Barcelona is a popular tourist destination for good reason with its hidden histories, gastronomical feasts, and alluring architecture. I hadn’t known I was going to have the best tapas experience or the best smoothie bowl I’ve ever eaten, nor that I was visiting during a popular festival, and it was so much more than I has anticipated. I visited Barcelona for a long weekend in late April 2022, arriving early on Friday and a late flight on Monday.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in the Barcelona Apartment Republica booked through www.booking.com, the room was spacious for four of us, but there was one double bed, a sofa bed, and another temporary bed. We were on the ground floor, it did come with a pool but we didn’t use it. The room itself offered everything we needed and was located close to a metro station, but there are likely better options for future visits.
Friday, Barcelona Day One:
Our flight landed at 10:15 am, so we caught the train as close to our accommodation as possible and walked the remainder of the way.
Brunch at Gabby’s
After checking in it was time for some brunch, and we already had our sights set on Gabbys as a recommended brunch spot within walking distance from our accommodation. The brunch menu had a great selection to satisfy all tastes and cravings that were 100% homemade using local and seasonal products. We made our way to the centre, stopping in a few shops before our next activity.
Barcelona Walking Tour
Bellies full, we made our way to the centre via the metro for a 2.5-hour free walking tour with our guide Franco. Starting from Plaça Catalunya at 3pm, we were guided through Roman gothic cemeteries hidden in plain sight and told stories, legends, and secrets of warriors, conquers, explorers, kings, and queens or the life of artists such as Miró, Dalí or Picasso.
Franco was extremely knowledgeable, very animated, and even promised to email a list of recommendations after the tour had ended in exchange for a TripAdvisor review – a fair trade! The tour was a great introduction to the city if you’re limited on time, or just want to learn more about its history and customs.
We were fortunate to have been visiting during the festival of Sant Jordi. You’re forgiven for not knowing that we (the English) share the patron saint St George but it’s celebrated a little differently in Barcelona! In fact, the celebration of our shared patron saint is an interesting one, combining both World Book Day and Valentine’s Day, it’s customary for loved ones to exchange a book and/or a rose. During the festival, the streets are filled with books and flower stalls.
This was thankfully explained to us during the walking tour, else we’d have been none the wiser to the roses and market stalls!
La Boqueria Food Market
Said to be one of Europe’s largest and most famous food markets, but certainly the largest of Barcelona’s food markets, La Boqueria is a true feast for the senses, we opted for some calamari, fruit juices, and other small samples to tie us over until our late dinner reservation before heading back to the accommodation to get changed for the evening.
This was by far the best recommendation I can give to you for Barcelona, Sensi Tapas is truly one of the best tapas experiences I’ve had and will not be easily beaten. Located in the Gothic Quarter, their motto to ‘e’ at, drink, life passes in a blink’, is immediately felt with a warm welcome stepping in, delicious Sangria, and food to die for – all very reasonably priced.
Saturday, Barcelona Day Two:
Brunch & Cake Barcelona
Refreshed and revived, we jumped on the metro making a beeline for Brunch & Cake – another recommended foodie hot spot. Even arriving in the morning, we still had to wait a little while for an available table to seat the four of us whilst fighting total food envy! The restaurant offers a healthy take on brunch favourites with its Instagram-worthy aesthetics and dishes. I opted for a smoothie bowl, adorned with the word ‘brunch’ from fruit.
After a short visit to Casa Vicens, we headed to our second stop for the day Park Güell which Combines Gaudi’s eye for architecture with nature and natural forms. Park Güell is named after entrepreneur Eusebi Güell who entrusted Gaudí to develop an estate on his large land property, that later became the public park and UNESCO World Heritage Site as it’s enjoyed today. During our visit, we really had to live to the rhythm of the rain as we (unsuccessfully) played hide and seek with a thunderstorm. Resembling a throng of drowned rats, we sought clothes and the solace of a warm cafe for a glass of Sangria.
El Nacional Market Hall
After heading back to the accommodation to get changed and refreshed, we decided to head to El Nacional Market Hall for some fine dining. The market hall is a multi-restaurant space housing 4 culinary areas and 4 specialized bars, without a reservation we found ourselves in The Llotja sharing a portion of paella.
The flamenco show was something we booked a little on a whim, we had heard about it through the walking tour and decided to give it a shot! We booked the tickets online and headed for the evening show, with a bar on site where we enjoyed yet another glass of Sangria over an authentic flamenco show.
Sunday, Barcelona Day Three:
Eat My Trip
Another Insta famous recommendation, Eat My Trip is a colourful, creative brunch spot offering savoury options like eggs benedict or satisfying sweet tooths with pancakes and french toast. It mixes classic American, Japanese, Korean, and Thailand influences into its menu, operating as a coffee shop, bakery, and breakfast and brunch restaurant.
Casa Vicens Gaudi
We hopped on the bus bound for our first stop – Casa Vicens. Casa Vicens was the first ‘masterpiece’ of famous architect Antoni Gaudí. Now a Unesco World Heritage site, the museum showcases Gaudí’s first important commission that set the tone for the Modernisme movement that followed. It is just one of the many works by Gaudi spread across the city.
La Sagrada Familia
This imposing structure is not only a beacon on Barcelona’s skyline, but one of the main attractions of the city. The Sagrada Familia is a place of worship, so you’ll need to dress accordingly or you could be refused entry. At the time of writing this (July 2023), the dress code was as follows:
- No see-through clothing.
- Trousers and skirts must come down to at least mid-thigh.
- Visitors may not enter in swimwear.
- Visitors will not be allowed to enter wearing special clothing to celebrate any sort of festivities, nor with any decorations designed to distract or draw attention for artistic, religious, promotional or any other purposes.
- Visitors may not enter barefoot.
Flax & Kale Barcelona
After meandering around the gothic structure, and stopping for a photo opportunity across the lake opposite, it was time for lunch. After a sugar rush in the morning, we opted for Flax & Kale, a sustainable, vegetarian restaurant that promotes healthy eating.
Hotel Colon Rooftop Terrace
By now the sun was warm and we’d hit our step count for the day and filled our hungry tummies, so we headed to the panoramic rooftop terrace at Hotel Colon. There was a short queue to enter outside of the main entrance, and we were permitted entry by the hotel doorman once space became available and directed to the lifts up to the terrace. The view overlooks Cathedral square and the imposing spires of the Gothic Cathedral of Barcelona (not the Sagrada Familia).
Sunset at the Beach
Returning back to the accommodation, we changed ready for the evening, but swapped an evening on the beach for a gastronomical restaurant – kind of! We bought some Sangria from a local corner shop and headed to the beach for some good vibes and good times to watch the sunset. We were there a little longer than we anticipated, and before long we were a little merry in search of some food. We ended up in one of the restaurants along the beach, I wouldn’t recommend eating here ordinarily but we were drunk and looking for a convenient option – the food wasn’t great.
Monday, Barcelona Day Four:
Our final day in Barcelona started with, you guessed it, brunch. This time we headed to Lilo Cafe which offers bottomless brunch with mimosas! We just had items from the general menu but good to know for future reference.
One of our final tourist destinations was Ciutadella Park and Barcelona’s Arca de Triomf which is fashioned exactly like its French, more well-known namesake.
Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, we rented a rowing boat around the lake.
Bunkers del Carmel (or The Bunkers)
The final stop on our trip is by no means the least, and was actually one of my most favourite activities that were completely free! In the district of El Carmel sits a fortification of military bunkers dating back to the Spanish Civil War in 1937. Today though, they offer uninterrupted panoramic views of the city and is arguably the best view of the city. Many like to gather to watch the sun set and others simply enjoy picnics, take pictures, and simply take in the incredible views as we did.
Before long it was time to descend and make our way to the airport, but this is by no means the last time I visit Barcelona.