48 Hours in Barcelona

As the 4th most visited city in Europe, Barcelona deserves much more than a 48 hour visit. If you only have a short time though, you can still hit a few highlights. Just don’t forget the churros y chocolate!

1. The Sagrada Familia. Arguably the largest unfinished tourist draw in the world, the Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Familia (Basilica of the Holy Family) has been under construction since 1882. And it’s STILL NOT FINISHED. Construction past the mid-point, get this, in 2010, and architects expect it to finally be finished in 2026.

Ornate may be too gentle a word for the Sagrada Familia

Don’t get me wrong about the Sagrada Familia, though. Unfinished or not, it’s magnificent and well worth a visit. I tend to get a bit burned out on cathedral after cathedral… but this one looks different than any other I’ve ever been to.

Some of Gaudi’s sculptures

The basilica’s principal architect and designer, Antoni Gaudi, oversaw construction from 1883 until his death in 1926. The Spanish Civil War lead to some hefty delays after that, and construction picked up again in the 50s. Only recently did the Pope pop over to consecrate it as an official religious site capable of hosting Catholic mass.

Stained glass windows and massive arches

You could probably spend ages under the tutelage of a Gaudi expert and never comprehend the symbolic details present in every nook & cranny of the Sagrada Familia. To me, it’s more like a piece of art than a church. Maybe that was Gaudi’s idea all along.

2. Pinxtos, churros, sangria. Repeat. There were four travelers in my own little Barcelona familia – Nicole & Anthony from Western Oz who I met in Ios; Jen, a friend from Orlando; and me. Collectively, we had one main priority: eating delicious Spanish food, and lots of it. A great place to start is La Boqueria, Barcelona’s most famous street market. La Boqueria has been around since 1217, albeit standards of hygiene have thankfully changed since those days. Today, La Boqueria is the best place to go for lunchtime snacks and nibbles. Wander from stall to stall, tasting the freshest local meats, veggies and fruits.

But save room for dinner!  Each night, we’d walk miles until we found just the perfect restaurant. Believe it or not, tapas are a Basque thing, not a true Spanish thing, but we ate them quite a bit anyway. Fresh seafood is also huge in Barcelona, so don’t miss the famous oysters.

And don’t even think about coming to Barcelona without stopping to share sangria on a rooftop bar or terrace. The people-watching near La Rambla is choice.

3. Shop. I HATE SHOPPING. Shopping is not usually something I get into… at home or abroad. In fact, I hate when guidebooks tell me a place has great shopping. So what?! However, having worn the same grubby clothes for months, the moment I laid eyes on the mall near my hotel, something snapped in my brain and I spent a few, ahem, hours, adding to my wardrobe.

Just nosing around another shop

How I’d fit it into my suitcase was another matter…Needless to say, Barcelona has a variety of shops you won’t find at home. If you must spend, it’s not a bad place to do it.

4. The Magic Fountain of Montjüic. Critics say the colorful, musical fountain is too Disney-fied, and maybe that explains why our visit was one of my favorite nights in Barcelona. The fountain’s first performance was way back in 1929 if you can believe it. Though it was renovated for the Olympics, much of the original machinery is still used.

Just enjoying the music. Playing now: Barcelona, Queen

Anthony, Nicole & Ange

Barcelona Tips

1. Watch out for pickpockets. After Athens, Barcelona is particularly known for its sneaky stealers, especially on the tourist heavy Rambla. Be very, very careful. Don’t put your bag on the back of a chair, or even on the table, and always make sure it’s zipped.

2. Use public transportation. Flights to Barcelona are easy to find of course, so getting there is a snap. Jen & I stayed outside the city near the convention center, but on the city bus it was only about 15 minutes to get to Montjüic. It’s easy enough to get around on the buses, and even more so on the metro. Infinitely more navigable than NYC’s subway!

3. Dress like a local. Despite the fact that you can drop your top as soon as you hit the city’s beach, the rest of the town is much more conservative. That means no short shorts or beachwear in the city. And cover up your goodies, particularly at religious sites.


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  • October 26, 2011

    We are going to be in Barcelona next year, so I am saving this post for reference. Can’t wait to see that fascinating cathedral. Thanks for sharing.

    • November 01, 2011

      You’re going to love it! So much to see and do…. and eat!

  • October 26, 2011

    Great post Angie! Barcelona is magical!

    • November 01, 2011

      Thanks, Jacqui! I think so, too… and the food is divine!

  • October 27, 2011

    How i wish there was a La Boqueria style market here in Bunbury… I miss all that great food! Love that picture of us at the fountain. That was one of my favourite nights too 🙂

    • November 01, 2011

      I miss meeting up with you guys all over the place… come to South Africa!

  • October 27, 2011

    Great guide!! I’m always somewhat awed when I see photos of any of Gaudi’s buildings. Seriously, what was this guy ON? Lol, they’re so interesting to look at though.

    And I love your tip about covering up your “goodies” in the city. Good to know!

    • November 01, 2011

      I feel the same way about Gaudi! The Sagrada Familia looks like a drip castle at the beach… but I do appreciate that it’s different than all the other Euro cathedrals. Thanks for reading!

  • November 04, 2011

    I’m sorry, but I’m still stuck on CHURROS Y CHOCOLATE. Those are probably responsible for my 10-pound weight gain during my first visit to Spain in 2003!

    • November 04, 2011

      I know that 10-lb. weight gain well. I gain it every time I’m on the road and lose it again at home. Grrrr.

  • December 05, 2011

    Woah! Love this. The magic fountain is one of my favs too… although it’s a bit daggy! My friend got pickpocketed recently in Barcelona while I was with her and I can’t stress enough how common it is! I’d also recommend the beaches… ah I love Barcelona so much http://hop-skip-and-jump.blogspot.com/2011/09/flamenco-sangria-and-dirty-rotten.html

  • March 13, 2012

    I’ve been to Barcelona once and only one day as it was a stopover between flights, so I could only visit the main Gaudi’s sites in the city center. Can’t wait to go again and visit the Sagrada Familia inside as well as the Magic Fontain.

  • March 13, 2012

    Love it, chica. Last count, I’d been to Barcelona 11 times. Love!!

    • March 14, 2012

      I’ve only been twice and feel like I’ve hardly seen anything!

  • March 16, 2012

    Loved Barcelona! Such a fun city with a great vibe and gosh, I just devoured all the Gaudi stuff (apartment buildings, cathedral, parks etc).

    • March 20, 2012

      Yes! Guadi’s influence is everywhere and I loved it, too. So whimsical!

  • March 17, 2012

    Hey Angie, just stumbled across your blog adn I think you got a nice and essential 48hrs route for barcelona. I’m from madrid myself but have been living in Barcelona for almost 10 years! Just here to say three things!
    I think you picked out the best and quickest route to get a good feel of the city! my congrats! Maybe you could of included the beach (its not much, but hey, atleast it a beach!) Second,the tapas thing. its kind of a head f*ck i know, but, Tapas ar originaly from the south of Spain. (cheapmor free quick fired snacks that come with your beer. Pinchos or Pintxos, are from the basque country in the north of spain. This is what we ahve in barcelona too. crafted and well prepared “fingerfood” /snacks. The main difference is. cuantity and price. Pintxos being small an expensive, and tapas cheap and abundant. (go to granada to sample the REAL TAPAS! (makes me drule everytime i think of em. and third, (this is really a question to be honest) you really think we’re so conservative that you can’t wear shor short shorts??? maybe in october, the loclas think its too cold, but in summer, it’s a meat fest ;). I know they did change the law recently though, No bikini/bathing suits on the streets, only on the beach. is this where the “conservativeness” is coming form?. glad you enjoyed Barcelona its a place that made aguy from amdrid stay for 10 years. (and it’s not only becasue there’s a beach!

    • March 20, 2012

      Hi Miguel – thanks for reading! Check out my post on pintxos in San Sebastian where I detail the difference in cuisine… good catch!

  • March 17, 2012

    should have spelle checked my comment. XD oh well. my english is a bit rusty!
    hasta otro dia!

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