48 Hours: What to Do in Barcelona
I’ve had the luxury of spending a lot of time in Barcelona, but not everybody can. Here are my suggestions for a busy but doable 48-hour itinerary.
Before you go:
Catalan is the co-official language of Catalunya, one of the 17 autonomous communities that comprise Spain, and Barcelona is its capital. Catalan is a Romance language, not a dialect of Spanish, as Franco once insisted. The Catalan people are known for their strong pride in their language and culture, and I strongly suggest learning a few words of Catalan before you arrive. It’s easy and free to do so on Parla.cat. Saying “bon dia” will take you much farther than “buenos días” in this region.
Visit Parc del Guinardó
Begin the day with a short hike to the most amazing view in all of the city. Take the Metro line to Guinardó i Hospital de Sant Paul (Line 4) or the bus (Lines 24, V17, 92, and 119) and walk a short distance uphill to get to Parc del Guinardó, where you will be visiting Turó de la Rovira (the Bunkers del Caramel). The bunkers offer a 360° panoramic view of the city, which will take your breath away. I suggest doing this on your first day, as it will also help you get your bearings. Facing the ocean, you will find Montjüic (the “mountain” of Barcelona), Barceloneta, and the W Hotel to your right, La Sagrada Famíilia and Villa Olímpica straight in front of you, and the El Prat airport to your far left.
La Sagrada Família
If you do only one thing in Barcelona, this should be it. Never in my life have I felt so overwhelmed as the moment I viewed the architecturally complex interior of this stunning basilica. Whether you are religious or not, you will be truly moved when you enter Antoni Gaudí’s masterpiece. I recommend purchasing your tickets online prior to your visit, as the lines are unreal – even during the off-season. Also, don’t forget to include the visit to the towers when you book, as you don’t want to miss the views from above.
Passeig de Gràcia
End your day by strolling along Passeig de Gràcia, the most glamourous street in Barcelona. Here you will find two of Gaudí’s other exquisite buildings, Casa Milà and Casa Batlló, along with other notable Modernist architecture. You will reach Plaça Catalunya at the end of your stroll, which will be marked with a beautiful square filled with flowers and fountains, along with El Corte Ingles to your left. For dinner, I suggest trying L’Havana in El Raval, a restaurant that has been serving authentic Catalan meals since 1897.
Breakfast on Les Ramblas
Start your day right by sitting down for an espresso and chocolate croissant at Escribà. They make the best chocolate croissants I have ever had, and dare I make the grand leap and even say they are the best in the world? You will have to see for yourself! There are three locations, but for this itinerary, Les Ramblas is the convenient choice (and it’s situated in a beautiful Modernist building).
Make your way from Les Ramblas to Ciutat Vella, the old city, via Carrer de la Portaferrissa. This small passageway (down which you will find my favorite gelato shop, Amorino) will plant you in the Gothic Quarter, steps from the Catedral de Barcelona. Walk along the beautiful, narrow streets and pass through Plaça de Sant Jaume, which holds the Generalitat de Catalunya and the Ajuntament de Barcelona; walk across Via Laietana and stroll through the quaint El Born neighborhood, where you can stop and tour the Picasso museum, visit the 700 year old Basílica de Santa Maria del Mar, or view the famous Mercat del Born.
Via Laietana will take you right down to Passeig de Colom. If you continue straight, you will encounter the long walkway (Passeig de Joan de Borbó) that will take you right to the beach. Here you can saunter along the white sand and stop for a drink or a bite to eat at one of the great restaurants along the water. I recommend Bar Princesa 23 if you are simply craving a quick stop and glorious view.
End your day where you began: Les Ramblas
After Barceloneta, make your way back to Passeig de Colom and turn left. You will find yourself at the roundabout and the famous Mirador de Colom (Columbus Statue) pointing West toward the New World. Across the street is the beginning of Les Ramblas, where you can casually stroll back to where you began your day. Finish your last night with fabulous pintxos (typical Basque finger food) at Bilbao Berria near the Catedral de Barcelona with the feeling that you saw a tremendous amount of Barcelona, but still have reason to return for more.