Planning a city break isn’t always easy. It’s not as simple as packing your bikinis, your beach towel, the sun cream and heading off for a week of relaxing on the beach. No. Going away for a shorter period of time, believe it or not, can actually be trickier. Not only to pack for but to organise… especially when you’re venturing to a city filled with fascinating culture and places of interest…. a city like Barcelona.
My goal today is to help make your planning a little easier…. that’s if you’re going to Barcelona some time soon. I might not be providing a specific itinerary but I am going to list five must-see places you just can’t miss in this amazing city as well a great place to stay and more.
So, without further ado, let’s get started.
WHERE TO STAY
We couldn’t have stayed at a more ideal spot than Barcelona’s ‘U232’ hotel for our city break. Located in an area called Eixample, we were made to feel quite at home during our short stay. While still in a fairly busy area, it was a lot quieter compared to the main city centre. Stepping onto the balcony each morning I could gaze down at the Barcelona bustle; the meandering mopeds, tantalising taxis, and smartly dressed men and women -brief case in one hand, a coffee in the other and an iPhone balancing between shoulder and ear. The street below not only gave a sneak peak into the life of a local but it hosted cute little Catalonian cafes, rustic restaurants and then, at one end was the Hop-On Hop-Off bus stop and at the other was the AeroBus station.
As for the the hotel itself , well, it was perfect for myself and mum -which is probably a rare thing to find. It had the just the right balance of contemporary design and modern touches with its chic entrance and classy roof top terrace, and yet it’s cinnamon and amber colour scheme combined with its bare wooden beams gave it the cosy accents it needed. It was the place we could call home for three nights, where we could crash out after long days of exploring this wonderful city.
Hotel U232 is located within the business zone of Plaza Francesc Macià, nestled between Avenida Diagonal and Paseo de Gracia, just steps away from the Hospital Clinic and Camp Nou.
- PRICE TAG
Approx £360 for a three night stay for a double room with breakfast.
(Depends of course on who you book with and what time of year you’ll be going.)
- NEXT UP: Top five things to do and see...
1. SAGRADA FAMILIA
If you’re visiting Barcelona, this is a must. So, it’s full name is actually the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família which translates as ‘The Church of the Holy Family’. Designed by architect AntoniGaudí (1852–1926), the building still has a long way to go until it’s finished.
History: Construction of Sagrada Família started in 1882 under architect Francisco de Paula del Villar but a year later Gaudí took over as chief architect and with this he transformed the project from having a traditional, Roman Catholic design to a combination of Gothic and Art Nouveau. When Gaudí died in 1926, not even a quarter of the project was complete! Work on the cathedral was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, only to resume intermittent/very little progress in the 1950’s. In 2010 Pope Benedict XVI consecrated and proclaimed it a minor basilica, a form of cathedral, meaning ‘seat of a bishop’.
Isn’t it mad to think that this building is so incredible and yet… it’s no where near completion? Some of the project’s greatest challenges are still yet to happen, including the construction of ten more spires, each of them symbolising a biblical figure. In fact, it’s anticipated that the building will be finished in 2026, a century since Gaudí’s death.
- HOW TO GET THERE
Tube: Line 2 and Line 5
Bus: 19, 33, 34, 43, 44, 50, 51, B20 and B24
For buying tickets when you’re there, head to the ticket office at Carrer de Sardenya (or for group tickets it’s Carrer de la Marina). We bought ours here and did so a week before going to ensure we had a good time slot. Ours were £15 for skip the line entry…looking back we should’ve gone for the one that came with an audio guide which is £23 as it would’ve been really good to have some more information about the building when we were actually inside it.
Montjuic is actually the name of the hill, a pretty prominent one, that overlooks basically the whole of Barcelona and its harbour. The castle that sits upon this hill, Monjuic Castle, had a big part to play in the defense of the city, being on top of the city’s biggest natural elevation. Today, the area and the castle act merely as a touristic magnet.
Its foundations were built in 1640 during the period of Principality of Catalonia and it’s played a major (often negative) role in the development of Catalonian independence. During the Spanish civil war a dictator named General Francο used the castle to imprison and execute people…. how lovely. The views from the castle at the top of Montjuic however make up for it’s troubling history and it’s really worth a visit.
- HOW TO GET THERE
First you take the funicular, the upward train that pulls you up to Montjuic mountain. Once you’re off the train, right next to the funicular Station is the Cable Car. This takes you directly to the castle. Another option is to take the no.150 bus which also stops at the castle.
- PRICE TAG
The funicular ride takes less than 5 minutes from Parallel Station and if you already have a Metro ticket it’ll be included in that. The cable car is the £11.49 if you buy it from home, whereas on the day it works out a little more. That’s for both ways- up and down. If you want to go inside the castle itself which we didn’t, its €5 entrance fee (free on Sundays after 3pm) and is also free for the first Sunday of each month.
3. Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
I’ve always loved a good hop-on-hop-off bus tour. Not only is it a fun way to see and learn about a city you’ve never been to before but it’s also a great means of transport and getting around at your own pace. We chose the Turistic Bus tour which covered not two but three routes, each with stops at the best sites in Barcelona.
We organised our days around the routes so we knew where we could hop on and hop off where it suited our plans. It came with a map which was pretty handy and also voice guide with about twenty different language options so I think, no matter where you’re travelling from, you’re good to go! (Unless you’re a true Welshy -unlike me- as this Celtic lingo didn’t quite make the cut…) The voice guide was as so interesting as it talked us through the history of the city and shared some really cool facts about the different sites and the people behind them.
- DURATION | TICKETS
1 day – £27 per person, 2 days, £36 | For tickets click here
4. Tapas and Flamenco Evening
Enter the authentic, cobbled, picturesque Spanish village of Poble Espanyol and experience El Tablao de Carmen; an evening of tasting tapas, sipping sangria, and watching flamenco at its best. A combination of green olives, Iberian ham, cured cheese with rosemary, shellfish salad and a variety of rustic bread made for the tapas while a portion of succulent Spanish beef in a rich, red wine sauce with the creamiest mashed potato ever was served for the main. A magical, music-filled evening to remember.
- WHERE | TICKETS
Avenida Francesc Ferrer i Guardia, 13 | Poble Espanyol de Montjuïc.
For the full package (show, tapas, dinner and drinks) £55
5. La Ramblas
Filled to the brim with quirky art stalls, lively musicians, street performers and treats for on the go, this bustling promenade is buzzing day and night. Cutting through the heart of the city centre Las Ramblas is just over a kilometre long, starting at Port Vell and ending at Plaça de Catalunya. Veering off the main street are many winding side streets where you’ll stumble across even more hideaway pizzerias, coffee houses, boutiques, markets, and picturesque historical buildings. La Boqueria is a food market along Las Ramblas that I fell in love with. To see what it’s like inside click here to watch my Barcelona Vlog.
Las Ramblas, along with Sagrada Familia, is another famous landmark that people identify with the city.
And, there we have it; five of the best places to visit, things to do and where to stay when exploring this Catalonian City.
For places to eat, itinerary help, city break outfits ideas and even packing tips then stay tuned as these snippets will be in a new blog coming very soon!
Anna Vitality x