Barcelona is one of Europe's most popular destinations for mini-breaks. Its size and high concentration of tourist attractions make it a enthralling place to come for a weekend. The city's energy and creativity always seem to ensure that people leave feeling revived and with a new-found lust for life. When planning a weekend away it is essential to find a balance between doing all of the things that you want to do, whilst returning home feeling that you have actually had a holiday, rather than a nonstop box-ticking grand tour.
I have put together a list of ideas for things to do on a weekend break to Barcelona - places to stay, eat, see and tips to make your life easier.
On a short break it is essential to get your bearings in the city as quickly as possible. An open top tour bus ride can be a good option to do this. You can either use it to do one full three hour tour of the whole city or as a 'hop-on, hop-off' service. On your way round make sure that you keep a mental note of the places that you like the look of, so that you can return to them and spend a bit more time there.
One of the best ways to truly see Barcelona is by walking. Hidden down every small side street you are likely to find a gem of some kind. Just take a wander and do not be afraid to get lost in the streets of the Old Town - this is probably when you will make the best discoveries, and you will always find yourself back on the Ramblas at some point.
I have put together a guide for a day walking through the city centre. Rather than covering the major attractions it gives some ideas for some things to see and do that are slightly off the beaten track.
A Tapas Tour of Barcelona
A trip to Spain, however short, really isn't complete without a session of tapas munching. To do it in true Spanish style, don't sit down for one large meal of tapas - instead take your taste buds on a tapas crawl. This way, you can head to the tapas bars that specialise in doing one thing really well. It is also an informative and interesting way to see the city. Here is a list of some of the essentials for your route:El Xampanyet
The homemade cava is cheap and the specialities are homemade sun dried tomatoes and the infamous 'picante' (tuna wrapped in a very spicy piquillo pepper).
Calle Montcada, 22
Metro: Jaume I (Yellow Line, Line 4)
This tiny Catalan bar sell small plates of deep fried anchovies - a must for seafood lovers.
Calle Mercè, 28
Metro: Barceloneta (Yellow Line, Line 4)
El Vaso d'Oro
Based in the Barceloneta district - the smartly dressed waiters will serve you solomillo (steak) that will change your life!
Calle Balboa, 6
Metro: Barceloneta (Yellow Line, Line 4)
Quimet y Quimet
A favourite of the famous Spanish chef - Ferran Adria. The tiny bar specialises in tinned seafoods of the highest standards.
Calle Poeta Cabanyes, 25
Metro: Paral.lel (Green Line, L3)
If you're feeling lazy and you'd like somebody else to do the navigating there is always the option of taking a tapas walking tour of the city.
When planning your day in Barcelona it is important to bear in mind that cafés and restaurants in Spain often keep more specific hours than in other countries. There has been many a day when I have been forced to resort to a soggy sandwich as I have left it too late to have lunch and most of the best places are closed. Lunchtime in Barcelona is generally between 13:00 - 15:30. The traditional way to eat lunch is as the largest meal of the day - a big ol' three courser. Look out for signs offering 'Menu del Dia' (the dish of the day).
One of my favourite restaurant's for Menu del Dia include El Lobo.
When visiting a city with a beach it seems a shame not to make the most of Barcelona's seaside location. In the winter you can take a breezy walk along the promenade and in the summer you can ensure that you have a tan to take home to your friends. In our guide to Barcelona's beaches you can have a look for the one that is most suited to you.
If you are coming to Barcelona for a short visit it is essential to get your accommodation sorted before your arrival. If a conference or major event is taking place in the city you will find that all of the hotels and apartments get booked up quickly.
Apartments are an attractive option if you are travelling in a larger group. They can also often end up being a cheaper option than a hotel. They also give you the freedom to come and go as you please and cook some food with your purchases from the Boqueria food market
When booking your flights it is worth considering your accommodation. Many short let apartment agents will not rent an apartment for less than a certain amount of days.
So, all in all, Barcelona is a fabulous place to come for a short break. With a mixture of forward planning and leaving things to take their own course, who knows what adventures might be in store?