and health food shops nestled among the tiled streets.
3. EAT TAPAS UNTIL YOU BURST
Barcelona is a truly culinary city, so unsurprisingly there's a host of fantastic tapas eateries to savour throughout the city, with some of the best ones found within the popular Boqueria market.
In Eixample you'll find Tapas 24, a lively joint with bar seating and quirky staff uniforms. This place regularly has queues out of the door, and for good reason - it's owned by a Michelin starred chef.
LA VINYA DEL SENYOR
Enjoy a spot of cava with your food at La Vinya del Senyor, situated beside the peaceful Basilica Santa Maria del Mar in the El Born district. A great place to watch the world go by, whether you opt for the outdoor seating or get chatty at the cosy counter bar.
Try something a little different at the Bar Suculent in El Raval, not strictly a tapas experience but refined small plates stemmed in traditional cooking with surprising elements. The brie cheesecake was truly unforgettable!
4. STROLL AROUND CIUTADELLA PARK
After a filling lunch, take a relaxing walk in Barcelona's scenic Parc de la Ciutadella. It features an impressive sculpture and fountain loosely based on Rome's famed Trevi fountain, adorned with mythical seahorses and a statue of the Roman Goddess Venus.
The park is also the home of the impressive Catalan parliament building and the Barcelona zoo, as well as a picturesque boating lake amongst lush botanical gardens, providing ample space to relax and enjoy the sun in its beautiful surroundings.
5. SPEND AN AFTERNOON AT THE BEACH
Make sure you pack your swimmers, as Barcelona offers the perfect mix between vibrant city and seaside resort. Long stretches of golden sand beaches can be enjoyed all the way up from Barceloneta, through Port Olympic and beyond into Poble Neu.
Tip: Head further north of the beaches in Barceloneta to avoid the constant flurry of beach traders!
The beaches have a friendly, relaxing vibe with great facilities, watersports and cafe culture. A great spot to relax in the sunshine, enjoy a refreshing dip or have a cold drink by the water, looking out onto the blue Mediterranean horizon.
6. SAMPLE THE NIGHTLIFE
The buzz of the city continues well into the night with plenty of stylish establishments curating to a variety of tastes.
CAN CISA/BAR BRUTAL
Some unmissable spots included Can Cisa/Bar Brutal, a restaurant-bar hosting the biggest selection of natural wines in Barcelona with eccentric decor being a true talking point. Do not miss the amazing food menu accompanying your wine, served up with true finesse and lip-smacking flavour.
For an authentic absinthe fix (or a cheap beer or cocktail for the uninitiated!), legendary Bar Marsella is said to be one of the first bars opened in Barcelona and counts artistic and literary genius amongst their historic patrons. It's an unassuming, complete time-warp of a place, seemingly little changed from when it first opened in 1820, with peeling wallpapers and cobbled together tiled floors that only add to its charm.
For a fancier evening, sample a cocktail at the bustling El Nacional, a vast gastronomic experience of Iberian cooking with 4 bars and 5 restaurants under one roof, each decorated with a cool, modern sense of glamour that makes you feel at the heart of the action.
For more of a hipster vibe, head to the roof at acclaimed boutique hotel Casa Bonay, which has the team behind Can Cisa/Bar Brutal running the show. Fabulous cocktails, natural wines, and stylish surroundings can also be found at the very chic Bar Libertine, at the entrance to the hotel.
7. FIND A BARGAIN
If your hangover's not too great, Barcelona has a number of snoopers' paradises to satisfy the bargain hunter in you. Every fortnight a sprawling and unpretentious Sunday flea market pops up in the Plaça de Blanquerna in the Poble Sec district, featuring vintage and second-hand fashion, antiques, memorabilia and various other knick-knacks.
Also worth visiting is the purpose-built Mercat dels Encants, a covered market housing impressive pieces of vintage furniture and antiques from attic clearances that offers a strong likelihood of finding an unusual and unique souvenir of your stay.
8. KICK BACK AND ENJOY THE VIEW
Take the funicular and cable car up to the ancient at the top of Montjuïc, for an unmissable view of the imposing Sagrada Familia, the sprawling cityscape towards the mountains beyond and further out to sea.
Prefer your view with cocktail? Seal off your weekend at a great height in the centrally located Skybar atop the Grand Hotel Central, or relax back at the aforementioned stylish rooftop bar at the Casa Bonay boutique hotel in Eixample.
WHERE TO STAY
A weekend stay at the Praktik Garden Boutique hotel felt like a tropical oasis well-located in a quiet street not far from some of the main Gaudi buildings found along the Passeig de Gràcia. Comfortable and stylish, with a cool carnival concept, it also featured a verdant garden lounge area to relax in after a long day hitting the pavements.