Itinerary for Your Perfect Weekend in Barcelona
If you’re in Europe and are looking for a quick getaway, consider a weekend in Barcelona. We’ve packed your itinerary full of key things you need to do, see and taste to ensure you don’t miss the finest that Barcelona has to offer including Gaudí’s famed La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell along with the best tapas bars and restaurants and the best beaches in Barcelona. It only takes a couple days to get a taste of this beautiful and vibrant city that will leave you shouting Mas por favor! (“More please!”)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites –Gaudí’s La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell
Spend your first day exploring the two most iconic works of legendary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí – La Sagrada Familia, and Park Güell. La Sagrada Familia (“The Holy Family”) is derived from the church’s full name, ‘Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família’ and is a Roman Catholic church and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Despite construction having started in 1883, the church is still not finished. It is scheduled to complete in 2026, in time to mark the 100-year anniversary of Gaudí’s death. Hit by a trolley, Gaudí died just shy of his 74th birthday with his structure only a quarter finished.
It’s difficult to put into words what it’s like when you first see La Sagrada Familia because it quite honestly left me speechless. The basilica’s size is overwhelming. When complete it will be Europe’s tallest religious building at 170 meters high. But it’s the detail and artistry of the church that is just absolutely asombroso (“breathtaking”) — and that’s only the outside.
How to Book Your La Sagrada Familia Tickets in Advance
Make sure to book your La Sagrada Familia tickets in advance as they are in high demand and will most likely be sold out on the day you visit. Tickets can be purchased through the basilica’s official website. Once inside, the ticket will grant you access to the elevator in one of the towers. Count yourself lucky that you don’t have to climb the stairs: the elevator was only installed 10 years ago. Before this, patrons had to walk up the almost 400 steps in the tower.
Once at the top, you can enjoy stunning views of the city and beyond before walking across to another tower to walk down the narrow steps. Be warned, this is not a venture for those who are claustrophobic or scared of heights. Oddly, the evening before our visit to La Sagrada Familia, my family and I got trapped in the tiny elevator of our apartment building and had to be rescued by emergency services. The thought of taking the elevator to the top of the tower and then walking back down the narrow steps was not a sunny prospect! Despite the harrowing elevator experience, the sheer beauty of the church made it easy to forget our elevator woes. By the way, if you ever happen to get stuck in an elevator in Spain shout “Estamos atascados en el ascensor!”
Also, check out our “An Emergency Abroad – Who Do You Call?” blog post for more elevator escapes.
Visit Park Güell
The second Gaudí site that you can’t miss when visiting Barcelona is the fantastical Park Güell. Entry to the park itself is free with access to plenty of stunning terrain. You will need to purchase a ticket, however, to enter the “Monumental Core” zone which contains the major art and architectural attractions like the famous El Drac dragon. Inside the Monumental Core, make sure to see Gaudí’s structures including: the Porter’s Lodge Pavilion at the Parc’s entrance; the Hypostyle room, filled with a sea of Doric columns; the open-air Greek theatre; the Laundry Room Portico, built to resemble a giant collapsing wave; Austria Gardens plant nursery, and of course, the Dragon stairway. Again, you should book tickets in advance. Use the official ticket link.
Tapas and Cava Time
After a long day of soaking in stunning views and uniquely quirky architecture, you’ll probably have quite an appetite. When in Barcelona there’s one (or rather many little) signature food — tapas, those delightful savory snacks or appetizers. Some classic Barcelona tapas include Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes covered in a spicy sauce and aioli), Pan con Tomate (bread covered with tomato, olive oil, and salt), Chipirones (deep-fried baby squid) and Anchoas (anchovies in vinegar).
To accompany, you might be tempted to order sangria, but in Barcelona, it is really only popular with tourists. For a more authentic experience, try ordering cava. Like champagne, cava is a sparkling white wine produced in the Penedès region, about an hour’s drive from Barcelona. If you plan a longer stay and have a rental car, you may even wish to visit some of the wineries in and around Penedès.
Top Authentic Tapas Bars and Restaurants in Barcelona
While there is an endless number of places in Barcelona that serve small plates and nibbling bits some of my top tapas bars and restaurants in Barcelona include:
Located close to Park Güell (approximately a 10-minute walk, depending on which exit you use) – this tiny gem is renowned for not only food but also service. The owner is known for accommodating guests even when the restaurant is full up as well as serving free tapas when you order a bottle of wine. Gatamala is reasonably priced for the quality of the food and provides a good selection of vegetarian options.
Bodega Biarritz 1881
If you arrive at a peak time there will most likely be a long line out the door, but don’t let this put you off- the food is well worth it! To make up for the wait, the staff will bring you a drink while you stand in the line. The staff are more than hospitable and will happily recommend something if you are unsure. Alternatively, you can opt for their surprise menu which consists of 8 different tapas selected for you based on your preferences. This place is a special example of authentic hospitality despite its location in a touristy part of town.
After a busy day of walking, eating and drinking you’ll definitely get una buena noche de descanso (“a good night’s sleep”) and hopefully not have too much of a post- cava headache the next morning (if you do, you can tell your friends you have una resaca, “a hangover”). But fret not if you do, as your second day in Barcelona can be much more laid back. One of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of the city is to get your bum to the beach (platja in Catalan and playa in Spanish).
Best Beaches in Barcelona
Personally, Barcelona is my perfect weekend escape because of the city/ beach combination it offers. With the beach as little as a 10-minute drive from the central city, you really can’t ask for more. While there are many beaches to choose from, some of the more popular and easily accessible ones include:
Platja del Bogatell
Bogatell Beach is one of the larger, cleaner and quieter beaches with a good mix of locals and tourists. It’s also one of the closest beaches to the city center, so if you’re looking to stay close by then this might be your best option. There are many bars and restaurants along the beach where you can enjoy decent, though touristy food and drink—which will also be overpriced. A better idea is to look for the small grocery stores nearby where you can purchase less expensive cervezas y bocadillos (“beer and snacks”) to have your own picnic on the beach. Bogatell can be accessed on the L4 metro line by getting off at Llacuna or by the 26, H16 or V27 buses.
Alternatively, you can get there (and pretty much anywhere else in Barcelona) via yellow taxis, which are everywhere in Barcelona. I found the prices to be reasonable and it was definitely nice to just hop in a taxi when I was very tired and just wanted to get somewhere without having to navigate the buses or metro!
Platja de la Mar Bella
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and are happy to travel a little further, you might enjoy a visit to Mar Bella. This beach has a clothing-optional area but is still very family friendly. Mar Bella is also a popular location in the gay and lesbian social scene. It takes at least 40 minutes to get to Mar Bella by bus so it is not the closest of the Barcelona beaches, but its open and friendly feel is definitely worth the journey. Mar Bella can be reached by getting off at Poblenou on the L4 metro line as well as the H16 and V29 buses.
Hopefully, you will have more than a couple days to explore the sun, sea, and architecture of Barcelona. But even just a couple of days indulging in glorious Gaudí monuments, fresh and flavourful tapas and sunny and bright beaches can give you a flavor of this beautiful city.
Take Pimsleur Along for the Visit
Did you know that Barcelona, the capital city of the Catalonia region, has two official languages? You’ll notice people speaking both Spanish and Catalan. Click here for a primer on the Catalan language and history.
Learning Spanish? We’ve got you covered! Check out our Castilian Spanish Courses!