Planning a weekend in Barcelona?? I’ve got you covered!
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Barcelona is one of those cities that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list. It has something for everyone: great food, vibrant nightlife, amazing art and architecture, and a colorful history. Here are my favorite things to do for an epic weekend in Barcelona!
Planning Your Trip to Barcelona
Barcelona is an expensive city in general – know that going in. Tickets for activities and museums aren’t cheap. That being said, you can find ways to make it more affordable! I’ll include my favorite ways to make Barcelona cheaper throughout the article.
One important way is getting around. Whenever possible, walk from place to place! Barcelona is such a beautiful city architecturally that walking is half the fun. When you can’t walk, take public transport! It’s very reliable in the city. There’s an easy shuttle bus called the Aerobus from the airport to the Placa de Catalunya. There’s also a Metro system that can get you in the ballpark for most sites.
Another small thing: Barcelona has plenty of pickpockets. I almost don’t mention it because I don’t want to make you nervous. It didn’t feel any different than Paris, Rome, or New York City in that regard. Basically, be aware of your bags, don’t keep all your money in one place, and don’t be nice to strangers trying to get you to sign petitions or sell you something.
Staying in Barcelona
When looking for accommodation, check for apartment rentals and VRBO options too – you can find reasonable options in some of the neighborhoods that you may not want to pay hotel prices.
That being said, don’t be too intimidated to check hotel prices: I found a hotel right on La Rambla (meaning center of the action) for 3 people for less than $150/night. Oriente Atiram was lovely: the lobby was gorgeous and felt like we’d stepped back in time and the rooms were modern with all the amenities we needed.
If you’re traveling solo on a budget, definitely try the hostel route too. There are a ton of options, and I find that sites like HostelWorld generally offer good deals and have accurate information about amenities, options, and safety.
What to Do in Barcelona
Barcelona is the city of Gaudi! Antonin Gaudi is a famous architect/designer who built the Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, and several homes available to visit! I did a whole article on these to lay out if they’re worth your time or not, and how to see them if they are!
There are two other churches worth noting if you love the art, architecture, and history that comes with churches. The Barcelona Cathedral sits in the Gothic Quarter and has a gorgeous gothic exterior. They’re particularly strict about the dress code: you have to cover both shoulders and knees to get in! They’re also closed to tourists on Sundays for services.
The other church worth checking out is Basilica de Santa Maria del Mar. It’s called that because it used to be on the coast! Nowadays, it’s a good quarter mile from the water. It’s free to enter, or you can buy a ticket gets you inside the church as well as the other ancillary buildings, including a few historic sites for Barcelona’s Catalan history.
Tired of architecture? Barcelona also has a ton of Picasso! You can see a ton of Picasso and modernist art and history throughout the city. The Picasso Museum is a good place to start if that’s your art of choice or check out a Picasso walking tour of the city.
If you need a break from architecture, go shopping! Barcelona is known for espadrilles. Any shop worth its salt hand makes them and will have all sorts of styles within the classic design. I love Handmade Barcelona, which is right across from the Basilica. They have a ton of options and also sell some beautiful leather shoes that they also make themselves. I got a pair of black espadrilles and can report that they’re super comfortable, even for all-day wearing.
So we’ve covered that Barcelona can be expensive, but not everything is! These are a few of my favorite free (or nearly free) activities:
Sandeman’s new Europe tours are always fantastic, and Barcelona’s was no exception. I’ve done at least six and learned a ton every time. The guides are always funny and smart and love their city but aren’t afraid to talk about the rough bits. They’re also full of no-BS suggestions for where to eat or what neighborhoods to check out. They work on tips, so please leave one! But it’s a great way to get your bearings in the city without paying hundreds.
Barcelona is big, but one of the best ways to experience it is to wander! Check out the Gothic Quarter, head to their Arc de Triomf or go see the exterior of the Palace of Catalan Music. Spend an hour finding the exteriors of the Gaudi houses. His design is obvious without ever setting foot in the building. There is so much to see just from walking!
Las Ramblas is a central street for shops and restaurants. It’s a great central location for the rest of the city, but it’s also a bit touristy. Still, its tree-lined pedestrian road is gorgeous and worth a stroll!
While you’re on Las Ramblas, don’t skip the Mercato de La Boqueria. It’s a massive fish market near the middle and has a massive sign, so it’s hard to miss. You can get prepared food as well as raw ingredients, so it’s a good lunch stop if you need a break in your day.
When you need more green space, check out Ciutadella Park. The Arci de Triomf is at one end, so if you’re in the area you can go take a break. There’s a zoo here too if you need a kiddo activity!
Another free spot to see is El Born Centre. It’s a former market space where builders found ruins of the 17th century. They relocated the market and dug up much of the ruins, which show a lot about life in medieval Barcelona. It’s a quick exhibit: 30 minutes is all you need. But it’s cool and worth swinging by, especially if you need to get out of the heat.
Need a break? Head to the beach! Bogatell Beach is a great spot to relax. You can take public transportation to get there, and don’t have to make any more decisions than what to eat for lunch. There are better beaches a bit further out of town, so if you’re doing a multi-city trip, it’s skippable. But if you just need some beach time, it’s great!
Want more Barcelona? I’ve got a restaurant guide and Gaudi guide ready for you!