Barcelona. A city for which we had no expectations. A city we didn’t even really seek out. It just so happened to be where our 12-day Mediterranean cruise ended, so we figured we’d spend two days exploring before flying back home. Turns out, we feel in love with the beautiful and cosmopolitan city of Barcelona!
How to Spend 2 Days in Barcelona
If you find yourself with only 2 days in Barcelona, here are some helpful ideas for how to best spend your time. (You can also pick and choose from these highlights if you’re on a cruise and only have one day in port!)
Things to Do in Barcelona
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
Barcelona is a HUGE city and you simply won’t see everything there is to see in 2 days! One way to cover a lot of ground is to go on a bus tour. During our second visit to the city (this time with my dad and step-mom), we took a ride on the Barcelona Bus Turistic Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus. 3 different routes (Red, Blue, and Green) stop at 44 different stops around the city, offering close to 5 hours of ride time. Of course, you can hop on and off the bus as you please to explore various parts of the city. Along with your ticket, you will receive a pair of earphones to listen to the commentary (in one of 16 different languages). In addition, you will receive a detailed guide providing information about attractions at each stop (in Spanish, Catalan, and English) and a discount book for attractions and restaurants all over the city. WiFi is available on board (at no extra cost) to help you further plan your time in the city.
At the Parallel metro station, you can catch the funicular up to Montjuic; otherwise you’ll get a good amount of exercise walking uphill to this massive urban park. (There are several stops on Montjuic on the red line of the Turistic Bus just mentioned.) With all of its trees and gardens, this park is the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of the busy city below! This is also where you will find the Olympic Stadium, left behind from the 1992 Summer Olympics, though it is still in use today.
Within the boundaries of Montjuic, you will also come upon the Museu Nacional D’art de Cataluna (MNAC). The museum, constructed for the International Exposition of 1929, houses the world’s best collection of Romanesque mural paintings. Wander through and gaze upon examples of Catalan Modernism (Gaudí and Casas, for example), Gothic Art, and Renaissance and Baroque paintings. For FREE entry to the museum, visit on a Saturday after 3 pm or on the first Sunday of each month. Otherwise, entry will cost €12. Or if you’re not big into museums, like us, simply enjoy the incredible city views from the steps of the MNAC.
El Poble Espanyol
El Poble Espanyol is a charming village that was built in 1929 representing squares and streets from the various regions all over Spain. Wander through its alleyways and peruse its different shops and restaurants. This is an excellent place to buy hand-crafted souvenirs, though keep in mind, there is an entry fee (€12) to get into the village. To get to El Poble Espanyol via metro, get off at the Espanya stop on line 1 or 3 or by bus at stop Poble Espanyol on line 13, 23, or 150.
The Gothic Quarter
The Gothic Quarter is the center of the old city of Barcelona stretching from Las Ramblas to Via Laietana. It’s a fascinating area to walk around, as many of the buildings date back to Medieval times. Leisurely stroll through the Gothic Quarter and admire its architecture, but do beware that pickpockets operate in this area. And though not Gothic by any stretch of the imagination, other than its placement within this region of the city, we enjoyed walking around Art Montfalcon, an eclectic shop selling everything from jewelry and art to trinkets and collectibles.
Don’t miss out on a visit to this gorgeous 14th century cathedral located in Gothic Quarter! Officially named the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, but more commonly known as the Barcelona Cathedral, this church holds a lot of history! 13 geese will always be found in the secluded Gothic cloister in memory of Saint Eulalia who was martyred for her faith at the age of 13. After exploring the church, check out the antique flea market set up just outside the cathedral front doors.
Santa Maria Del Mar
Santa Maria Del Mar was built in the 1300’s at the height of Catalonia’s maritime and mercantile superiority. The cathedral is a fine example of Catalan Gothic architecture and the interior is absolutely magnificent (entry is FREE)! It is said that the church contains some of the most slender stone built columns in the world.
Las Ramblas is the heartbeat if the city! You simply can’t visit Barcelona without making a visit to this popular bustling city street. Go shopping, enjoy a meal, drink a glass of sangria or two, and watch the people go by. There are usually always street performers to keep you entertained. But whatever you do, watch your belongings. Las Ramblas is one of the most common places to get pick-pocketed in all of Europe. Happy to say, we escaped without incident!
Exploring Gaudi’s Architecture
La Sagrada Família
The construction for this church started in the late 19th century, halted in 1926 when Gaudi died, and continues today with his style in mind. They say it could still take another quarter of a century to complete. We didn’t go inside, as the line wrapped around the building, but simply marveled at its uniqueness and detail from the outside. Ticket prices start at €15 for basic entry.
The roof of Casa Batlló resembles the back of a dragon. Its vibrant exterior displays colorful mosaic made from broken ceramic tiles, while bone-like adornments surround its windows. For obvious reasons, it is commonly called The House of Bones. The entry free is €22,50. To arrive via metro get off at Passeig de Gràcia on line 2, 3, or 4 or arrive by bus on numbers H10, V15, 7, 22 or 24.
Just a few blocks from Casa Batlló is Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera (the stone quarry) It was built in the early 1900’s by Gaudí and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984 for its uniqueness, artistic and heritage value. It’s only a slightly cheaper than Casa Batlló at €22,50.
Park Güell is a little off-the-beaten-track, but totally worth the effort to get there! Wander through the gardens and take your time looking at all of the unusual and colorful sculptures and mosaics throughout the park. Park Güell has 2 different areas: the Monumental Zone, which requires the purchase of a ticket (€7 for adults, less for children and seniors), and the Free Access Area which is open to all visitors at no charge.
You can take public transportation most of the way to the park; then it will be about a 15 minute walk to one of the park’s many entrances. Take Line 3 on the metro and get off at either the Vallcarca or Lesseps stop. For the bus, you can get off on the following stops: Travessera de Dalt (Lines H6 and 32), Plaça Catalunya (Line 24), or Trelawny-Passeig Marítim (Line 92).
Where to Stay in Barcelona
If you’re visiting the city for more than just the day, we can highly recommend the hotel where we stayed – Hotel Grums. We found an excellent deal through Living Social and couldn’t have been happier with our accommodations. It was very modern and chic hotel with one of the best breakfast buffets we’ve ever seen! Each room is themed after an influential person who lived/worked in Barcelona. Our room was themed after Jacint Verdaguer, a writer.
Included in our Living Social deal were welcome drinks, cocktails, and tapas, which we enjoyed out on the open-air deck behind the hotel. Sam tried a locally brewed beer – Moritz and I enjoyed a glass of white wine, as we snacked on tomato bread, prosciutto, cheese and some kind of bite-sized potato snack. The hotel also provided us with some sweet slushy concoction to sip on as well basked in the warm summer sun!
If you’re looking for self-catering apartment-style living in Barcelona, look no further than Aparthotel Silver in the Gracia neighborhood. Just steps away from the Fontana metro station, you’re only minutes away from the historic center of the city. The hotel boasts 49 apartment-style rooms complete with a kitchenette, including mini-fridge, microwave, kettle, stove-top, pots, pans, plates, cups, and utensils. Some rooms come equipped with a terrace complete with lounge chairs and dining table. Enjoy an evening outside overlooking the nearby city streets while sipping on sangria and dining on your own ‘home-made’ cuisine.
A continental style breakfast buffet is available in the private garden if you prefer for someone else prepare your breakfast! They even catered to Sam’s gluten-free diet and prepared our final breakfast the night before we left, as we had to depart early the next morning to make our way to the airport. The staff couldn’t have been any more accommodating, helpful, and friendly, and we can wholeheartedly recommend Aparthotel Silver.
Where to Eat in Barcelona
This restaurant came highly recommended and we certainly weren’t disappointed with our selection! We enjoyed a pitcher of sangria along with a variety of tapas, including a hamburger slider, cheese, a prosciutto-wrapped cheese-filled date, asparagus and mushrooms. YUM! We enjoyed it so much, we went back for another visit during our second visit to the city!
Cafe de L’Academia
Tucked away in the heart of the Gothic Quarter offering delicious Catalan cuisine at a surprisingly affordable price (by Barcelona standards), is Cafe de L’Academia. There wasn’t a single thing we ordered that wasn’t absolutely spectacular. In fact, we ordered a second portion of the garlic noodles with shrimp, it was so good! The cheese and tomato stuffed salmon was equally as divine!
We found this restaurant on a side street off of Las Ramblas. Note, the restaurants right on Las Ramblas are very expensive. Head to the side streets for a better deal. We had drinks and a light meal at Schillings and thought everything was wonderful.
Mercado de La Boqueria
This colorful open-air market with an entrance off of Las Ramblas is a great place to grab a snack or a meal while wandering around the city. Or if you’re full or broke, it’s a great place to take pictures!
Barcelona is a fascinating city; one that truly took us by surprise. We’re not usually into BIG cities, but with its delicious food, unique architecture, and eclectic vibe, what’s not love?! Although we did our best to supply you with how to get to various attractions using public transportation, the city (although large) is very walkable. (TIP: Each single ride on the metro will cost over €2. Purchase a T-10 card for 10 rides for less than €10 total.) We hope you enjoy your stay in Barcelona as much as we did!
We’d like to thank Barcelona Turisme for providing us with press passes to explore the city and Aparthotel Silver for a complimentary stay in exchange for our review. As always, our write-ups are an accurate reflection of the experiences we had.
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